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Pakistan’s leaders must increase tax revenue, provide better services, tackle corruption to rebuild people’s faith in politics

Islamabad, March 18, 2013 (PPI-OT): An Op-ed by Justine Greening, the UK’s Secretary of State for International Development Recently, I made my first visit to Pakistan as secretary of state for international development. While I was there, I was struck by the determination of the people to tackle the myriad challenges facing their country. I was especially impressed by the commitment and resolve of Pakistan’s female health workers. These brave women, who deliver life-saving support across the country, have been the target of numerous attacks in recent weeks.

However, they continue to show courage and are steadfastly committed to helping the most vulnerable. Their work is vital to Pakistan’s future, which is why I was pleased to announce new funding to support maternal and child health, and nutrition, which will save the lives of 110,000 children, prevent thousands of women dying in childbirth and prevent half a million children from becoming undernourished.

Pakistan stands on the verge of a historic election, one that will mark the first democratic transition from one government that has served its full term to another. The elections are a chance for a new government to set out a vision to tackle the issues that affect ordinary people: energy shortages, a fragile economy, limited job opportunities for a fast-growing population, education and health services that are failing to prepare the next generation for a brighter future, and internal conflict and extremism that leave thousands of Pakistanis dead every year.

Addressing these challenges will take real political leadership. The problems are many and the solutions are not simple. Pakistan’s leaders must increase tax revenue, provide better services, tackle corruption to rebuild people’s faith in politics and the ability of the state to provide and develop a common vision for how Pakistan can fulfil its potential.

That is why during my visit, I met a range of politicians to discuss the forthcoming elections and the need for economic reform. I held discussions with politicians from both the government and the opposition on the fundamental issue of tax. I was encouraged by their responses and look forward to seeing the new government hit the ground running on economic reform.

Through political commitment and bold reform, I am convinced real change is possible. With the World Bank and the UK Department for International Development’s (DFID) support, the federal government is implementing an innovative national social protection programme to provide cash assistance to the very poorest women, whose families live on around £1.50 per day. This programme is already helping 4.4 million families, with the vast majority funded by the Pakistani government’s commitment of over two billion pounds over the next four years.

In Punjab, with UK support, the provincial government has helped an additional one million children enrol in school since 2010. Over the next six years, we hope that 2.9 million more children will gain access to education, over 70 per cent of whom will be girls.

This has the potential to change an entire generation’s prospects. But numbers are not enough — children need quality education to prepare them to play an active role in an ever-changing global economy. That is why we are investing in the recruitment and training of teachers — over 45,000 of them in the next three years — and working with the Pakistani government to ensure that standards are rigorously enforced.

But it is not just the government that can bring about change. I saw children attending low-cost private sector schools that the DFID is supporting through public-private partnerships. These schools, run by the private sector and NGOs, are growing fast and delivering real value for money.

This potential for change is why the DFID is increasing support to Pakistan. We have seen real results on the ground in the last 12 months. This must be maintained and increased, while ensuring value for money. We will also continue to assess the government’s progress on key reforms that are essential to tackling poverty, including increasing tax revenues and protecting the rights of women and minorities. Everyone must have the chance to be part of and contribute to Pakistan’s future.

For more information, contact:
Mike Girling
Press Attache
British High Commission
Islamabad
Tel: +9251 201 2000
Cell: +92300 500 5306
Website: http://ukinpakistan.fco.gov.uk

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