December 1, 2011—As the leader of the former Public Finance Management Assistance Group (PFMAG) in Iraq, senior vice president James Wallar can conclude with certainty that expedience is anathema to development.
Speaking at the 7th International Lessons Learned Conference at the Center for Complex Operations, Mr. Wallar recounted how tensions arose in the PFMAG because of distinct civilian and military approaches to budget implementation. Both sides understood that economic health is key to stabilization and reconstruction, and that orderly public finance can spur growth and give governments credibility. Too often, however, expedient measures were taken for the sake of short-term objectives in Iraq—a temptation that economic development practitioners are woefully acquainted with.
Mr. Wallar encouraged practitioners and policymakers alike to take the long view and to pay more attention to institution building in all countries where the US Government provides development assistance. He noted that the time horizon of the US Government in providing assistance is usually much shorter than that of local authorities. Assistance, however, should be designed to help the country meet its development objectives. This means that assistance must align with the country’s national development strategies and budgets and that practitioners work closely with local authorities to ensure sustainability.
Sponsored by the National Defense University, the four-day conference focused on the design and conduct of stability operations. The Center for Complex Operations consists of representatives from USAID, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense.