AS Pakistan moves to the rehabilitation and rebuilding phases in the aftermath of this year’s devastating floods, the glaring gaps in funding needed to finance these critical activities are becoming obvious.
The unfortunate fact that the country was going through intense economic turbulence before the floods hit — and is yet to find its fiscal balance — is certainly not helping.
Pakistan’s plight in this regard was raised at the UN General Assembly where Secretary General António Guterres, who was recently in the country on a solidarity visit, told the world that “Pakistan is drowning, not only in floodwater but in debt” too.
Regrettably, international appeals to help Pakistan at this difficult time have yet to receive a robust response.
For example, a senior Unicef official has said that out of the $39m needed for the country’s flood-hit children, less than a third of the required amount has landed, while minors’ health, nutrition and education needs will only grow. A US State Department official has also said the world needs to make more of an effort to help Pakistan, while American Senator Bob Menendez has described his country’s flood-related help to Pakistan as a “drop in the bucket”.
Editorial: International responsibility
Additionally, while meeting an EU delegation on Tuesday, Senator Mushahid Hussain termed the bloc’s help to Pakistan as “peanuts”.
It is quite clear that donor fatigue has set in, and the amounts pledged and delivered to Pakistan are indeed ‘peanuts’, especially when the prime minister has said post-flood rehabilitation will cost “trillions” of rupees.
The cold, hard truth is that developed states can spend billions of dollars on waging war, yet are quite stingy when it comes to helping developing states cope with catastrophes. Both the US and EU have funnelled billions of dollars into the Ukraine war, while the cost of America’s Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns is in the trillions. Yet both these foreign actors have given only a few million dollars for Pakistan’s flood relief.
It should be reiterated that Pakistan is not asking for charity, but justice, as the prime minister has stressed. There is wide consensus that the floods were exacerbated by climate change, and Pakistan has hardly contributed to greenhouse gas emissions, and is paying the price for the ecological negligence of others.
While the global economy may be slowing down, our foreign friends can certainly do more to help Pakistan rebuild. Moreover, Pakistan’s elite must loosen their purse strings and help fellow citizens in this time of dire crisis.
The middle class is hard-pressed and cannot donate much due to economic stagnation; but those with means can certainly make a greater contribution to the rehabilitation effort.
Further, foreign creditors should also consider the UN secretary general’s appeal for debt reduction and debt-swap mechanisms. Pakistan is at this point in no position to immediately repay heavy debts, and the focus should be on rebuilding.
Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2022