IMF bar on govt spending hinders flood-relief efforts: Ahsan Iqbal

Published October 23, 2022
Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal addresses session ‘Post Floods Reconstruction’ at the Asma Jehangir Conference on Saturday. — APP
Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal addresses session ‘Post Floods Reconstruction’ at the Asma Jehangir Conference on Saturday. — APP

LAHORE: The agreement with the IMF is a hindrance to recovery and rehabilitation efforts being made in the flood-hit areas, as it binds the government to spend 40 per cent of the development funds in the last quarter of the year, says Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal.

Addressing a session ‘Post Floods Reconstruction’ at the Asma Jehangir Conference being held at a local hotel, he says the government is trying to make the IMF realise that this condition is counter-productive and it must allow spending during the second and third quarters because that is what rehabilitation efforts need.

He also dispelled the impression that the government was begging the international community to fund the flood-relief efforts. “It is not begging, but climate justice demands it. The poor in Pakistan paying the cost of quality of life that the citizens of the G10 states were enjoying. The climatic disaster that triggered the floods in Pakistan is doing of the developed world. Now justice demands they fund the recovery and they must. This is what the government is pleading for. This is the case that the government will take to international donors’ conference in November,” he said.

Ahsan Iqbal also pleads for domestic donations, which he regrets have declined. “Of late, donations have dipped sharply because people might have thought that the tragedy is over.

It is not. With winter’s arrival, the nature of help has changed. People, still surviving under the open sky, need warm clothing, blankets and bedding. Please continue sending these things, necessary for the brethren in the flood hit areas,” he pleads, saying the government’s resources alone do not match the effort required in the changing weather.

He says one must not forget it was a triple tragedy, which the government and people of Pakistan faced in recent floods. The country was struggling with the worst economic crisis and default danger when the floods arrived. “To make the matter worst, floods hit the poorest of the poor: out of 20 poorest districts on national development index, floods hit 16. The flood pattern also defied topographical and historical realities; floods historically came through rivers and inundated the villages along the banks. This time, it were three months of rains that flooded areas far and beyond the rivers. All these issues complicated the relief effort,” he claimed.

Thought the government had very limited resources due to financial constraints, but it still has few success stories, he says, adding that the current floods were three times more severe than those befalling in 2010. “Still, the death toll remained low – 1,700 in the current floods against over 2,000 in 2010. It was because the early warning and evacuation systems worked. The government agencies were able to contain the spread of dengue, malaria and cholera in the post-flood efforts, which otherwise could have multiplied the cost in terms of human lives. The official agencies reconnected Balochistan with the rest of the country within a week’s time. The train track (ML1) was restored within four weeks. It is not to claim that everything has become normal, but only to highlight the extent of the effort put in,” he concluded.

Published in Dawn, October 23th, 2022

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