Thursday 23 March 2017

We can manage without foreign aid, insists ex-Pakistan leader

Dean Nelson in Lahore

Pakistan's opposition leader has claimed his country does not need Western aid and should "stand on its own two feet" as the UN chief called for the world to send money to the flood-hit region.

Nawaz Sharif said his country had sufficient resources to rebuild millions of homes, buildings and bridges destroyed in the worst floods in 80 years.

He was speaking amid growing concern that the international community was not responding quickly enough with aid for more than 20 million people displaced by the floods.

Visiting the disaster zone for the first time, Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, backed the appeal of Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan's prime minister, and President Asif Zardari for urgent assistance.

Welfare

But in an interview at his home in Lahore yesterday, Mr Sharif, the former Pakistan prime minister, said it was time for his country to take responsibility for the welfare of its people and to meet the costs of rebuilding swathes of Sindh, Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa from its own budget.

He has proposed a series of cuts in government spending to raise €2.45bn to rebuild homes and infrastructure.

"If the government agrees, we have $3bn (€2.3bn) within our own resources," he said.

He was speaking amid growing fears in Pakistan that the international community would not give as much aid for flood relief as it did following the 2005 earthquake. Although the number of lives lost in the current floods is far fewer -- 80,000 died in the earthquake, and 1,600 in the flood so far -- the destruction and displacement of families now is greater.

Roads and bridges have been swept away and countless villages inundated. Agriculture has been hit hard, with crops and stocks of grain destroyed. Six million people still need food, shelter, water and medicine, according to the UN. Islamabad has said it needs billions of dollars to rebuild.

The US has pledged $100m (€78.2m), while Britain has earmarked pounds £31m (€38m). The UN has an appeal for just under €366m -- significantly less than the €4.3bn given in response to the 2005 earthquake appeal.

Mr Sharif said suspicion that aid would not reach the victims was deterring both international organisations and Pakistanis from giving more.

Trust

Mr Sharif said if the fundraising effort was run by an independent commission and all party leaders worked together, Pakistan could generate enough money.

"If we don't follow this route, I can tell you there will be no rehabilitation of flood victims because people won't trust it," he said.

Once the floods recede, billions more will be needed for reconstruction and getting people back to work in the already-poor nation of 170 million people. The International Monetary Fund has warned the floods could dent economic growth and fuel inflation.

"Waves of flood must be met with waves of support from the world," said the UN chief.

The monsoon rains that triggered the disaster are forecast to fall for several weeks yet, meaning the worst may not yet be over. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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