In Pakistan Relief Effort, US Targets Economic Rehabilitation

A man carries a bag of food given by the U.S. for Pakistani flood victims. The U.S. wants to give flood victims not only food they need to eat today but livelihoods to support themselves. Photo by: Jason Bushong / isafmedia / CC BY isafmediaCC BY

One of the key goals of U.S. relief operations in Pakistan is to help flood victims regain their sources of income, according to one senior U.S. aid official.

The U.S. wants to give flood victims “not just the food they need to eat today but jobs, getting their livelihoods restored so, that they will be able to support themselves,” William Bergeer, who heads the U.S. disaster response in Pakistan, told PBS News.

One way the U.S. is accomplishing this goal is by assisting in the delivery of goods from farm to market, according to Lt. Col. John Knightstep, who oversees the air relief task force in northern Pakistan.

“We are providing limited commerce out. And that’s really to keep the economic viability within that area, too,” the officer said. “The only way that commerce and that agriculture will get out is if we can get it out. And that’s their livelihood for the next year.”

This focus on helping Pakistanis rebuild their sources of income in the wake of the recent disaster, which affected up a third of the country, appears in line with the U.S.’s overarching goal of developing the Pakistani economy.

“Our goal is not only to provide them [Pakistan] with assistance. It’s really to provide them with assistance that’s going to grow their economy, so that the Pakistanis are much more able to support themselves in the future,” Alex Thier, deputy assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told NPR News.

Thier said U.S. assistance to Pakistan over the coming years will be focused on reforming the country’s electricity sector. Water and agriculture are also priorities, he added.

In July, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled approximately USD500 million worth of U.S. aid projects in Pakistan. The projects, which are part of the USD7.5 billion civilian aid for the Asian nation, include initiatives in the energy, agriculture and infrastructure sectors.

>> Clinton Reveals Details of Massive US Aid Package for Pakistan

Total cost of flood damage

The recent floods inflicted USD9.7 billion worth of damage to infrastructure, crops and property, according to a World Bank and Asian Development Bank assessment. The country’s finance ministry also estimated that Pakistan could need up to USD30 billion to cover recovery costs, Reuters reports. 

Donors demand transparency

The Asian Development Bank wants to take charge of awarding contracts and oversee procurement and monitoring of its supported reconstruction projects in flood-hit Pakistan. The Islamic nation’s government would write to ADB to seek reconsideration of such a request, according to The Express Tribune’s sources in the finance ministry.

“The ADB’s demand to appoint a contract management consultant with sweeping powers is unjustified,” a source in the ministry said.

The bank’s request for procurement and monitoring powers aims to ensure swift implementation of projects and prevent corruption, according to an ADB official.

“We were expecting that Pakistan’s bureaucracy will resist transparency measures,” said a senior ADB official on condition of anonymity.

The Manila-based lender pledged USD2 billion to support Pakistan’s rehabilitation, which includes USD1.5 billion in redirected aid.

The World Bank has also reprogrammed some USD300 million in approved funding to support Pakistan’s reconstruction. The sum, which has been previously committed as a poverty reduction support credit, forms part of the bank’s USD997.5 million pledge for Pakistan.

Pakistan, according to The New York Times, could also shift financing from its nuclear program.

In an editorial, the paper called for the creation of a “transparent commission” that would receive and administer contributions, which it said “would help rally donors, as would working closely with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.”

Meanwhile, U.S. envoy to Pakistan Richard Holbrooke urged Europe to scale up its aid for flood victims in Pakistan, reports.

“The amount of money to reconstruct what has been destroyed in Pakistan is going to be in the tens of billions of dollars,” Holbrooke told reporters in Paris, where he was scheduled to meet French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner before visiting officials in Brussels.

U.K. aid chief Andrew Mitchell said Britain has already started allocating additional funding to help address emergency needs in the Sindh province.

“We are aiming to address the emergency health and water and sanitation needs of approximately 500,000 people through international and local NGOs at a cost of up to 8 million pounds [USD12 million],” Mitchell was quoted by the Associated Press of Pakistan as saying.

The U.K. Department for International Development also intends to address urgent agricultural needs of approximately 850,000 vulnerable people in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan, he added.

Friends of Democratic Pakistan forum

The Friends of Democratic Pakistan is expected to urge Pakistan to commit to political reforms in the group’s meeting tomorrow (Oct. 15) in Brussels.

The group is expected to highlight the need for tax reforms, better management of public finances and enhanced corruption fight in Pakistan. The meeting has been planned before July’s massive monsoon flooding.

The group comprises ADB, Australia, Britain, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, the European Union, France, Germany, Iran, the Islamic Development Bank, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the U.S., the United Nations and the World Bank.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will host the meeting, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports.

Non-governmental organizations including Oxfam, Avaaz, Eurodad, Save Pakistan and Jubilee Debt Campaign are urging the group to write off Pakistan’s debt.

Meantime, the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency will establish an office in Pakistan. The agency will help train Pakistani experts, executive officers, diplomats, trainers and scholars both within and outside the country, Pakistan Times reports.

Rizza Leonzon contributed to this report.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.