‘Race against time’: PM Shehbaz, UN seek $8bn for Pakistan’s flood recoveryDawn.com | AFP | Reuters Published January 9, 2023 Updated 4 minutes ago
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif delivers a speech at the start of a Pakistan’s Resilience to Climate Change conference in Geneva on January 9. — AFP
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Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday sought $8 billion from Pakistan’s international partners over the next three years to rebuild the country that is reeling from last year’s disastrous floods as United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for massive support to aid the rebuilding effort.
The two made the remarks as the ‘International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan’ kicked off in Geneva. PM Shehbaz is co-hosting the conference along with the UN chief.
The purpose of the day-long moot — attended by heads of state and government and other stakeholders — is to marshal international support to rehabilitate the population affected by super floods and reconstruct damaged infrastructure in a climate-resilient manner.
Participants appeared to heed PM Shehbaz’s call, with hundreds of millions of dollars promised even before the pledging part of the conference had begun.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Public Policy and Strategic Communication Fahd Husain quoted the UN chief as saying that approximately $7.2bn had been raised at the Geneva conference. “Another session of pledges due after lunch.”
Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb took to Twitter to announce that the Islamic Development Bank had pledged $4.2bn while World Bank President for South Asia Martin Raiser had pledged $2bn.
Speaking via video link, French President Emmanuel Macron told the conference that his country would contribute 360m euros ($384 million). He also said France was prepared to join an international support group being created to help Pakistan implement its plan, and said it would also provide an additional 10m euros in emergency aid.
European Commission (EU) chief Ursula von der Leyen said the EU was contributing 500m euros towards Pakistan’s reconstruction, as she announced a fresh injection of 10m euros in humanitarian assistance.
German Ambassador Alfred Grannas said that his country had pledged an additional 89m euros to its climate and energy initiative in Pakistan.
“This support comes on top of the 99m euros already promised. I’m grateful we can continue our partnership with the people the government of Pakistan to build a #ResilientPakistan!”
Meanwhile, a senior official from the development agency USAID said that Washington would provide an additional $100m in funding.
“I am delighted to announce that the United States is making an additional $100 million commitment to Pakistan to help it recover from the devastating 2022 monster monsoon floods,” USAID Deputy Administrator Isobel Coleman told reporters on the sidelines of the conference in Geneva.
‘Race against time’In his opening address at the conference, the premier said that Pakistan needed $8bn from its international partners over the next three years to rebuild the country. PM Shehbaz said that the world was standing at a “turning point of history”.
“It’s not only a question of how to survive […] it’s a question of how to maintain our dignity and honour — by moving forward with a sense of purpose and a sense of achievement.”
The premier recalled that Pakistan witnessed a “monsoon on steroids this year” that affected 30m people, displaced more than eight million and washed away roads spread over 8,000 kilometres.
“One can go on and on but to truly say, we are racing against time. We are thankful for the support extended to us by the Asian Development Bank, UN, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and several other international organisations.”
PM Shehbaz said that apart from the aid Pakistan received for flood rehabilitation, the state had “responded courageously” to the disaster.
“They saved thousands of lives and quickly restored disrupted communications […] resilience funds were repurposed to provide cash grants of more than $400m to 2.7m households.
“But nothing can go back to normal […] we will have to keep making tough choices and I am painfully aware that harsher reforms will make lives harsher than ever before,” he pointed out, contending that the “resource gap” was so wide that it had to be reshaped.
The premier went on to say that his government had prepared a comprehensive plan for recovery, rehabilitation, reconstruction and resilience — the 4RF.
“The first part of the plan reflects the recovery and reconstruction, bearing in mind that the minimum funding of $16.3bn is required, half of which will be met with domestic resources, half from foreign resources.”
He explained that the second part of the plan incorporated flood-resilient design and infrastructure, such as protecting highways and early warning systems, of which $8bn would be required over the span of three years.
“This conference today is not just about helping to rebuild lives, but in fact, it is about the solidarity and vision needed to ensure a future not just on paper but in schools and homes.
“I am asking for your support for those who have lost their life savings, homes, and livelihoods and are facing the harsh winter under open skies.
“I am asking for a sustained international support plan to meet this daunting challenge, for a new lifeline for these people. Together we have to rebuild their lives and their dreams,” he said.
‘Pakistan doubly victimised by climate change’In his opening remarks at the Geneva moot, UN Chief Antonio Guterres urged the international community for “massive investments” to help Pakistan.
“No country deserves to endure what happened to Pakistan,” the secretary general said, highlighting that 9m people had been pushed to the brink of poverty.
“But the people of Pakistan met this epic tragedy with heroic humanity. I will never forget the personal testimonies of women and men I met in September. They left their own homes to help their neighbours and bring them to safety.”
He stressed that rebuilding Pakistan in a resilient way would need $16bn but added that “far more” would be required in the long run.
“Initiatives to address daunting social and environmental challenges are needed […] reconstructing homes and buildings, and redesigning infrastructure including roads bridges, schools and hospitals.”
Guterres went on to say that the people of Pakistan were “doubly victimised” by climate disasters and “morally bankrupt” global financial systems. “This system routinely denies middle-income countries of debt relief and concessional relief needed to invest in resilience against natural disasters.”
Hence, he pointed out, there was a need for creative ways for developing countries to access debt relief and concessional financing.
“We need to be honest about the brutal injustice suffered by developing countries due to climate change. If there is any doubt about loss and damage, go to Pakistan. The devastation of climate change is real.”
Towards the end of his address, Guterres said that today’s conference was the first step on a long journey to the recovery and reconstruction of Pakistan.
He promised that the UN would be there with the country and that every step will be inspired by the endurance and generosity of the people of Pakistan in this critical and colossal mission.
‘Not solidarity but justice’Later in the day, PM Shehbaz and Guterres address a joint press conference where the reiterated the need for the global community to aid Pakistan’s recovery.
PM Shehbaz said that more than 1,700 people had died in last year’s calamitous floods in Pakistan while more than eight million had been displaced. “I’ve not seen this kind of devastation in my entire life, which had not only crippled our economy but has posed a challenge which Pakistan can’t navigate alone.”
He went on to say that Pakistan’s economy had suffered a loss of $30 billion. The premier thanked the UN secretary general and friendly countries for the support extended during this difficult time. “As I speak, we have already spent about $400 million to provide basic support to 2.7m households.”
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres address a joint press conference in Geneva on Monday. — DawnNewsTV
The premier said that the next phase involved reconstructing the damaged infrastructure in order to enable citizens to stand on their own two feet. “It is a huge challenge.”
He said that Pakistan had prepared a comprehensive framework for rebuilding which would include a robust financing mechanism. “We would be able to generate close to $8bn domestically but we are seeking an equal amount from other countries.”
He noted that “hefty amounts” had been announced at today’s conference, assuring the donors that they would be spent in a transparent manner. “I’ve put in place third-party mechanism so that every penny is accounted for.”
During the press conference, the premier also expressed Pakistan’s commitment to complete the IMF programme.
At the same time, however, he wondered how the Fund could expect him to pass on the burden of inflation to the citizenry that was still reeling from floods.
“This not in line with the norms of justice and fair play,” he said, adding that he had asked the IMF to provide Pakistan with a “pause and some breathing space”.
The prime minister said the above was an “ongoing process” and the country would be one day able to convince with Fund using “logic and facts”. Nonetheless, he reiterated that the government would comply with the conditions of the IMF programme.
‘Turkiye stands ready to contribute to immediate needs of victims’Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, said that Turkiye was ready to contribute to meeting the immediate needs of disaster victims in Pakistan, as well as supporting the reconstruction process.
In a video statement at the conference, he recalled how Turkish people stood by the Pakistani people through their difficult days and would continue to do so in the future.
President Erdogan highlighted that the country sent “more than 7500 tonnes of humanitarian aid” on 15 planes and 13 trains when the disaster hit Pakistan.
He added that the country had “shared the products we obtained locally, with the victims [of the floods]” along with sending two ships containing more than 1,630 tonnes of humanitarian aid.
“The disaster demonstrates what devastation climate change can cause,” the Turkish president concluded.
Will need support for the next several years: BilawalIn his address at the climate conference, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stressed that Pakistan would need considerable support over the next several years to implement a comprehensive plan for flood recovery.
“At least half of the framework plan will be implemented from our own resources,” he told the moot.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at the Geneva conference. — DawnNewsTV
He underlined that the government of Pakistan had worked with world institutions including the UN, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the European Union to prepare a comprehensive framework document on resilience, rehabilitation, and reconstruction.
“At the level of our local communities, we are already engaged in rebuilding in the restoration of homes, villages, roads, and communication networks. “
Bilawal vowed that the government will transform the challenge of recovery and reconstruction into an opportunity to build a more resilient Pakistan and economy which is dynamic and sustainable.
“We are determined to do it in an open, transparent, and collaborative way. The rationale for this conference is to express international solidarity with Pakistan as it begins its journey towards building back better.”
He expressed gratitude to the UN for convening the conference. “We remain steadfast in responding to the emergency needs of the affected population and the reconstruction of affected infrastructure.”
Pakistan committed to its international obligations: DarFinance Minister Ishaq Dar said Pakistan was committed to its international obligations.
He asserted that the country was on track of its macroeconomic fiscal agenda which he said focused on increasing revenues, spending on social sector programmes, decreasing expenditure and creating more fiscal space for reconstruction and rehabilitation.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar speaks at the Geneva moot on Monday. — DawnNewsTV
“Right now, Pakistan is facing challenges on account of additional outlays, incurred and projected for the flood-related rescue and rehabilitation needs.
“Pakistan is carrying out the necessary fiscal reforms but we believe we urgently need short term assistance as we navigate a number of challenges,” Dar highlighted.
“Our urgent expectation is not merely a commitment for resources but we are also looking at our own budget inflows and assistance during the remainder of the current fiscal year in order for government to continue to provide relief.”
The entourage of a plane full of people, with boarding and lodging in the time of crisis. Everyone seems to promise material aid, no cash aid. But pledges only.