US will continue to help Pakistan rebuild economy

WASHINGTON: The United States has assured Pakistan that it would continue to support Islamabad’s efforts to strengthen its economy and deal with the consequences of last year’s devastating floods.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price at a Monday afternoon news briefing also urged Pakistan to continue with the economic reforms it promised to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) while indicating that the US support to Islamabad was not conditional.

He also announced an additional $100 million of recovery and reconstruction funding, bringing the total US contribution to Pakistan’s relief funds to over $200m.

But when a journalist asked if this aid was contingent on continued economic reforms in Pakistan, the US official said: “This is ultimately a decision for the IMF, (but) we of course want to see Pakistan continue down the path of reform.”

On Monday, the United Nations co-hosted a conference in Geneva to encourage the international community to help Pakistan raise funds for a $16 billion relief and reconstruction fund. Almost $10 billion was pledged at the conference.

Ned Price announces additional $100m support for flood recovery, reconstruction fund

Addressing the conference, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged radical reform of the global financial system to help Pakistan cope with the devastations caused by the deadly floods.

At the State Department briefing, Mr Price also underlined the need to support the efforts to rebuild a climate-resilient Pakistan.

“We want to be a partner. We will continue to be a partner to Pakistan when it comes to all of their priorities, whether it’s security, whether it’s economic in this case, or humanitarian in the case of the provision of the additional funding for the flood relief,” he explained.

He pointed out that since last year’s devastating floods, the US government had worked closely with Pakistan to provide funding assistance for flood response, food security, disaster preparedness, and capacity-building efforts. The new $100 million in funding, he said, would be used for flood protection and governance, disease surveillance, economic growth and clean energy, climate-smart agriculture, food security, and infrastructure reconstruction. The funding also includes humanitarian assistance to support flood relief and recovery efforts in refugee-hosting areas.

“Our flood-related assistance complements our broader efforts to form a US-Pakistan Green Alliance that looks at the range of climate and resilience issues central to Pakistan’s reconstruction,” Mr Price said.

“Pakistan’s recovery and reconstruction will be a continuing process in the months and years ahead, and we will continue to support Pakistan in its efforts to build a more climate-resilient future for its people,” he said.

A UN report released in New York noted that more than 33 million people were affected by the flooding in Sindh and Balochistan, which is widely regarded to have been Pakistan’s greatest climate disaster.

Even today, the floodwaters have only partly receded and the disaster is far from over for some eight million who were forced to flee the rising waters, which also killed more than 1,700 people.

More than 2.2 million homes were destroyed along with 13 per cent of all health facilities, 4.4 million acres of crops, and more than 8,000 kilometres of roads and other vital infrastructure — including around 440 bridges.

The cost of helping communities hit in every conceivable way by the unprecedented monsoon rains in Pakistan that began last June will run in excess of $16 billion, and far more will be needed in the longer term.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2023