It is a strange world where someone’s misery can turn into opportunity for someone else to make quick windfall profits. This is true not only for individual greedy business men but also institutions. In the case of Pakistan, where Government needs to rehabilitate people and reconstruct infrastructure, the only thing needed is money and that too in local currency because almost nothing is to be imported. Any other nation, in such an hour of need, would adopt austerity as a way of life and divert all national and individual savings towards reconstruction and employment generation for those whose livelihood was washed away. Another way is to ask those to cough up who have stashed tons of plundered wealth. They could be given an opportunity to whiten their black money.
However, strange are the ways of the Pakistani Government where the easiest of the way is to ask for external loans and that too very expensive one. At this point in time, debt servicing is 44% of the current expenditure and with additional debts it will rise further and add to the miseries of the people. The only gainers in this calamity are Pakistani businessmen and international lenders like the Bretton Woods sisters and ADB who see a huge business opportunity in investing in reconstruction activities.
Express Tribune, while updating on flood relief activities has reported that the World Bank has increased funding to help Pakistan cope with catastrophic flooding by $100 million, to a total of $1 billion, the bank said in a statement on Thursday. “The World Bank is committed to helping the people of Pakistan during this time of need and has made $1 billion available to finance immediate recovery needs and longer-term reconstruction,” the statement quoted World Bank President Robert Zoellick as telling Pakistani Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh in Washington.
The same newspaper has also reported that the International Monetary Fund will give Pakistan $450 million emergency loan for flood aid, providing some relief for a government overwhelmed by the disaster. IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said in Washington on Thursday that the funds would be dispersed in ‘coming weeks’.
Strauss-Kahn said discussions with a delegation led by Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on how to ‘reorganise’ an $11 billion IMF loan program. He said Islamabad remained committed to terms including tax and energy sector reforms. The IMF package had kept afloat and economy that was already fragile before the floods rampaged from the northwest to the south, damaging crops and infrastructure which Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani estimated could hit $43 billion, almost one quarter of last year’s gross domestic product.
Meanwhile demonstrators marched against the new International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan plan in front of the World Bank’s offices in Islamabad.