World must help Pakistan recover from catastrophic floods

Pakistan was the hardest hit among the countries that faced extreme weather-related events and catastrophes last year

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Photo: AP file
Photo: AP file

By Ahsan Iqbal

Published: Sun 8 Jan 2023, 11:33 PM

The forthcoming conference on Resilient Pakistan, being co-hosted by the Government of Pakistan and the United Nations in Geneva on January 9, will bring together governments, leaders from the public and private sectors, and civil society to help Pakistan recover from the devastating floods of 2022. The disaster inundated one-third of its territory and affected 33 million people.

Pakistan was the hardest hit among the countries that faced extreme weather-related events and catastrophes last year. The monsoon rains, almost 400% above average in some parts, swamped vast arid regions. Hill torrents and flash floods washed away entire villages. The human and material costs of the disaster has been staggering. More than 1,700 lives lost, onethird of whom were children. The poorest districts were most affected. Infrastructure losses included nearly 13,000 kilometres of roads, 400 bridges and several hundred dams, and over 25,000 schools and 1,500 health facilities, destroyed or damaged.

The Post-Damage Needs Assessment (PDNA) — conducted jointly by the Government of Pakistan and its international development partners, including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Union, UN relief agencies, in October — has estimated the aggregate cost of the calamity at $30.1 billion. This includes $14.9 billion in damages to infrastructure and $15.2 billion in economic losses. The minimum needs identified for recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction are estimated at $16.3 billion.

Thankfully, the urgent relief and recovery task has been managed steadily by mobilizing limited government resources and through generous support from the international community. The federal and provincial governments have spent approximately $1.5 billion in this gigantic effort, including emergency cash transfers worth $286 million among 2.7 million affected households under the Benazir Income Support Programme.

The Geneva conference seeks to forge a global partnership for rebuilding and reconstructing Pakistan’s resilience. Despite facing enormous economic difficulties, Pakistan is committing to share half of the estimated $16.3 billion required to meet the immediate needs of recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction in the next three years under the PDNA report.

The Resilient Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Framework (4RF), which is prepared by the Government of Pakistan and its international development partners on the basis of PDNA findings, will be shared with the friends of Pakistan and development partners at the Geneva conference.

It lays out a multisectoral strategy for rehabilitation and reconstruction in a resilient and inclusive manner to build back a better future for the communities most affected by the floods. The 4RF aims to achieve four strategic recovery objectives, including restoring livelihoods and economic opportunities, ensuring social inclusion and participation, restoring and improving basic services and physical infrastructure, and developing an enabling environment for private sector participation. This post-disaster strategic framework is also a foundation on which the country will build and strengthen long-term resilience.

Pakistan’s economy was already in dire straits. The floods have caused a massive impact. The losses to the GDP as a direct consequence of this disaster are projected to be around 2.2 per cent in the financial year 2022. The agriculture sector accounts for the largest decline at 0.9 per cent. The recovery and reconstruction needs are projected at 1.6 times the budgeted national development expenditure for the Financial Year 2023.

The consequent fiscal constraints will hamper progress in achieving key Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within this decade. For instance, poverty cannot be eliminated when up to 9 million are at risk of being pushed into poverty. Zero hunger is not possible when nearly 8 million more people are facing food security. It is hard to visualize meaningful progress in good health and well-being when 17 million women and children face a greater risk of preventable diseases.

The government of Pakistan is committed to implementing all the 17 SDGs on time, while simultaneously mobilising necessary resources for recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction of the disaster-hit regions. But current economic woes facing the country are so severe that it has no choice but to approach the international community to finance at least half of the immediate needs of the people most affected.

The proposed financing strategy takes into consideration the current global economic crisis and proposes shared responsibility among the federal and provincial governments, bilateral and multilateral partners, and the international community. This includes 50 per cent local funding and 50 per cent international support, each worth $8.15 billion to meet the immediate needs of recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction in the next three years.

This gigantic task will be undertaken through an effective and transparent implementation and monitoring process while keeping the international development partners on board. The world has stood by Pakistan during the relief and rescue phase of the tragedy. Its lasting consequences can also be tackled with the same spirit of shared responsibility.

Ahsan Iqbal is Federal Minister for Planning and Development of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan

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