In a startling revelation, a top official has admitted that the government did not have district-wise data of the population affected by the recent devastating floods in the country, undermining the authenticity of the Post-Disaster Need Assessment report that put the losses at over $30 billion.
The shocking disclosure of ignoring the human cost in terms of man and material was made by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Director (Operations) Brig Muhammad Umar, while responding to a query during the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance held on Wednesday.
As the winter sets in, the absence of the data has left hundreds of thousands people without basic needs such as blankets and tents, leaving them at the mercy of fast approaching harsh weather, revealed the committee proceedings.
The committee meeting was convened to discuss two pressing issues — whether any punitive action was taken against the commercial banks that manipulated the exchange rate, and most important of all the relief and rehabilitation effort in the flood-affected areas.
“I do not have the data of the affected people,” commented the NDMA’s director (operations) when MNA Dr Nafisa Shah inquired whether he knew how many people were affected in Sindh’s Khairpur district.
Dr Shah raised the question when the director briefed that so far, the authority had distributed 9,000 blankets and about 9,380 tents in district Khairpur — the constituency of Dr Shah.
According to the assessment of Dr Shah, between 100,000 to 150,000 people have been affected by the floods in the Khairpur district. She said that since there was no town- and district-level data available with the NDMA so far, thousands of people in her constituency had been left at the mercy of harsh weather and in search of warm shelter and clothes to avoid being exposed to cold.
“There is no denying the fact that the relief goods are coming but there is no union council-level data available,” she added. The MNA said that house listing exercise had started but complained the exercise was carrying out at a slow pace.
The revelations also put a question mark on the government’s claims of providing relief to the people and the utility of the PDNA report that has been prepared by the World Bank with the collaboration of the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme and the European Union.
The report has estimated the cost of damages and losses at $30.2 billion and worked out the reconstruction cost at $16.3 billion. But it does not provide the details of the 33 million flood-affected people that the government and the PDNA reports have claimed.
“One-third of the country has been under water, and 33 million people have been affected. Nearly 8 million people are reportedly displaced,” according to the PDNA. The report further stated that the floods had taken the lives of more than 1,700 people, one-third of which were children.
But Dr Shah said that about 5,000 to 6,000 children died only in her constituency, including those who died due to water-borne diseases. There are families who got food packets more than once but there are also families that have not received any food parcel due to absence of the data, Dr Shah added.
Pakistan has been appealing to the world for aid to reach out to the affected people without having credible data of the affected individuals. In October Pakistan revised its emergency aid appeal to the United Nations members for $816 million to cover the most urgent needs of 9.5 million people. However, as of October 21, only 13.7% of the requested amount has been funded, according to the PDNA report.
Headed by the PML-N’s Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh, the standing committee also took the issue of a delay in penalising the commercial banks for currency manipulation.
The proceedings showed that the legislators belonging to the ruling alliance ran out of patience for the economic team’s failure to bring the rupee-dollar parity below Rs200 and also imposed fines.
“[Finance Minister] Ishaq Dar should appear before the standing committee and tell us why he is not able to bring the dollar down below Rs200”, demanded the PML-N’s senior legislator, Chaudhry Barjees Tahir.
Tahir said that poor are penalised for committing small crimes but the rich banks have been spared despite playing with the destiny of the nation. “Today’s big story is that no action has been taken against the banks”.
SBP Deputy Governor Dr Inayat Hussain said that the hearing process of the banks was “almost complete” and the central bank was currently conducting “internal validation”. He said that the penalties against the banks would be imposed by November 30 – a similar statement given by the SBP governor earlier this week.
Hussain said that due to global and domestic problems, the capital inflows were drying up and the financial inflows were falling below the needs, resulting in constant pressure on the value of the rupee. The deputy governor hoped that the situation would improve in the next couple of months.
“First, we tried Miftah Ismail and then Ishaq Dar, now who is next in line”, questioned MNA Khalid Magsi from the Balochistan Awami Party – an ally of the government. He said that the economic direction of the country was still unclear. “It seems the SBP is lenient on the banks”, said Magsi.
The central bank informed the standing committee that based on the regular monitoring and complaints received from banks’ customers regarding charging higher margins in opening of import LCs, the SBP carried out an assessment of significant increase in foreign exchange income of the banks in the first half of 2022.
It added the significant increase in foreign exchange income was mainly due to the rise in daily volatility of exchange rate, which resulted in the widening of the spreads charged by the banks –a statement that Dr Shah said, indicated that the SBP was defending the commercial banks.
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