Bilawal asks IMF to soften loan terms

FM warns flood victims cannot be pushed into spiral of price hikes

Our Correspondent February 08, 2023
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari speaking at the Sindh Donor Conference in Karachi on Feb 08, 2023. SCREENGRAB


Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari urged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday to soften its tough conditions of a bailout package for Pakistan to enable Islamabad to protect the flood victims in the country from the spiral of ‘price hike’.

Addressing the ‘Resilient Sindh: From Pledges to Reconstruction’ conference, Bilawal, who is also the chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), said that the people had suffered a lot at the hands of heavy floods and unprecedented rains.

“Our people have already been drowned in floods and heavy rains and they cannot be drowned again in the flood of price hike,” Bilawal told the conference, organised by the Sindh government as a follow-up to the international conference in Geneva on January 9 on ‘Climate Resilient Pakistan’.

The ‘Resilient Sindh conference in Karachi aimed at harnessing international and local support for the people of the province in the aftermath of the devastating floods which followed a record monsoon rainfall last year.

“Their [flood victims] standing crops have been washed away and despite tiresome efforts, they have not been able to prepare their lands for the Rabi [October-March] crop and may not be able to make their flooded lands fit for the upcoming Kharif [April-September] crop,” Bilawal said.

“In such a state of affairs, they could not be further pushed into the spiral of price hikes,” the PPP chairman stressed. He then urged the IMF to offer the same conditions to Pakistan as it offered to various other nations during the Covid-19 pandemic.

On the occasion, Bilawal directed Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to award ownership rights to the affected people, who had lost their houses in the floods. He asked the chief minister to transfer the ownership rights in the name of women.

“I would urge you [the chief minister] to transfer the ownership rights of the houses in the name of the women of the houses so that they could obtain house purchase or other loans to start their business,” he said, adding that this would improve their livelihood and create economic activities.

The climate-induced flood disaster unfolded in the country, especially Sindh, in June 2022, affecting every conceivable facet of life. About 61% of the total damages and 75% of the total losses caused by the floods across the country occurred in Sindh alone.

According to the ‘Post-Disaster Needs Assessment’ report presented at the conference, the Floods affected more than 12.4 million people in the province, with more than 814 lives lost as well as over 2 million housing units impacted, and over 450,000 livestock perished.

About 20,000 schools and more than a thousand health facilities have been affected. Estimates suggest the provincial poverty rate may increase, pushing an additional 5 million people below the poverty line with over 4.3 million additional people facing the threat of food insecurity.

On the occasion, the Sindh government presented a ‘Strategic Action Plan’ to delineate its strategic priorities and implementation plans across the priority sectors of irrigation systems, housing and community facilities, roads infrastructure, livelihood, health, education, and human impact.

The conference also included the launch of the ‘Sindh People’s Housing for Flood Affectees Programme’ for reconstructing 2.1 million houses which encompassed real-time disbursements to initial beneficiaries. Memoranda of understanding were also signed with the implementing partners.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari lauded the efforts of the Sindh government for arranging a “beneficial and compelling conference”. He also lauded the efforts of the government Partners in working tirelessly for resilient recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction of the province.

In his address, Chief Minister Shah thanked the participants, including representatives from the United Nations, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, multilateral development partners and civil society organisations, diplomats and leaders of the private sector.

Shah said that the World Bank Group had been very forthcoming in its efforts to support his government, and all the development partners and countries that come forward “in this hour of need and have made commendable pledges” during the Geneva Conference.

UN Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative Knut Ostby, while speaking at the conference, said that without adaptation and resilience, the gains in poverty reduction, food security, gender empowerment and other Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) goals would be derailed.

“The UNDP is committed to supporting the design and delivery of ambitious climate change initiatives that pave the way toward a more sustainable world for all,” Ostby said. “Gender equality and climate resilience are key parts of our programme,” he added.

To support the people and the government of Sindh to build a better future, Ostby said, the UNDP’s Flood Recovery Programme focused on housing and community infrastructure; livelihoods recovery; restoring government services; and disaster resilience and environmental protection.


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