ISLAMABAD: Mutual trust is everything when it comes to money deals. However, this is something that is lacking between international donors and the government of Pakistan, which is hampering the effort to cope with the worst-ever flooding in the country’s history.
The country’s ‘tainted’ past when it comes to spending money from multilateral and bilateral donors appears to be behind the slow pace of aid coming in from across the world as well as the apprehension that surrounds the support.
Most of the money this time is being channelised through either the United Nations agencies or other non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
“The international help is coming slow because the money Pakistan got in the past was never used with a reasonable level of transparency,” said a diplomat from one of the European countries that has always been contributing generously to help the country.
He asked not to be named because diplomats are not allowed to speak about the internal matters of the country they are stationed in.
He specifically mentioned the aid of over $6 billion the international community contributed towards Pakistan’s efforts to rehabilitate the affectees of the earthquake that devastated the northwestern parts of the country and some areas of Azad Jammu and Kashmir back in 2005.
Using the generous donations that poured in from the international community, the government was supposed to rebuild infrastructure and more than half a million damaged houses in the region.
Former president Pervez Musharraf had announced after the killer earthquake that a model city would be built to relocate the inhabitants of wrecked Balakot town. In fact, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the project immediately after the disaster.
But as the five-year anniversary of the earthquake approaches, there hasn’t been any significant progress on the project.
“Even the land for building a new city could not be acquired…and there are doubts it will ever happen,” an official of Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (Erra) told The Express Tribune from Peshawar.
The project is not the only black spot. The rebuilding of basic infrastructure, such as sewerage, roads and bridges, also lies stagnated in Balakot and AJK, local said.
“There hasn’t been any progress can be termed substantial,” said Muhammad Arshad Khan from Balakot. He lost his house in the tragedy and still living in a makeshift structure provide to him by the Saudi government.
Like him, most residents of the town continue to live in makeshift houses – despite the fact that Pakistan was given ‘more than enough’ international help then for this purpose.
“There are fears that same will happen again. The money we give to the government agencies might not be reaching flood affectees,” the diplomat said. On Wednesday, the UN launched an emergency appeal for $460 million in New York for immediate relief. This amount is likely to be spent through the UN subsidiaries.
Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, however, does not appear to agree with this.
For him, it is not because of lack of the government’s credibility that the international community is reluctant to help Pakistan this time around.
“We anticipate much more than the 2005 earthquake for Pakistan from the international community,” he said in Islamabad.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2010.