Earthquake aid spent elsewhere: report

More than 300 million pounds of aid to help rebuild parts of Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake was diverted.

Afp August 15, 2010

LONDON: More than 300 million pounds of aid to help rebuild parts of Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake was diverted to other projects, a British media report claimed on Saturday. The Daily Telegraph newspaper, citing unnamed senior Pakistani officials, said there were fears that this diversion of funds would put off foreign donors from giving money to help the 20 million people currently affected by heavy floods.  “There is reluctance; people in this country are not giving generously to the flood fund because they are not sure that their money will be spent honestly,” opposition leader Nawaz Sharif told the newspaper.

The Daily Telegraph said more than 300 million pounds of aid for the 2005 earthquake, which killed more than 73,000 people, has yet to be handed over to Pakistan’s Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (Erra).   It cited one senior Erra official as saying that they were told in March 2009 that 12 billion Pakistan rupees were being diverted from their budget to other government projects.

“When we have the money, we will pay you,” the unnamed official said that Erra directors had been told. “All the money was given by the western governments, but they said ‘we have so many other problems’.”

In June this year, the Erra staff was again told their budget was being cut from 43 billion rupees for 2010-2011, to just 10 billion, the newspaper said. The paper also said it had visited the town of Balakot where 5,000 people were killed in the earthquake. Despite a promise to rebuild it on a new site, no new roads had been completed nor had the construction of buildings begun.

Pakistan’s finance secretary, Salman Siddiq, denied that any foreign aid funds had been diverted, stating that cuts had not been imposed last year.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2010.


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