US Outspends Islamabad on Flood Relief in Pakistan

Taha Siddiqui, Christian Science Monitor, October 23, 2012

The US government has pledged more money toward this year’s flood relief efforts in Pakistan than the country’s own government, according to a report this month from the Congressional Research Service.

Floods have devastated swathes of the Pakistani countryside this year. And once again the US is contributing substantial funds despite strained ties between the two governments and large anti-American street protests.

According to a little noticed detail in a report titled “Pakistan: US Foreign Assistance,” the country’s central government has pledged $91 million toward flood relief, 32 percent less than the $134.6 million promised by the US State Department and USAID as of the end of September 2012.

But instead of helping repair US-Pakistan relations, the flood aid looks more likely to harden the existing pattern where Americans tire of financially supporting a country where elites are barely taxed and the majority of citizens dislike the US. Pakistan, meanwhile, points out US pledges are often much greater than the aid actually delivered—and what aid does come is spent in a self-interested manner.

“These aid figures are on paper and never really materialize into anything. The foreign aid pledge is always about—this will come, that will happen, but it never does,” says Irshad Bhatti, spokesperson for the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), an autonomous government body that looks after disaster relief in Pakistan.

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The US Embassy in Pakistan said that for floods this year USAID has disbursed around $100,000 so far. Since 2009, the US government has spent over a billion dollars in humanitarian assistance.

The floods in Pakistan this year have killed more than 400 people over the past five weeks and affected over five million people, according to NDMA data. However, the past two years’ floods have not been as bad as it was in 2010 when Pakistan suffered the worst floods in its history that killed almost 1,800 people and affected around 21 million in the country.

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