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US Official: Pakistanis Must Raise More Money to Pay for Floods

  • Ira Mellman

Millions of dollars in international aid have gone into Pakistan in an effort to recover from the massive floods that inundated huge areas of the country.

However,there are predictions that there will not be enough international aid to cover the astronomical cost of that task and calls for Pakistan to pay its fair share of the process.

Richard Holbrooke, the special representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan from the United States says in his recent journey to Pakistan, he found thousands of people who have been living in many flood victims camps eager to go home. But, says Holbrooke, their homes are gone, their livestock is gone and their crops are underwater.

"Beyond that lays the monumental task of rebuilding the one fifth of the country where every bridge has been wiped out, roads are gone, 4 or 5 thousand schools are gone, hundreds of health clinics (are gone). That is what you're really taking about. That is going to cost tens of billions of dollars."

And that, Holbrooke says, is the greatest challenge; to come up with what is needed to complete the job of rebuilding a nation.

"In that long term recovery phase, the international community is not going to be able to pick up the bill for 20 or 30 billion dollars or more. We will pick up some of it, the world community will give money, but the Pakistanis must raise their own revenue base.", said Holbrooke.

Akbar Zaidi, a visiting professor at the School of International Public Affairs at Columbia University in New York said
"I think what Mr.Holbrooke has been emphasizing is what others in Pakistan have also now started emphasizing, that unless there is an effort made to raise revenue domestically; there is no moral reason for the government having to turn to international donors." Zaidi added "Some of us economists have been arguing that with the collection of revenue very small compared to the size of the economy, it's a bit hypocritical for the government to ask other countries, and actually other taxpayers; taxpayers in the United States for example, to bail out the Government of Pakistan."

Zaidi says it will be very difficult to resolve the situation.

"The problem is that the government and the opposition, whoever happens to be in power, even the military for example. Even the civilian opposition or the military opposition which are in power. They would end up taxing themselves and their own community. Because of evidence that has been collected in Pakistan, members of the elite, whether they are the civil elite, the political or the military elite, they don't pay taxes. And it's the elite who make policy. So, the problem is that it's a Catch 22 situation that the elite doesn't enforce legislation because it would entrap itself."

The Columbia professor says while Pakistan does need outside money, especially to recover from the floods, it does not have the moral authority to ask to be bailed out unless it can do its own part to help itself.