As the United States and other nations send aid to the flood victims in Pakistan, the private sector is also making significant contributions. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is coordinating relief efforts being made by private American corporations.
Stephen Jordan is the executive director of the Business Civic Leadership Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“It is one of those cases in which no business is going to be engaged in across the board in everything. But there are going to be specialists and experts in almost everything,” he said.
Jordan added that U.S. companies have the specific resources to address the many specific needs of disasters like the Pakistan floods. “A lot of this is self-selecting. That is the beauty of the private sector. Individual companies are great at individual things. So a lot of the pharmaceutical companies, a lot of the health care companies are going to focus on the health care issues,” he said.
“The engineering, construction and heavy equipment companies are going to focus on dams, roads and those kind of things. The financial services companies are going to help say with small business capacity building, (and) micro-finance,” Jordan said.
Although the death toll has been relatively low, the floods have affected millions of people as it has washed through Pakistan’s economy. Anne Patterson is the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan. She said initial aid trickled in before the magnitude of the disaster was felt.
“I think the response of the international community was anemic at first. In part because the generous donations to Haiti, in part because the death toll here was mercifully low.” Ambassador Patterson also said “I think the economic impact is going to be huge because so much of the country was affected.” She welcomes the help from private companies, and says their involvement will be a boost for Pakistan in the future.
“Pakistan does present very promising investment opportunities for American corporations, who have largely had a very good experience here on the ground in Pakistan,” she said. “I appreciate that is hard to promote investment when you see a good portion of the country underwater. But even more urgently now, American investment is going to be required to rebuild the country.”
Ambassador Patterson said “I am convinced that American corporations and entrepreneurs can make money here, even in this environment.”
Stephen Jordan said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been approached to help Pakistan in a number of areas. “The appeals that we have gotten are for example how we can help out children, how we can help out in terms of education, how we can help out in terms of engineering, public works,” he said. “They are very concerned about dam failures and flooding affecting highway infrastructure. So we are looking at engineering issues. We are also looking at massive, massive health care issues. They are concerned of course about diarrhea, cholera and all of the water-borne illnesses that you can just imagine,” Jordan said.
Once relief aid is gathered, the U.S. military is on the ground to help spread the donations. “Distribution is always key in natural disasters like this,” Ambassador Patterson said. “So I think the military is here. They are very active. And they are bringing in people from these isolated areas of the country with the capacity only the United States can provide.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says Pakistan ranks as the third largest recipient of disaster assistance from the business community over the past five years, behind Haiti and China.