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    US to Give One-Half Billion Dollars for Pakistan Flood Assistance

    Flood survivors carry bags of wheat flour in the village Khairpur Nathan Shah, Pakistan (file photo)
    Flood survivors carry bags of wheat flour in the village Khairpur Nathan Shah, Pakistan (file photo)

    The United States has announced it will provide $500-million in additional financial aid to Pakistan to help rebuild the country after devastating floods led to the worst natural disaster in the nation's history.

    The U.S. Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, announced the United States will "fast track" another one-half billion dollars to help the millions of Pakistanis affected by the floods.

    "Now is the time to accelerate the rebuilding effort so families can put a permanent roof back over their heads, replace the livestock that has been lost, rebuild their agricultural base, send their children back to school and return to a normal life," said Holbrooke.

    The flooding began with monsoon rains in late July and spread over a large portion of the country, initially displacing 20-million people.

    The additional aid is being drawn from a $7.5 billion multiyear package of U.S. civilian assistance to Pakistan.

    The money is in addition to $500-million the U.S. has already contributed to help Islamabad deal with the impact of the disaster.

    Ambassador Holbrooke says transparency regarding how the money is spent will be essential if Pakistan is going to have continued support.

    "To continue support at these very high levels we will need to be able to show to the American people, to the American taxpayers, who pay a far higher percentage of their income in taxes than is the case here, that the money reaches those who need it most and that Pakistanis, especially those in the wealthier sector of your economy, pay their fair share in taxes."

    Ambassador Holbrooke's remarks were made to the Pakistan Development Forum, a meeting designed to give the government in Islamabad an opportunity to discuss flood reconstruction and other economic issues with international donors.

    The Pakistani government has developed a fund to make financial payments directly to those affected by the floods.

    Addressing the same forum, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said the flood damage is so massive it will take billions of dollars to rebuild.

    "Pakistan has been able to meet the immediate challenges posed by the floods and by terrorism, yet there are long-term challenges that are daunting.  Flood reconstruction will require billions in investment."

    Mr. Gilani urged the donors to give the Pakistani government more time to carry out structural reforms, asking them to consider it a "work in progress."

    Prime Minister Gilani was straightforward when discussing the challenges facing his government.

    "In many ways Pakistan is similar to most developing countries.  Like others we have problems of governance.  Like many we have issues of transparency and corruption and we do not invest enough in our social sectors, but these are the common challenges in developing and many developed countries," said Gilani.

    The World Bank and Asian Development Bank estimate damage from the flooding is about $9.7-billion.

    Pakistani officials say it will take another $30-billion to reconstruct the nation's infrastructure and rehabilitate those areas affected by the disaster.  

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