worsened flood disaster?
Future of a crisis
A survivor's guide for Pakistan, following the latest calamity
By Raza Rumi
Pakistan's devastating floods have opened up a Pandora's Box of governance dysfunctions and historical distortions that have plagued the polity since independence. It remains to be seen what will be the outcome of the greatest calamity in our recent history. Various estimates show that the floods have affected 18-20 million people. The death toll has crossed the figure of 2000 while 2 million houses have been damaged or destroyed. Floodwaters are receding in many areas, and though there are concerns about standing water that remains in Punjab and other areas, the worst of the current flooding is taking place in Sindh.
The disaster is still not over but the fissures within Pakistan have started to erupt and once again proving how vulnerable the state is and how fractured the Pakistani society has become. Five key crises have emerged, some old and some new. However, they point to the fact that our continuous refusal to address structural problems remains a key challenge.
Martial state syndrome: Pakistan's history is an uninterrupted tale of direct and indirect military rule and centralisation. Each time there is a crisis there is a need to resort to the de facto, real governance paradigm: the military rule. Therefore, Altaf Hussain of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) are not saying anything new. The perennial search for a Messiah, rooted in the religious ideology that the state and education system have cultivated, is back in full force. This time the media and other discordant voices are calling for another phase of direct military rule.
It remains unclear where this goal will be achieved in the short term. The odds are against a direct military intervention given the army's involvement in war against militancy and extremism in the country. Similarly, the Generals may not be very keen to take charge of a country deep in crisis. Yet, the calls for regime change are meaningful. There is another dimension to this crisis and that relates to the Superior Courts who have now formally entered the power-wielding quartet (comprising the parliament, army, the judiciary and the media).
There have also been calls for a Bangladesh model that empowers the judges to take the reins of power as honest and impartial caretakers until the next election. Given that the elections are at least two and a half years away, this may not be a feasible idea.
Economic instability: The cyclical patterns of growth and income generation are also an established pattern in the country. The recent disaster will lead to massive downturn. The ministry of finance and its advisers have predicted a zero percent growth rate and 25 percent inflation rate. This would spell another disaster for food security and endemic problem of poverty.
It is unclear how the government, the incumbent or the future dispensation will be able to arrest the economic decline. The international community, it appears is not going to bail out Pakistan after the relief phase is over. Loans worth 3.5 billion dollars have been announced by the international finance institutions but the debt servicing needs are going to further exacerbate the economy and leave limited fiscal space for the gigantic task of reconstruction that may involve 10-20 billion dollars. A damage needs assessment is being carried out by IFIs and the government and only then the picture will be clear.
At this crucial juncture of Pakistan's history it is clear that political instability is going to fuel economic uncertainty and, therefore, going to spur an economic collapse unless of course the quartet appreciates the gravity of the challenges and attempts to induce political stability by not attempting to sabotage the current quasi-civilian order.
However, the chances of such a consensus are remote and limited as various power players are treating this situation as an opportunity to leverage their interests and stakes, thereby rendering the primary task of dealing with the disaster meaningless. Therefore, attaining economic stability is a distant dream unless of course the parameters of political game are redefined.
Collapse of civilian administration: Floods have only exposed what analysts had been saying for a long time. Pakistan's governance institutions in the civilian domain have lost their efficacy and relevance. Even after a month of flooding and wide-scale devastation, the civilian machinery has been unable to rise to the occasion. The national and provincial disaster management authorities are being rescued by the donors for the inherent capacity of the state to plan and execute emergency measures seems to have disappeared altogether.
Pakistan's inability to undertake any meaningful civil service reform in the last four decades means that millions of under-paid, unaccountable and disenchanted public sector employees are not geared towards service delivery let alone dealing with disasters.
The NDMA Ordinance has lapsed since long. The new commission to be formed has still not been put into place and the provinces are more interested in scoring points with the Centre rather than coordinating relief and rehabilitation plans and delivery.
Reform is not a short term process, therefore, the situation is not going to change in the next one year or so. But the reform process has to begin now. There was never an urgent need for introducing reforms than this particular moment. First and foremost is the need to revive the local government system that had been made dysfunctional by the elected governments in 2008. This unwise policy choice, despite its legitimacy, is now there to haunt the state as well as the elected officials as they have no credible means of ensuring delivery of aid other than relying on the unelected and corrupt machinery of the revenue departments or to move towards the non governmental networks.
Furthermore, it is also imperative to set the right structures at the provincial and district levels to ensure that citizen voice and accountability are kept in view in the post-relief phase. The chances on this front are not too promising as there are complaints of political partisanship, hijacking of aid and ignoring the marginalised.
Disaffection and militancy: Contrary to several claims of the optimistic analysts, the relief efforts by the faith-based (and in some cases banned) organisations is not a positive trend. In a country, which is already fractured and split on the issue of religious militancy, this is a recipe for further unrest. Take the case of Swat where pundits had observed the land struggles as a major cause for militancy. The floods have displaced the poor and once the situation returns to normalcy the land rights of tenants or farm workers will come into the spotlight once again.
In the absence of dispute resolution or complaints redress mechanisms this will be an ideal playground for the jihadis to motivate the poor and invite them to their ranks or seek their political support. The situation in Southern Punjab will be similar as well due to the well-organised and entrenched networks of militancy.
It should not be forgotten that the suspension of the military operation for weeks may have given the much-needed opportunity to the militant groups to reorganise. The recent wave of terror in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and recently in Lahore indicates that the terrorists are back in action and would not mind hurting the state when it is embroiled in disaster-management, political squabbling and divided along several ideological lines.
Even if we discount the prospect of more recruitment of militants, the influx of several displaced and dispossessed in the urban centres will be a major boon for the criminal networks operating in the cities. The nexus between these elements and the militant groups has also been observed. Though we lack accurate data in this context, but anecdotal evidence and the incidence of bank robberies during the rise of Taliban in 2008-2009 is a rough guide.
Popular disaffection with the state has been a theme well-played by the media circus of Pakistan. Iniquitous land relations in Sindh and other rural areas, heavily hit by the floods will become a major source of public disenchantment with the state agencies. This is a situation that Pakistan cannot afford as the country needs to focus on the issues of terrorism and rebuilding the economy. How the policymakers handle this is also an area that public has limited knowledge about. In fact, whether the civilian governments are also aware of the 'national security' game plan is also an unknown.
Weakened constitutionalism and federalism: The 18th Amendment had provided a sound framework for Pakistan to exist and prosper as a functional federation. Its implementation is still a pending task and seems compounded by several factors. First, the Supreme Court's hearing of the cases against the Amendment and the recent injunction suspends the constitutional provisions in effect. Had these provisions been inserted by a dictator, this was not an alarming issue. But when a new framework for governance, approved with consensus of the four provinces and two chambers, is called into question by a bench of appointed judges (with competing claims of popular legitimacy) is a worrying signal. We cannot expound further as the case is subjudice and the final verdict will make the situation clearer.
The second issue is that of the emerging resource crunch given the provinces' dire need for reconstruction. The tensions are going to affect already tenuous federal arrangements. If the Centre raises funds through external debts, then it gets a policy lever to exert on the provinces, which rightly feel empowered after the 18th Amendment.
Finally, the rumours of extra-constitutional arrangements (national government, Bangladesh model or a martial law) imply that the implementation or even the fate of the 18th Amendment may now be uncertain. This is nothing short of an upheaval as Balochistan is already harbouring separatist sentiments and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is facing the wrath of those who want to set up real Islamic Emirate[s]. If the current party in power at the Centre is booted out then alienation of Sindh cannot be ruled out. How will the country and its federal order painfully corrected in the recent years survive? These are alarming prospects.
In conclusion, Pakistan's ruling elites fond of palace intrigues and power maximisation tricks must realise that this may be the last chance of saving the country, as we know it. First, the democratic forces must stick together to fight the prospect of authoritarianism, fascism and media-propelled revolution in the middle classes. Second, the focus should be on the economy for post-relief phase requires Pakistan to recover from this mammoth shock. Internal resource mobilisation and cutting down on current expenditure (including deferring payments on debts) should be a clear agenda.
Thirdly, the local government system should be strengthened at once and local capacities be enhanced to deal with the mayhem in 80 districts. Finally, the Pakistan army should also remember its core mandate of protecting Pakistan from its enemies -- this time the enemy lies within. It is heartening to know that there is realisation of this imperative in the top command but the distractions caused by an opportunity must be ruthlessly dealt with. Pakistan cannot afford political or economic instability. This time the spiral of uncertainty might just target the state itself.
The writer is a policy adviser, writer and editor based in Lahore. He blogs at www.razarumi.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Those whose homes have been ravaged by floods will be partial to the ideologies of those that provide them with real assistance
By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
So much of what passes for informed comment in Pakistan is reactive. If on the one hand this is explained by a paucity of meaningful intellectual inquiry and social embeddedness, then on the other hand it is also a function of the sheer number of 'incidents' that take place in this country to which anyone with a conscience must respond. The gruesome and indiscriminate attacks on the Shi'a community in Lahore and Quetta over the past couple of days require a response, and an urgent one at that.
But before I turn to what these latest incidents of violence signify, I must also express my utter disgust at the manner in which the electronic media -- the print press is less culpable -- has chosen to depict the series of events involving some of our most prominent cricketers in England. While there can be no argument against the adage 'innocent until proven guilty', I find it incredible how so many media outlets and 'commentators' have pitched what has happened as a 'conspiracy' against Pakistan. The tabloid press in England has an awful reputation: Pakistan's mainstream Urdu press clearly does not want to be left behind. It cannot be stressed enough that the media in this day and age plays a crucial role in forging public sentiment. At a time when serious introspection and analysis are so badly required, it is a sad reflection on our media moguls, editors and at least a segment of working journalists that sensational stories on 'cricket corruption' are projected as more important than everything else around us.
To return to the killings in Lahore and Quetta: in the aftermath of these episodes the debate about how best to tackle such renegade violence will be reignited, at least to some extent. I find it difficult to understand what there is left to debate. Despite countless 'counter-terrorist' initiatives over the course of the past decade, individuals willing to blow themselves and others up in the name of some fantastical divine calling are still a dime a dozen. The physical and social infrastructure of the hate-mongers is very much intact. The objective reasons for the persistence of hatefulness cease to go away. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!
Let us also not forget that the 20 million people whose lives have been wrecked by the monsoon rains are easy prey for the hate-mongers, especially given the experience that the latter have in responding to and indoctrinating those who are in social and economic distress. In short, it is high time that we accept that all of our premises about 'terrorism' and how to counter it are dreadfully flawed. The more time we spend believing international and local media outlets that spew out nonsense about 'terrorism' without trying to uncover its social and cultural bases, the more ground we are ceding to those who provide simple escape routes to 'salvation'.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago on these pages about the thoroughly under-nourished 'secularism' debate in this country. I believe it is high time that we move beyond the notion that the primary faultline in Pakistan today is between secularism and 'fundamentalism'. Ordinary people are not 'secular' or 'fundamentalist'. One can argue that states can or should be secular, but people's moral and political choices are not driven by abstract ideas of, in Durkheim's famous words, the 'sacred' and 'profane'. Even if our conduct is influenced by ideals, human agency has historically been affected more by material interests, both collective and individual. It is time that we stop thinking of 'terrorists' as being victims of a mental condition and recognise that they are real people with real problems and make life choices on the basis of their material realities.
Those whose homes have been ravaged by floods will at this stage of their lives be partial to the ideologies of those that provide them with real assistance. If it is those who talk of 'secular' ideals that demonstrate their commitment to people in their time of need, then the chances are that such ideals will take root within the social enclaves that are being provided relief. We should not need reminding that most of the right-wing Islamic groups that have now become influential in Muslim countries were once upon a time marginal entities that garnered social and political space by undertaking welfare activities. Hamas, Hezbollah and a number of jihadi groups in our country are cases in point.
Having said this I am a firm believer that the state should be the provider of people's basic needs. These days the state versus market binary has become so overpowering as to totally obfuscate the dialectical relationship between capitalism and the modern bureaucratic state. Throughout modern history the state and private capital have had a symbiotic relationship. However, where powerful political movements representing the interests of working people have existed, the state has been forced to respond and ensure minimum levels of subsistence, amenities and a modicum of social justice.
In countries such as ours where the state's service delivery and justice provision arms are underdeveloped vis-a-vis its coercive apparatus, de facto space exists for non-state actors to generate support on account of their filling in the vacuum created by the state's absence. It is time to recognise that this is how the right-wing functions and that there is no particular DNA from which crazed millenarian warriors are created, where social spaces exist due to the inability and/or unwillingness of the state to meet people's material needs, the right-wing steps in and plies its trade.
Finally, another digression. While the timing may have been bad (inasmuch as the floods have been at the forefront of public consciousness since late July), the PTCL workers' strike which has been ongoing for almost a month surely deserves a tad bit more attention than it has been receiving. Close to 30,000 workers are on strike yet the media has either pretended as if nothing is wrong or been quite content to tow the management's line which criminalises a 'handful of instigators'. What will it take for us to question the media's infinite wisdom with respect to what constitutes news and what does not?
The path aheadDisaster management
Interim solutions have to be offered to the local population to be able to earn a living for the family
By Irfan Mufti
The worst ever disaster in Pakistan's history has jolted economy and politics. Millions of homeless people are still waiting for relief and emergency support while the gigantic tasks of rehabilitation, reconstruction of infrastructures, and resettlement of homeless remain to be undertaken. Though it will take time to gauge the extent of damages, initial estimates are horrifying.
The government has estimated net losses of $5 billion (or 450 billion rupees) and, ironically, a fraction of this amount has either been pledged, committed or handed over thus far. These estimates do not include damages that people will bear while rebuilding their lives back to normal. Country's economy has been in hot waters for the last few years. This heavy burden of rehabilitation and reconstruction will further weaken it causing strain on society and local politics.
There are three interlinked but strategically important tasks ahead. Sustain relief and emergency support for 25-30 million displaced people, set forth a system of rehabilitation and resettlement and formulate mitigation systems to prevent and minimise the effects of disasters in future. All these systems have to be based on the principles of human development and safety-first.
The task of caring for millions of people, including women, children and sick, needs urgent attention. These people have to be fed, treated, and camped for several weeks. According to a rough estimate, this task required at least 40-50 billion rupees and a huge human resource to manage on-going relief and emergency work. Early signs of health emergency are already emerging as several deaths of children and women have been reported from many areas. This requires urgent health and medical aid to this vulnerable population failing to which will cause more human losses.
The second task will be to assess damages, start returning process of population and build basic infrastructure for the population to recover their lives and farming activities. There is an urgent need to start process of establishing and rebuilding road networks, reconstruct canals, barrages and irrigation head works and farm-to-market links to restart economic engine. Flood water has also wiped out farm definitions of field and survey numbers and these have to be built. Re-establishing them is a major exercise or it will lead to conflicts. During the phase of re-construction of homes and properties similar conflicts will also emerge. Government needs to set-up dispute resolution mechanisms to address property conflicts and other litigation matters.
Rehabilitation of local economies that consist of livestock, forest resources, and roads that provide lifeline to country's economy will be a major task. In Gilgit Baltistan and most parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the main focus should be on rebuilding orchards, farm and grazing lands for fodder and food. Most of these orchards and fruit trees are damaged and will take time to re-grow and produce fruits. Interim solutions have to be offered to local population to earn for family. Most of the local infrastructure of roads, link bridges and other facilities are totally damaged and need urgent repair for population to start mobility and relief goods to reach affected people.
In Balochistan, major losses are in the canal-irrigated farming areas of Naseerabad and Jaffarabad. These areas grow more than 50 percent of total agriculture produce of the province. Farming communities in these areas need to be supported. Sindh has faced big losses and damages on farming and agriculture infrastructure. Riverine economy that provides a large share in food and grain produce, has lost everything. Province needs to invest in rebuilding agriculture support systems and its destroyed road and communications infrastructure. It has to seriously consider rehabilitation needs of a very large displaced population.
Punjab has suffered heavy losses in agriculture and farming activities. Losses to its cash crop economy in cotton and sugar cane areas will incur major losses at the end of the cropping cycle this year. The net damages and economic losses in Punjab will be much higher than any other province. With its already high budget deficit, Punjab government faces a tough challenge ahead.
For reviving agriculture and farming activities for most of the farmers a systemic approach has to be adopted. This must include technical support for land management, including land leveling, agriculture inputs and provision of seed and fertilizer to small farmers, livestock management and village infrastructure improvements mainly culverts, and water course lining, link roads. Such actions must be subsidized by the government.
Disaster management has to be a multi-disciplinary and pro-active approach. Besides various measures for putting in place institutional and policy framework, disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness of the community, civil society organizations and media also have key role to play in achieving the goal of moving together.
We have to accept the fact that flooding is accentuated by erosion and silting leading to meandering of the rivers in plains and reduction in carrying capacity of the river channel. It is also aggravated by earthquakes and landslides, leading to changes in river course and obstructions to flow. Synchronization of floods in the main rivers and tributaries and retardation of flow due to tidal effects lead to major floods. Flood forecasting and warning system must be set-up and their capacity improved for alerting the likely damage centers in advance.
In disaster mitigation, our mission should be vulnerability reduction to all types of hazards, be it natural or manmade. This is not an easy task to achieve, keeping in view the population and multiple natural hazards. We have to take the first few but significant steps towards vulnerability reduction, putting in place prevention and mitigation measures and preparedness for a rapid and professional response. With a massive awareness campaign and building up of capabilities as well as institutionalisation of the entire mechanism, we can gradually move in the direction of sustainable development. The vision should be to build a safer and secure Pakistan through sustained collective effort, synergy of national capacities and people's participation.
It is also necessary for disaster mitigation components to be built into all development projects. Prior to the transfer, the focus had been entirely on post-disaster relief and rehabilitation. Very little, if any, attention was paid to mitigation and preparedness. We have to bring about a radical change in orientation, emphasizing prevention and preparedness. A strategic framework must be drawn with the approval of parliament and all key stakeholders.
Despite the fact that we have already lost thousands of lives and property worth billions of rupees in these floods, we do not have a national policy on disaster management. A national policy on disaster management must be drafted urgently in line with the new focus the policy can also propose to integrate disaster mitigation into developmental planning. The primary objective should be to change the focus from relief and rehabilitation to mitigation and preparedness.
Special budgets have to be allocated for both managing the effects of floods and mitigation measures. A serious rethinking of budget priorities is needed. Instead of levying new taxes on already highly taxed population budget reallocations are needed. Government has to reduce its costs, non-development expenditures, improve its governance and management and put rehabilitation tasks as its top priority. The world is rightly demanding domestic share for rebuilding instead of relying on international grants or loans. It is however opportune time for the government to demand debt cancellation from donors as most of the debt is unfair and illegitimate.
Expecting the government to deliver everything at this crisis will be unrealistic. We must recognise that challenges must be faced through coordination. The recent statements of politicians and government representatives indicate a different situation. Political tensions and lack of coordination will not help.
It is important to recognize the role of all five key stakeholders, including the government, civil society, donors, the private sector and media in devising disaster management plan. A broad-based dialogue for the formulation of this plan is urgently needed. Consultation will help remove mutual distrust, bridge gaps, improve coordination and assign responsibilities for a clear and focused action plan. The government must show leadership in bringing these stakeholders together instead of resorting to finger pointing or naming and blaming.
The writer is Deputy Chief of South Asia Partnership Pakistan and Global Campaigner
At this moment, foreign aid is the lifeline of flood relief efforts along with the local resources
By Ather Naqvi
Devastation caused by the floods across the length and breadth of Pakistan has left experts struggling to gauge the exact level of damage caused by the unprecedented catastrophe. For now, one assessment comes from Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani who told the cabinet on Wednesday Sept 1 that the damage caused by the floods to the country's economy is something about $43 billion. In economic terms, that is likely to translate into a budget deficit of something about 4.5 percent while economic growth is likely to drop to 2.5 percent down from the estimated 4.5 percent in the current financial year.
At this critical economic juncture, one view is that foreign aid supporting the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the country seems to hold the key. Still, there is a view claiming we can cope with the enormous crisis solely on our own. Given the fact the foreign aid has stalled for now according to the UN and the financial crunch that we remain mired in, does this assessment make much sense?
According to the finance ministry, Pakistan has so far received $150mn aid and relief goods against the total foreign aid commitments of $991.8 million for the assistance of flood victims. Add to it, the IMF's latest commitment of $450mn. In view of the unfolding disaster, the World Bank has raised its funding to Pakistan to $1b to ameliorate the worsening situation in the shape of epidemics and lack of shelter for the displaced people. This is in addition to the $25mn aid pledged by India, still considered by some as our next door arch rival.
In this backdrop, experts do not believe that at this moment in time we can do without foreign aid. Asad Saeed, a senior economist makes a distinction between the use of local as well as foreign funding, "Foreign funding is important for state-related issues, that is in the reconstruction efforts which requires huge amount of capital while the money generated locally usually goes into relief and rehabilitation efforts at the district and community level," he says adding, "Funds raised at the local level are not enough to build infrastructure which require financial assistance from donor countries."
Saeed does not minimise the role of the state in making things better, "State funding is very important at the immediate relief stage. Now the question is what role the state can play in rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts?" he asks replying in the same breath, "Coordination is very important at this stage between local and foreign relief workers. Various government departments can do that in ensuring that the aid in cash and kind is properly utilised. The devastation is so big that relief and rehabilitation work cannot be smoothly handled in any way. Imagine the water is twenty times more than what flows during the whole year," he adds.
Haris Khalique, a public policy advisor, seconds Saeed when he says that we should take a long-term view to realise the centrality of foreign aid, "If we take a short-term view, which says we can take care of ourselves amid this colossal disaster, we will neither be able to save lives nor build homes, that is if we do not accept foreign aid at this particular stage." Haris says, "The private sector or the local funding can help people at their doorstep but it cannot take upon itself the task of undertaking bigger tasks such as building roads and laying rail tracks, etc."
There are others who say that the idea of facing it alone is not entirely impractical but it is only possible under certain conditions. S Akbar Zaidi, renowned economist, takes a slightly different view when he says that there are examples of countries that said no to foreign aid in times of crisis, "India said no to foreign aid when tsunami struck its shores in December 2004. Malaysia also resisted foreign aid during the economic crisis in South East Asia in the late 1990s. So that is not entirely impossible but given our fragile economic situation we cannot simply afford to make a false image of being in a position to deal with the crisis on our own," he says, adding, "If we are so vary of foreign aid we should ask ourselves why there is so much reliance on foreign aid." Zaidi gives his recipe of moving away from dependence on foreign aid, "We can get rid of World Bank and IMF in the long run by broadening our tax base, which includes agriculture tax, by removing tax exemptions, and ending indirect taxation on the poor people."
Another seasoned voice on economic policy issues, Shahid Kardar, sees a direct link between local relief efforts and foreign funding, "It is not a matter of local or foreign. Since it is clear that we cannot dismiss foreign aid, it should be taken into view that unless we show our sincere efforts in relief and rehabilitation efforts to the donor it will not turn up for our help," he says adding, "The donor will be ready to help us, it now depends on us if we are able to give a positive signal to the outside world. As far as local funding is concerned we can for now raise our resources by diverting some of our development funding to the reconstruction efforts."
The IMF factor
Do we have options in place of the IMF loans to keep the wheel of our economy moving?
By Hussain H. Zaidi
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has so far given $7.27 billion to Pakistan out of the total credit of $11.3 billion under a 25-month stand-by agreement (SBA) effective since November 2008. As the government faces the gigantic task of the repair of infrastructure and rehabilitation of the people displaced by floods and copes with their overall economic impact, it will need more multilateral assistance, including that from the IMF. Not only that, the government has also approached the fund to relax some of the performance requirements -- particularly those relating to budget deficit -- under the existing programme.
When Pakistan went to the IMF in October 2008, the economy was preciously placed. Fiscal deficit had increased to 7.6 percent of GDP (at the close of FY08), trade and current account deficits had reached $21 billion and $14 billion respectively (at the close of FY08), foreign exchange reserves had depleted to $7.31 billion (as on October 17, 2008), inflation was around 25 percent and the exchange rate had nose-dived to Rs82.37 per American dollar.
Accordingly, the SBA has been geared towards addressing Pakistan's macro-economic imbalances requiring the government to significantly reduce fiscal and current account deficits, discourage government borrowing from the central bank as a source of deficit financing, maintain high interest rates with a view to reducing inflation, ensure exchange rate flexibility, increase tax-GDP ratio and removal of energy subsidies.
Let's look at to what extent these targets have been achieved. We start with the fiscal balance. Fiscal deficit, whose containment forms the main pillar of the edifice of the IMF programme, was to be reduced to 4.2 percent of the GDP in FY09, and then to 3.4 percent in FY10. The FY09 target was missed as the fiscal deficit was recoded at 5.2 percent of GDP. The FY10 fiscal deficit target was subsequently increased to 4.6 and then to 4.9 percent. However, the revised target could not be attained as fiscal deficit of reached about 6 percent of GDP.
These fiscal deficit figures have both credit and debit sides. The credit side is that compared with 7.6 percent for FY08, the fiscal deficit during last two fiscal years has been significantly reduced. The debit side is that during each year, the fiscal deficit surpassed the target. Moreover, the reduction in fiscal deficit has been made possible not by cuts in current expenditure but by those in development spending. For instance, during FY10 the Public sector Development Programme (PSDP) was reduced from Rs646 billion budgetary allocation to Rs490 billion.
By contrast, the actual current expenditure during FY09 was Rs2.04 trillion against the budget estimates of Rs1.86 trillion. For FY10, budgetary current spending estimates were Rs2.10 trillion, which were revised upward to Rs2.26 trillion and actual expenditure was to the tune of 2.40 trillion.
These changes in the sizes of development and current spending are quite understandable as given the political economy of Pakistan any attempt to reduce fiscal deficit has to face three constraints: (a) a major portion of the public finance is eaten up by defence expenditure and debt-servicing; (b) security related expenditure has to be increased to ward off the growing menace of terrorism; and (c) tax-GDP ratio of less than 10 percent due to lack of a tax culture along with the inability to widen the tax net. This also explains why budgetary targets for bringing down the fiscal deficit are revised every year and even these remain elusive.
There has been improved performance in containing the current account deficit. During FY09, the current account deficit was curtailed to 5.3 percent of GDP ($8.8 billion) and further to 2 percent ($3.5 billion) during FY10. The improved performance is due both to fall in the trade deficit and rise in workers' remittances from abroad. The trade deficit fell to $17 billion in FY09 and to $11.4 billion in FY10, while the remittances rose to $7.8 billion and $8.9 billion in FY09 and FY10 respectively.
The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has been maintaining high interest rates with a view to controlling inflation. In November 2008, the policy discount rate was increased by two percentage points to 15 percent. In April and August 2009 the rate was cut by one percentage point each bringing it to 13 percent. In November 2009, the interest rate was reduced to 12.5 percent. In August last, the interest rate was hiked to 13 percent.
Despite changes in interest rate, strong inflationary pressures have persisted. During FY08, average inflation was 12 percent, which rose to 20.8 percent during FY09 and was brought down to 13 percent during FY10. The fall in inflation in FY10 was due partly to price deflation caused by global recession and partly to weaker domestic demand.
The rupee, which had fallen sharply against the dollar between July and November 2008, recovered some of its ground after the first tranche of the IMF assistance was received in November that year and the exchange value appreciated to 79.72. Though subsequently the rupee depreciated selling for about 86 per dollar at present, but for the capital inflows from the Fund, the exchange rate would have been even worse.
A modest economic recovery was made in FY10 as the growth rate increased to 4.1 percent surpassing the 3 percent target and 1.2 percent revised growth rate for the previous fiscal year. The major budgetary targets for the current fiscal year (FY11) include (a) economic growth of 4.5 percent, average inflation of 9.5 percent, (c) fiscal deficit of 4 percent of GDP, (d) development expenditure (of both federal and provincial governments) of Rs766.5 billion, and (e) projected tax revenue of Rs1. 66 trillion including direct taxes of Rs657.7 billion and indirect taxes of Rs1.12 trillion -- 9.8 per cent of GDP.
The havoc wrought by floods will, however, necessitate revision of these targets. According to conservative estimates, floods have washed away at least 1 percentage point of the potential GDP growth; therefore attaining growth rate in excess of 3 percent will be quite an achievement. Most of the development funds will be diverted to rehabilitation and repair activities. As the economic growth shrinks, revenue receipts will come down and inflation will go up. Ministry of Finance apprehends average inflation of 25 percent during the current fiscal year. Current account deficit may also increase due to heavy food and cotton import at a time when world commodity prices are on the increase.
The injection of capital inflows from the IMF has no doubt saved the country from having to default on debt re-payment, made it possible to pay for imports, helped improve balance of payments (BoP) position and foreign exchange reserves (reported to be $16.55 billion at the end of July 2010) and stemmed the exchange rate deterioration. Still, the IMF conditionalties can hardly provide a durable basis for overcoming the BoP and related problems for which the economic fundamentals will have to be improved. Take for instance, the exchange rate. Where the rupee settles against the dollar will depend partly on demand for and supply of the greenback and partly on the domestic inflation level. Similarly, the current account balance will depend on the country's exports and imports of goods and services, which themselves are primarily contingent upon the domestic supply side situation.
The IMF conditionalties have slowed the pace of the economy by making for restrictive fiscal and monetary policies, which have negatively impacted growth and job creation. The government argues that such policies were necessary to put the economy on strong fundamentals and is likely to continue with the same.
The devastation from floods could have been much less had certain practices of disaster-management been in place
By Naseer Memon
Rivers this year brought unprecedented disaster in all provinces of the country. From rickety civil infrastructure to shabby administrative web, everything has been washed away by the horrendous disaster. According to one estimate, half of the 367,000 people who lost their lives to natural disasters between 1986 and 1995, were victims of storms, river floods or flash floods. From 1998 to 2002, the world witnessed 683 flood disasters with 97 percent of these visitations occurred in Asia. The trend clearly indicates doomsday projections for the years to come and calls for a tectonic shift in current practices of disaster management in vogue in countries like Pakistan.
The Indus River that brought the major havoc in parts of Punjab and Sindh provinces is still tormenting human settlements. Its fury is set to catapult more during the leftover monsoon. Both natural and human factors triggered this devastation. According to Professor Martin Gibling of Dulhousie University, the Indus was even mightier during a warm period some 6,000 years ago. Then 4,000 years ago as the climate cooled, a large part of Indus dried up and deserts replaced the waterways.
The professor points finger towards localized warming phenomenon as responsible element for the disaster. In his opinion, monsoon intensity is somewhat sensitive to the surface temperature of the Indian Ocean. During times of cooler climate, less moisture is picked up from the ocean, the monsoon weakens and the Indus River flow is reduced. In this backdrop, climate change seems to be a major factor behind pathologically insane monsoon this year.
The dominant threat posed by climate change is increased degree of non-reliability of historic data, often making all estimates redundant. Khyber Pakhutunkhwa experienced a unique monsoon this time, which has hardly any precedent in the past. No analysis of historic data would have foreseen what was seen in the recent weeks. This episode is actually even more alarming that anything considered less or unexpected hitherto may happen any moment anywhere with greater severity than imagined.
Higher degree of weather unpredictability induced by climate change phenomenon is a real challenge for already fragile flood management systems in Pakistan. Extreme and unpredictable weathers are likely to make disasters a moving target, making it near impossible for flood managers to respond such disasters with given capacity.
Along with several responsible factors that made the disaster excruciating, inter alia the absence of localised early warning system, ineffective disaster management paraphernalia, virtually non-existent integrated flood management plan, and a system bereft of proactive planning to mitigate disaster impacts need to be delved deeper. The disaster has also denuded the capacity gaps of the agencies responsible for disaster management, particularly at provincial and district tiers.
While all provinces have faced devastation, a report of the Federal Flood Commission issued on 20th August reckoned that Sindh province was the worst-hit as it shared 3.68 million among the 7.71 million flood affectees in the country. The number of Sindh house, 211,375, was highest among the total 303,698 houses battered. Likewise, Sindh shared 4,359 affected villages out of 11,027 and the crop land of 1.55 million acres out of total 4.70 million acres crop land was inundated by the sheet of water. The Sindh government's latest statements put the toll of affectees to over 7 million people. In all likelihood, these digits will swell and would paint more somber picture with every passing day.
The scale of disaster would have outdone the response in any case, yet the miseries could have been much less had certain practices of disaster management been in place. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Peshawar Met office could not transmit the timely warning of the predicted showers only because the fax machines in the DCO offices of Charsadda and Nowshera were not working properly. Likewise, the initial estimates of flood at Sukkur barrage were derided by the actual flows that made Sindh government manic, ultimately leading to enigmatic decision of breaching bunds, railway tracks and roads to ease off the barrage structures and certain strategic locations.
Shadowy decision-making process has sparked another controversy that may eventually snowball into a full blown conflict. A comprehensive management plan would have more precisely determined the potential sites for breaches to eschew major losses. However the media reports suggest that the murky decision were taken at the spur of the moment presumably influenced more by politics than any informed process or institutional mechanism.
The breaches in Tori and Ghouspur bands in Sindh actually triggered the worst disaster enveloping the vast areas in north Sindh and rendered several hundred thousand shelterless. As a result, districts of Kashmore, Jacobabad, Shikarpur and Qambar-Shahdad Kot are witnessing a worst human crisis in history. The worst part was inadequate evacuation notice and unavailability of transport which made migration intractably difficult. More than seven million people have lost their abodes, source of livelihood, and went through a traumatic experience.
Ignoring the very fact that a flow of 10 million cusecs would have spilled over any dam of the size of the proposed Kalabagh dam, a clamour was raised that it was mere absence of large dams that has caused this disaster. No engineering or flood management science would substantiate this argument. Sukkur, Guddu and Kotri barrages braced a flow of one million cusecs for nearly ten days. Any such dam would not have the capacity to absorb this flow. It would have rather made the very dam structure vulnerable to burst with seams and to potentially multiply this catastrophe manifold.
Coinciding with floods in Pakistan, China also faced the wrath of floods and at one stage hundreds of soldiers were deployed to prevent a likely disaster due to bursting of Wenquan reservoir that could have inundated Golmud city of more than 200,000 population under four meter deep water wave. In this very year, the north-east of Brazil, known for droughts, witnessed a devastating flood, killing 50 people and leaving 150,000 homeless. The devastation has mainly been caused by bursting of dams on two rivers. In March 2009, a dam bursting near Jakarta killed scores of people. Series of dams and barrages have led to excessive siltation in the river bed, thus elevating the surge to dangerous levels.
Human settlement pattern has been another cause of large-scale displacement. Mass exodus from the flood plains has transpired the very fact that unregulated human settlements have made the scenario further bleak. Rampant damming and diversion during the past few decades has changed the flood regime entirely and vast tracts previously part of flood plains were exposed as dry land encouraged new settlements.
Before Tarbela dam, katcha area of Sindh received a flood of 300,000 cusec almost every year and a flood of 500,000 cusecs for 77 percent of years. Tarbela and other barrages completely altered flood pattern, leaving large parts of flood plain barren and thus paved the way for dense human settlements in the strips flanking the river course. According to a report, some 50,000 acres of katcha area is under settlements. The decades-long absence of planning of rural areas and skewed development patterns forced marginalised rural communities to recourse to development along the river course. Dwellers of such areas were noticeably more resistant to evacuation as their asset base was tied to the flood plains.
Unbridled deforestation, partly due to lack of regular flood flows and partly due to avaricious elements in politics and bureaucracy, also increased the flood impact. There is an impending social disaster if rehabilitation and reconstruction phase is not designed and executed with transparency and participation of various segments of society. Avoiding such disasters in future needs a long-term planning along with a committed and competent execution mechanism.
The writer is an environmentalist and currently Chief Executive of one of the largest rights-based NGO of Pakistan, Strengthening Participatory Organization-SPO)
Cleaning up after the flood
The challenge is motivating hygiene behaviour change among the flood-affected population
By Syed Ayub Qutub
The images of swathes of drowned dwellings in the current flood have triggered a childhood memory. My father was Base Commander PAF Pattanga outside Chittagong when the tidal bore struck there in September 1960. It was a huge effort to clean up our house afterwards. Indeed, it is crucial to de-contaminate water supplies and to restore sanitation and drainage systems before routine living can start again in the flooded areas. It is also essential to undertake 'targeted hygiene' within the dwelling. While the procedures are simple and not costly, it is a concern that knowledge of the appropriate practices may not be widespread among the flood-affected populations. This article calls for widespread sharing and extension of the best practices through the media and person-to-person communication.
Flood waters are often contaminated with sewage and other organic material such as animal faeces, rotting vegetation and so on. In our rural areas, the practice of open defecation is common. It was in fact the only option for many persons during the flood emergency phase. Therefore, it must be assumed that in the flooded districts, the water supply systems and houses are contaminated with human or animal pathogens (either bacteria or viruses).
Hand pumps and motorised pumps are the main source of water supply in Pakistan, while tap water reaches less than a quarter of the rural population and 60 percent of the urban dwellers. All the water sources have to be rehabilitated. Provincial departments along with UNICEF have made plans for disinfection of public water supply schemes and actually started the work at places. But householders have to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to de-contaminate the hundreds of thousands of hand-and motor-pumps, wells and tanks in their courtyards.
As the floods subside, a muddy deposit is left behind on floors, walls and furnishing, and other surfaces on which moulds can grow, especially in damp places inside dwellings. Germs deposited on these surfaces will gradually die out, but whereas some pathogens e.g. Campylobacter die rapidly, others such as norovirus and germs which cause cholera and typhoid can persist and remain infectious for days, weeks or even months. These organisms can be transferred from contaminated surfaces via hands directly into the mouth or onto food, or indirectly via hands into food.
It is not always clear whether the flood waters, the water supply or the muddy surfaces inside the houses are contaminated with pathogens or not. The basic advice is to assume that they all are and take rigorous hygiene precautions to prevent spread of infection in the home. On the other hand, given the many livelihood rehabilitation tasks facing each flood-affected household, it is also important to prioritise the elements of the clean-up work. The essential first steps for targeted hygiene are:
Maintaining Personal Hygiene;
Disinfecting the Water Supply; and
Disinfecting Critical Food Preparation Surfaces
Human hands are "critical control points" for transmission of infection, since they come into direct contact with known "portals of entry" for pathogens (mouth, nose and conjunctiva of the eyes). For pathogens such as norovirus the "infectious dose" (the number of virus particles needed to cause infection) can be very small (1-10 particles). That is why hand hygiene is so important.
The key times for hand washing with soap are:
Immediately after defecation;
Immediately after cleansing baby;
After clean-up activities associated with the flooding;
Before preparing and handling cooked/ready-to-eat food; and
Before eating food or feeding children.
Parents should stop children from playing with flood and stagnant waters. They should ensure that children wash their hands with soap before eating.
During the floods, life became very chaotic for many, and even very basic hygiene measures such as hand washing were not possible due to the lack of clean water. In a similar situation again, a very simple thing to do which can significantly reduce the risk of disease is to avoid putting fingers into the mouth.
The affected population may be advised to:
Boil water before drinking during the early recovery phase. Bringing water to a rolling boil kills pathogens effectively. A rolling boil is when the water is bubbling so hard that the bubbles keep coming up when the water is stirred. A holding period of 3-5 minutes will ensure that water is safe, except in situations where contamination with spore-forming bacteria, fungal or protozoal cysts or hepatitis virus is suspected, in which case 10 minutes is advised.
Start the disinfection procedure with the storage or source closest to the point of use, for example, water tanks before boreholes. Otherwise, water can become re-contaminated downstream.
Disinfect the home water tank with bleaching powder at the rate of 10 to 20 milligrams (mg) per 100 litres of tank volume. For example, 200 mg bleaching powder should be stirred until dissolved in a 10 litre bucket before adding the resulting chlorine solution to a 1000 litre tank. The minimum contact time is 30 minutes. It is preferable to add the chlorine solution at night for safe use the next morning.
Disinfect the borehole or hand-pump in a similar manner dissolving 50 grams (g) of bleaching powder in a 20 litre bucket. The thumb rule is 10 litres of chlorine solution per 5 running feet of pipe.
Disinfect an open or protected well by immersing an earthen pot (7-8 litres in volume) containing a mixture of bleaching powder and coarse sand (1:2 by weight) in it for slow chlorination.
Surface water sources require filtration to remove turbidity before disinfection. Turbid water should be filtered through a cotton cloth to remove any solid materials and treated with alum and bleaching powder, stored for at least 2 hours and then decanted or filtered through a clean cloth. For pre-treatment add 10g alum and 5g lime per 100 litre of turbid water. For disinfection of filtered surface water, apply 50 to 150 mg of chlorine solution per 100 litres of water.
For obtaining more detailed advice on the treatment of water, health service providers and civil society organisation may consult, "Emergency treatment of drinking water at point-of-use, WHO technical note for emergencies". It is available at: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/hygiene/envsan/tn05/en/index.html.
The returning population may be advised to:
Ensure that food contact surfaces, such as countertops, chopping boards and cleaning cloths, eating utensils (cutlery and crockery) and hand contact surfaces (door handles, tap handles, stair rails etc.) are thoroughly cleaned to remove soiling using an appropriate disinfectant, such as bleach.
Throw away food or drink suspected of being contaminated. Rigorous standards of hygiene are important during handling and preparation of food during the early recovery phase.
Wash hands thoroughly with hot water and soap, especially after contact with floodwater or taking part in clean-up activities-and always before handling or eating food, or feeding children.
As life begins to return to normal, some subsequent measures include:
Hygienic cleaning of soft furnishings, clothing, linens and bedding;
Hygienic cleaning of laundry; and
General cleaning up inside the house.
For obtaining more detailed advice on hygienic cleaning
of the home, health service providers may consult Home hygiene in
developing countries: prevention of infection in the home and peri-domestic
settings - Urdu edition (2009), International Scientific Forum on Home
Hygiene. It is available at http://www.ifh-homehygiene.org/IntegratedCRD.nsf/571fd4bd2ff8f2118025750700031676/
The early recovery and rehabilitation measures described above entail little investment but offer potentially huge public health benefits. The challenge is motivating hygiene behaviour change among the flood-affected population. The terrible dislocation caused by the floods offers a window to introduce science-based public health information to change attitudes and behaviours. The mass media have great reach and several channels with the same messages can reinforce each other. But messages just heard or seen are easily forgotten. Just giving lectures about health risks is also likely to meet bemused resistance from people who are living in camps, tents or hostels, and planning to return to their homes. Health service providers and civil society organisations should gear up for the task of extension and demonstration of home hygiene and water safety practices in a respectful and participatory manner.
The writer is National Coordinator, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, an organization established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1990 for knowledge networking and advocacy in the sector. This article has been reviewed by Professor S.F. Bloomfield, Chairman, International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene
"A majority of politicians are not politically motivated"
By Zaman Khan
Chaudhry Talib Hussain is a veteran politician who has brushed shoulders with the high and mighty in the corridors of power in Pakistan. Born in East Punjab, Jullendhar, and son of an agriculturist, Hussain started his political career as an MPA on the PPP's ticket in the 1970 general elections. After the fall of Dhaka, when Ghulam Mustafa Khar became Governor of Punjab, Talib acted as his advisor. Talib joined the Punjab cabinet after Khar became Chief Minister of Punjab. Being close to the political quarters, Talib was assigned the task of winning over JUI (Mufti Mehmood) MNAs to give vote for the 1973 Constitution which he was able to do. When Khar left the PPP and joined Muslim League, Talib followed him and became leader of the opposition in Punjab Assembly. Talib spent a couple of years in jail during Zia's martial law for refusing to become an approver in Ch. Zahoor Elahi case. Talib's detractors accuse him of changing political parties, a charge he vehemently denies, claiming he always swam against the tide by opting to join the opposition parties.
The News on Sunday interviewed Talib Hussain at his Faisalabad residence. Excerpts follow:
The News on Sunday: How did you become interested in politics?
Talib Hussain: From the very beginning, I had inclination to be in politics. I was not interested in government jobs or in any other profession that is why I joined the profession of law and later joined the National Awami Party. At that time, I was inclined to politics of the left because feudalism did not appeal to me. In 1962, I was elected member of Basic Democracy. I was also elected chairman of the union council and also member of district council. I was interested in politics mainly because of the conditions of the common man in the country, especially the exploitation of women.
TNS: What is the reason behind your joining the Pakistan Peoples Party?
TH: At that time the PPP appeared to be the only political party which had the attraction of the poor people, such as chabriwalas and rikhshawalas. Bhutto was talking about solving their problems, basic problems, nationalisation of industries and banking, and roti kapra our makan. They were all progressive slogans. And they were appealing to the masses and appealed to me as well. That is why I joined the PPP.
TNS: Do you think Zulfikar Ali Bhutto knew that the army would overthrow him and he might have to leave the country?
TH: He could not stop it because he did not want history to give a verdict against him. According to my information, he slept nights with his suit on and he thought that they would shoot him dead. He was very brave.
TNS: What is your assessment of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto?
TH: He was a great man except that he was very sentimental. And he was not a democrat in the real sense of the term. But he was a great nationalist. He was a great expert on foreign affairs, having a thorough understanding of international relations. He was a much bigger person than many.
TNS: When you met Benazir Bhutto after her return in 1986, what did she say to you?
TH: Benazir asked very specifically, 'Khar sahib ap ko mana to nahein karain gay. (Will Khar object to your meeting me?) I told her that Khar was my friend and I sided with him before he left for England without our consultation, leaving us behind to save his skin. She was happy but other people were not happy, such as Jahangir Badr, etc.
TNS: How do you look at Pakistani politics today? Why, in your view, the political parties have failed to stop army from taking over power again and again?
TH: The basic weakness of political parties is that they are not allowed to function as political parties and develop their own infrastructure, political ideas, and political leadership. All political parties have weak leadership. They don't have understanding of national and international affairs because they were not allowed to grow.
TNS: Anti-democratic forces never allowed political parties to grow?
TH: For that you have to think of other things as well. The other things are the ground realities, such as feudal background and idol worshiping. In Sri Lanka, for instance, Bandaranayke's wife became the Prime Minister after he was murdered, then his daughter became the Prime Minister. In Bangladesh, that is what exactly happened with Mujibur Rehman. Same is the case in India and Pakistan. Besides corruption and adhocism, interference of the army time and again is the main cause. Democratic forces and institutions were not allowed to function and avoid army interference. The army may or may not take over tomorrow; the ground is already prepared. Now we have the media. There is a hue and cry about the resolution passed by the Punjab Assembly. Do you think media is mature, I don't think so in spite of the fact that they have made a lot of sacrifices and that is a great contribution. Do you think they are as responsible as a free media should be, they are not, some of them are not. Same is the case with the politicians.
TNS: So, is this also the fault of the politicians?
TH: There is no doubt about that. The majority of politicians are not politically motivated except to look after their own interests. Also, there are no think tanks in the party to formulate party policies. There are no long term policies of any political party.
TNS: How do you see the youth as budding political workers?
TH: The circumstances of the country are now such that the youth have to emerge as political leadership and serve this country. Because the circumstances have reached to such a stage that in the present circumstances this country cannot exist for a long period if the situation remains the same. We have to come out of this scenario. In fact, only a statesman can take you out and a political party which has a manifesto, support of the masses and frames foreign policy according to the wishes of the people. The army and the economic conditions are secondary things. The basic thing is the will of the people, support of the people behind you.
TNS: How do you assess Benazir Bhutto now that she is no more?
TH: Benazir was a genius, there is no doubt. She had the understanding of international relations and international personalities. She was the greatest of the present leadership of the country. The country is divided into two camps -- Bhutto and anti-Bhutto and anti-Bhutto forces were not prepared to accept her. But now they accept that she was a much bigger leader than all leadership present in the country today. And she had the capacity to take this country out of the present crisis.
TNS: Don't you think she fell into the trap laid out by General Musharraf and lost her life?
TH: I don't think so. There are international forces as well as some forces in our own political parties also.