‘Pakistan has received $738.53m foreign aid so far’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has so far received $ 738.530 million of foreign financial assistance i.e. around 22 percent against the total commitment of $ 3.4 billion from multilateral and bilateral partners to support the flood relief activities in the country.

The in-kind support extended to the country by development partners was additional to $ 738.530 million.

This was revealed by the officials of the Economic Affairs Division (EAD), while sharing data with the Senate Standing Committee on Planning Development and Special Initiatives, which met with Attaur Rehman in the chair, here on Thursday.

The committee was informed that Pakistan needed at least $ 16 billion immediately for post-floods rehabilitation and reconstruction, according to Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) which calculated the cost of floods at $ 32 billion to the country.

The development partners have extended financial and in-kind foreign assistance to Pakistan for flood relief activities including grant (repurposed - $166.547 million and new - $268.49 million) and loans (repurposed - $365 million and new - $2.475 million).

The meeting was informed that the United Nations in coordination with the government of Pakistan launched a $ 160.3 million flash appeal on August 30, 2022, out of which, $ 148 million have been pledged by the humanitarian commitments as of September 15, 2022.

The revised appeal, however, urgently seeks $ 816 million to respond to the growing lifesaving needs of the people-a jump of $ 656 million from the initial appeal of $ 160 million.

Senator Saadia Abbasi asked the authorities to ensure transparency in the utilization of the funds and that the progress report must be presented before the committee in two months’ time.

The official told the committee that the Ministry of Economic Affairs has the mandate to coordinate, negotiate and arrange foreign assistance. The district-wise utilization of foreign assistance/aid is the mandate of the provincial governments, PDMAs, and NDMA. It was highlighted that the World Bank was itself monitoring the whole process and has recommended private experts to overlook the process.

The committee, while reviewing the details of the received foreign aid, stressed the need for a transparent and cogent system for the delivery of assistance to flood victims. The committee was informed that the Benazir Income Support Programme was being used for the disbursement of aid to flood victims.

A post-assessment report has been completed and will be used as an outline for the rehabilitation plan that will be shared with the Cabinet for approval.

Deliberating over the damages caused by the floods to Mohmand Dam, the committee was informed that once completed the dam will be able to regulate floods mitigating the risk of flooding in low-lying areas in Charsadda, Peshawar, and Nowshera districts. The project director informed the committee that floods which affected the construction work would delay the project completion by around eight months.

While briefing the committee on amendments in the PPRA rules to ensure maximum transparency and efficiency, the committee was informed that the PPRA has been continually trying to remove all unnecessary hurdles in the way of development projects.

The committee was further informed that the standard of awarding a contract to the lowest bidder has been changed and now the standard is the most advantageous bidder. The committee in general and Senator Saadia Abbasi, in particular, stressed the need for doing away with the PPRA rules, for what we need quality projects instead of low-cost projects.

The committee, unanimously, agreed to the proposal of Senator Abbasi and recommended that a meeting with the prime minister should be arranged so that further transparency and improvements are introduced in awarding contracts for various development projects. It was also recommended that the problems of the merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa should also be taken up in the meeting with the prime minister.

The meeting was attended among others by senators, Nuzhat Sadiq, Saadia Abbasi, Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhary, Muhammad Tahir Bizenjo, Dost Muhammad, Hidayat Ullah, and senior officers from the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, along with all concerned.—TAHIR AMIN