Pakistan calls for flood relief after ‘cameras went missing’

(Bloomberg) — Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari urged the world to continue helping the South Asian nation recover from devastating floods ahead of a UN conference next month to mobilize funding.

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Pakistan is facing an economic crisis with reserves covering a month’s worth of imports, a dollar shortage and a delay in its loan program from the International Monetary Fund. Investors are still concerned about the country’s ability to service its debt, as long-term dollar bonds continue to trade at distressed levels despite the payment of a $1 billion bond this month.

“We are in this incredibly difficult position as we try to manage our macroeconomic indicators with the IMF and provide imminent relief to the people still needed in Pakistan today, and plan for reconstruction and rehabilitation, Zardari, 34, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Washington DC. “Unfortunately, the cameras are gone, the attention is gone, but there are still floods in many parts of my country.”

Pakistan’s unprecedented summer floods killed more than 1,700 people, inundated a third of the country and halved the country’s growth. The floods left about $32 billion in damage and losses to the country’s economy.

The United Nations said the global community has not provided enough funds following the devastating floods in Pakistan and could lead to the suspension of its food aid program next month. The joint UN-Pakistan appeal only yielded about 30% of the $816 million requested, according to Julien Harneis, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Pakistan. They will seek more funding at a conference in Geneva, Switzerland, scheduled for January 9.

Pakistan has been delayed in its latest IMF loan tranche amid protracted talks with the global body, which has asked for details on how much the country will spend this year on recovery from the devastating floods. The IMF indicated that talks have been fruitful to revise the post-flood macroeconomic outlook, Pakistan Representative Esther Perez Ruiz said in a statement this month.

“The entire Government of National Unity agrees that it is important for us to do business with international financial institutions – we want to see the fundamental reform needed for the overall health of our economy,” Zardari said. “But right now our number one priority is helping these people who are in extreme, extreme need in the short, medium and long term.”

‘Eight-month tantrum’

Pakistan is also facing renewed political uncertainty, with opposition member Imran Khan planning to dissolve two of the four provincial assemblies later this week to push the government to declare new elections. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government, which came to power in April after ousting Khan through a no-confidence vote in the federal parliament, has introduced a no-confidence motion to the Punjab provincial assembly in retaliation.

Zardari, chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party and the son of Benazir Bhutto – the Muslim country’s first female prime minister assassinated in 2007 – called Khan “Machiavellian” and accused him of not cooperating with the coalition government to provide financial support. Khan has organized his own telethons to raise money for flood victims.

“It should not have been just my priority, but everyone’s priority to step forward, to put partisan politics aside and unite to face this challenge,” Zardari said. “Unfortunately, Mr Khan has had a tantrum for eight months that he has not been prime minister.”

–With help from Haidi Lun.

(Updates with more details in penultimate paragraph. An earlier version of the story corrected the spelling of the opposition leader’s name in the last paragraph.)

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