‘Kind’ not cash

When Prime Minister Gilani said at the Council of Common Interest (CCI) meeting on Monday that aid was not coming to his government he was being, intentionally or otherwise, somewhat misleading. Perhaps what the PM meant to say was that ‘cash’ was not coming to his government; in which case he would be largely correct. A total of 177 nations have made a contribution to the various funds that have been set up to receive relief. But the big money, the commitments made by major donors, are being converted into donations in kind rather than in cash channeled through our government. The British have converted their entire contribution to ‘in kind’ and all of the aid coming from the UK will be delivered by local partners – which may be provincial governments – but no cash will be placed in the hands of the federal government. The EU has backtracked on its initial commitment and reduced the ratio of cash in total pledges from 61 per cent to less than 35 per cent. Figures available through the Economic Affairs Division indicate that cash pledges have dropped significantly from an original high of $618.5 million to $363.2 million as of September 2. Commitments to aid by the international community have risen to $1.05 billion, a very substantial sum, but of that about 71 per cent or $748 million are going to come through the United Nations and other international agencies. Nobody, it seems, wants to give us money.
This could have a very serious knock-on effect in the medium term, when we have passed the initial stages of recovery. As things stand today, the donor nations may have decided that giving goods, real practical help, is going to be more use than money when government systems for reception and effective disbursal of large sums of money may not be in the best of shape. Nevertheless, there is the inescapable impression that donor nations do not trust our government to handle their money effectively. Such is our reputation for corruption that even at a time like this, when our needs are gravest and the suffering of millions at its most acute, donors are not willing to give cash. The UN has said that Pakistan has an ‘image deficit’ that has now fed through to mistrust, and the implications for rehabilitation are deeply worrying, because that will need hard cash, not ‘kind’. Moving from the macro to the micro the PM said that the CCI had agreed to give every affected family Rs20,000 – and this before Eid if at all possible. The sentiment may be admirable, the logistics impossible. How billions of rupees are to be got to millions of families, many of them without any form of documentation, between now and Eid has not been explained and it is yet another example of politicians making promises that they are never going to keep. With promises like that being thrown around can we wonder at the reluctance of the international community to put cash in our hands? -thenews