Haven’t seen destruction of this scale, says Bilawal


Monitoring Desk

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan needs financial help to deal with “overwhelming” floods, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said on Sunday, adding that he hoped financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund would take the economic fallout into account.

Floods in the north and south of the country have been caused by monsoon rains that were much heavier than usual. More than 30 million people have been affected, and more than 1,000 people have died.

In an interview with Reuters, Bilawal said, “I’ve never seen destruction on this scale. It’s hard to describe. It’s overwhelming.” He also said that many crops that provided a lot of the population’s income had been destroyed.

He said, “It’s clear that this will have an effect on the economy as a whole.”

The economy of the South Asian country was already in trouble, with high inflation, a currency that was losing value, and a current account deficit.

This week, the IMF board will decide whether to release $1.2 billion as the seventh and eighth instalments of Pakistan’s 2019 bailout programme.

The foreign minister said that the board was likely to approve the release because Pakistani officials and IMF staff had already come to an agreement. He also said that he hoped the IMF would acknowledge the effects of the floods in the coming months.

“In the future, I would expect the IMF, the international community, and international agencies to really understand how bad things are,” he said.

Bilawal, the son of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, said that the economic effects were still being calculated, but that some estimates put them at $4 billion. He said that he thought the total number would be much higher because of the damage to infrastructure and people’s ways of making a living.

The record monsoon rain had already been pointed out by Pakistan’s central bank as a threat to the country’s economic output because of its effect on agriculture.

Bilawal said that Pakistan would start a campaign this week to ask UN member states to help with relief efforts. He also said that the country needed to think about how it would deal with the long-term effects of climate change.

The foreign minister said, “We will talk to the IMF, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank about rebuilding and rehabilitating the country in the next phase.”

Bilawal said that after the relief work was done, the country would have to figure out how to build infrastructure that could handle both floods and droughts and deal with the big changes in the agriculture sector.

“Even though Pakistan’s carbon footprint is very small compared to the rest of the world, climate disasters like these keep destroying our lives, and we have to figure out how to live in this new world with our limited resources,” he said.

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