As Pakistan sinks into an unprecedented flood crisis, Shehbaz Sharif calls for debt forgiveness and for more help from the global community.
Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said “all hell will break” if The country was ravaged by floods debt relief is not provided by rich countries.
In an interview with Bloomberg TV on Friday morning, Sharif sought a moratorium on Pakistani debt repayments from the Paris Club (a group of wealthy creditor nations) and others, saying there was a ” gap” between what is required and what is available.
“We have asked (the United Nations) secretary-general and European leaders to bail us out. How can the world expect us to stand on our own two feet? It is simply impossible,” Sharif said in his interview, which was also broadcast on Pakistan’s state TV channel.
There is mainly an argument that I made in my interview with Bloomberg. Given the scale and extent of devastation caused by floods, rich nations should consider reducing the debt to Pakistan so we can get on our feet. Climate disasters are not of our own making.
– Shehbaz Sharif (@CMShehbaz) September 23, 2022
Referring to a visit flood-affected country of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier this month, Sharif said: “He witnessed this disaster first-hand. “It’s unbelievable, Prime Minister,” he said. He is a man who has dedicated his life to humanitarian causes for many years… He says he has never seen a climate like this in his life.”
“We are among the 10 most vulnerable countries (to climate change), “I said.
Sharif again Thank you US President Joe Biden for speaking on “Pakistan and our plight” at the United Nations General Assembly.
“Many world leaders discussed and openly said that Pakistan needs support more than ever and this shows the sincerity of these leaders. But time is running out and we are racing against time,” he said.
Sharif is in New York for the annual UNGA, he is expected to speak later on Friday. He has met a number of world leaders as part of a call for the international community to help Pakistan as the country suffers from unprecedented floods.
“What the world has done is commendable but far from meeting our needs. We can’t do it alone,” Sharif said in the interview.
Flooding in Pakistan, caused by record monsoon rains and melting glaciers, has affected 33 million people, killed nearly 1,600 and destroyed more than a million homes. Stagnant floodwaters have raised fears of a “second disaster” like waterborne diseases has killed more than 300 people so far.
Last month, the government estimated the total loss at $30 billion, raising concerns that Pakistan would not be able to repay $1 billion in international bonds by December.
Sharif’s call for aid comes amid a Financial Times report on Friday, which said the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) had prepared a memorandum of understanding suggesting Pakistan should suspend its operations. its international action. pay and loan restructuring in the aftermath of the catastrophic flood.
However, a top finance ministry official in Pakistan, who asked to remain anonymous, denied the report, telling Al Jazeera that “no such proposal has yet been found”.
Officials at the UNDP Pakistan office did not respond to Al Jazeera’s questions about the memo. Questions to Pakistan’s finance ministry and other government officials were also unanswered.
Late last month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released a long-stalled $1.17 billion bailout package aimed at averting a major economic disaster in Pakistan.
The latest IMF report says Pakistan’s total bilateral debt due next fiscal year is nearly $7 billion, nearly 2% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). It also owes its close ally China nearly $30 billion — an amount that accounts for about 30% of the country’s GDP.
Sharif, in an interview with Bloomberg TV, said he would “most certainly” ask China to write off its debt.
Pakistan’s debt crisis was also highlighted by the UN’s Guterres on Tuesday in his opening address at UNGA, where he urged global leaders to consider debt relief mechanisms to help Pakistan.
“These (mechanisms) could have saved lives and livelihoods in Pakistan, which is not only drowning in floodwaters but also in debt,” Mr. Guterres said.
Experts say it is likely that Pakistan’s bilateral debts will be restructured after the flood.
Economist Ammar H Khan told Al Jazeera: “This will provide some breathing space for the country as any funds allocated for debt settlement can be reallocated to public welfare. and social sector.