Pakistan unable to stand on its own without global community help, says premier

Shehbaz Sharif appeals to rich nations and financial organizations for immediate debt relief.

Pakistan unable to stand on its own without global community help, says premier

Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the country will be unable to stand on its own without international community assistance as the recent destructive flood caused billions of dollars in infrastructure damage. 

Sharif appealed to rich nations and financial organizations for immediate debt relief in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

"We have spoken to European leaders and other leaders to help us in the Paris Club to get us moratorium,” he said, referring to the group of rich creditor nations.

“Unless we get substantial relief how can the world expect us to stand on our own feet? It is simply impossible,” he added.

The country is now facing an epidemic threat as a result of one-third of the country being submerged, the premier said, adding, "God forbid this happens, (epidemics) all hell will break (loose)."

He also spoke about the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) stringent conditions for its bailout package, which resulted in massive inflation and price hikes in the South Asian country.

Pakistan has debt obligations in the next two months, he said, adding that his government has just signed an agreement with the IMF that includes "very tough conditionalities" that include taxes on petroleum and electricity.

The country is already in an economic crisis, as the IMF released a long-delayed $1.17 billion tranche of its bailout package for the cash-strapped country earlier this month.

However, the UN has proposed suspending all international debt repayments and restructuring loans with creditors as a result of the country's devastating floods.

In July, the Ministry of Economic Affairs stated in a written response to parliament that Pakistan's total external debt and liabilities exceeded $126 billion.

The continuous floods have caused the country to be concerned about paying its installments.

Earlier this week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged world leaders to take decisive steps to address climate change.

During his recent visit to flood-affected areas in Pakistan, the UN chief urged world leaders to consider debt reduction for countries facing climate and economic challenges.

"It is not striking back on those who have contributed more to the war on nature. Pakistan has given little contribution to climate change, yet it is one of the most severely impacted hotspots by the consequences of climate change," he said.

So far 1,596 people have lost their lives while 12,758 people have been injured in the rain and flood-related incidents across the country since mid-June.

Property damage is also increasing, with over two million houses damaged, including 804,998 completely destroyed and over one million livestock killed, according to the authority.

Monsoon season in Pakistan, like in other countries in the region, usually results in heavy rains, but this year has been the wettest since 1961.

Currently, one-third of the country is underwater as the massive rains and melting glaciers have caused the country’s main Indus River to overflow, inundating vast swaths of plains, and farms.

Destructive rains and floods have also washed away 13,074 kilometers (8,123 miles) of roads, 392 bridges and buildings across the South Asian nuclear country, which is already grappling with political and economic turmoil.

Over 33 million of the country's approximately 220 million population have been affected by the raging floods, causing a staggering loss of over $30 billion in damages to an already weakened infrastructure.

Almost 45% of the country's cropland has already been inundated by the floods, posing a serious threat to food security and further adding to the already skyrocketing inflation.

Hundreds of thousands of displaced people are also dealing with outbreaks of waterborne skin and eye diseases, with health experts warning of a higher number of deaths from diarrhea, gastrointestinal, typhoid, malaria dengue, and other infections than from rains and floods.

Hüseyin Demir

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