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EDITORIAL: The fact that successive governments were simply unable to find Rs 96 billion in fiscal space for a flood protection project, formulated by the Federal Flood Commission (FFC) after the devastation of 2010, even though they had no problem coughing up Rs 157 billion for schemes for parliamentarians over more or less the same period speaks for itself and is also utterly contemptible and unforgivable.

The fact that both PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) and PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) administrations held office during this time provides ample proof, if any was still needed, that the elite on both sides of the political and ideological divide is equally self-centred and divorced from the realities and needs of the country and the people.

Pakistan very rightly claims that it is forced to pay a lot more for climate change, in blood, sweat, tears and coin, than it deserves to. But it weakens its own claims when it chooses not to do the bare minimum that is in its power.

This Rs 96 billion scheme was meant for nothing more complicated than erecting basic protection walls and installing early warning systems, but it just couldn’t reach high enough on the priority list of the people that cannot stop fighting among themselves for the chance to rule this country to be taken seriously at all.

One would have thought that the carnage of 2010 was enough to raise red flags all over the country, but apparently the death of thousands and displacement of millions do not yet matter enough to dent spending on things like privileges of parliamentarians; which is nothing short of a crying shame for a country staring outright collapse straight in the face.

The unsuspecting, suffering public might not be fully aware of it, but such things contribute to the donor fatigue, even among traditional friends, that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif mentioned just the other day.

Why, after all, would they keep giving us money when everybody knows that it is not going to be used for what it is so desperately sought for? Even now, when we’re crying out loud at international forums and asking rich countries to do their part, even write off our outstanding debt, there’s still no telling when or where the Rs 96 billion is going to come from. For, according to press reports not denied by anybody so far, after the FFC made its proposal in 2010, it took the government three years to hire a foreign consultant, who took another two years to submit a draft plan, in 2015.

Then it took the Council of Common Interests (CCI), the constitutional body that deals with federal and provincial issues, two more years to approve the plan. Then the Central Development Working Party (CWDP) reviewed the project three times without executing it.

And now we’re hearing that the scheme might be added to next year’s Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP); but the only problem is a lack of clarity about lending by foreign donors. And so we go round in circles.

It’s another matter, of course, that there’s no telling yet how many people suffered needlessly just because of this official paralysis. And how many more such lapses would lie buried under official files.

Yet it does prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Pakistani people are not only forced to bear the brunt of a climate catastrophe caused almost entirely by rich countries, they are also forever at the mercy of an incapable and parasitic ruling elite that cannot see beyond its own nose.

Sadly, it will not be surprising at all if the government is still groping in the dark as the country tumbles into its next big disaster – be it climate-related or a feeble attempt to avoid total financial collapse.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022


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