WB raises Pakistan aid to 1bn dollars

The World Bank raised its emergency funding to Pakistan to one billion dollars on Wednesday to help the nation cope with the massive economic impact of catastrophic monsoon flooding.

The hike, an additional 100 million dollars on top of an existing 900 million dollar loan, was announced by World Bank chief Robert Zoellick as he met Pakistan Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh in Washington.

Zoellick’s statement said the money, which will come from the International Development Association, the World Bank’s arm for low-income countries, was for “immediate recovery needs and longer-term reconstruction.”

“We need to respond strongly to the crisis at hand, but we need to do it without losing sight of important economic reforms,” he said. “This disaster underscores Pakistan’s fiscal vulnerability and dependence on foreign aid.”

Zoellick and Shaikh discussed plans for institutional and governance reforms in Pakistan in the wake of a disaster which has crippled the south Asian nation’s economy, the statement said.

The World Bank pledged to help Pakistan set up systems for tracking aid flows, and monitoring and evaluating the whole process to tackle waste and corruption.

Torrential monsoon rains have triggered massive floods that have moved steadily from north to south over the past month, engulfing a fifth of the volatile country and affecting 17 million of Pakistan’s 167 million people.

The floods have left 1,645 people dead and 2,479 injured, according to the latest count, but officials warn that millions are at risk from food shortages and disease.

Pakistan’s government — widely painted as corrupt and bogged down in red tape and infighting — has been derided in domestic media over its response to the floods and has been the focus of angry isolated protests.

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani warned Wednesday that the country faced inflation of up to 20 percent and slower growth because the devastating floods had wiped out crops.