Pakistan spends double paying off debt than it gets in flood aid

“Any rational person will see this as madness and maddening. It is a moral and economic absurdity...”
Consuelo Lopez-Zuriaga
Oxfam Head of Humanitarian Campaigns
Published: 15 October 2010

Oxfam calls on Friends of Democratic Pakistan to drop the debt

The international aid agency Oxfam today called for Pakistan’s $55bn debt to be dropped. Oxfam said that the debt must be cancelled because of the level of destruction caused by the recent unprecedented flooding and the massive costs of immediate relief and longer term reconstruction. The call comes in advance of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan meeting today (Friday 15 October) in Brussels, when Foreign Ministers will address the country’s short and long term needs.

Pakistan will pay $2.9bn this year on servicing foreign debts. So far, governments have committed $1.5bn to the relief effort. Rebuilding is way behind schedule and millions are homeless. Some two and a half months since the floods struck the UN Appeal is only one-third funded. Rebuilding the country will require a huge injection of funds. The Pakistan government has estimated that reconstruction may cost as much as $45bn.

Some countries, including France, Japan, South Korea and China – all members of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan – have received more money from Pakistan than they have given in response to the flooding. France received $62m in debt payments in the first nine months of the last financial year, more than 15 times its direct contribution to the flood response.  Japan received $111m, more than five times its contribution to the response. South Korea received four times as much, and China three times as much.

Consuelo Lopez-Zuriaga, Oxfam Head of Humanitarian Campaigns, said,

“Any rational person will see this as madness and maddening. It is a moral and economic absurdity that while poverty-struck people in Pakistan are struggling to put their lives back together much richer countries like France and Japan are receiving vast sums of money in debt payments.

“The debt burden cannot be allowed to impede the relief and reconstruction efforts. Pakistan needs aid and its debts dropped so that families can get back to their land and rebuild their homes and their lives.

“Pakistan’s debt has doubled in the past four years alone and the government is currently spending more than four times as much per person on servicing external debt as it is on healthcare.

“Even before the floods, poverty in parts of Pakistan was dire. Almost one in ten children die before their fifth birthday. Teenage girls in the Federally Administered Tribal Provinces are more likely to die in childbirth than learn to read. And now more than 10,000 schools and 500 hospitals need to be rebuilt.

“If funds that are desperately needed for emergency aid and reconstruction are swallowed up in debt repayments, then Pakistan could face a poverty boom. The choice is clear – either we roll back debt or development suffers.”

Notes to Editors

1. **** Photo, TV & interview opportunity in Brussels (Schuman, 9 -10am) on Friday 15 Oct: Pakistani activists chained to an enormous ball with “debt” written on it and a banner saying "Drop Pakistan's Debt".****

2. For more information on needs for reconstruction, funds provided by each member of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan and recommendations for short and long term support required, contact:

Brussels - Angela Corbalan on + 32 473 56 22 60 or angela.corbalan@oxfaminternational.org, @AngelaCorbalan

Pakistan - Luned Jones on +92 308 555 1782 or lunjones@oxfam.org.uk      

US – Louis Belanger on +1 212 687 2678 or louis.belanger@oxfaminternational.org, @louis_press

3. The Friends of Democratic Pakistan was launched in 2008 aiming to extend support to the Government of Pakistan in its efforts to consolidate democracy and support social and economic development in the country.

4. See attached briefing note for full breakdown of debt repayments made by Pakistan to member countries of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan.