Can Pakistan rebuild? - Acumen

Can Pakistan rebuild?

By Acumen on December 03, 2005

Acumen Fund CEO Jacqueline Novogratz has been visiting earthquake-affected areas of Pakistan, and documenting her travels in a journal. Excerpts of each day’s entry will be posted.

December 2 – Karachi
Many people in the region believed the end of the world had come when the earthquake hit. After a loud scream from the earth, the world opened up and great waves of fire and dust exploded for what seemed like an eternity. According to the local people, the Prophet said the world would end – kayamat would come – when the earth did just this. It will take time to heal the loss of so many lives and homes.

There is understandably a lot of skepticism about the long-term reconstruction efforts. The five billion dollars pledged by the international community is a lot of money. If the earthquake survivors are left worse off than they were before the disaster, those affected will be failed in a moral sense, a pragmatic sense, a human sense. The government of Pakistan recognizes that no top-down approach will effectively build a half-million homes across an area the size of England.

Consequently, it has committed to giving each affected family 25,000 Pakistan rupees (about $400) immediately for short-term relief and another 150,000 rupees (about $2,500) when the spring comes so that they can rebuild their homes. How this will happen effectively – and who will actually receive the funds – is the topic of nearly every conversation.

Some feel the process will be fair and get people on their feet and, besides, may be the only way to create some hope of long-term development. Others worry that this outlay of cash may result instead in too much aid, an inflationary environment, corruption and more dependency. Lessons from Sri Lanka, Gujarat, Iran and Turkey all point to the difficulty of creating solutions that actually build lives rather than place quick band-aids that too often negatively affect economic incentives and social structures. Everyone is talking and no one has a clear sense of what will happen, in part because no single person has enough authority to influence the larger environment. This is why factoring in long-term sustainability so that people can make good decisions for themselves while insisting on accountability from aid organizations and NGOs is critical. Whether this will occur remains to be seen.

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