Monthly Archives: August 2010

Sen. John Kerry: A Call For Help

John KerrySen. John Kerry called the current flooding crisis “Pakistan’s Katrina” in today’s Boston Globe, and urged Americans – and the world – to step up our response to the crisis in long-term and sustainable ways.

THIS IS Pakistan’s Katrina. I just returned from that country, where the devastation created by the recent floods was gut-wrenching. Five years after floods washed over the southern United States, Pakistan is suffering from an epic disaster. And we turn away from Pakistan in its hour of need at our own peril.

It’s not just that one-fifth of the country — an area about the size of New England — is submerged. Nor is it that, with weeks left in the monsoon season, it could get worse. More than 1,600 people have been killed, 6 million are homeless, and more than 17 million have been affected in some way.

Those chilling numbers don’t convey what I saw when our helicopter touched down in Multan on the Punjab plains. This is no isolated hamlet, but an ancient city, a district capital with a population of over 1.5 million. And it’s inundated with water.

As people told their stories, their desperation for food and drinking water was evident. I saw children orphaned by the floods. And I saw joy when American helicopters arrived with food, water and medicine. The scale of the disaster was clear from the air, where miles of agricultural plains looked like a massive lake. Any flat surface high enough to escape the waters became a life raft, packed with people willing to bake in the hot sun rather than face the flood waters.

So far, the world isn’t keeping up with the challenge. The United States government is doing its part by leading international donor efforts with $200 million so far, including money from the “Kerry-Lugar-Berman’’ aid package for Pakistan that Congress passed last year. Much more needs to be done by foreign governments and private citizens alike.

Click here to read the entire article.

Reduce Textile Tariffs to Aid Pakistan

Pakistan's textile industry

The devastation caused by flood waters that have submerged twenty percent of Pakistan will leave lasting scars across the embattled nation for years, if not decades to come. Terrorist militants are using the opportunity to launch suicide bomb attacks on soft targets including mosques in an attempt to destabilize the democratic government, and patience is wearing thin among a war-weary public. While the US has given over $150 Million in aid for flood relief, as well as $7.5 Billion in civilian aid via the Kerry-Lugar bill, Pakistan needs more than just a handout. The US should remove tariffs on Pakistani textiles to provide Pakistan sustainable economic growth and political stability.

Sustainable Economic Growth

Waqar Khan, secretary of Pakistan’s Textile Ministry, told the Wall Street Journal earlier this week that,

“Clearly a big crisis is looming on the horizon for the textiles sector, which is the mainstay of the country’s economy. Yarn shortage is inevitable. Market access will greatly mitigate the imminent disaster.”

This isn’t a case of teaching a man to fish. Pakistan knows the textile sector, and provides inexpensive and efficient production that benefits both domestic employment while lowering the price of goods in other countries. This is a case of giving a man access to the pond.

The country’s textile sector directly employs 3.5 million people, accounting for 40% of urban factory jobs. Textile-product exports were $10.3 billion—just over half Pakistan’s total exports—in the last fiscal year. About $3 billion of those goods went to the U.S. and a similar amount to Europe.

But the sector has faced a slump in the past 18 months, due in part to competition from China’s much-larger industry, which uses its size to win big U.S. orders and keep costs down. While China’s textile-goods exports have powered ahead over the past three years, Pakistan’s have stagnated. Some producers, also hurt by the rising cost of raw materials like yarn and by more expensive electricity, have been forced out of business.

Additional global macroeconomic benefits could be reaped by reducing textile tariffs as well. Presently, the primary competitor for Pakistan is China, whose economy is overly dependent on exports, creating an artificial trade imbalance. While many economists call on China to allow the Renminbi to float freely, such a move is politically unlikely in the near future. However, by reducing textile tariffs for Pakistan, the US could create structural changes that level the playing field for Pakistani goods, thereby reducing China’s ability to dominate markets with their ability to operate with massive economies of scale.

Most importantly, though, lowering textile tariffs would allow Pakistan the opportunity to grow its economy naturally, unfettered by artificial constraints imposed from without. Vietnam can serve as an example here. Despite being ruled by a communist party, Vietnam has increased its exports to the US over recent years, growing its economy rapidly. In turn, it has begun to discover consumerism and promises to balance its economy between imports and exports in the long term, providing a reciprocal market for US goods and services.

US Imports from Pakistan and Vietnam, 2000-2009

Political Stability

Whether in main street America or main street Pakistan, politics largely boils down to President Clinton’s famous maxim: “It’s the economy, stupid.” And the devastation of the flooding threatens Pakistan’s already struggling economy.

Coping with the social and economic costs of the catastrophe will strain the government’s finances. The budget deficit was already on track to reach 4.5% of gross domestic product in the fiscal year ending June 30 before the crisis but now could widen to as much as 6% to 7% of GDP, said Mr. Mitra. That’s a grim prospect for a country, which had external debt totaling $55.63 billion as of June 30.

President Asif Ali Zardari’s government has been reaching out to other countries for help. A delegation met with IMF officials Monday in Washington. Donors including the U.K. and the European Union have so far pledged almost $500 million in additional help.

Moody’s is unlikely to upgrade Pakistan’s credit rating in coming months due to the devastation from the floods and other challenges, but the country’s current B3 rating “adequately captures the risk” of the likely economic slowdown and is unlikely to be downgraded further, said Mr. Mitra. A B3 rating is just one notch above the C level, which applies to countries in effective sovereign default, and makes it hard for a country to issue bonds in the international market.

As important as relief aid is, it is structural changes such as tariff reduction that will give Pakistan access to markets where it can compete and provide sustainable growth to the nation’s economy. This will demonstrate that its leaders are effectively promoting Pakistan’s interests in the world community, and quell popular dissatisfaction as people become better able to provide for themselves and their families

Moreover, improving Pakistan’s economy through actual economic growth rather than aid gives Pakistanis an ownership over their own nation that is too often missing in countries that require substantial amounts of foreign aid. Questions surrounding condition-based aid such as those that arose in the debate over the Kerry-Lugar bill and IMF programs would be moot, as Pakistan’s economy would be free to grow naturally. No longer could democratic political leaders be accused of “selling the country for peanuts” by anti-democratic forces.

The unprecedented destruction of Pakistan’s floods combined with continued attacks from extremist militants pose an existential crisis for Pakistan. American aid and generosity, as well as our ability to organize effective international relief is vital. But Pakistan cannot live on aid alone. If we are to truly help our friends in Pakistan, we must use our standing as a global economic power to hold open the door to international markets so that Pakistan can develop its own sovereign economic strength. Then we will truly see democracy and justice in Pakistan.

Secretary Clinton Announces Official Pakistan Relief Fund

“Currently more than 20 million Pakistanis have been affected by the worst natural disaster in Pakistan’s history. That is more than the population of New York State. The enormity of this crisis is hard to fathom, the rain continues to fall, and the extent of the devastation is still difficult to gauge.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones, those who have been displaced from their homes, and those left without food or water. The United States has and continues to take swift action to help. But governments cannot be alone in helping the people of Pakistan.

“That is why the United States Government through the Department of State has established the Pakistan Relief Fund for all Americans to join in this tremendous relief, recovery and reconstruction effort.
“The pictures we see coming out of Pakistan are painful images of human suffering at its worst. In surveying the lives and landscape affected by this disaster, we see brothers and sisters; mothers and fathers; daughters and sons. We see 20 million members of the human family in desperate need of help. This is a defining moment – not only for Pakistan, but for all of us.

“And now is a time for our shared humanity to move us to help. Americans have always shown great generosity to others facing crises around the world. And I call on you to do what you can. Every dollar makes a difference. $5 can buy 50 high energy bars providing much needed nutrition; $10 can provide a child or mother with a blanket; and about $40 can buy material to shelter a family of four.

“So I urge my fellow Americans to join this effort and send much needed help to the people of Pakistan by contributing to the Department of State’s Pakistan Relief Fund. Please go to www.state.gov or send $10 through your mobile phone by texting the word FLOOD, F-L-O-O-D, to 27722.

“If we come together now, we can meet this challenge and ensure that future generations in Pakistan have a chance to have the bright future they deserve and fulfill their own God-given potential.”

Source: US State Department

Sen. John Kerry and Pakistani President Asif Zardari Speak About Flood Relief

Sen. John Kerry is in Pakistan observing the devastating effects of the flooding and working to orchestrate increased relief and reconstruction aid. While there, Sen. Kerry and Pakistan’s President Asif Zardari held a press conference to discuss the cooperative relief efforts being carried out by the two countries.

“I want to say my own personal gratitude to the Marines and the United States Navy that I saw today who have been transferred here to help in every way possible – they’re proud of what they’re doing and we’re proud of what they’re doing – but I also want to commend the Pakistan military.

I was impressed by the quality of the leadership, the generals who were showing us the organization that they’ve put in place, and the amazing cooperation between their military and ours was really an example of how we can work together and improve the relationship between our countries and do good things for people.”

-John Kerry

Secretary Clinton today announced that the US will increase humanitarian aid to Pakistan to $150 Million, and called on all Americans to increase their personal contributions to help the millions of people affected by the floods.

Part I:

Part II:

"Worst Disaster in UN's History" – How You Can Help

Flood Relief - How You Can Help

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon recently visited Pakistan and declared the flooding the worst disaster in the history of the UN. To date, the US has contributed $90 Million to the relief efforts in addition to providing temporary bridges, mobilizing significant U.S. military and civilian resources to rescue victims of the disaster and deliver needed supplies including 18 U.S. military and civilian aircraft in Pakistan and three aircraft based in Afghanistan in support of flood relief operations. U.S. helicopters have evacuated 5,912 people and delivered 717,713 pounds of relief supplies including 441,000 halal meals.

BUT THIS HISTORIC DISASTER REQUIRES MORE ASSISTANCE

With one-fifth of the nation already under water, rains continue. Pakistani and UN officials say they expect the disaster to get worse.

HERE’S HOW YOU CAN HELP:

Text “SWAT” to 50555; $10 goes to fund for flood victims

Additional Organizations: The most effective way people can assist relief efforts is by making cash contributions to humanitarian organizations that are conducting relief operations.

SAVE THE CHILDREN
Donation Phone #: 1-800-728-3843
Website: http://savethechildren.org
International Red Cross
Donation Phone #: 1-877-REFUGEE
Website: http://www.theIRC.org
OXFAM
Donation Phone #: 1-800-77-OXFAM
Website: http://oxfamamerica.org
MERLIN
Donation Phone #: 202-449-6399
Website: http://www.merlin-usa.org
ACTED
Donation Phone #: 202-341-6365
Website: http://www.acted.org/en/support-us

Learn More»

Statement by the President on Pakistan's Independence Day

President Barack Obama and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari talking at the White House

“On behalf of the people of the United States of America, I send my congratulations and sincere best wishes to all who will celebrate the 63rd anniversary of Pakistan’s independence.  Here at home, I am proud of the many contributions Pakistani Americans have made to our nation and will continue to make in the years to come.  Pakistan’s Independence Day is a useful time to reflect on the friendships Pakistan has in the world and the expressions of true friendship that come in a time of need.

“This Independence Day anniversary also comes at a time of great challenge for the people of Pakistan as they bravely respond to widespread and unprecedented flooding.  In line with the deepening partnership between our two nations, I have directed my administration to continue to work closely with the Government of Pakistan and provide assistance in their response to this crisis.  We have rushed financial assistance, life saving and life sustaining relief supplies, helicopters, rescue boats, and disaster management experts to assist the Pakistani authorities.  The people of America stand with the people of Pakistan through this difficult time and will continue to urge the international community to increase their support and assistance. We will remain committed to helping Pakistan and will work side by side with you and the international community toward a recovery that brings back the dynamic vitality of your nation.”

Source: White House

Finding Hope In A Tragedy

It’s hard to find hope in a tragedy as immense as the floods that are ravaging Pakistan, but Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, thinks there might be a glimmer of hope shining through.

The rains that have for the past two weeks caused the worst flooding in northwest Pakistan in eight decades have shifted attention from the country’s battle against insurgency and militancy and the fragility of its relationship with the United States. As the monsoon rains move south, numerous roads, bridges and dams have been damaged. Crops have been destroyed. It is likely that next year’s crops will not be planted. Yet amid all this destruction are reasons for optimism.

Rapid U.S. action to support Pakistan’s relief efforts may help improve America’s image among a population that generally resents the United States. Washington’s $55 million aid pledge makes it the largest donor among the international community. U.S. Chinooks — seen as angels of mercy after the 2005 earthquake — are helping Pakistanis over flood-ravaged mountains and plains, and represent both U.S. ability to help Pakistanis and the Pakistani military’s willingness to work with its U.S. counterparts. This collaboration will go a long way toward building relationships among rank-and-file service members. The head of Pakistan’s air force is visiting the United States this week to see joint air exercises in Nevada. Such encounters will educate people and help both countries dispel false notions about each other.

Though the past few years have seen mutual trust on the rise between the US and Pakistan, there are still weak spots that opponents of a strong US-Pakistan partnership exploit. The floods provide an opportunity for the US to demonstrate with actions – not just words – that it is dedicated to a long and mutually-respectful relationship with Pakistan. As Mr Nawaz writes,

To reconstruct damaged homes and infrastructure and help its people recover, Pakistan will require enormous aid — not just from the United States and Europe but also from Muslim nations and its neighbors. Meanwhile, the battle against the homegrown insurgency and militancy that threaten Pakistan’s polity rages on. Even as Washington focuses on leaving Afghanistan, it must not lose sight of Pakistan’s long-term civil and military needs — not just for short-term gain but in an effort to build a lasting relationship. To help change the long-entrenched story, Washington and Islamabad need to display consistent behavior. Trust must be built on mutual understanding and equally beneficial actions.

As I write this, the US and Pakistan are working together to bring much needed relief to Pakistanis affected by the floods. As the video below clearly shows, when our two great nations work together, we can accomplish great things.

US Turns All Attention to Pakistan

The Obama administration is holding daily emergency meetings on the situation in Pakistan, and plans to convert an international conference in Brussels into a meeting dedicated to post-flood rehabilitation in Pakistan according to a report in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn today. This report comes as the US has also announced that it is increasing relief aid to $

Meanwhile, the US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates issued urgent orders for American equipment and personnel to immediately turn to rescue and relief work being led by the Pakistani government. The video below shows footage of Americans and Pakistanis working together to rescue and bring emergency supplies to people affected by the floods.

The US government has stated that today’s increase in aid will not likely be the last, as daily briefings and coordination meetings with Pakistan and the international community continue to determine how best to serve the Pakistani people.

YOU CAN HELP TOO…

PLEASE TEXT ‘SWAT’ TO 50555 TO MAKE A $10 DONATION TO RELIEF EFFORTS

EVERY DONATION HELPS SAVE A LIFE

Statement by the President on the Occasion of Ramadan

Official portrait of Barack ObamaOn behalf of the American people, Michelle and I want to extend our best wishes to Muslims in America and around the world. Ramadan Kareem.

Ramadan is a time when Muslims around the world reflect upon the wisdom and guidance that comes with faith, and the responsibility that human beings have to one another, and to God. This is a time when families gather, friends host iftars, and meals are shared. But Ramadan is also a time of intense devotion and reflection – a time when Muslims fast during the day and pray during the night; when Muslims provide support to others to advance opportunity and prosperity for people everywhere. For all of us must remember that the world we want to build – and the changes that we want to make – must begin in our own hearts, and our own communities.

These rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings. Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality. And here in the United States, Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been part of America and that American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country. And today, I want to extend my best wishes to the 1.5 billion Muslims around the world – and your families and friends – as you welcome the beginning of Ramadan.

I look forward to hosting an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan here at the White House later this week, and wish you a blessed month.

May God’s peace be upon you.

-President Barack Obama

Source: White House