$9 bn raised for Pakistan flood recovery

Pakistan received pledges of more than $9 billion on Monday to help the country recover from last year's catastrophic floods and improve its resilience to the ravages of climate change.

The unprecedented monsoon floods submerged huge swathes of the country and killed more than 1,700 people, while over 33 million others suffered its impacts.

The Resilient Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Framework, which Pakistan presented at a UN-sponsored conference in Geneva, calls for $16.3 billion over the next three years for the initial efforts to rebuild and improve its ability to withstand future climate shocks.

Pakistan said it should be able to cover half the cost but pleaded with the international community to fund the rest -- and in the end pledges exceeded Islamabad's expectations.

"Commitments totalled more than $9 billion," junior foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar said in closing the conference. "Today has truly been a day which gives us great hope."

"The message from the world is clear: The world will stand by those who go through any natural calamities, and will not leave them alone," she said.

Eight million people were displaced, millions of acres of agricultural land were ruined and around two million homes were destroyed, while nine million more people were pushed to the brink of poverty.

"No country deserves to endure what happened to Pakistan," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the conference, which he co-hosted with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who said: "We need to give 33 million people their future back."

- 'Morally bankrupt' financial system -

Besides pledges of money and assistance, conference attendees put the emphasis on enabling developing countries hit by climate disasters to build stronger resilience.

Guterres also called for a revamp of the global financial system to make it easier for crisis-hit middle-income nations like Pakistan to access crucial financing.

"Pakistan is also a victim of the man-made disaster of a morally bankrupt global financial system," he said.

"A system that denies middle-income countries debt relief and concessional financing to invest in resilience and recovery -- that must change."

The World Bank meanwhile emphasised the need for Pakistan to "keep spending within sustainable limits".

"A truly resilient recovery will not be possible without additional fiscal and structural reforms," said Martin Raiser, the World Bank's vice president for the South Asia region.

He urged Pakistan to "address the inefficiencies that are muting investment" and to opt for "more progressive, wider-based taxation".

The Pakistani delegation was also due to meet with International Monetary Fund representatives in Geneva.

- 'Nightmarish' -

Sharif told reporters he had asked the IMF for a pause in its demands for economic reforms in exchange for more financial aid.

The global lender wants Pakistan to withdraw remaining subsidies for petroleum products and electricity, aimed at helping households, before releasing the remainder of a $6 billion deal negotiated by the previous government.

But Sharif asked "how on Earth" the additional burdens could currently be shouldered by the country's poorest, describing the situation as "nightmarish".

Guterres lent his support. "Economic stability is very important," he said, before quipping, "The day we will all be dead, there will be perfect economic stability."

Pakistan, with the world's fifth-largest population of around 230 million people, generates less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions but is one of the nations most vulnerable to extreme weather caused by global warming.

- 'Loss and damage' -

Guterres also said Pakistan's "monsoon on steroids" proved the need for a "loss and damage" fund, agreed at the UN's COP27 climate summit in November, that could cover the climate-related destruction endured by developing nations.

"If there is any doubt about loss and damage, go to Pakistan," he said.

Among the countries and organisation that heeded the call for immediate relief, France pledged 360 million euros ($384 million) towards the plan, and an additional 10 million euros for humanitarian aid.

Washington promised another $100 million towards Pakistan's recovery, doubling its contribution from an initial announcement last August.

And the Islamic Development Bank pledged $4.2 billion in financing over the next three years.