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Can Migrants Help in Post-Flooding Reconstruction in Pakistan?

Sanket Mohapatra's picture
     UN Photo/WFP/Amjad Jamal

A World Bank report released on July 30 finds that poverty in Pakistan fell by an impressive 17.3 percentage points between 2001 and 2008 (from 34.5 percent in 2001-02 to 17.2 percent in 2007-08). Three out of Pakistan’s four major provinces – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly NWFP), Punjab, and Sindh – saw significant declines in poverty during this period. The largest fall in poverty was in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). According to the Bank report “high level of remittances, both foreign and domestic, seem to have facilitated” the decline in poverty in KP.

Pakistan saw migrant remittances reach a record $ 8.9 billion in fiscal year 2010, an increase of 14 percent compared to the 2009 fiscal year despite the global economic crisis (Pakistan’s fiscal year runs from July to June). The World Bank report says “Continued strong growth in worker’s remittances in the past few years has also contributed to improvements in the external current account balance” and “have facilitated improvement in the country’s external position”. 

Migration and remittances have provided a source of income for households in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and other provinces in Pakistan. A recent Asian Development Bank study found that foreign remittances constituted 9.4 percent of household income in KP, compared to 5.1% for Punjab, 1.5% for Baluchistan, and 0.7% for Sindh.

There is now a risk that devastating floods that have hit Pakistan, killing more than 1,200 people and leaving 2 million people homeless, could reverse some of the gains in poverty achieved in the last few years, which were already believed to have been weakened in the wake of the recent financial crisis and rise in food prices.  

During past natural disasters, migrants have sent additional remittances to help their families and friends in need – for example, during the Pakistan earthquake in 2005, in Philippines after typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009, after an earthquake in Haiti in early 2010, and inother countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It is likely that the Pakistani diaspora will send additional financial resources to help their family, friends and even larger communities. These person-to-person transfers could complement official aid efforts.

The official aid community and Pakistan’s government should welcome and facilitate the overseas Pakistanis’ help by quickly restoring the payments and financial infrastructure in affected areas, so that family members affected by the floods can continue to receive remittances. Some useful lessons can be learned from the example of the recent US-led efforts to keep remittances flowing to Haiti after the earthquake in early 2010.

Some issues for discussion:

1. How can the Pakistani migrant community continue to provide assistance through remittances to their friends and relatives, and help their communities through direct giving? How can the international aid community and Pakistan’s government facilitate this process?  

2. How can the payments and settlement infrastructure for remittances be quickly restored in the flood- affected areas to enable these person-to-person flows to reach the intended beneficiaries?

3. How can the international aid community and Pakistan’s government involve (and coordinate with) the Pakistani migrant communities in North America, Europe and the Gulf for post-disaster relief and reconstruction?


Also featured on the World Bank's excellent People Move Blog.

Comments

Empower the local Governments,whrever they exist.Where they don't,like recently in Pakistan,the new democratic dispensation has abolished the District Governments.They shaould be reinstated and given full monetary and audit powers.Then only development will take place and disasters like the current river tsunamis will be more efficiently handled. Secondly,funds be given to local NGOs,registered and with a clear-cut mission to improve,sanitation,education,specially girls primary schools,health and computer centres for vocational training of youth,to handle local problems of maintenance of tubewells,tractors,electric connections and also create village/cottage industries.All this should be tsked to Local govts. New/Progressive farming techniques,i.e.,solar-powered wells,drip/sprinkler irrigations systems be introduced on soft-loan basis. Massive training to handle natural calamities be imparted at local government level.

Submitted by Saqib Awan on
The need is to channel overseas funds remitted to Pakistan and direct them towards more sustainable projects instead of one-time consumables. The institution of Waqf can be the best vehicle for this purpose. Also, micro-finance institutions can make a big difference. The above have to be private initiatives.

Submitted by Naeem Akram on
Definitely Worker's remittances will help the reconstruction of the flood hit areas. I also want to add Shahid Rehman's comment that all the highlighted there are very crucial for the reconstruction of the flood hit areas. But there is need to prioritize the development efforts. The rescue efforts and provision of food and shelter are the top priority at the early phase of the rehabilitation. But above these as after couple of months the harvesting season of wheat will be in its full swing in that period if the will not be helped out to purchase the seeds, fertilizer etc. then the whole Agro economy have to face a miserable situation. Because the farmers has lost the saved grian used as seed and their assets. So in that period there will be dire need of provision of seed and fertilizer to these flood hit areas free of cost/highly subsidized rates. It will definitely not help them to generate income in future and reduce their dependence on aids.

The Dawn newspaper has an article on Sunday on how remittances are not reaching affected areas (see http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/business/remittances-not-reaching-affected-areas-280) The Dawn article says "Most of the [refugee] camps have been set in suburbs of the cities or remote areas across the country while most of them are unregistered. The non-registration is creating problem to trace the people. Many remittances do not find exact location to reach the recipient....The flood largely devastated villages and small towns which usually provide unskilled labour to the Middle East. Hundreds and thousands of Pakistanis in these areas depend on remittances sent by their people. A senior banker said this is a serious issue. There is an urgent need to clear the passage for remittances to reach exact destinations." There is clearly a need for the Pakistan government, the central bank and aid agencies to find ways for this vital lifeline for the poor to be restored at the earliest possible. Sanket

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