The Pakistan flood, economic damage and the truth about foreign aid

6 September 2010.  World to Win News Service.

The immediate loss of life due to the continuing flooding in Pakistan is tragedy enough, but the long-term impact may cause even greater disaster.

The devastated fields long the Indus and other rivers, some still under  water and others waterlogged and filled with mud and stones, constitute Pakistan’s agricultural heartland and the foundation of its economy. This season’s maize, cotton, rice and wheat, the main crops, as well as mango, banana and citrus fruits, have been lost. Worse, tens of millions of people have lost their future livelihoods, some for at least one or two seasons and others forever.

The Indus Valley stretches along approximately 650 kilometres in Sindh province, where it represents about 85 percent of the land under cultivation. People like Nizam Nathio, who had 10 acres of land and now lives in a refugee camp in Sukkur, lost all their cultivated land in the flood. “All my resources are gone and the next crop will be harvested in six months,” he says. “Will my family eat mud till then to survive?” Hakeem Kalhoro, a resident of the Naushero Feroz district, had a farm with 50 buffaloes. Now he has only one left. The floodwater has taken the rest. ”I used to sell 500 litres of milk a day, now I’m living on handouts.” (BBC Website, 19 August 2010)

Now Sindh is being hit by fresh flooding.  It is raining again, and previously contained flood lakes have broken through.

Pakistani officials say that about 3.6 million hectares of crops have been washed away, much of that in Sindh and Punjab provinces, and 1.2 million livestock killed, including ploughing animals. The World Bank estimates that crops worth $1 billion have been ruined. The UN World Food Programme says that almost ten million people are already short of food. Little clean water is available.

There is fear the number of people facing what these agencies call “food insecurity”  will mount and the whole country will face a massive food shortage and inflated prices in the coming years. Shortages of agricultural raw materials may also undermine textile and apparel manufacture, the country’s two main export sectors, and the food processing industry. In terms of this broader impact, no region in Pakistan remains untouched by the flood.

Millions of people no longer have a home to live in or land to till. As thousands more take up residence in the already overcrowded camps, hundreds of thousands of displaced people have moved to urban centres in Punjab and Sindh. Many are already making their way towards Karachi and Hyderabad. The people taking refuge in the camps were mostly tenant farmers. Many of them may become wage workers, at best, because they have little or nothing to go back to in their native villages, and some will not be allowed to go back.

At least one in ten of the country’s 166 million people have been directly affected, or even one in eight according to other estimates. Further, if there is much reconstruction, with the kind of projects and programme the capitalists of the world’s dominant imperialist countries have in mind, rural life and the whole national economy may become more dependent on the needs of world capitalism. Continue reading “The Pakistan flood, economic damage and the truth about foreign aid”

The term ‘NGO’ is a misnomer

By Yves Engler

They’re called NGOs — non-governmental organizations — but the description is misleading at best, or an outright lie generated by intelligence agencies at worst.

In fact, almost all development NGOs receive most of their funding from government and in return follow government policies and priorities. While this was always true, it has become easier to see with Harper’s Conservative government, which lacks the cleverness and subtlety of the Liberals who at least funded some “oppositional” activity to allow NGOs a veneer of independence.

The example of the NGO called Alternatives illustrates these points well. This group, which has ties to the progressive community in Canada and Quebec, has done some useful work in Palestine and Latin America. But, at the end of 2009, the Canadian International Development Agency failed to renew about $2.4 million in funding the Montreal-based organization. After political pressure was brought to bear, Ottawa partly reversed course, giving Alternatives $800,000 over three years.

Alternatives’ campaign to force the Conservatives to renew at least some of its funding and CIDA’s response tell us a great deal about the ever more overt ties between international development NGOs and western military occupation. After the cuts were reported, the head of Alternatives, Michel Lambert, tried to win favour with Conservative decision makers by explicitly tying the group’s projects to Canadian military interventions. In an article in French for Le Journal Des Alternatives [1] in which he claimed Alternatives was “positive[ly] evaluated and audited” by CIDA, Lambert asked: “How come countries like Afghanistan or Haiti that are at the heart of Canadian [military] interventions [and where Alternatives operated] are no longer essential for the Canadian government?”

After CIDA renewed $800,000 in funding, Lambert claimed victory. But, the CIDA money was only for projects in Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti — three countries under military occupation. (The agreement prohibited Alternatives from using the money to “engage” the public and it excluded programs in Palestine and Central America.) When western troops invaded, Alternatives was not active in any of these three countries, which raises the questions: Is Alternatives prepared to follow Canadian aid anywhere, even if it is designed to strengthen military occupation? What alternatives do even “leftwing” NGOs such as Alternatives have when they are dependent on government funding?

Continue reading “The term ‘NGO’ is a misnomer”