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The Pakistan Relief Fund August 24, 2010

Posted by Rebecca Williams in Analysis.
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For Pakistan, it’s been a tough month.  Flooding and landslides have affected more than 20 million Pakistanis, displaced nearly 5 million people, and killed about 1,600. The old, the disabled, the young, and the able are fleeing toward higher ground, living in camps, on roadsides and canal embankments.  Food shortages increase the number of individuals dependent on relief efforts for food and water. The extent of the devastation remains difficult to gauge but undoubtedly significant.

In response, the U.S. has announced that it will provide up to $150 million in relief assistance in addition to in-kind and technical assistance, such as temporary bridges.  The State Department has also established the Pakistan Relief Fund, allowing individuals to donate in support of the Pakistan flood relief, recovery, and reconstruction effort.

While there are various provisions in the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) that provide for the acceptance of “gifts” from individuals, the Pakistan Relief Fund is a unique effort by the USG to combine appropriated funds with individual donations in a State Department-administered fund to provide support for urgent relief and recovery operations in Pakistan.

Timing may be part of the equation. With the end of the fiscal year fast approaching, the State Department is hard pressed to find unobligated FY2010 funds that could be used to support immediate relief efforts.  There are a multiple accounts that could be used or reprogrammed for relief efforts (ERMA, IDFA, PL480); however, the amount provided depends on how much the administration is willing to take from other programs for other purposes.

Absent an emergency supplemental, substantial relief and reconstruction funds for Pakistan may be added to the FY2011 International Affairs budget currently making its way through Congress.  This would put a squeeze on other accounts unless the topline is raised.  It is more likely that the administration will request relief and reconstruction funds in February with the submission of the FY2012 budget request.

Given the fiscal austere budget environment and the unpopularity of America in Pakistan, Congress may be forced to take a second look at the programs and initiatives it funds in Pakistan.  The promised $150 million in relief funds and donations from individuals to the Pakistan Relief fund are separate from the significant foreign and military assistance the US provides each year to Pakistan.

For example, the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill authorized $7.5 billion in economic aid over five years to Pakistan.  According to the State Department, although some of the appropriated funds for economic assistance will be redirected to the relief effort, most of those funds will “overwhelmingly be used for recovery and reconstruction as opposed to the immediate relief issues.”  To date, most of those funds have gone toward the development of high-impact, high-visibility projects in key sectors such as infrastructure and water.

US counterterrorism and counternarcotics initiatives in Pakistan are not likely to be redirected to relief efforts, nor will other US security assistance programs, such as grants and loans to purchase US defense articles. Relief funds are also separate from DOD’s Coalition Support Funds (CSF), reimbursements to partner nations for support to US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Pakistan receives the bulk of CSF, nearly $1 billion a year since FY2002.

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