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August 17, 2010

What If There Was A Massive Natural Disaster And No One Noticed?

Millions are now homelesss, disease is about to run rampant, there's potential for massive political and economic destabilization in a Muslim nation already on the edge and with nuclear weapons and oh yeah, it's essentially an active battlefield for the US.

Welcome to the Pakistan floods of 2010.

Pakistan's economy was already fragile, dependent on a $11.3 billion support package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Before the floods, the country was struggling to meet the fiscal-discipline requirements of the package. Pakistan has a bloated public sector, a narrow tax base and a chronic balance-of-payments problem. "Now, it alters all the calculations, all the projections, all the scenarios," Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Pakistan's Finance Minister, tells TIME. "It is still too early to assess the full impact of the disaster, but the damage is colossal, it's still unfolding. It will run into billions and billions of dollars." So far, some 40 countries have contributed $222 million, according to figures collected by the government of Pakistan a fraction of what's needed. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry is still mulling whether to accept India's offer of $5 million. The U.N. is hoping to raise a further $460 million for Pakistan.

(Update: On Tuesday, Pakistan took out a $900 million loan from the World Bank, adding to its already huge debt burden of $55.5 billion.That figure will rise in the next few years as debt rescheduled after 9/11 returns. Economists see the loan as expensive borrowing that the country can Ill-afford, but given that donors aren't coming forward with the aid the country needs, Islamabad has little choice.)

Here's another assessment on the range of issues facing Pakistan and how they may play out. It's mostly mixed but seems somewhat optimistic to me.

So with a disaster of such reach and scope in a very important part of the world, how come Obama has been so silent and the donation levels are so low? Naturally it's a combination of things. Donor fatigue (Didn't we just go through this with Haiti?), distrust of aid organizations in that part of the world and their connections to terrorist groups and a case of mutual dislike.

A June poll taken by CNN shows that 78 percent of Americans hold mostly unfavorable views of Pakistan. A 2010 Gallup poll showed similar results, with 47 percent of respondents saying they were mostly negative on Pakistan, while 24 percent said they held "very" negative views of that country.

Pakistanis apparently feel the same about the United States.

A recent July poll conducted by the Pew Research Center Global Attitudes Project showed that 17 percent of Pakistanis held a favorable opinion of the United States, with 59 percent actually describing the United States as an "enemy." President Obama was less popular in Pakistan than in 22 other nations surveyed.

All true but Americans are a very generous people. Even in crushing economic times like these, I think if there were a concerted effort to raise awareness and to solicit help there would be more donations. I'm surprised that President "Better Relations With The Muslim World" isn't on the case. I have a sneaking suspicion that W. The Cowboy would have made more of an effort.

Pro tip: If you want help from the US you better not have a natural disaster while Obama is on vacation.

Now watch this drive.

We can't buy Pakistan's love and turn them away from the terrorists they love to flirt with but we might be able to have some impact on the margins. To do that we are going to need to focus attention on whatever it is we are doing. Nothing in the world focuses attention like a little POTUS time (notice how the GZ Victory mosque heated up with two little comments?). My guess, and it's only that, is Obama doesn't want to acknowledge that part of the world exists. It's a tough nut to crack and he's not doing well there. As Ace has pointed out numerous times, when things don't work for him, Obama simply ignores it and pretends it's not an issue. Problems in Pakistan are too close to reminding people about Afghanistan so he ignores it. His personal situation takes precedence over the nation's needs.


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posted by DrewM. at 06:58 PM

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