More than $10 billion has been donated to Pakistan at the world’s first donor meeting in Geneva, which was held expressly to aid those affected by the climate-related calamity of this year’s floods. This presents Pakistan with a unique chance to dispel its reputation as a nation unaffected by natural disasters. The nation may now take a number of thoughtful, long-term steps to increase the resilience of its people and infrastructure, rather than simply be a victim. At the summit, Pakistan’s leadership shared its strategic vision with the world, stating that the country would encourage social inclusion and engagement. How will Pakistan fulfill its end of the deal or use the $10 billion offered? It is now more important than ever to start changes to lessen climate vulnerability, strengthen these alliances, and recover stronger and quicker.
Pakistan’s reconstruction and rehabilitation are not resilient in the face of climate change. Institutions fail if they do not develop and change, and countries do not fail by sitting on their laurels. The failure to take into account the risks posed by climate change is unacceptable
Reforming institutions is a requirement for resilient development. With a current cost of an 8 percent GDP loss and a predicted 20 percent GDP decline by 2050, the urgency is plain to see. In actuality, reforms, resiliency, and economic growth are now inextricably connected. Pakistan’s current political and economic structures encourage climate vulnerability, which is exacerbated by a lack of access to food and water, damaged land, and polluted air. The argument is rather simple: greater preparedness can help us prevent both public and private losses from climate-related calamities. Savings can be used to fund climate-smart development.
Reforms are constantly influenced by local politics, regardless of how significant they are. In a traditional community, they are especially challenging to implement. In our federal structure, various political parties that fiercely defend their sovereignty control the provinces and regions.
The current political climate makes it difficult to achieve consensus in a coalition government without taking unnecessary risks or wasting time, making the pursuit of a reform agenda extremely difficult. Building political support for the idea that climate security reforms are urgently needed and cannot be put off any longer is the first step in the process. Thankfully, aside from the sporadic disagreement by some interest groups, the majority of the crucial institutional, legal, and economic reforms are included in the unfinished agenda of the 18th Amendment.
Even though many are repetitions, recyclings, and repurposings of prior commitments, not all overseas pledges will be fulfilled this month or throughout this fiscal year. However, Pakistan is well known for putting off the completion of its public sector projects. Over 1,200 unfinished projects totaling Rs1.6 trillion have accumulated over time, which is incredible. Without increasing local communities’ resiliency, top-down investments will fail.
Already strained to breaking point, is the project delivery system. The best way for Pakistan to use development funds moving ahead must be re-evaluated. Unused cash could end up being used once more, which has become a common occurrence in the nation in recent years, which is a worry. It is frequently a symptom of poor management and competence when budgets are not used as intended. Project managers and senior officials frequently receive extra funding for public sector initiatives so that they have room to respond to other urgent situations.
The moment is perfect for Pakistan to draw lessons from two recent events. First, a similar Conference on Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of the Affected Areas produced commitments of $3.5 billion following the 2005 earthquake. The World Bank and Japan together organized a conference of Friends of Pakistan in 2008, which resulted in promises of $5.8 billion for counterterrorism and development. In both instances, Pakistan was unable to fully use the promises, and there is still no report on the circumstances that led to these missed chances.
We can learn some operational lessons from recent events in several provinces under various initiatives. During the initial phase of CPEC, the delivery speed was noticeably fast under the early harvest projects. Similarly, the federal and provincial governments successfully established Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) in some significant projects rather than battling with pre-existing institutions. Additionally, planning boards from several provinces have successfully delivered larger projects in a few recent instances using Special Projects Units, or SPUs.
However, the most significant threat to our infrastructure is posed by outdated building regulations, standards and related legislation, and procurement policies. We could have prevented a large portion of the losses in infrastructure if Pakistan had harmonized its building standards with those that are generally accepted around the world. The nation urgently needs to modernize its building codes, materials, technologies, and approval procedures. To accelerate this process, more operational and regulatory space must be made available for the private sector to take the lead in infrastructural development.
Finally, even if there are a number of practical issues to be resolved about the ability of the federal and provincial levels to undertake reforms, implementing two fundamental reforms will put our country’s resolve and dedication to the test: First of all, we must keep in mind that climate vulnerability is primarily a local issue and that no amount of top-down investments can be successful without enhancing local communities’ ability to cope.
Pakistan’s reconstruction and rehabilitation are not resilient in the face of climate change. Institutions fail if they do not develop and change, and countries do not fail by sitting on their laurels. The failure to take into account the risks posed by climate change is unacceptable.
The writer is a Researcher at the Center for International Strategic Studies, AJK, and can be contacted at [email protected]