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  PM TRACKER

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI, Islamabad
Nov 28 - Dec 04, 2005

DONORS' CONFERENCE WAS THE EVENT OF THE WEEK

The donors' conference was the event of the week. The conference aimed at obtaining financial assistance from the world community to accomplish the gigantic task of rehabilitating over 500,000 homeless earthquake survivors.

The conference, which was attended by 75 delegates representing 50 countries and organizations, proved a great success and beyond the expectations of many.

According to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz it was perhaps for the first time that pledges for financial assistance surpassed the estimates. Talking to newsmen after the conference, Shaukat Aziz said the world community has so far made cumulative pledges of 5.827 billion dollars for relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction of the quake-hit areas and the amount is likely to rise further. He said of the total pledges, 3.9 billion dollars are in soft loans and remaining 1.9 billion dollars are grants. Some of the loans would be concessional, some interest-free and some will have only service charges. The grants, he said, would be both in cash and kind. He said the pledges would go up with the arrival of the Australian Prime Minister, besides Canadian delegation attending the conference would submit an assessment report after returning home and the Chinese government has announced programmes for reconstruction of Karakorum Highway and Balakot. The Prime Minister said we would now sit together with donors separately and work out priorities and modus operandi for payment. USAID announced $510m, Saudi Arabia $360m, UK$120m, EU$110m, IMF$375m loan, Turkey $150, Japan $120m, Afghanistan $500,000, Kuwait $100m, Germany $100m.

The Prime Minister thanked the world community for coming to the aid of Pakistan at this difficult juncture of its history. Mr. Shaukat Aziz said it was a successful day in the history of Pakistan as the outcome of the conference has been better than our expectations. He said this is reflective of Pakistan's enhanced prestige in the comity of nations, its role in the region and President's personal rapport with the world leaders. "We got success due to proper planning and strategy," he said, adding that this was also an indicator of Pakistan's successful foreign policy. Mr. Shaukat Aziz categorically stated that the aid would be utilized strictly under the principles of integrity, transparency and accountability. He told a questioner that invitations were sent to the opposition leaders as well to attend the conference. He also expressed the confidence that the reconstruction activities would not impact negatively the performance of our economy and instead these would generate more employment opportunities.

During the week the Prime Minister called on the President twice to review the arrangements for the conference, met UN Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan who had reached Islamabad two days earlier and played a very active and helpful role in the conference, besides meeting his party chief and the leaders of the opposition in the National Assembly and the Senate and invited them to the conference. He chaired a high level meeting to review the status of present and future power generation and demand position and the steps required to be taken to fill the gap between the two. He also directed the relevant government agencies to finalize the policy guidelines for determination of power tariffs so that public and private sector power generation projects could be implemented on fast track.

He also addressed the concluding session of the day long conference on "Arbitration - Privatisation of Justice" in Islamabad last week and announced establishment of an Arbitration Centre to expedite resolution of business disputes, besides launching the ceremony of Millennium Development Goals report 2005 and addressed the passing out parade of Police College Sihala. He also attended Senate session and visited some quake-hit areas and relief camps.

Addressing the donor conference the Prime Minister sought the assistance of the international community through the long-term partnership and multi year commitments to help the country rebuild the areas devastated by the October 8 earthquake. In an impassioned appeal he said: "we need your assistance in rebuilding brick by brick, step by step, day by day, it is a long journey, we are seeking long term partnerships and multi-year commitments." The 7.6 earthquakes, the worst in Pakistan's history had left more than 75,000 people dead, nearly 80,000 seriously injured and around 3.5 million people homeless in an area spread over some 30,000 square kilometers. The Prime Minister informed the conference about the damage assessment report prepared jointly by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Pakistan's Earthquake Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Authority (IERRA). The estimates put the total cost over 5.2 billion US dollars, including 3.5 billion dollars for relief and rehabilitation.

Regarding the finalization of tariff policy, the prime minister said that "the policy should be clear and without any ambiguities, focusing on smooth functioning between all the government departments, and it should protect the interests of consumers and investors". He was informed that according to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Water and Power there was a need to induct about 1,300 megawatts capacity on fast track basis so that this additional power could be available within 2-3 years. He was also informed that a number of IPPs have shown interest in enhancement of power generation capacity either by bringing in new projects or by expansion of on going projects. The prime minister directed concerned government agencies to play a more proactive role. He also directed that all proposals for power generation should be expeditiously and smoothly processed. It should be ensured that approved projects were implemented as scheduled, he said.

Addressing the concluding session of the conference on "Arbitration - privatization of Justice", Mr. Aziz said the government would prefer the center to be run by the private sector to reduce load on the judiciary and boost confidence of the investors. "We will introduce a piece of legislation in the parliament to open the national arbitration center through amendment in the existing Arbitration Act," he added. The Prime Minister said, he has instructed the Ministry of Law to prepare a draft for amendment in the Arbitration Act. Terming this decision to be a major headway in the country's justice system, the Prime Minister said, in the modern world, the arbitration is an affective tool for disputes resolution and avoiding unnecessary delays. He said, we have had a successful experience in our tax regime by introducing a reconciliatory mechanism for quick disposal of tax related disputes, adding, under this mechanism 58,000 tax related disputes were resolved during the last few years.

The Prime Minster said, we need the world to trust in Pakistan's justice system so that we are able to attract more foreign investors. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said the rule of law and an independent judiciary is essential for democracy and economic development. Economic growth, political advancement, social progress and legal reforms are different factors of development that have to move forward in parallel, if we are to transit from a developing to a developed society, he added.

Addressing the Millennium Development Goals Report, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz reiterated Pakistan's commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, saying main emphasis was on poverty alleviation, creation of jobs, promoting education and health facilities. He said despite facing challenge of long term reconstruction in the quake-hit areas, the government was determined to change Pakistan's economic and social landscape through MDGs.

He said, "Our people have the ingenuity, resilience and resolve to transform challenges into opportunities." The Prime Minister said Pakistan had moved a long way towards achieving a vibrant economy, a smooth functioning democracy, improved governance, and becoming a major player in the regional and global peace and stability initiatives. Through the philosophy of liberalization, deregulation and privatization as well as reforms regime over the past six years, the government had turned around the country's economy putting it on a high growth trajectory, increasing the per capital income, he added.

Shaukat Aziz said that all economic indicators were sustaining the positive trend during the first three months of the current fiscal year. The government had spent about a trillion rupees on the development of the social sectors and poverty related programmes during the last five years, adding investment had started yielding dividends while net primary enrollment, literacy and primary completion rates are on the rise. The government was now focusing on Hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, infant and maternal mortality, reproductive health and blindness. Major initiatives of 'Clean Drinking Water' and "Electricity to All" by 2007 were already under implementation. "Pakistan has made significant progress in all critical areas since the UN Summit in September 2005 moving from low human development to medium human development countries," he added.

Referring to the MDGs report, the Prime Minister said that it also substantiated the fact that "we are reasonably poised to achieve these goals". He said that the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and the Medium Term Development Framework underscored Pakistan's commitment to the MDGs and reflect its unflinching resolve to scale up the efforts towards realizing these goals by 2015.

The Prime Minister said that Pakistan had been facing the challenges like sustaining high growth, improving productivity and efficiency, crating more employment opportunities, improving the skill, equitable distribution of wealth, focusing on weak social indicators such as infant and maternal mortality. Access to speedy and inexpensive justice, access to social and physical capital by the poor and weak implementation apparatus were the other challenges before the government. There was need to be more focused in the approach and agenda that requires consistency, continuity, and predictability in the policies to provide comfort and confidence to the potential investors, both local and foreign, he said.

Speaking at the passing out parade of Punjab Police at Police College Sihala about 20 kilometers from Islamabad, the Prime Minister urged the police officers to adopt modern techniques to fight crime and change public perception about them by improving attitude towards the common man. The Prime Minister asked the police officials to do away with the traditional "thana-culture" urging them to use modern methods of investigation and for evidence gathering. The government was taking all possible steps to equip police with modern techniques and said police reforms were introduced to make the force more disciplined and effective against criminals.

The use of authority within the limits of law guarantees justice in society, he said, adding, "you are a symbol of authority in uniform and your every good work would bring good name to the government and peace in society". Protection of basic rights, individual freedom and provision of social justice ensures a stable society. Peace, prevention of crime and speedy provision of justice are top priorities of every government, he said, adding that police are an important institution in running the affairs of a country, and there was a need for the process of self-accountability so that it could mould their thinking, attitude, character and professional performance according to the requirements of a democratic society.

While talking to newsmen at the PM House after his meeting with Indian Minister for State for Foreign Affairs, Mr. E. Ahmed who represented his country at the donor conference, Prime Minister said, "I have impressed upon the Indian Prime Minster at SAARC Conference in December and leader of the Indian delegation at donors' conference that there is a need to have demilitarization and self government in both parts of Kashmir." He welcomed the pledges of US $25 million made by India for the earthquake victims.

Appreciating India's response to Pakistan's proposal for opening of five crossing points on the LoC, the prime Minster suggested that the points should remain open all days of the week instead of only one day. "We wish that the crossing point should also be used for trade of goods manufactured in Kashmir," he added.

To a question, Shaukat Aziz said Pakistan is engaged with India in resolving the disputes including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir through composite dialogue. "We are gradually moving towards the solution of issues. The solution should be in line with the aspirations of the people of Kashmir". He made it amply clear that Pakistan is opposed to all sorts of terrorism in any manifestation. "We are coalition partner in war against terror. I have told this to Indian Minister of State for External Affairs and leader of the Indian delegation who came to me to talk about Pakistan's position. We have already condemned the Delhi bombing incident," he said.

 
 

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