Pakistani finance minister sees gradual recovery from floods

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Pakistan’s new finance minister has estimated that it would take « nearly three years » for the South Asian country to recover from devastating floods that killed more than 1,700 people and displaced 7.9 millions more.

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Ishaq Dar, who took the finance job last month for the fourth time in his career, told The Associated Press on Friday that flood losses were estimated at more than $32 billion and the cost of the reconstruction of damaged infrastructure would exceed $16 billion.

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Monsoon rains, likely worsened by climate change, battered Pakistan for months from mid-June, damaging or washing away 2 million homes.

Rebuilding, Dar said, « cannot be done overnight » and will take « maybe almost three years », although he acknowledged he was « not an engineer ». Last month, the World Bank pledged $2 billion in flood relief.

Dar returns to the Ministry of Finance at a difficult time for Pakistan. Moody’s Investors Service, citing Pakistan’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves, downgraded the country’s public debt this month. With inflation over 20% year-on-year, Pakistan’s currency, the rupee, has fallen 19% against the US dollar this year.

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But Dar, who gained a reputation for supporting a strong rupee during his previous tenure as finance minister, noted that the currency had rallied on his return to work; it has risen by almost 10% against the dollar since the end of September.

Dar was in Washington this week for the fall meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The visit started well.

He was heckled and called a « thief » by an unidentified individual upon his arrival Thursday at Dulles International Airport.

On Friday, he ignored the incident, which was captured on video and shared online, as the act of a political opponent to Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s government. “Obviously it was domestic politics that crossed borders,” Dar said. « It shouldn’t be. »


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