20 September 2010
Campaign to cancel Pakistan's debts
Life-saving relief efforts for Pakistan's tens of millions of flood victims could be crippled if its government is forced to send abroad almost a third of its annual budget revenues to foreign creditors.
That's according to Ram Gidoomal CBE, founder of the South Asian Forum of the Evangelical Alliance, a network set up to support and represent Christians from the sub-continent living in Britain.
Mr Gidoomal said that the second spate of flooding in Pakistan, particularly in Sindh province, has harmed more people than the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Kashmir floods and the Haiti earthquake combined, but has received less publicity and rally to action.
"It's no surprise that people are fed up hearing about war, strife and disasters in Pakistan," said Mr Gidoomal. "But that doesn't necessarily mean that's the sum total of my native country and it also doesn't mean that the suffering of 20 million Pakistani people isn't any more or less important than those of other nationalities.
Ram Gidoomal is calling on Christians of all nationalities across Britain to join a campaign to cancel Pakistan's international debt so that the country may more speedily recover from its spate of disasters. He is urging people to join a campaign organised by avaaz.org, an online, five-million-member advocacy organisation. Avaaz will present the petition to leaders at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Earlier this year it said it had successfully urged creditor governments to drop Haiti's debt after the Caribbean island was devastated by an earthquake.
Mr Gidoomal, who hails from the Sindh province, said: "Servicing debts to international donors currently costs Pakistan around $3 billion annually. This is almost triple what the country spends on healthcare and is shocking when you consider that 38 per cent of the country's five-year-olds are underweight, more than half the population is illiterate and two thirds live below the poverty line."
Meanwhile deputy prime minister Nick Clegg told the Liberal Democrat party conference that Britain would "dramatically increase" the amount of aid to Pakistan's flood victims on top of the UK's £60 million donation.
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