Imran Khan is turning to crowdfunding to finance dam projects

by Elton Gomes 

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan wants his countrymen to contribute towards crowdfunding a whopping $14 billion as the country is in dire need of dams. If Khan’s plea is successful, it will become the largest crowdfunding effort in history.

However, although Pakistanis have responded to their prime minister with enthusiasm, the tally thus far is minimal as compared to what is really required to alleviate Pakistan’s chronic water crisis.

“We have only 30 days water storage capacity,” PM Khan warned in a televised appeal in September.  “We already have so many loans that we have problems in paying them back… We alone will have to build this dam, and we can,” AFP reported.

Pakistan Embassy launches fundraising efforts in the US

The Pakistan Embassy in the United States recently issued an appeal, urging the Pakistani-American community to donate generously to a government fund set up to build Diamer-Basha and Mohmand dams.

The Embassy’s appeal received mixed reviews. “Imran Khan has got ample supporters and fundraisers within the Pakistani-American community. Still, I doubt there’s a critical mass of Pakistanis overseas with the financial capacity (much less the will) to participate in this campaign,” said Michael Kugelman, a Pakistan expert at the Woodrow Wilson Centre for Scholars in Washington, Dawn reported. Kugelman described the appeal as “an ambitious ask”.

On the other hand, Khan’s supporters were confident that the prime minister knows what he is doing. “Khan knows the diaspora better than anyone,” Xulqi Moon said in a tweet, as per the Dawn report.  Moon noted that Khan has travelled across the world, collecting funds. He has decades of experience of donations and charity collection, and he certainly will achieve his target, Moon said.

Pakistan auctions off Nawaz Sharif’s buffaloes

On Friday, media reports mentioned that several Pakistanis had gathered to attend a buffalo auction in Islamabad. The auction was Khan’s latest push in raising funds through the highly publicised austerity drive.

The buffaloes were purchased in 2014 by the previous government of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Several supporters of Sharif made their way to the auction and were willing to several times the market price to remember the previous prime minister.

The auction saw a total of eight buffaloes being sold for nearly 2.3 million rupees ($19,000) at the prime minister’s residence. “The auction was not just good. It was very, very good,” a government official, Javaid Iqbal, who oversaw the sale said, AFP reported.

Austerity drive sees auction of 70 luxury cars

Earlier in September, the Pakistan government managed to sell 70 luxury cars “above their market price” as it began the auctioning of 102 luxury vehicles of the PM House under PM Khan’s austerity drive, a media report said. The plan will also see the auction of four surplus helicopters that have been lying unused with the Cabinet Division, Naeem-ul-Haq, the Prime Minister’s Special Assistant for Political Affairs, said, PTI reported.

Are these measures helping Pakistan?

The Pakistani government has been taking fundraising measures to save the Pakistani rupee. In the past seven months, the Pakistani rupee has declined by over 20 percent due to a balance of payment crisis.

The last fiscal year ended with a current account deficit of $18 billion, which amounted to 5.7 percent of the country’s GDP. Media reports suggest that the budget deficit has crossed 2 trillion rupees. To overcome these financial woes, Pakistan plans to approach the International Monetary Fund for another bailout package – which is slated to be the 13th such package for Pakistan since the 1980s.

However, the current cost-cutting measures have not appeased the Pakistanis. Critics claim that the austerity drive is nothing new and has mostly been cosmetic.

“There is nothing new in the current austerity drive,” said political commentator Raza Rumi, Reuters reported. Auctions of ageing government vehicles have been taking place for years with less publicity.

However, information minister, Fawad Chaudhry, said that even symbolic steps were important for building national unity and small savings could add up. “If you try to see its effect on the GDP, it is small, but in numbers, it is not small,” Chaudhry told Reuters.

Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius

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