Pakistan practically begged US for money to fill budget gap: Wikileaks

A 2009 US diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks has exposed how Pakistani leaders had to practically beg the US ambassador for money to carry out basic functions such as providing education and drinking water to its people last year.

The cable written by US ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson shows Pakistani finance minister Shaukat Tarin pleading with the US to give money to Pakistan in an attempt to fill a $600 million gap in the government’s budget.

Tarin laid out where he expected money to have come from and why he is now suddenly short of cash. He pointed out that poor profits in the country’s banking and energy sector had led to an unexpected drop in tax collection, putting the government under pressure.

Tarin pointed out that he was planning on getting $2 billion of aid money in 2009-10, but it looked like he would get only $1.35 billion. “He asked for the USG to fill the $650 million balance,” Patterson noted.

Various countries had pledged $5.3 billion in aid to Pakistan in April 2009 to help it “fight terrorism” and “stabilize” itself.

Tarin told the ambassador that “the United Arab Emirates had promised to reprogram $110 million; Saudi Arabia $200 to $250 million; Japan $200 million for social programs and $135 million for IDPs; and Turkey and Germany some additional funds,” but he was short of immediate cash.

Patterson reminded the minister that the US had already promised to provide $174 million in September 2009 through support for the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), Higher Education Commission (HEC), and IDP Income Support. But Tarin was still insistent.

“The Ambassador agreed to investigate how additional funds could be directed through the Pakistani Government in 2009-10,” the cable noted.

“Tarin suggested the US Government target poverty reduction and an electricity subsidy for the poor through the Benazir Income Support Program — an accountable and transparent fund with a $500 million shortfall. He also welcomed additional support to the Higher Education Commission, Border Trust Fund, National Rural Support Network, and the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund,” the cable added.

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