West's response condemned as slow and inadequate

Western governments rushed to step up their pledges for the earthquake relief effort after their initial response to the disaster was condemned as slow-moving and financially inadequate. [ Note: The earthquake causing upwards of 40,000 deaths and leaving 5 million lhomeless and living in the open air -- in freezing temperatures.]

The United States, which was under pressure to increase a pledge of $500,000 considered almost derisory by many Pakistanis when it was originally made, announced it intended to give $50 Million in emergency aid.

The gesture, intended to make up for the resentment caused by the initial pledge which, along with the British offering of £100,000, was labelled as "peanuts" by the leader of the Pakistani opposition party, was greeted as a major boost to the struggling relief effort.

Britain, too, increased its initial pledge to £1 Million for the effort, which the Government stressed would again be increased in coming days.

A donation of $500,000 made by Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong's richest business tycoon, is equal to half of the British Government's increased pledge, and five times the amount it originally wanted to give.

So far, international donors have announced tens of millions of dollars in aid. But, again echoing the tsunami relief effort, aid agencies were quick to draw attention to the shortfall which almost always occurs between pledges made by governments in the immediate aftermath of a disaster and the total money that eventually arrives.

"Every move of the United States is judged here on political grounds. It was a rare opportunity for the United States to show that it's a true friend of Pakistan," said Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a Pakistani political analyst.

It is not likely to have escaped Washington's notice that its response to this latest disaster could be key in improving perceptions of the United States in Pakistan, an Islamic nation where many harbor deep resentment over the United States' invasion of Afghanistan and the Iraq war.

[Excerpted from an article by Elizabeth Davies and Jan McGirk in The Independent]

No comments: