GCC in lacklustre quake aid effort

The energy-rich Gulf states have made lacklustre efforts to provide financial aid to Pakistan and other countries affected by the devastating earthquake that struck South Asia. The death-toll currently stands at around 35,000.

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By  Rhys Jones Published  October 16, 2005

The energy-rich Gulf states have made lacklustre efforts to provide financial aid to Pakistan and other countries affected by the devastating earthquake that struck South Asia. The death-toll currently stands at around 35,000. The UAE and Kuwait have each donated US$100 million. However, there has been little else in terms of direct financial aid from the other four GCC countries despite their wealth. “There’s enough money in the Gulf and none of the GCC countries would lose out if they donated US$100 million each,” N Janardhan, editor of Gulf in the Media, which is run by the respected Gulf Research Centre (GRC), told Arabian Business. “The affected countries need to list exactly what they need. Pakistan has asked for money, which the GCC countries have in abundance due to the [high] oil prices,” he added. The price of oil has risen by around a third this year to levels not seen for two decades — a barrel of US light crude topped US$70 last month. As a result, Gulf oil revenues are expected to reach US$300 billion this year. Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, producing 9.6 million barrels per day, is riding a wave of prosperity buoyed by the record crude oil prices. But it has so far failed to make a donation of financial aid to the quake-hit South Asian countries. “Saudi Arabia has no excuse to offer because of the high oil prices at the moment,” said Janardhan. “But it has airlifted doctors, medicines, tents, covers and food to Pakistan and India,” he explained. Last month, the Gulf states rallied round to lend support to America in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Kuwait provided the US with some US$500 million in aid, while Qatar donated US$100 million. The 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck close to Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir early on Saturday, October 8 and has caused widespread devastation. Although the tremor was felt as far afield as Kabul and Delhi, the main areas affected have been Kashmir and Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province. Parts of Afghanistan and Indian-administered Kashmir were also badly hit. The UAE’s president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan moved quickly to help last week — ordering the allocation of US$100 million in emergency relief assistance “in order to build houses for the victims of the earthquake that struck the Muslim republic of Pakistan,” a UAE government spokesperson said. Across the causeway, the Bahrain Red Crescent Society (BRCS) was last week preparing to send humanitarian aid to areas hit by the earthquake. The kingdom’s cabinet ordered the BRCS to organise help for affected areas in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Qatar Red Crescent (QRC) sent a team to the affected areas last Wednesday. It also said its efforts to raise funds for relief operations in the quake-hit areas of Pakistan had received a good response from the public. Oman has also pledged to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to Pakistan through the Red Crescent organisation. The Arab Gulf states host millions of Asians, mainly Pakistanis and Indians who constitute the bulk of labourers in the various monarchies. As such, the GRC’s Janardhan believes the GCC countries have an obligation to provide significant financial aid to the affected countries. “You would think that the Gulf countries have a moral right to offer aid to places like Pakistan and India because much of their expatriate population and workforce comes from these countries,” he said. “Most Gulf countries have good relations and traditionally good ties with Pakistan and India. But offering a financial aid is part of the international relations process these days,” he added. When the tsunami hit south east Asia last year, the Gulf countries provided substantial amounts of cash towards the relief effort. Saudi aid amounted to US$1.80 per person, the UAE’s US$20 million represented US$20 per citizen while Qatar’s US$25 million worked out at a huge US$250 per citizen. Despite these impressive statistics, the GRC claims helping out when natural disasters strike is merely part of the international political game. “There is always a debate in the media about whether the Gulf countries offer enough financial aid when there is a calamity,” explained Janardhan. “The GCC countries made a hefty financial response to the tsunami but you have to wonder whether that was just a response to the media,” he concluded.

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