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Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009

Pakistan seeking $25 billion


Staff writer

Pakistan may call for additional annual aid of up to $5 billion over the next five years to fight terrorism and alleviate poverty, the adviser on finance to Pakistan's prime minister said Friday in Tokyo.

"Terrorism is definitely affecting economic activities and investment in the country," Shaukat Tarin, who arrived in Japan Wednesday for a four-day visit, told a press briefing. The finance expert said the annual costs of fighting the drug-funded Taliban amount to $1.5 billion alone.

Although the International Monetary Fund last year agreed to provide Pakistan a financing package of $7.6 billion, Tarin said the amount is insufficient to balance the country's payment difficulties.

He assured that IMF aid has been used efficiently, but added that Pakistan requires additional annual aid of $4 billion to $5 billion over the next three to five years.

Government sources have proposed hosting an international conference in late March to assist Pakistan.

The event will likely gather foreign and finance ministers from over a dozen countries, including Group of Eight members and China, he said.

Tarin's visit to Tokyo comes as Pakistan is struggling amid the global economic turmoil and Japan is seeking to increase its presence in the war-torn region without dispatching its Ground Self-Defense Force.

The government also anticipates that hosting the international conference will reinforce ties with the United States, as President Barack Obama is placing diplomatic priority on antiterrorism efforts in the region.

Tarin expressed understanding for Japan's tricky situation, saying he doesn't "expect Japan to give military aid because of the country's Constitution." But he requested that Tokyo provide assistance on infrastructure rebuilding, as well as "soft" aid, including skill teaching and health care programs.

The expert, who spent over three decades in the banking industry before being assigned to his current position in October, told Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone Thursday that Pakistan is also seeking a closer relationship with Japan's private sector, in hopes of greater trade and investment.

"The Japanese government has assured its full support" in aiding Pakistan, Tarin said after holding meetings with the nation's political leaders.



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