Pakistan Recovery Could Take Years, Says President

After a month of devastation from Pakistan's worst floods in history, President Asif Ali Zardari said it will take at least three years for the country to recover, though a full recovery may be out of reach.

''Your guess is as good as mine but three years is a minimum," Zardari told reporters on Tuesday about the length of the recovery. "I don't think Pakistan will ever fully recover but we will move on.''

Zardari's comments come as floodwaters in Pakistan continue to rage, affecting nearly 20 million people and displacing 4 million.

The president has faced harsh criticism for his handling of the flood, with victims calling the government response painfully inadequate and complaining that relief is slow to reach those in need.

Zardari has also been under fire for going ahead with a planned visit to Britain and France as the disaster unfolded – a move that he was unapologetic about.

"I have my own reasons for being where I was and at what time," he said.

Zardari's administration announced on Tuesday that they would be giving 20,000 rupees - $230 or about a month's average salary – to each flood-affected family as "initial assistance."

"Yes, there will be discontentment, there will be resentment, because expectations will be, 'I want back whatever I've lost. But surely we will try and meet up with them as much as we can and as far as we can we'll stretch the Band-aid to the maximum," he said.

A group of Pakistan officials is currently in Washington to meet with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over the terms of a $10 billion loan approved in 2008 to assist with the country's debt.

"It is clear that the effect of the floods on the fiscal side will mean that the budget targets that were included in the program, the growth projections that were included in the program, will all need to be revisited together," said Masood Ahmed, Director of the IMF's Middle East and Central Asia Department.

Meanwhile, the United Nations, which has launched a $460 million disaster appeal, has encouraged donors to continue their support throughout the flood emergency and into the recovery period afterwards.

"We must keep it up. This is not just Pakistan's hour of need – Pakistan is facing weeks, months and years of need," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last week. "Now is our chance to turn the tide towards hope and a better day for all of the people of Pakistan."

The U.N. appeal is currently 55 percent funded, with an additional $42 million in pledges

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