Dam it!

Vaqar Ahmed does some mathematics

Dam it!
Hats off to the people up there for taking the initiative to start crowd-funding the Diamer Bhasha Dam.

That this was done while burning the midnight oil to clear the 39,000 cases pending in the Supreme Court, along with getting the garbage cleaned from the streets of Karachi and other such laudable activities, is doubly impressive.

In the spirit of making my own small contribution towards this very important project, I would present a short analysis of the quantum of contributions needed for building the dam. This, I expect would guide patriotic Pakistanis in determining how much money they need to dish out for this supreme cause.
I have worked in Canada as an engineer with a Canadian engineering degree for more than 35 years and I assure you that there is no way I could dish out that kind of cash

The latest estimated cost of the Diamer Bhasha Dam is USD 14 billion. Now the word billion is a confusing one for the citizens of a poor country like Pakistan, that has an average annual income of USD 420 (or about PKR 50,000 per year). So, let’s put the right number of zeros in the figure for the cost of the dam and what we get is USD 14,000,000,000. You would agree that the figure is looking more fearsome now. But I am afraid that this is not the end of it – as ordinary Pakistanis do not carry USD bills in their wallet (if they own one). So, we have to convert the mighty USD to our humble PKR. Today’s conversion rate is PKR 122 to 1 USD. Let’s say that now that the brand-new government, consisting of some brilliant financial minds, has been sworn in, the PKR will settle at 120 to a USD and the cost in PKR would become USD14,000,000,000 x 120 = PKR 1680,000,000,000. Now assume that 20% of the population of Pakistan is wage-earning. The population today stands at 210,000,000 strong. 20% of this figure is about 40,000,000. Nearly 35% of these good folks live below the poverty line. But since the appeal is from no lesser figures – and has the full-backing of our beacon of hope, our PM Imran Khan – each working person will have to contribute: PKR 1,680,000,000,000 divided over 40,000,000 persons, which comes to 42,000 PKR per person.

With this rather hefty contribution required to fund the project, the possibility of the Diamer Bhasha Dam starts looking much less hopeful. Oh, but I forget the rich overseas Pakistanis who carry dollar bills in sacks. According to the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, approximately 7.6 million Pakistanis live abroad, with the vast majority – nearly 4 million – residing in the Middle East. The Middle East workers are poorly paid and we cannot realistically expect them to make large contributions. That leaves us with 3.6 million fat-cats. Assuming that 1 Million out of the 3.6 Million are making big bucks, they need to write out a cheque in the name of the Bhasha Dam for a cool USD 14,000 or PKR 17 lakhs per head.

I have worked in Canada as an engineer with a Canadian engineering degree for more than 35 years and I assure you that there is no way I could dish out that kind of cash towards charity. Most overseas Pakistanis have their saving in the houses where they live, or in their pension funds that they use when they become old and decrepit.

Now let’s look at the timeframe required to collect this much money. In the two months since the campaign was launched for building the dam, Rs. 2 billion, or Rs. 1 billion per month, has been collected. At this rate it will take 140 months or 12 years to collect the Rs. 140 Billion.

Now let’s be generous and assume that with 20% equity we can raise 80% debt. Even so, it will take more than two years to put together just the equity.

On a human level I am very concerned that the high-ups are planning to pitch a tent at the site and stay there until the project is completed.

So dear Sirs, these are the figures. And now you will have to figure it all out. After all, we voted you in for your good intentions and brilliant minds. Good luck.