BRUSSELS Pakistan needs to do more to help itself recover from this year's floods, and not merely rely on aid from the United States and Europe, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on the eve of a donor conference.
Clinton's sharp words on Thursday could further anger Pakistanis at a time when the fraught relationship between Washington and its ally Islamabad appears to have worsened.
"The international community can only do so much," Clinton said after a meeting in Brussels with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who will host Friday's Pakistan conference.
"It is absolutely unacceptable for those with means in Pakistan not to be doing their fair share to help their own people while the taxpayers in Europe, the United States and other contributing countries are all chipping in to do our part."
Relations between Pakistan and the United States have grown chillier in recent weeks. Since September, Pakistan has seen a surge in attacks by U.S. drone aircraft, border incursions by NATO troops and a cascade of leaks from Western officials about security threats from Pakistani territory. Pakistan has intermittently shut NATO transport routes to Afghanistan.
This year's devastating floods have exposed weaknesses in the Pakistani government's ability to respond to adversity.
The floods caused $9.5 billion in damage to property, crops and infrastructure, according to an Asian Development Bank and World Bank assessment. Finance Ministry officials say the recovery costs could reach $30 billion.
Clinton said Pakistanis have more resources but the country needs to reform its tax system to strengthen its government.
"The most important step that Pakistan can take is to pass meaningful reforms that will expand its tax base," Clinton said. "The government must require that the economically affluent and elite in Pakistan support the government and people of Pakistan."
Pakistan collects only about a tenth of its GDP in taxes, one of the lowest rates in the world, and Islamabad has moved slowly with reforms linked to the release of the next tranche of an $11 billion International Monetary Fund programme.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told lawmakers from the European Parliament on Thursday that the floods were a setback the economy, which hurts the country's ability to fight extremism.
"If you want to help us fight extremism and terrorism, one way of doing that is making Pakistan economically stable. When we are stable, we will be able to address the issues of poverty.
"When we are economically stable we will be able to invest in the sectors that have been ignored in the past, like the sectors of health and education," he said.
(Reporting by Andrew Quinn; Editing by Rex Merrifield and Peter Graff)