SDPI’s study on poverty shows that every third Pakistani is living his life below the poverty line. This is very shocking revelation for all of us. About 58.7 million out of 180 million Pakistanis are living below the poverty line. This below the poverty line population is living 52% in Balochistan, 33% in Sindh, 32% in KP and 19% in Punjab. This provincial wise detail shows that Balochistan, Sindh and KP are facing brunt of poverty and mostly in rural remote areas of their provinces. Punjab’s poverty is less but still alarming. Poverty requires deliberate measures and paradigm shift to invest on human development, said Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri. He said that poverty should not remain merely a number game for government. Referring to absolute poverty in conflict ridden Balochistan and Fata, he said that when poverty and food security take an identity be it ethnic, religious or provincial, it leads to disintegration and destruction of social fabric of society. According to SDPI findings of the report 33 per cent of household are living below the poverty line in Pakistan with numbers amounting to 58.7 million people.
Balochistan is the poorest of all provinces with 52 per cent population living below poverty line, followed by Sindh with 33 per cent, KP with 32 per cent and Punjab with 19 per cent. Refereeing to 46 per cent rural poverty compared with 18% urban poverty, report identifies stark inequalities over the incidence of poverty across regions, between provinces and within each province.
Poorest of the poor districts in Balochistan and Sindh are demanding attention of the government. Pakistan’s increase in poverty is due to manifold reasons. Pakistan’s social indicators are at declining stage since three disasters (Earthquake in 2005 and then two floods of 2010 and 2011) attacked Pakistan. After last floods, Pakistan has started gradual recovery! The extent of flood havoc is so severe that it has shaken very fabric of Pakistani economy & World called it mother of all disasters. In first decade of the 21st century Pakistan has faced many disasters and still facing. Start from 9/11, severe earthquake in 2005 and then floods of 2010 and 2011. All have a greater impact on our socio-political and economic issues of Pakistan. In all these issues common citizen of Pakistan has suffered. Pakistan is very slow in achieving millennium Development Goals due to all these natural disasters.
These disasters of decade have left a mark on Pakistani society. Poverty has been increased manifold in the first decade of the 21st century. Millions of Pakistanis trapped in poverty due to three disasters of the decade. Beside this government’s weekly increase of fuel prizes have all add to the misery of the poor masses. This increase in poverty shows that Pakistan needs a Master plan to deal with poverty otherwise these young poor masses will find out other ways to address their poverty! Pakistani’s capabilities of earning have been decreased in first decade of the 21st century due to disasters. After three disasters of the decade in which millions of Pakistani society has faced unending troubles, government should think about new tools of measuring poverty. It is since three decades that tools of measuring poverty are remaining same. In wake of three disasters tools of measuring poverty can be different. Following are few suggested tools which government can use for the measurement of poverty:
Income-Poverty Measure Adjusted for Inflation
Income-Poverty Measure Adjusted for Overall Income Growth
Material Deprivation and Low Income due to Natural and Man Made Disasters
The second and third tiers to a percent of median income are particularly important. It ensures that the measure is updated annually in a manner consistent with the basic value of shared prosperity. That is, when our economy grows, we should all grow together, rather than further apart, as has happened in recent decades. It also jibes with public understanding of the income needed to get along at a basic level.
Given the timing of the current economic downturn, a measure that produces a higher rate may be less of a concern for the government. It’s important to be clear that the new approach isn’t a minor updating of the current measure. Instead, it’s a new and broader measure of minimum economic security, one that isn’t simply a measure of income inadequacy, but also gauges the extent to which we’re moving toward (or away from) an inclusive economy that works for all Pakistanis. To reflect this change, it would make sense to call the new approach a measure of poverty and economic inclusion. This broader understanding would be more helpful and result oriented.
Since 2001 poverty survey of Pakistan, we have never seen any government figures about poverty. They stuck up at old figures before three disasters. SDPI has chosen poorest of the poor districts in Sindh and Balochistan which shows increase in poverty. According to World Bank report of 2010-2011 Pakistan’s poverty reached upto 70% after disasters. Government has never confirmed these figures and nor denied about this. If SDPI and World Bank figures are correct then it shows that 120 million Pakistani souls are under poverty trap (below the poverty line), which is highly alarming situation. Three important organisations like Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, Benazir Income Support Program and Rural Support Programs are remaining silent on increase in poverty figures! Benazir Income Support Program with the help of Rural Support Program started a “Poverty Scoring Card” about three years ago. Still no any result came out of this Poverty Scoring Card? All these programs are using huge government and donor funding on Poverty alleviation (according to one figure PPAF has 22 billion rupees endowment funding provided by the Govt. of Pakistan) but still poverty is increasing, Why? I think Social Audit of these three huge funding programs is required that how much impact these programs have created on poor Pakistani society? An independent Social Audit by third party is required? We have Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, Benazir Income Support Program and Rural Support Program (total eight rural support programs are working in Pakistan) currently working in Pakistan. They all have huge donor and government funding.
If Pakistani government like to attend Millenium Development Goals of halving poverty by 2015, then they must take urgent measures and survey actual poverty with new indicators and declare result so that donors, INGOs, CSOs and other development actors involve themselves and address poverty according to the need of the people.
Aijaz Ali Khuwaja is Freelance Writer/Development Consultant and can be reached at; email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org