Road to poverty alleviation
The Asian Development Bank’s Poverty Reduction Strategy describes poverty as a deprivation of essential assets and opportunities to which every human being is entitled. In order to overcome this deprivation, Pakistan signed the declaration of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) in 2000 along with other 187 United Nation members. The document signifies a unified vision of development of the world community through eight time-bound and benchmarked goals, where the overarching target of the eight millennium development goals was to reduce poverty by half by the end of the targeted period of 15 years. In general, it took Pakistan more than the anticipated time to translate the generalized development goals.
Poverty, in particular is growing in the Pakistani society. Unfortunately, the poor in Pakistan are facing three major adversities at the same time: a massive earthquake in 2005 followed by massive floods in 2010 and 2011, the continuing war on terror since 2001 and the volatility in food and energy prices which have further raised the poverty index.
Importantly, experts point to the role of the Planning Commission of Pakistan, the framework of which conveys a message not directly dealing with poverty but rather focused on reviving growth which may supposedly take care of other issues.
Thus, economists are of the view that as 2015 approaches, Pakistan will drift further away from the poverty reduction goals as the subject does not seem to be on the agenda of the country’s economic team.
To unify the growth and poverty agenda, the Human Development in South Asia Report for 2010-11 recommends a pro- poor growth strategy. The report suggests a five- point strategy to emphasize that the poor should be part of the growth process and policies. The elements of the strategy include promoting non- farm employment by increasing public and private investment in physical and social infrastructure like building roads, education and health facilities. Diversification of livelihood in rural economy through farm and non- farm employment opportunities is extremely vital to ensure their food security.
The second strategy is to enhance human development through improving education and health facilities. The third point is the equitable distribution of land and provision of state land to poor landless farmers. The fourth point says that extending agriculture credit and finance to small farmers must be ensured while the fifth strategy is communicating farm research results to poor farmers for efficient land use.
In this context, the role of ADB is greatly significant for Pakistan. The Bank’s support builds on the cornerstones of the organization’s strategy: sustainable economic growth, inclusive social delivery, and pro-poor governance. The poverty assessment by ADB shows that sustained economic growth is critical for poverty reduction, and there are strong linkages between pro-poor growth on the one hand, and human development, good governance, and cross-cutting concerns such as private sector development and regional cooperation on the other. In this regard, under its pro-poor economic growth strategy, ADB focuses its interventions in the following key areas of structural reforms, rural development, employment generation, and the cross-cutting issues of sustainable environmental management and alleviating infrastructure constraints.
ADB also highlights the importance of Pakistan’s strategic location and complementarity in resources and markets to its neighbours, Pakistan has substantial potential to gain from sub-regional cooperation. ADB works with the government to develop regional transportation networks and infrastructure for regional gas transmission and distribution systems.
Overall, a pro-poor campaign can only be led by close working of government, the private sector and civil society institutions to bring about structural changes in Pakistan’s economy and pave the way for sustainable, long-term development. In the near-term, ADB looks forward to working on programs that improve governance, enhance economic growth and reduce poverty. The road ahead remains challenging, but success requires that the Government stays on the course of reforms and ADB supports the Government in this endeavor by continuing to provide assistance for implementation of Pakistan’s poverty reduction strategy