The World Bank Group in its recently published report "Pakistan Country Snapshot" has said that the country has made impressive progress in reducing absolute poverty and improving shared prosperity. "The percentage of the population below the national poverty rate has fallen from 34.7 per cent in fiscal year 2002 to an estimated 12.4 per cent in FY2011," the report said.
It said that Pakistan had already achieved the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) by more than halving between 1991 and 2011 the proportion of people whose income is less than $1.25 a day. Furthermore, growth in the real per capita consumption of the bottom 40 percent was a respectable 3 per cent between 2006 and 2011, it noted. The report said poverty reduction had been stronger in the traditionally poorer provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Sindh, where its rates were now indistinguishable from those in Punjab.
"Poverty remains much more prevalent in Balochistan, however, where a sizable portion of residents are nomadic and live in remote and conflict areas." The report, however, said that despite this progress, a large portion of the population remained vulnerable to falling back into poverty. "Although Pakistan's recent gains in poverty were rapid, they remain fragile, in part because many households remain clustered near the poverty line," the report added. It said that an estimated 23 million people - 13 per cent of the population - lived on an amount between $1.25 and $1.50 per day, meaning that small reductions in consumption could greatly increase poverty rates.
The report suggested that efforts were needed to improve poverty monitoring and policy evaluation.
"Poverty measurement can be institutionalized in part through more independent and regularized poverty assessments that link measurements to other human development indicator data base," it proposed.
It said another needed step was establishment of a constructive partnership between official authorities, donors and academics to promote high quality and timely measurement of poverty and shared prosperity, analysis and pro- gramme evaluation. Similarly additional data collected at the mauza or tehsil level could be used to generate more detailed estimates to help policymakers better locate poor pockets within districts, it added.
Can land rights for women drive down child marriage and domestic violence? "Yes and more", says an international group of land and property rights specialists who are due in Washington this week to discuss how improved land management can reduce global poverty and foster development.
When women have rights to land, argues Klaus Deininger, a lead economist and organizer of this week's World Bank conference, children's health and education improves, household resources increase and there are fewer child brides as daughters do not need to be married off young for financial reasons. Equally, women with land rights tend to have savings accounts, a factor that reduces domestic violence.
"If women have stronger bargaining power, they actually can resist. Their husbands will think twice before beating them because they can move out and take their money with them," Deininger said. Organizers say the conference will focus on women and property with particular emphasis on gender equality and land rights which are key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The goals, adopted by the United Nations last September, provide the foundations for an ambitious plan to tackle the world's most troubling problems over the next 15 years.
Land and property rights experts say when women are included in a nation's land ownership, there can be far reaching impacts. In sub-Saharan Africa, women make up more than half of the agricultural workforce, yet fewer than one in five own farms, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). But if women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) says. According to Rodney Schmidt of the Rights and Resources Initiative, a global coalition that works on forest and land policy reform, more than half the world's land is still held under age-old customary arrangements often arranged by gender.