End poverty in all its forms ev­ery­where Some sug­ges­tive mea­sures

The Financial Daily - - NATIONAL -

IRiaz Ahmed Rai

n pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cle, we dis­cussed about sus­tain­able devel­op­ment goals and poverty. We tried to ex­plain the ma­jor causes which are re­spon­si­ble for such a high level poverty in Pak­istan. In this ar­ti­cle we would try to put for­ward pos­si­ble sug­ges­tive mea­sures which might be help­ful in re­duc­ing its mag­ni­tude and get­ting pop­u­la­tion out of poverty trap. Five ca­pa­bil­i­ties are gen­er­ally con­sid­ered im­por­tant in Poverty Re­duc­tion. First the eco­nomic ca­pa­bil­i­ties: the abil­ity to earn an in­come to con­sume and to have as­sets, which are all key to food se­cu­rity, ma­te­rial well-be­ing and so­cial sta­tus.

Th­ese as­pects are of­ten raised by poor peo­ple, along with se­cure ac­cess to pro­duc­tive fi­nan­cial and phys­i­cal re­sources: land, im­ple­ments and an­i­mals, forests and fish­ing wa­ters, credit and de­cent em­ploy­ment. Sec­ond hu­man ca­pa­bil­i­ties based on health, ed­u­ca­tion, nutri­tion, clean wa­ter and shel­ter. Th­ese are core el­e­ments of well-be­ing as well as cru­cial means to im­prov­ing liveli­hoods. Dis­ease and il­lit­er­acy are bar­ri­ers to pro­duc­tive work, and thus to eco­nomic and other ca­pa­bil­i­ties for poverty re­duc­tion. Read­ing and writ­ing fa­cil­i­tate commu- nica­tion with oth­ers, which is cru­cial in so­cial and po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion. Ed­u­ca­tion, es­pe­cially for girls, is con­sid­ered the sin­gle most ef­fec­tive means for de­feat­ing poverty and some of its ma­jor causal fac­tors. Third the pro­tec­tive ca­pa­bil­i­ties: they en­able peo­ple to with­stand eco­nomic and ex­ter­nal shocks. Thus, they are im­por­tant for pre­vent­ing poverty. In­se­cu­rity and vul­ner­a­bil­ity are cru­cial di­men­sions of poverty with strong links to all other di­men­sions. Poor peo­ple in­di­cate that hunger and food in­se­cu­rity are core con­cerns along with other risks, like ill­ness, crime, war and des­ti­tu­tion. To a large ex­tent, poverty is ex­pe­ri­enced in­ter­mit­tently in re­sponse to sea­sonal vari­a­tions and ex­ter­nal shocks-nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, eco­nomic crises and vi­o­lent con­flicts. Dy­namic con­cepts are needed be­cause peo­ple move in and out of poverty.

To­day's poor are only partly the same peo­ple as yes­ter­day's or to­mor­row's. Some are chron­i­cally poor or in­herit their poverty; oth­ers are in tem­po­rary or tran­sient poverty. Fourth, the po­lit­i­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties: They in­clude hu­man rights, a voice and some in­flu­ence over pub­lic poli­cies and po­lit­i­cal pri­or­i­ties. De­pri­va­tion of ba­sic po­lit­i­cal free­doms or hu­man rights is a ma­jor as­pect of poverty. This in­cludes ar­bi­trary, un­just and even vi­o­lent ac­tion by the po­lice or other pub­lic au­thor­i­ties that is a se­ri­ous con­cern of poor peo­ple. Pow­er­less­ness ag­gra­vates other di­men­sions of poverty. The po­lit­i­cally weak have nei­ther a voice in pol­icy re­forms nor se­cure ac­cess to re­sources re­quired to rise out of poverty. Fifth, so­cio-cul­tural ca­pa­bil­i­ties: they in­clude hu­man rights, a voice and some in­flu­ence over pub­lic poli­cies and po­lit­i­cal pri­or­i­ties. De­pri­va­tion of ba­sic po­lit­i­cal free­doms or hu­man rights is a ma­jor as­pect of poverty. This in­cludes ar­bi­trary, un­just and even vi­o­lent ac­tion by the po­lice or other pub­lic au­thor­i­ties. Th­ese are the gen­eral poverty re­duc­tion strate­gies but Pak­istan may learn from china's ex­pe­ri­ence. Chi­nese suc­cess, in poverty re­duc­tion, are rooted in its solid po­lit­i­cal de­ter­mi­na­tion and pow­er­ful or­ga­ni­za­tional abil­ity, which en­sured macroe­co­nomic sta­bil­ity and suc­cess­ful poverty al­le­vi­a­tion poli­cies at the macro level, and em­pow­ered the poor at the mi­cro level.

Suc­ces­sive poli­cies and pro­grams have also been launched in Pak­istan, but they have not brought any real change in poverty, mainly due to pol­icy gaps, poor im­ple­men­ta­tion, weak in­sti­tu­tions and poor gover­nance, low pub­lic spend­ing, low hu­man cap­i­tal, pop­u­la­tion pres­sure and con­flicts among the farm­ers. The econ­omy of Pak­istan is highly de­pen­dent on agri­cul­ture, with large swings in agri­cul­tural growth and stag­nant pro­duc­tiv­ity. As a re­sult, the bulk of poverty in Pak­istan has con­cen­trated in those ru­ral ar­eas, which were highly de­pen­dent on agri­cul­ture. A mod­i­fi­ca­tion in sec­toral devel­op­ment pri­or­i­ties is re­quired for Pak­istan, to de­velop the ru­ral econ­omy, by fo­cus­ing on the farm as well as the non-farm sec­tor. Land re­forms, live­stock pro­mo­tion and avail­abil­ity of in­puts could be some of the ob­vi­ous choices to em­power the small farm­ers and land­less house­holds. In par­al­lel, long-term pub­lic in­vest­ment in ir­ri­gation, agri- cul­ture R&D and phys­i­cal and hu­man in­fra­struc­ture is cru­cial to raise agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity. The pro­vi­sion of high qual­ity, ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion, par­tic­u­larly tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion, will not only pro­vide the skilled labour for var­i­ous sec­tors of the econ­omy, but also pro­vide a break­through to de­velop the ru­ral non-farm sec­tor in Pak­istan. The role of ur­ban­iza­tion in Pak­istan has been pos­i­tive and en­cour­ag­ing in re­duc­ing ur­ban and ru­ral poverty, and de­vel­op­ing a few clus­ters where the ru­ral pop­u­la­tion is well in­te­grated into city life.

How­ever, cities in Pak­istan are char­ac­ter­ized by small in­dus­trial bases, short­age of houses, and poor in­fras­truc­tures and trans­porta­tion sys­tems. A planned ur­ban­iza­tion pol­icy is re­quired, for Pak­istan to build bet­ter ru­ral-ur­ban in­te­gra­tion, by es­tab­lish­ing small and medium-sized cities, as the hubs of com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial ac­tiv­i­ties. A spe­cial ef­fort is also re­quired to raise the ca­pac­ity of lo­cal gov­ern­ments and mu­nic­i­pal in­sti­tu­tions. The de­mo­graphic tran­si­tion in Pak­istan has con­tributed to in­creas­ing the work­ing-age pop­u­la­tion, and low­er­ing the de­pen­dency ra­tios; how­ever, the progress is slow. To reap the de­mo­graphic div­i­dend, we sug­gest en­hanc­ing the knowl­edge base and skill lev­els of youth and pro­vid­ing them pro­duc­tive em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties. This in­clu­sive­ness will bring eco­nomic and so­cial pros­per­ity to the coun­try.

Note: I am es­pe­cially thank­ful to my friend Dr. Rai Ikram Ul­lah, an ex­pert in po­lit­i­cal eco­nomics for his valu­able sug­ges­tions and crit­i­cal re­view of this piece of work.

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