Fight­ing poverty

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

Poverty re­duc­tion ef­forts in Pak­istan have been more on pa­per than an ac­tual re­al­ity. De­spite huge al­lo­ca­tions each year to fight poverty, the num­ber of peo­ple liv­ing below the poverty line has con­tin­ued to in­crease. Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est Poverty Re­duc­tion Strat­egy Re­port, the fed­eral and four pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments spent Rs 462.7 bil­lion, up 10.4 per­cent or Rs 44 bil­lion on poverty re­duc­tion pro­grammes dur­ing July-Septem­ber, 2017, com­pared with the ex­pen­di­tures made in the first quar­ter of the last fis­cal year. How­ever, a large sum of Rs 354.4 bil­lion was spent on meet­ing cur­rent ex­pen­di­tures, in­clud­ing salary pay­ments and other re­cur­rent obli­ga­tions.

A de­tailed anal­y­sis shows that the five gov­ern­ments spent Rs 25.2 bil­lion on sub­si­dies which were higher by 30.7 per­cent than the cor­re­spond­ing pe­riod of last year. An amount of Rs 24 bil­lion was spent on tar­geted sub­si­dies and cash re­im­burse­ments un­der the BISP while ex­pen­di­tures on so­cial se­cu­rity and wel­fare de­creased to Rs 9.0 bil­lion from Rs 9.7 bil­lion in the com­pa­ra­ble pe­riod of last year largely be­cause of low spend­ing by the Sindh govern­ment. A sum of Rs 6.064 was spent on ed­u­ca­tion which was higher by 17.2 per­cent than last year's but 92.5 per­cent of those spend­ing went to meet cur­rent ex­pen­di­tures. Spend­ing on uni­ver­si­ties, col­leges and other ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions in­creased to Rs 21.7 bil­lion due to higher fed­eral spend­ing. The spend­ing on higher ed­u­ca­tion, how­ever, re­mained at the pre­vi­ous year's level.

Poverty has be­come one of the ma­jor is­sues across the globe and var­i­ous gov­ern­ments are spon­sor­ing So­cial Safety Nets (SSNs) as a cush­ion to mit­i­gate the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects of peo­ple's state of be­ing ex­tremely poor. How­ever, chal­lenges are gen­er­ally in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of SSN pro­grammes that in­clude set­ting the el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria, in­tro­duc­tion of a poverty score card, scarcity of re­sources and de­mand-sup­ply gap. The govern­ment of Pak­istan is said to be com­mit­ted to elim­i­nat­ing poverty by 2030 which is in com­plete con­so­nance with coun­try's Vi­sion 2025 but there are all kinds of chal­lenges to erad­i­cate poverty by that date in all its di­men­sions and man­i­fes­ta­tions from all parts of Pak­istan. There are var­i­ous rea­sons for that. Firstly, there is poverty or scarcity of re­sources in Pak­istan. A ma­jor part of the bud­get is spent on de­fence, debt ser­vic­ing and cur­rent ex­pen­di­tures and lit­tle is left for poverty re­duc­tion and other so­cial sec­tor pro­grammes. It fol­lows then that if the govern­ment is se­ri­ous in poverty re­duc­tion, other ex­pen­di­tures have to be cur­tailed which is very dif­fi­cult in the cur­rent en­vi­ron­ment.

It is strange that ex­pen­di­tures in ar­eas like road build­ing, en­vi­ron­ment pro­tec­tion, ed­u­ca­tion, health­care, ru­ral de­vel­op­ment, law and or­der, jus­tice ad­min­is­tra­tion, etc. are dubbed as poverty re­duc­tion ex­penses, which is ob­vi­ously not the case. Also, most of the ex­pen­di­tures that are counted as pro-poor are ac­tu­ally made to pay salaries to the de­part­men­tal staff, par­tic­u­larly in the ar­eas of health, ed­u­ca­tion, jus­tice ad­min­is­tra­tion and law and or­der. These ex­pen­di­tures which go into the pock­ets of the staff can­not pos­si­bly be counted for the re­duc­tion of poverty.

The govern­ment has pri­or­i­tized 17 pro-poor sec­tors and to­tal ex­pen­di­tures on these sec­tors as a per­cent­age of GDP were 9.3 per­cent in 2015-16 com­pared to 8.3 per­cent a year ear­lier and 7.7 per­cent in 2013-14. If in­creas­ing ex­pen­di­tures on these sec­tors was the yard­stick, poverty in the coun­try would have gone down. But ac­cord­ing to a large num­ber of in­de­pen­dent ex­perts, de­spite an over­all in­crease in pro-poor spend­ing, there has been no sig­nif­i­cant change on the ground. In fact, there have been con­cerns about de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in the so­cial in­di­ca­tors of health and ed­u­ca­tion as the ser­vices of­fered by govern­ment schools and pub­lic hos­pi­tals are wors­en­ing by the day. Clearly, much more work needs to be done for mea­sur­ing poverty and find­ing ways to re­duce it in an ef­fec­tive man­ner.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.