Some suggestive measures

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In 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 communication 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, agriculture 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.