Pakistan will have a crisis if poverty persists: NHDR
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is at a crucial point in its development where it could either face social and economic disaster or make a comprehensive strategy that addresses the problems of the poor, according to the National Human Development Report 2003.
The report, authored by economist Dr Akmal Hussain under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and unveiled here on Tuesday, gives several statistics, including district and provincial level estimates of Human Development Indices (HDI), which show a worsening of the plight of the poor in Pakistan.
From the eighties to the nineties, “GDP growth declined from 6.1 percent to 4.2 percent, growth of large scale manufacturing declined from 8.2 percent to 4.4 percent and the percentage of the population living below the poverty line increased from 18 percent to 32 percent,” the report says.
It says the extremely poor, defined as people with an annual income of less than Rs 15,350, have to spend Rs 18,497 a year on food, meaning they are obliged to borrow money so they can eat.
In urban areas, the proportion of loans used to buy food is 56.8 percent in the case of the extremely poor, and 65.1 percent for the poor, people with an income of less than Rs 40,566. In rural areas, the figures are 69.0 and 57.5 percent respectively. This increases the indebtedness of the poor and deepens poverty, the report says.
“Due to inadequate access for the poor to the over institutionalised credit markets, as many as 50.8 percent of extremely poor households borrow from the landlord. And the result is that 57.4 percent of extremely poor household work for the landlord without wages.”
The report also says 55 percent of poor and 65 percent of extremely poor people were suffering from various diseases at the time of the survey. It observes that the poor of Pakistan have “constantly been victimised by governments with bad economic policies”. It criticises in particular the economic policies of the Ayub, Bhutto and Zia governments.
It says the only was Pakistan can prevent a worsening of the situation is by fostering the emergence of a modern and tolerant democracy, controlling extremist tendencies, achieving a higher GDP, changing local power structures, encouraging autonomous organisations for the poor and providing low cost healthcare and education.
The development report, whose findings Education Minister Zubaida Jalal said would be incorporated into the government’s human development strategy, is the outcome of two years of research by Dr Hussain. The Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) also contributed with research.
The launching ceremony of the report was addressed by Ms Jalal, UNDP representative Onder Yucer, Planning Commission deputy chairman Dr Shahid Amjad Chaudhry and Council of Philanthropy Chairperson Shehnaz Wazir Ali.
Dr Chaudhry said at ceremony the distribution of resources must be divided according to district-wise requirements. “The debate on whether Punjab should get more or Sindh should get more must end now,” he said.