Dr Ghulam Ashraf's Blog


Poverty: democratic govt’s response

POVERTY has been a challenge to Pakistan since the beginning. A number of efforts were taken by successive governments to curb it, but all in vain.

This was for two reasons. First, measures were of short duration which either ended with the dissolution of the particular government or the completion of its tenure. Second, there has been exploitation of the poor by the elite class.

The situation is worse today. According to the World Bank report, the 10 per cent elite class in Pakistan accounts for 43.02 per cent of total national income, the 30 per cent middle class accounts for 34.8 per cent in national income, while the 60 per cent poor group accounts just for 22 per cent of total national income.

This wealth accumulation trend in Pakistan has shaken the fabric of Pakistani society and has been pushing thousands into the poverty trap in the face of
skyrocketing inflation.

The recent floods have perpetuated the poverty chain further. The World Bank said in February 2009: “Almost 40 per cent of 107 developing countries are highly exposed to the effects of poverty. Pakistan has been placed among the 43 highly exposed countries”.

The recent floods have doubled the effects of poverty. As according to Unicef, 20 million people have been affected by the recent floods in Pakistan and more than half are children.

The old poverty measurement parameter, Human Poverty Index, that is under use since 1997, reveals that around 23 per cent people live below the poverty line, while the new poverty parameter MPI (Multi Poverty Index) created by Oxford Poverty and Human Development by Oxford University and the UNDP tells us that Pakistan has 88 million poor, and deprivation in schooling enrolment is 30 per cent.

According to the old poverty criterion — $1.25 a day — there are 23 per cent poor in Pakistan, but according to the new MPI, there are around 51 per cent poor.

While the official statistics show only 33 per cent poverty.

Poverty has severely plagued both the middle and poor people of the country. In June, 2010, a woman and her three children committed suicide in Rahimyar Khan owing to poverty.

In the same month a mother killed herself and her four children in Lahore due to poverty. Recently some women in Hyderabad publicly announced selling off their blood to highlight poverty gripping the lower and middle classes.

According to Syed Adil Gilani, the chairman of Transparency International Pakistan, “Corruption is the root cause of poverty”. It is corruption that has been eating up both government institutions and the masses.

In developed countries airlines, railways and power-producing agencies are income-generating institutions, but these are running in loss in Pakistan.

The government, instead of giving relief to the poor and taking measures to curb poverty by establishing industries and punishing corrupt elements, is rather hurting the masses by increasing difficulties for them by increasing prices of oil and petroleum products and increasing the prices of electricity.

It is time the government stopped anti-poor policies and took measures to lead the country to the path of prosperity.


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