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Socio-economic fabric of Pakistan — present dilemma, future prospects

Pakistan is a country of diversities; so many things are happening at the same time, it’s a dynamic country with multiple socio-economic issues at the helm of the country affecting the overall fabric of the society.

Pakistan has been a receipt to change for the past few years, the country that has witnessed a topsy-turvy political system and has been host to longest periods of Martial Law starting from General Ayub Khan till General Pervez Musharraf lasting for eight long years. These jumbled musical chair political scenarios created instability not only in the political arena but also caused major chaos and confusion for the foreign direct investment and other potential business to be investing in Pakistan.

Some of the other facts and figures are the state of the economy. Savings rate has dropped from 14.7 percent to 13.1 percent compared to saving rates of 29 percent, 30 percent and 45 percent for India, Bangladesh and China, respectively, for the same period. Pakistan’s exports have descended 13 percent in the last three years while imports jumped by 16 percent in the same timeframe, rising to a staggering $48.5 billion currently. Local industries are unable to compete with external ones because Pakistan is flooded with cheap imports thereby rendering the local workforce jobless. Pakistan’s external debt is expected to rise from $93.4 billion this fiscal year to $145 billion by 2023. This is a jump by 50 percent in five years.

A country’s progress is judged by its level of education. This too tells a grim story. In the essential field of education, 22.6 million Pakistani boys and girls are outside the sphere of educational institutions. These cover around 44 percent of all children in the country. 43 percent of government-run schools are in dangerous or dilapidated condition, lacking basic amenities like furniture, bathrooms, boundary walls, and electricity and so on. Pakistan’s literacy rates to paints a dismal picture. Amidst the SAARC countries, it stands sixth with a literacy rate of 55 percent where the Maldives enjoys a literacy rate of 99 percent, Sri Lanka 98.1 percent, India 74.4 percent and Nepal 66 percent. Interestingly, Pakistan spends half as much as India does on education.

According to the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, over the past five years, around 2.765 million have left the country in search of greener pastures, having been disappointed by the lack of opportunities at home. More than 70 million people live below the poverty line in Pakistan, earning less than $2 per day.

Provision of health facilities should be our primary concern as in Pakistan, around 78 percent of the population is paying for health expenditures out of their own pockets. As per an estimate, there are 145,797 doctors, 10,693 dentists and 55,165 nurses, who are registered to take care of a population of over 200 million. Thus only two doctors, one dentist and eight nurses are tending 1,000 patients. This is in sharp contrast to our actual requirement of 194,201 doctors, 159,307 dentists and 1.4 million nurses as per international standards.

 

Population growth is a bombshell on which Pakistan has been sitting for decades and no government has given serious thought to this problem. Resultantly, today Pakistan is the fifth most populous nation only behind India, China, USA and Indonesia. Sixty per cent of the population is under the age of thirty with limited job opportunities. While other Muslim countries like Iran and Bangladesh have successfully managed to control their population growth, Pakistan remains oblivious to this ticking bomb. The curb on population growth by Bangladesh and Iran is reflective of their improved human development indicators.

Looking at these figures we are at dilemma and at a cross-point that to understand what needs to be prioritized over other issues, at the same time positive change has also been trickling slowly and gradually in the society, Pakistan has been one of the country’s in the world having the fastest growing 3G and 4G penetration, this is mobilizing the change and opening up opportunity to each and every individual.

The growing culture of SME’s and entrepreneurship, that is a beacon of light for a better future, for the coming years, we shall see more people entering into the tertiary sector of the economy that leads to a better standard of life.

Knowledge and skill-based education and provision of basic utility assurance is an uphill task that the government needs to do, implement policies that will ensure the needful and reaches the public, government can make more people inclined to it by creating transparency in each step of the people involved, as the process of inculcating values must start from grass-roots level and accountability should start from top-level.

The government ought to understand the need of the day by thinking strategically and achieving them with tactical plans and established milestones.

People of Pakistan can play a bigger role by being indulgent in the on-going initiatives for change for better by not just highlighting their rights but by also fulfilling their duties with equal zeal and honor.

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