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Persisting rural poverty menace in Pakistan

Pakistan faces the menace of poverty which begets malaise in the society and has led to crime and terrorism in some instances. There are multifarious estimates about the number of poor households in Pakistan, however, there is prevalent assumption that Pakistan has over one-third of its 208 million population living under the poverty line. In October 2015, the World Bank updated the international poverty line to $1.90 a day which means those earning around $2 dollars a day live below the poverty line, the estimated minimum level of income needed to secure the necessities of life. Pakistan has been struggling to retrain poverty but in vain. A deluge of methods have been applied every now and again. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) did assist Pakistan in 2001 in terms of preparing the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper that suggests guidelines to reduce poverty in the country. Pakistan is once again going to enter an IMF program which might suggest Pakistan to tackle the abject poverty at the earliest. It is not only the incumbent but also the erstwhile governments have been introducing myriads of programs right from offering cash to loans with low interest rates to address poverty in Pakistan. Unfortunately nothing seems to have worked so far.

There are myriads of reasons for the surge in poverty in Pakistan; some of them are population boom, illiteracy, ineffective skills development education programs, rampant corruption in certain sectors of the economy, pathetic healthcare facilities etc. Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world and its population is expected to surge to 245 million by 2030. A couple of years ago, the then government in Pakistan proclaimed that 4 out of 10 Pakistanis lived in multidimensional poverty. The then Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform in this regard compiled a report with the technical support from UNDP Pakistan and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford. According to the report, around 39% of the total population in Pakistan lived in multidimensional poverty.

A World Bank report titled ‘State of Water Supply, Sanitation and Poverty in Pakistan’ suggested that there is whopping poverty in rural areas of Pakistan. Over 62% of the rural population of Balochistan lives below the poverty line and the gap between rural and urban poverty is the widest in Sindh at almost 30%. Over 65% of the total population of Pakistan lives in rural areas and around 80% of Pakistan’s poor live in the rural areas. Four poorest areas of Pakistan are Qilla Abdullah, Kohistan, Muzaffargarh and Tharparkar. In Qilla Abdullah, 96% are living below their means making it the poorest part of Pakistan. Kohistan is one of the most deprived parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where 95% of people lack basic needs. Punjab’s Muzaffargarh district and Tharparkar District of Sindh present gloomy picture of poverty and affliction.

 

The Economic Survey 2018 revealed Pakistan’s percentage of people living below the poverty line fell to 24.3% in 2015-16 from 50.4% in 2005-06. Looking at the living standards of millions of Pakistanis living in rural areas, one may not believe the figures quoted in the Economic Survey 2018 and may request for a reality check.

A lot of countries across the globe have made massive efforts to eradicate poverty and hence have progressed dramatically. In 1981 some 42% of the world’s population were extremely poor, according to the World Bank however by 2013, just 10.7% of the world’s population was poor.

Some experts deem poverty in Pakistan could be tackled by developing and implementing sustained economic growth policies and programs, implementing financial inclusion programs in letter and spirit, giving top priority to education not only in urban but also in the rural areas of Pakistan, training farmers for greater yield of their crops and establishing gender equality in the country as a pressing issue.

It is a fact that one in ten people in developing regions across the world still lives on less than two dollars a day. Asia is a successful instance in terms of tackling poverty, however, Africa has still a long way to go. Pakistan being one of the Asian countries is still struggling with regard to the poverty alleviation programs. The tribulations of the rural poverty in Pakistan need to be addressed at the earliest since it is not only the population shift in Pakistan from rural to urban areas rather it is the poverty shift from the rural to urban Pakistan. One must not be oblivious to the reality that poverty begets crime and corruption which infects the entire society out of the blue.

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