Aug 20 - 26, 2007

A very recent news report states that the total foreign debt is $ 38.86 billion. If these amounts had been utilized with more proficiency, one can argue that great strides could have been made towards reducing the level of poverty in Pakistan. With much talk of corruption playing part in the massive inefficiencies in the deployment of Pakistan's resources (indigenous and debt), 74 per cent of Pakistan's population is poor ( less than $ 2 a day) and 50 per cent are extremely poor (less than $ 1 a day).

The term poverty is a negative scenario in a human life of being dependent on others for monetary help. The international yardstick for income below poverty line is per capita income of less than one dollar per day. Poverty is an outcome of economic, political and social processes that interact with each other in ways that can be worsen further or be eased the deprivation, in which poor people live. Poverty is a multidimensional phenomenon official estimates of poverty in Pakistan are derived from the household income and expenditure survey which has been carried out by the Federal Bureau of Statistics at irregular interval since 1963-64. The poverty line is set with reference to a daily intake of 2,550 calories per adult as recommended by the Planning Course. Poverty lines for both rural and urban areas were established for 1984-85, equal to the total level of expenditure on both food and non-food items at which this daily calorie intake was just satisfied. There are certain classes in Pakistan whose monetary income is increasing rapidly, their asset base is expanding and they seem to be moving to a level of consumerism where they can match some of the more fortunate classes of the developed world.

The poverty situation in Pakistan has registered an increase from 17.8 million in 1987-88 to 43.9 million in 1998-99. In the country in these days, poverty is a common phenomenon, in spite of million of dollars are pouring in the country in form of loans or aids from foreign countries through international agencies. Much has been written and published on the theme of poverty over the last 50 years in Pakistan but greater attention has been devoted to the subject in the recent past, and it is said that the estimates of the extent of poverty are alarming. It is said that the poverty has been born in Pakistan in the late nineties. Awareness of the problem has, however increased recently and an urgency of the need to tackle and eradicate poverty with novel ways and means.

In a broader sense, the poor are defined as those who have to sell their produce at low prices to the rich and later by it back at high prices because they need immediate cash or money and lack storage facilities or those who work long hours for low wages because they have no bargaining. From the perspective of poor people, the state is largely ineffective. To a surprising extent, although the governments' role in providing infrastructure and health and education services is recognized by poor people, that their interactions with both the state and with employers are greatly marred by rudeness, humiliation harassment, and stonewalling. The poor people also suffer seriously from a lack of access to health care and educational facilities. He has no allowance for entertainment,. But most depressingly, he has no hope for himself or for his family and especially for his children .He does not have enough to feed them a healthy balanced diet , has no money for their education or vocational training, cannot get them to good doctors and has no ability to save anything for them.

Poor people also report vast experience with corruption, injustice from local authorities. According to various sources, South Asia contains about 47 per cent of the poor in the developing countries, while the population is 31 per cent of the world's total. The poor tend to have large facilities and have a high dependency ratio. Pakistan is an agriculture country with about 72 per cent of its population living in rural areas and about 58 per cent of the labor force employed in agricultural occupation. One of the major underlying causes of poverty is control of resource by elite groups, which forces the poor into a patron-client relationship. Therefore, poverty alleviation can only be addressed by changing the existing power structure. This view is based on the experience that sustainable development is only possible through partnership with local communication and capacity building or local institution.

One of the most critical indicators of social well-being is the incidence of poverty. A recent evidence suggests that poverty is on the rise in Pakistan. Declining economic growth, inequality, injustice , persistence of severe macroeconomic imbalance, reduction in the flow of remittances from overseas Pakistani workers, lack of social safety nets, and poor governance have led to a significant increase in poverty. Now, it is necessary to increase the social development definitely lead to higher levels of literacy, better health standard and overall improvements in society's living standard. The recently released FAO's annual report, the state of Food and Agriculture depicts not-too-rosy a picture of the world food and agriculture situation particularly in the developing countries wherein 13 per cent of humanity still suffers from hunger and related discomforts. In other words, more than 800 million people still lock access to the food they need. Some of the salient features of the report are summarized below:

Under-nourishment, particularly in populous Asian countries, has some what diminished. But Africa is still a major focus. In more than 30 countries, serious food shortage persists. Armed conflicts and civil strives remain major causes of food insecurity and agricultural output losses. Destruction of crops and livestock, results at last in reduced food security and at worst in famine and death. About 12 million of people are living on less than US$ 1 per day in the developing and transition countries. The poverty profile of Pakistan was examined in the 1998 Report on Human Development in South Asia. The report underlined the growing poverty and increasing gap between income and deprivation in Pakistan. According to its findings, 30 per cent of Pakistan's population were poor in 1995, an increase of 50 per cent within a period of five years. This rise in the context of rapid population growth, resulted in a twofold increase in the absolute number of poor compared to 1965. The results captured the inability of government in Pakistan to translate higher income levels into a better life for the vast majority of their people. The report also shows that in South Asia, a staggering 45 per cent of the population lives below the income required to meet minimum daily needs, compared to 24 per cent in the rest of the developing world.

Poverty alleviation is central to the twin challenges of reviving economic growth and reducing social inequities now the population face. social system needs improvement. According to the caloric-based poverty definition the incidence of poverty both rural and urban declined sharply from 46.5 per cent in 1969-70 to 17.3 per cent in 1987-88. However, poverty has increased significantly in 1990s-rising from 17.3 per cent in 1987-88 to 22.4 per cent in 1992-93 and further to 31 per cent in 1996-97. The recent estimates suggest that poverty has further increased from 32.6 per cent in 1998-99 to 33.50 per cent in 2004-05. The World Bank report highlights the spread and intensity of poverty and suggests measures to tackle it on a top priority basis. Although, the broad direction of these measures is correct, but they fall short of addressing the root cause of poverty. Among the measures, the report rightly suggests a multi-dimensional approach covering such issues as debt relief, increased and effective assistance, providing access to the markets of the developed countries, ensuring stability of the financial markets.

The poverty statistics of Pakistan depicts a grim picture. According to a report, more than one- third (33 per cent) of Pakistan's population lives below the poverty line. Compared to the International poverty level, 31 per cent of our population lives or less than one dollar per day and 85 per cent or two dollars a day or Rs 120 per person per day. This too makes for constrained living. The poverty in Pakistan is enormous and growing. The powers of the government and teachings of Islam both, therefore, should be harnessed to the service of the poor. Poverty being a complex phenomenon and requires actions across a broad national and international level, providing debt relief and increased assistance and reforming the trading system in order to provide greater access for the poorer countries to the markets of the developed world are right measures that must be taken urgently. The government has prepared a comprehensive economic reform agenda, with a view to reinvigorating growth, restoring macro-economic stability-addressing sectoral imbalances, reducing poverty and tackling deep-rooted structural issues. The government macro-economic framework is aimed at restoring growth through fiscal adjustment, external adjustment, and debt management. It needs increases in exports of commodities. The phenomenon of macro-economic policies should be integrated with social and sectoral objectives to ensure that plans are mutually supportive and consistent with a common set of objectives t spur growth and reduce poverty. They should reorganize Zakat distribution. In these days, corruption is so much focus in the society and it must be checked at higher levels.

Agricultural productivity will help in reducing poverty. Research in agriculture is urgently needed. Training of small farmers, lining of water courses to optimize the use of scarce irrigation water, better marketing of agriculture produce and to give boost to livestock sector. The link between livestock income and poverty reduction is both direct and strong and that is an area that complements growth and poverty reduction . As majority of the poor lives in the rural areas and derive their livelihood directly or indirectly from agriculture this is the most effective way of reducing overall poverty level. Growth in food and agricultural output has been the main basis of economic growth. Rural growth also contributes to reducing urban poverty. Increased farm productivity also result in reducing food prices and more balanced household expenditure for the urban people. For agricultural growth, lands should be improved, these should be use of certified seeds, proper and balanced use of fertilizers, timely irrigation and plant protection measures. There is a general consensus based on empirical evidence that absolute poverty can be alleviated if economic growth occurs on a sustained basis and that it reduce, income inequality or at worst, remains neutral to income distribution. The condition of growth is, therefore, sine qua non for poverty alleviation. Poverty can not be reduced if economic growth does not occur. It is the most powerful weapon to fight poverty. Salinity, aridity and water logging are serious problems of agriculture in Pakistan, which contribute towards large scale spread of poverty and social unrest. At present, around 6.5 million hectares of land is salt affected and more than 70% of the tube wells are pumping out brackish waters. We can alleviate poverty by bringing new land under cultivation; ploughing of land in a befitting manner; land leveling for efficient use of water; balanced fertilizer application, types and their methods of use in right proportion and at right time; introduction of high yielding and resistant varieties; good quality certified seed; use of improved seed; timely sowing; use of effective measures and chemicals for weed control; use of pesticides and right plant protection techniques; cropping systems and multiple cropping; water regimes, expansion of irrigation, adequate quantity of water; agricultural extension services; post harvest techniques; skill and knowledge of production technology; management of inputs, larger labor inputs resulting in better tillage operation; education and extension training services; strictly following the crop calendar; optimum plant protection. The government of Pakistan is doing every thing to reclaim the salt-affected lands in order to overcome the scenarios of agricultural deterioration.

Poverty can also be reduced by increasing education., either by investing more on education, especially at the primary level or by expansion of their access to physical and financial capital. Investments in education normally create economic opportunities. The primary education is a universal need for any measure of socio-economic prosperity, improvement in health status and nutrition directly address the worst aspect of poverty. Access of the poor to the basic health services is consequently of the at most importance, both for increasing the average, earnings of this group and raising living standards even if income remains at poverty level. Supply of drinking water, sanitation and other social sectors is necessary. The Government can provide financing, scholarships, grants to the to the students. Income distribution is directly linked to poverty alleviation. A highly unequal initial income distribution makes it harder to reduce poverty. On average, income distribution has worsened in Pakistan over the last four decades since 1960. Sustainable economic growth coupled with substantially large inflows of workers remittances nearly 20 year back improved the distribution of income reducing the incidence of poverty. Poverty is caused as the consequence of sharp decline in job opportunities in developing countries and a drastic reduction in social security benefits in the development societies.

It is now widely believed that the law and order and security situation have been a major deterrent for the foreign and domestic investors to take term positions by locating their investment in the country. Peaceful atmosphere will definitely help in the progress of the country and this condition will help in reducing the poverty matters.

This is the only feasible way in which we can sustain growth , reduce the numbers of those living below the poverty line and also in the direction of a more equitable distribution of gains among the various segments of society.