MHHDC REPORT 2012 ON HUMAN DEVELOPMENT IN SOUTH ASIA LAUNCHED

PRO-PEOPLE SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE VITAL FOR SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC GROWTH IN SOUTH ASIAN COUNTRIES

AMANULLAH BASHAR & KANWAL SALEEM
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Sep 17 - 23, 20
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Sustainable economic growth in South Asian countries will only be ensured if the system of governance is pro-people as well as people-centered, according to the findings of the South Asia Human Development Report 2012: Governance for People's Empowerment, launched by Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Centre (MHHDC) here at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) on Friday.

The launch was chaired by Syed Babar Ali, pro-chancellor LUMS, and the Chief Guest for the event was Shahid Kardar, ex-Governor State Bank of Pakistan . Also present at the launch were Dr. Nagesh Kumar, Director ESCAP regional office in New Delhi ; M. Syeduzzaman, former Finance Minister of Bangladesh ; Dr. Adil Najam, VC LUMS; Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh, Board Member MHHDC and Khadija Haq, President MHHDC.

Speakers on the occasion highlighted salient features of the Report. They said that benefits of growth cannot reach to people without empowering the people. They added that lack of efficient and effective governance is one of the leading constraints in the human development in South Asia.

The Report acknowledges that some positive developments in terms of people's empowerment have taken place in the region. There is, indeed, a greater participation of women in economic and political activities. Civil society engagements in dealing with education, health and access to credit have been successful in bringing change. South Asia has also witnessed an increase in information and advocacy campaigns, which have raised the voices of the poor.

However, the 2012 Report also argues that despite recent growth rates recorded in several countries of the region, adequate employment generation or substantial poverty reduction has not taken place. The majority of South Asians continue to live under poor economic management with high fiscal deficit and public debt, soaring inflation, and significant unemployment and under employment in the informal sector. Despite several poverty reduction efforts in the region, the absolute number of poor people is still high with about half a billion poor people. So, the Report reveals that economic governance in most of South Asia has served to make these economies bigger; however it has failed to make them better.

According to the Report, the region still faces a huge empowerment deficit in terms of poor delivery of public services in education, health, and justice. South Asia is home to nearly 400 million illiterate adults out of which 250 million are women; over 160 million people are without access to drinking water; and one billion people are without access to improved sanitation services. Moreover, despite the existence of strong judiciaries, inadequate and ineffective lower courts do not provide timely justice to the poor.

In addition to providing an in-depth and holistic analysis on governance through economic, political and social institutions, the Report also revisited the Humane Governance Index (HGI), first developed by Pakistan's late economist Dr. Mahbub ul Haq for SAHDR 1999. The index measures the extent of humane governance, giving a composite figure for its three interlinked dimensions: economic, political and civic governance.

The HGI for this Report has been constructed for 51 medium and low human development countries, including four South Asia countries. South Asian countries have not fared very well in HGI, leaving scope to improve governance in all three dimensions.

Additionally, the Report also computed the Poverty of Opportunity Index (POPI) for South Asian countries to identify multiple deprivations in poverty in terms of education, health and income. In Pakistan 29.2 per cent of the population suffer multiple deprivations compared to 35.2 per cent in Bangladesh , 27.8 per cent in India and 7.8 per cent in Sri Lanka .

The Report concludes that people's empowerment can happen through multiple routes: political institutions such as the Parliament, bureaucracy and judiciary can function in ways to either hamper or propagate human development; economic management, particularly through the adoption of poverty reduction strategies and social protection mechanisms, can play a significant role in protecting the marginalized and the poor; similarly, social empowerment, determined by the access to and quality of health, education and sanitation can significantly impact the standard of living of ordinary citizens. The private sector and civil society are also critical partners in helping respective governments in addressing people's concerns.

THE POOR IN PAKISTAN SUFFER MULTIPLE DEPRIVATIONS

Mahbub-ul-Haq Center's 2012 report on Governance for People's Empowerment stresses on the need to go beyond traditional measures of poverty based on income to incorporate multiple deprivations suffered by the poor, such as lack of access to education and health when estimating the extent of poverty in Pakistan.

The last available official estimates for poverty released by the Government of Pakistan are more than 6 years old. According to these estimates, the proportion of people living below the calorie based income poverty line was 22.3 percent in 2005. This measure of poverty may be misleading as it ignores multiple deprivations suffered by the poor.

In broader terms, poverty is a denial of opportunities - the opportunity to have access to good quality education and health care facilities, and the opportunity to earn a decent living. It is the inequality in opportunity for poor people to develop their potential that is deemed more unfair than the inequality in income alone.

The report reveals the latest estimates for the Poverty of Opportunity Index (POPI), pioneered and developed by Dr. Mahbub-ul-Haq in 1998 for Pakistan and a few other select South Asian countries. The POPI goes beyond what is captured by traditional measures of poverty to include poverty of opportunity in health and education, in addition to income poverty. In recent years, the United Nations and the World Bank have also developed indicators such as the Multidimensional Poverty Index and the Human Opportunity Index that aim to capture the multiple deprivations suffered by the poor across the world.

The incidence of poverty for Pakistan , as measured by POPI, is much higher at 29.2 percent compared to calorie-based national income poverty estimates at 22.3 percent. This shows that income based poverty line estimates only tell part of the story - individuals living above the income poverty line may still suffer deprivations in education, health and other living conditions.

It must be noted that since POPI estimates are based on latest available official data, which is more than 6 years old in Pakistan's case, the actual extent of deprivation experienced by the poor may be higher. Some estimates based on Asian Development Bank and World Bank data suggest that poverty has increased by an additional 18.9 percentage points since the government's last estimation in 2005-06. According to these independent estimates, total poverty in the country may be as high as 41.2 percent, with more than 74 million people living below the poverty line.

Comparing POPI estimates for Pakistan with other countries in the region also reveals interesting insights. Even though income-based poverty estimates in India is much higher than Pakistan , the former has a lower incidence of poverty as measured by POPI (27.8 percent) because India's record is better in terms of providing education opportunities for its people.

The report suggests that a broader measure of poverty like POPI is useful for policy purposes as well. Policy makers need to understand that poverty alleviation efforts should not only focus on income transfers, but also on building the basic capabilities of the poor to earn a living.

POOR GOVERNANCE UNDERMINES EFFICIENT AND EQUITABLE DELIVERY OF EDUCATION AND HEALTH IN PAKISTAN

Poor governance is the key impediment to improving public sector delivery of education and health for a vast majority of Pakistanis, according to a new Report by the Mahbub-ul-Haq Center. "Weak administrative structures, low budget allocations and even lower utilization, poor quality and widespread inequities in access" - all stand in the way of empowering Pakistan's poor with education and health, according to the Report.

Pakistan has seen some positive developments on the education front. The 18th Amendment has led to the recognition of education as a fundamental human right to be provided by the state. The country has also pledged to commit at least seven per cent of its GDP to achieve its international commitments for achieving universal primary education by 2015. Pakistan's leaders also declared the year 2011 to be Pakistan's year of education, signaling that across the board reforms would be implemented to improve access to education for all. Yet, it is paradoxical that all these verbal commitments for reform, policy proposals and constitutional changes have not been implemented for the good of the common man.

While the government in Pakistan has made some efforts to prioritize education in the policy agenda, public sector delivery for health is still waiting to be pushed up the policy ladder. Pakistan is faced with a dual burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases on the one hand, and the challenge of increasing incidence of new diseases like HIV/AIDS on the other hand.

The Report highlights the widening disparities in access to and quality of both education and health services based on regional, rural-urban, gender and income lines. The increase in income and wealth disparities over the last decade has further exacerbated these and resulted in a growing share of private, out of pocket financing for both education and health.

According to the Report, the institutional machinery for the public sector delivery of education and health in Pakistan largely exists - the problem lies in efficiently delivering the services. For the education sector, weak management and lack of accountability have resulted in poor quality of inputs in the education system leading to poor outputs. The number of functional schools and trained teachers has declined over the years, dropout and repetition rates are high and completion rates in primary education are low.

Similarly, governance of the public health system suffers from parallel structures with overlapping responsibilities and authority, resulting in duplication, wastage of resources, and high administrative costs. There are weaknesses in monitoring, evaluation and accountability that have led to corruption at all levels in the health sector - from the regulatory, to the drug supply and registration system, and finally to the service delivery level where it directly affects the poor.

If men and women are not empowered with health and education, economic growth could not be sustained as there will not be enough healthy and productive labour force to refuel the growth process.