POVERTY ARRESTS INDEPENDENCE
PROF. SAEED AHMAD SIDDIQUI
Aug 20 - Sep 2, 2012
Dependence is the main impediment for development. Economic prosperity is not more than a pleasing dream for an individual or a nation which depends on others therefore independence is conditioned by freedom from dependence (slavery). Poverty and independence can't go together. All the nations which have been slave are also poor. In other words, independence and poverty are reciprocal in nature. There is a famous Hadith of Muhammad (PBUH), "There are two prominent good deeds; first, purchase a Ghulam (slave) and make him free and second, repay the loan on one and make him free from the slavery of loan. In fact, both the deeds are the two sides of a coin carrying the same sense. Poor is also a slave.
Prior to highlighting the topic, it becomes imperative to have the clear comprehension of the word 'poverty'. Poverty refers to deprivation of a person or a nation from the minimum living standard which is necessary to lead a respectable life in the society. The prerequisite of minimum living standard may be material like food, shelter and cloth or the social like information, education, health care, social status, political power and opportunity to expand social ties with other fellow being of the society.
Poverty can also be stated in relative terms referring to income disparity or inequitable distribution of wealth. Poverty, therefore, is attached to scarcity and distribution of resources and power.
These forms of poverty may be the result of various reasons therefore prior to design pro-poor policies, different consideration will have to be kept in view which include economic development, government expenditure, tools for assessing the results of development programs and poverty alleviating measures.
Generally poverty is also the result of many mutually reinforcing factors like scarcity of productive resources to create material wealth, rate of illiteracy, prevalence of disease, natural calamities like flood, frost and manmade calamities like war and social unrest. As urbanization is expanding and population is increasing fast, the number of people will increase tremendously in urban areas and especially in the informal sector. Consequently in the light of hopeless situation of rural economy, this general poverty would be converted into an urban nightmare.
At the world level, unequal economic and political partnership (as obvious in the form of unfavorable balance of trade of Pakistan with the developed countries) is an important cause behind poverty here. Some reasons of poverty are not direct like traditions and norms which hinder the effective utilization of resources and participation in the activities that increase income.
It is unambiguous world experience that accelerated growth is necessary but not sufficient for sustainable poverty reduction. There are other important factors also which should be coupled with high growth rate. The most important factor amongst these, investment in human capital like education, training, health and sanitation, clean drinking water, nutrition, population planning etc. The countries which neglected investment in human capital, have achieved some benefits for shot not for long time. Growth, with human investment provides more opportunities for poverty alleviation. Even then, the segments of population living in remote and isolated areas or having nothing except their own labor should be intervened by the government for creating life requirements for them.
During more than half of past century persistent poverty increase has been observed in the developing countries of the world. More than 1.2 billion people get $1 per day and 2.8 billion people (half of the world population) get $2 per day for their livelihood. These poverty suffering people often remain victim of under nutrition, poor health and illiteracy. They are compelled to live in polluted and unhealthy environment. These poverty suffering people often remain victim of under nutrition and poor health and illiteracy. They live in polluted environment having no political voice and importance, cultivate small farm size and grow for own subsistence only. Their development depends exclusively on accelerated economic growth and high GNP. It is not the real problem that how would GNP increase but who would undertaken by rich, the vicious circle of poverty and economic disparity would continue to spread. But the purpose of increase in GNP can be served if this task is to be performed by the majority. Positive social welfare depends on the level of per capita income. Poverty alleviation is in the interest of not only developing but also the developed nations. This is the reason that developed countries help the poor nations in alleviating poverty.
CASE OF PAKISTAN
Like other developing countries, highly vulnerable groups are also there in Pakistan needing social safety net. If all these 4 factors (accelerated growth, investment in human capital, government intervention for poverty alleviation and social safety net) are combined together, bright chances may be created for poverty alleviation in Pakistan.
Pace of development in Pakistan, in the beginning, was very encouraging. Pakistan is the largest country of the world which received external resources on the large scale and which helped in accelerating stagnant economies but in comparison of available resources of the country, it was extremely low than many developing countries of East Asia.
The factors which retarded economic development in Pakistan include weak governance lavish government expenditure on defense and other unproductive programs and neglect of investment in human capital. These factors weakened the institutions economic management. Consequently, investment environment in Pakistan become unfavorable. During 1990s, fuel was added to the fire by external shocks and growing problem of governance. The economy remained stagnant for many decades making investment environment unfavorable both of local and foreign investment. Uncertain political environment and ambiguous commitments of the government have ruined the economy.
Environmental damage has taken place in Pakistan on the large scale. Forests are being cut for fire wood and so the rate of deforestation, after 1990 has reached to the extent of more than 3% a year which is highest at global level. Soil erosion through water and wind on persistent increase and water supplies are being depleted fast. This fall in natural resources is creating multiple problems for agricultural sector, the backbone of Pakistan.
During the decade of 1990, for reducing the rate of poverty, the government of Pakistan adopted Power Reduction Strategy based on 5 points:
a. Improving governance
b. Accelerating economic growth and achieving economic stability
c. Expansion in social safety net
d. Investment in human capital and
e. Augmented targeted interventions
Interworking of all these five elements would certainly increase the pace of poverty alleviation in Pakistan. Reduction in poverty and social indicators as well as pace of improvement in living condition of the society is being monitored on the large scale through household surveys so that targeted objectives may be achieved.