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Budgetary allocations and widening gender financial gap?

Women financial empowerment is one of the most negligent matters in almost every national budget of Pakistan, including current budget 2019-20. Pakistan is amongst countries where a huge bay exists between men and women in every aspect of life especially in their financial status. In Pakistan women population is closer to the men population. According to the latest censes 2017 figure the women population is 48.76 percent of country’s total population where men and transgender restrains 51% and 0.24% of total population respectively. But the percentage of women bank borrowers is significantly low. According to the Washington Post only 8 percent women borrow from banks in Pakistan as compared to Brazil where 51 percent women borrow from banks.

Global Wage Report 2018-19 revealed that Pakistan has been ranked highest among 73 countries in gender pay gap which is notorious 34 percentage points. The clamant point is that it is more than double the global average. Report stumble on that Pakistan is amongst the countries where women wage account touches to the bottom low.

World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation is one of the best performer foundations to augment financial position of women in the world but their performance varies country to country due to state policies and intentions of stakeholders. Unfortunately, Pakistan is deprived in women financing efforts as compared to India where women with small loans have been uplifted their self. According to the IFC report women across India, mostly in rural areas have been lending to microfinance augmented 9 hundred percent from 2012 to 2018 from $2 billion to $20 billion to support their children’s education and businesses. They have served 1.7 million borrowers with $564 million investment in equity and debt.

The portrait of gender financial gap is purely drawn by our budgetary colors where is no room for women economic empowerment if we take a look at the fiscal measures of budget 2019-20. Enhancing the economic growth by narrowing down gender financial gap needs to focus on triangular model; to minimize gender education gap, to minimize gender employment gap, and to minimize gender entrepreneurship gap. Rather the government increase education budget they cut it down as compared to budget 2018-2019 education expenditures which are now only 1 percent of total current expenditures and in prior budget it was 1.7 percent of the total current expenditures. On the other side FBR’s 62.5 percent tax collection is happening via indirect taxes and services and remaining 37.5 percent is direct tax collection. Huge portion of indirect tax collection based on basic goods and services and it directly hit individual budget of low income population especially women due to high level of poverty than men and lack of resources. Keeping eye on women population ratio spectrum, there should be a separate fiscal fund to uplift the women economic lives via providing them better technical and traditional education, entrepreneurship and employment opportunities.

 

Fiscal policy become reason of discrimination when it comprise tax amnesties and comprises momentous tax exemptions, tax collection policy based on indirect taxes on necessities because it impacts directly on women financial status which are already depressed population portion of the society, and it designed on bases of distinguished taxation according to source of income because this may against single mother, single parent family headed by a women etc. Moreover the side of expenditures, fiscal policy play biased role which leads to further economic discrimination and hunt gender financial equality when huge investments made in mannish labor intensive sectors, and when it executed cash transfer programs where big entrepreneur groups enjoys subsidies rather than small entrepreneur lead by women.

This is the time to execute fiscal policy on gender prospective by introducing progressive tax reforms which support 48.67 percent depressed population, and taking the measures prioritizing the public spending to mitigate the gender financial gap. Pakistan also needs to establish data set which provides information capable to examine impact of fiscal policy differentially on women, transgender population and men. Municipal participation in budgetary affairs is forsaken unfortunately that is another cause to design discriminated fiscal policy because without civic participation to homework provincial and federal budgets led to illusion picture of ground realities.

To increase the financial activities of women population is necessary to narrowing down the gender financial gap by providing them easy access to financial institutions, education and courage at public level. Government can also play the important role through policies and trainings training programmers for women financial empowerment but more important is the role of society and individuals.

Government can also brace the financial performance of women owned business to providing them relevant training by engaging NGOs, financial institutions, and mainly the Women Chamber of Commerce to perk up financial literacy among women entrepreneurs. They may also help women to become more bankable like the women of developed economies.

With all these measures it is also essential to provide them a secure, neat and fearless working environment at their workplace. Because gender financial equality is not just about growth and economic empowerment but it’s is a customary imperative. It is a core aspect in self-reported well-being contentment across the country. How long we will disregard country’s founding father Mr. Jinnah’s saying, “No nation can rise to highest glory unless your women are side by side with you.”

The writer, are members of Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)

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