Essay On Poverty In Pakistan
Abundance and poverty are the two contrasts present on the face of the earth similar to brightness and darkness. Bountifulness represents prosperity and blessings in every shape while poverty is one of the worst miseries of human kind. Poverty is a social condition characterized by the sustained deprivation of the resources, capabilities, choices, security and power necessary for the enjoyment of an adequate standard of living with full civil, cultural, economic political and social rights. It is an evil of society which needs to the eradicated. It is intimately related with socioeconomic moralities, religion, politics and geography of a country. Poverty alleviation is imperative if a country is to attain prosperity, honour and self-reliance in comity of nations.
Pakistan’s economy is in a downward spiral. Inflation is rising, foreign reserves are plummeting and the government is in danger of defaulting on its foreign debt. Bad governance and mismanagement of institutions has contributed to growing militancy in Pakistan, economic woes and fleeing of foreign investors. With poor performance of human development indicators, the task of poverty reduction, equitable income distribution and delivery of public services is difficult. In this backdrop, Benazir income support program is a sigh of relief for the few, but still a lot to be done for poverty alleviation.
The estimates of poverty have not been consistent in Pakistan. According to caloric based (2350 calorie per person), the incidence of poverty declined sharply over time. However, economic index, per capita income or energy consumption, is the most widely accepted unit of measuring poverty. Per capita is the numerical quotient of national production by population in monetary terms. It is reported in units of currency per annum therefore, it is the national income to total population of the country i.e., the less the per capita income; the more the poverty. Similarly energy consumption is the average consumption of food in terms of calories by total population of the country in a year. The more the consumption; the less the poor. Moreover, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a measure of country’s overall economic output. It is the market value of all final goods and services made within the hordes of a country in a year. It is often physically correlated with standard of living, thus, its increase depicts good living standards and a reduction in poverty.
Similarly, inflation is a rise in general level of prices of goods and services in a country over a period of time. When the price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services; consequently, it is an erosion of the purchasing power of money. It may occur due to many reasons including gap between demand and supply, less annual yields, rise in oil prices or devaluation of currency; the result is poor becomes indigent in an economy.
Debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio is measure of a country’s federal debt in relation to its GDP. By comparing what a country owes, and what it produces the debt to GDP ratio indicates the country’s ability to pay back its debts. It is coverage on a national level and its augmentation delineations increase in poverty. Finally, fiscal deficit is a situation in which outflow of money exceeds inflow i.e., deficit occurs when a government, company or individual spends more than it receives in a years. It is also a good measure of poverty as the surge in fiscal deficit incurs poverty.
Among factors leading to poverty, environmental degradation, erosion of agricultural and domestic useable land is a serious problem. Pakistan has a huge river and irrigation system. Absences of land enhancement, land erosion pose a grave concern to economy of the county. Weathering of land by rushing water is high in hilly areas of Khyber-pakhtunkhwa. The recent floods caused havoc in that province corroborates this fact.
Moreover, country has various deserts in its territory. Dwellers in deserts like Thar, Cholistan and Thal usually the poorest in the country with no facilities of any kind. Humans and their beasts drink water from the same reservoir. Any increase in desertification due to global warning or other factors leads to more poverty.
Pakistan has forests only on 4.224 Million hectares of land which is 4.8% of the country’s total land area. Pakistan falls in the last category of the four percentage wise forest groups. The rate of deforestation is 1.5 % which is very high and alarming. Deforestation occurs due to gap in production and consumption of wood, timber mafia’s illegal activities, corruption, population growth, urbanization, illiteracy and increase in cultivation of land. Deforestation is causing more erosion, floods, pollution and recurring disaster. This in turn leads to poverty and economic loss.
Importantly, natural disasters especially earthquakes, floods, storms and heavy rains are the major problems in the country. Earthquake of 2005 and the recent floods are the glaring examples. Hundreds of people died in earthquake 2005 and all the structures in the affected area turned into rubble. Such huge calamities directly affect people and compromise their economy leading to gross poverty. The incapability to cope with natural disasters is also adding fuel to fire.
Drought is also a kind of natural disaster which is intimately associated with water crisis and its management. As Benjamin Franklin said: “when the well is dry we know the worth of water.” Climate change has caused reduction in water availability to significantly low levels in last 10 years. But the areas of country like Baluchistan and Thar desert were worst affected.
Fourthly, agriculture sector has a direct impact on rural development and rural population thus significantly reducing poverty. Neglect of agriculture sector means expensive seeds and fertilizers, removal of subsidies, faulty irrigation system, and lack of transportation and disregard of small farmers. Pakistan has rural population equal to two-thirds of the total population; therefore, extreme poverty is heightened by paying less attention to agriculture.
Fifthly, the growth and performance of industrial sector has been quite uneven in the country. Industry creates jobs and infrastructure thereby reducing poverty. When industrial sector lags behind mostly belongs to small group of elite, it will promote unequal distribution of wealth and income. In this way, class difference widens and poverty increases.
Sixthly, in the present age, without sufficient energy, wheel cannot run on roads, industry and agriculture cannot sustain, hospitals and operation theatres cannot function, schools and laboratories cannot work and public and private sector business cannot operate. Load shedding of 12-16 hours cannot pull the economy upwards. Pakistan is facing the worst energy crisis of her history. Many industries have been closed. Poverty is directly relating to energy so less energy generation increases poverty.
Seventhly, huge spending on defence and debt repayments reduces ability to invest on poverty alleviation schemes limited. Since creation, Pakistan has been under threat from its eastern border that’s why public sector suffered a lot in terms of economic prosperity.
Eighthly, heavy dependence on foreign economic institutions instead on one’s own arms keeps the poverty graph on acclivity. World Bank and International Monetary Fund have hidden agenda of fully subjugation of developing and underdeveloped countries to grab their resources. It is because of this, the conditions on which the loans given are so hard and disturbing for the recipient to get itself out of the vicious circle of exploitation.
Ninthly, the capital flight from the country to foreign countries is causing poverty too. Local and foreign businessmen prefer to stock their money in foreign lands, thereby, inhibiting the business from that capital. It has indirect negative effect on the lives of people.
Tenthly, large scale imports are putting pressure on local industries and increasing the trade deficit. More imports than exports in a country depicts the poor performance of economy. Moreover, unfair trade terms and non-access to international markets also impedes the business activity nationally.
Additionally, poor management of resources is a major menace leading to poverty. Federation is composed of federating units knows as provinces. Centralization alienates from the people and their problems. Small provinces are lagging way behind the larger ones. Baluchistan province is deeply affected by mismanagement. Resultantly the most backward province has limited control over the resources and this needs revamping.
The importance of education in poverty alleviation schemes can hardly be overemphasized. Regrettably, the state has failed to provide quality universal education to all of its citizens at affordable rates. A person who is educated has higher earning potential and is better able to improve the quality of his life and less likely to be marginalized within the society largely. That is why Holy Prophet (SAWW) said: “seeking knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim male and female. Access to education is the prime responsibility of any government as it empowers people with vision to reduce their own poverty.
Socially and demographically, population growth eats the resources of the country and puts a pressure on the economy. The incessantly increasing population makes a society to consume and increases the imports. So trade deficit increases due to declining exports and more imports. Moreover, unemployment, crime, traffic problems, housing and settlement issues and health care facilities suffer in the wake of population explosion.
The old colonialism has changed into neocolonialism for exploitation of weak economics. Neocolonialism is a concept of subjugating and overpowering poor developing countries without entering their borders physically but to strangling them in economic, social, and political constraints. West is a key player in promoting neocolonialism and through its economic institutions and policies it actually perpetuates the poor states having weak institutions .
By attracting the intellectuals with handsome packages, neocolonialism coupled with inability of poor countries to provide good living to its citizens, the cream of the society immigrates to developed countries, thereby causing brain drain the country of their origin. This has adverse effect on the economy country immigrating its citizens. It is also a major cause of poverty in the long-term process which is happening in Pakistan at a rapid rate.
The share of women in economic life is minimal. The issue of women empowerment and gender equality is at the heart of poverty reduction strategies. The task of reducing poverty cannot be achieved without active participation of women in national and economic life. How can a country progress when half of its population is not participating in the development process? Thus, there is need to curb the social and cultural practices and ideologies that seeks tot confine women within four walls of the house.
Domestic violence and intolerance in the society due to propagation of false beliefs are adding up to the poverty. No respect for human rights and a bad law and order situation with ongoing war on terror in the region has made the climate for any kind of investment and business activity highly unfavouable. All these factors have combined to shrink the economy of the country. The menace of terrorism has clearly defied the economic progress.
The peril of poverty has many consequences. Among them, the lack of access to essential health services is the most miserable. Poverty deprives people to get their health problems treated till it is too late. Incompetence of government to provide adequate health care facility coupled with expensive private sector’s treatment shift the policy from preventive to curative which is resulting into many untimely and avoidable deaths.
Starvation is the immediate effect of poverty. Starvation also leads to diseases fatal to the life especially in children. Food is the basic necessity of human life and poor are only able to make both ends meet with lots of hardships. Sometimes that does not happen resulting in loss of lives.
Poverty lowers the life expectancy rate which is the average number of years at a given age a person may expect to live age according to the mortality pattern prevalent in a country. In Pakistan, the life expectancy rate is quite low than the most western countries. Poverty hinders the delivery of health, food, water and other necessities therefore, decreasing the life expectancy.
The mounting illiteracy and poverty gives water to the roots of violence, terrorism, crime and extremism. Poverty enhances intolerance because of frustration due to economic degeneracy. Politically motivated stalemate in improvement of all sects angers the masses. Moreover, poor people send their children to madressahs which due to lack of modern and advanced education mould the young brain with intolerance, hate and extremism. Not all madressahs impact this kind of violence yet there are many of this kind. As Marcus Aurelius said: “poverty is the mother of crime”. Robbery, theft, prostitution, corruption, bribing and deception are rampant in a poor society as poor always try to pacify their hunger at any cost.
The impressive growth of Asian countries first Japan followed by China in the last century and India in the last two decades have raised the hopes that the continent will soon overcome the poverty. Pakistan can take a leaf out of its regional neighbours books’ while devising a poverty alleviation strategy.
Counting the steps that contribute in poverty alleviation in Pakistan, first thing required in the vision at the government level to set the priorities, and the then their evaluation according to chart and layout plans. Priorities regarding public sector spending at the federal and provincial level to eliminate wasteful expenditures at all levels must be set in the short-term management of poverty. A clear link between public expenditure and the desired economic outcomes – incomes, output, input and employment should guide the screening of projects programs and policies and their evaluation for proper use of funds.
The use of microfinance to attain micro-economic growth is essential in today’s world. Dr. Younas of Bangladesh, a Nobel Laureate, initiated Grameen Bank to give loans to farmers for poverty alleviation. It was very successful and productive. Similarly poverty alleviation, Khushali Bank , Benazir Income Support Programme and the Watan Cards after floods are useful microfinance players but are way behind the potential client based in millions. Access to credit is the surest way of empowering the poor and improving their income generation opportunities.
Human development is essential for attracting investment. Dr. Ishrat Hussain, former Governor of State Bank of Pakistan, stressed the need for human resource development by saying that talented loan officers are needed to help and train people about how to use the credit amount as microcredit schemes alone cannot get rid the country of poverty. Human development can be done through education and information sector.
Pakistan is an agricultural country, therefore, to make vast majority of country’s population is self-reliant. However, land must be distributed to small formers with credit. Organizing and providing economic opportunities to small producers by subsidizing essential commodities will radically reduce the cost of doing business in rural areas and transform these into an attractive market for public and private sectors. Fields such as livestock, dairy farms, variety of crops and irrigation system should be encouraged by government. Agricultural development bank and Agricultural University for research are gracefully doing their jobs, but much more is needed.
Moreover, active participation of non-government organizations and community- based organizations must be encouraged. Private sector is necessary for the health of public finances as it contributes to efficient allocation of resources. But it must be regulated so that exploitation cannot be done at the cost of privatization. Privatization also helps in improving productivity and yield in all segments of the society.
Direct taxation on high incomes of both agricultural and industrial sector as well as other professions must be implemented. The rich often do not declare their exact assets to avoid income tax. Taxation can raise the GDP visibly to help the poor and needy after taking it from the rich. The revenue collected can also be used for various developmental projects.
The domestic saving rate is dismal and has made the country heavily dependent on the foreign assistance. In order to eradicate poverty, the savings rate has to be stepped up by providing incentives to households corporate and small business and overseas workers through national savings schemes, mutual funds, bank liability products and insurance to invest the maximum capital in home.
Decision making at the government level is convoluted and complex in Pakistan because of the overlaps and multiplicity of organizations and elongated hierarchal chains within them. Rules procedures have to be modified to make room for fast track decision making. The ill-trained functionaries have alienated the common man thereby creating hurdles in his progress in reducing poverty. This must be checked at every level.
Moreover, the gap between the capacity of the government to deliver public for reduction of poverty and the growing expectations of the public is getting wider. This can be fulfilled by an empowered and full-functioning local government system. Though the government has held the local government elections, but the system is far from perfect. There is a need of devolution of power and resources enhance the capacity of the poor to influence the state institutions by increasing their participation in political and economic process as well as local decision making process.
In addition to it, the chief executives and the board of directors for hundred key economic institutions, organizations and corporations should be appointed. These appointments must be carried out by parliamentary committees. The executives should be given targets to devise and recommend policies plus takes to reduce poverty. They also be held accountable for results.
In the long-term handling of poverty, macroeconomic stability is necessary. Construction of large dams to manage water and energy crises, ports like Gawadar port, tax reforms debt management and expenditure reforms must be at the heart of the revival programs. Similarly, macro-economic stability demands the rooting out of corruption from important foreign exchange earning institutions like Pakistan steel mills and transportation and logistics like Pakistan international Airways and Pakistan Railways. Additionally, ethe tapping of natural resources must be done on a wide scale, but in a consistent and transparent manner.
Secondly, social safety nets must be increased for the security of poor people, reducing their vulnerability to such risks as ill-health, economic shocks and natural disasters and help them cope with such adversities. In recent floods, National Disaster Management authority did not respond well due to lack of funds, equipment, machinery and will. The scope of this institution must be increased and other such like institutions must be developed.
Third, social development can be done by promoting peace, laws for prevention of labour and services sector. The intolerance and terrorism can be tackled through education and sectarian harmony. Moreover, in order to curb domestic violence, necessary political will is imperative to implement enacted laws. Gender discrimination can be curbed by bringing women to the forefront of economic development by targeting and upgrading the skills and education of women.
Fourth, the line of policy to reduce poverty and inequality should be focused on reducing the concentrated control of assets, unequal distribution of wealth and power. About 20% of the population controls more than 50% of the economy. This must be checked for the promotion of equality, social injustice and national unity.
Fifth, the level of education is gloomy in the country. In order to reduce poverty, level quality and scale of universal education must be enhanced. Kavin Rudd Said: “Education is both a tool of social justice as well as a fundamental driver of economy.” The level of education must be increased if any meaningful effort is to be made for poverty alleviation.
From the above discussion, it can be concluded that there are numerous reasons for widespread poverty in Pakistan. Poverty is not individual issue, not even provincial, but rather national. There is an urgent need to devise poverty alleviation strategies aiming at reducing poverty from every width and breadth of country. Until poverty is controlled by liberating citizens from the clutches of hunger and insecurity, the dream of progress and prosperity will remain a distant dream.