Poverty in Pakistan Causes, Consequences and Remedies:
Pakistan is plagued by many social and economic problems since its inception. But one problem that beset it is poverty. Poverty is the inability of people to acquire minimum of set living standard of food, clothing and shelter. As of 2007/08, 17.3% of of the total population lived below the poverty line, earning less than $ 1/day. Pakistan’s Human Development Index (2009)(HDI) was 0.572, much less than accepted standard. 60.3% of Pakistan’s population earned less than $2 a day. According to recent document (Dec 2016) submitted by Ministry of Planning and Development in the National Assembly of Pakistan, about 29.5% Pakistani lived below the poverty line which translates into 55 Million people. This reflects the dilemma of a pathetic situation prevailing in Pakistan.
Unemployment rate has risen to 5.8% which means that 5.3 Million people are unemployed. This is mainly due the fact that young people lack technical and formal education and cannot be employed in any work other than being labourer. The low rate of literacy in Pakistan is due to high cost of education. Very few people reach college level studies and still fewer study at universities. As a result, people get trapped into a vicious cycle of poverty.
Poverty is the imminent result of a number of factors. The major factors are bad governance and corruption. Other than that, population explosion and cultural values also play their respective role in worsening the situation.
Since its birth, Pakistan economy had been in quagmire. For any sovereign state its economy is vital for maintaining its sovereignty and dignity. Unfortunately, Pakistan has failed to establish a sound economic system. There exists a huge disparity in wealth distribution in Pakistan and the level of inequality has invariably risen with time.
The main reason for wealth disparity is unequal land distribution. Feudals possess thousands of acres of land. Roughly 2% of population comprising Jagirdars, Zamindars, Waderas, Maliks, Sardars, Nowabzadas etc own 45% of total land of Pakistan. Landlords do not labour on their land, rather they exploit peasants or tenants. The system, is parasitical in its very root. The peasant or the farmer does not earn enough to provide a decent living to his family.
The landlords by virtue of their ownership of such vast swathes of land and human resources have absolute authority over the lives of their peasants and workers. This power multiplies when these landlords enter the Government through parliament or civil services. As a result, people suffer at their hands tremendously without uttering even a word against them.
Pakistan has an unemployment rate of 15.4 % and ranks at 152/199 on the world unemployment table. Having one of the world’s largest population, this rate is substantial in its own right.
The deteriorating security situation and rising insurgency in Pakistan has evaporated the foreign as well as local investment. Investment creates jobs. Investment is the flow of resources in manufacturing and services industry which creates employment and benefit people. But increasing militancy has reduced these investments.
Pakistan has the potential to generate more than 5 trillion rupees in tax from industry, household and other areas. Ruefully, it generates 1.5 trillion rupees. This large gap between potential and collection is failure of the government. Though the tax to GDP ratio has risen to 10.5% according to official claims, still it is extremely on a low side. Neither departments responsible for tax collection demonstrate any eagerness nor people fulfill moral duty to pay it. This criminal negligence on behalf of government functionaries have undermined the economic stability of the country.
The economic factors are not the only cause pushing people into poverty. The demographic and cultural factors also join hands to crush the already exhausted people. The population of Pakistan has been increasing at an alarming rate. Pakistan observes a population growth rate of 2.3 % which have disastrous consequences. The increased population has put a strain on social and economic spheres of life. Limited resources and fragile economy cannot afford such a large population.
The rate of literacy in Pakistan is quite low. Very few people reach college level studies and still fewer study at universities. Illiterate person cannot find respectable job sufficient to meet basic needs. As a result, people get trapped into a vicious cycle of poverty.
In Pakistan, intellectuals do not find appropriate opportunities and are forced to migrate to developed countries for better chances. This is a huge loss for any nation. Countries like U.S.A, U.K, Canada, Saudi Arabia are best options for people who complete their studies and immediately opt to immigrate abroad.
In many cultures, few jobs and works are prohibited. For example, there are people who think females should not study. There are people who complete their studies in management or business but avoid job in a multi-nationals or banks due to their beliefs. Such cultural values stop people from alleviating their poverty and hunger.
Deteriorating security situation due to worsening law and order situation diverted developmental budget towards meeting security apparatus. As a result, the money which could have become the bread of poor instead was used to purchase the bullet for the military, leaving the poor in further frustration and apathy.
The countries which avoid corruption have low level of poverty. In Pakistan, corruption is so deep rooted that people have surrendered to its existence and power. Every institution is plagued by corruption, however, with different level and intensity. According to transparency international, an estimated amount of 1500 billion goes into the pockets of corrupt people every year. With this alarming level of corruption, it is difficult to have a meaningful approach for addressing the menace of poverty.
Political stability is lifeline of a country. A politically disturbed country can never be prosperous. Political stability ensures attractive environment for foreign investment. Regretfully, Pakistan has never achieved this state in its 70 years of life. Rapid military coups and lack of political unity has undermined the political environment of the country, empowering military at the altar of civilian institutions. This trend witnessed rapid changing of policies by successive governments, resulting in failure to bottle the giant of poverty.
Agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan economy. It accounts 25% of GDP and employs 45% of total labour force of the country. However, the large scale ownership of land by feudals; poor management of the resources such as water, seed acid fertilizers, and illiteracy of the peasant have diminished the capacity of this sector to reduce poverty in rural as well as urban areas. The per acre production is lowest in Pakistan. The outdated methods of farming is a major cause of low productivity, which in turns result in low income for farmers.
It may be observed that factors which are not in control of human beings also play an important role in defining the levels of poverty and other social problem. Climate change and natural catastrophes are one of them. Disaster management plans can be implemented but its overall negative cannot be eradicated.
The global climate is gradually changing. Pakistan is one of the worst hit country by climate change. It has affected the living styles and progressions of people. The industry and agriculture are the major fields which are being affected by this change. The temperature and moisture patterns have changed, affecting the crop productions. The people associated with agriculture received low yields which gave them revenue even less than their expenditure.
The natural catastrophes like earthquakes and floods destroy everything which comes in their way i.e., road networks, crops, industries, buildings, livestock etc. The areas which are hit by these calamities witness total destruction and people are left with nothing. The 2005 earthquake and floods of 2010 were an example of natural disasters, leaving many dead and majority alive, but empty handed, without their holdings.
Poverty is a curse. Poverty corrupts the faith and ideas of an individual. One cannot expect good deeds from a starved and hungry person. One cannot be Edhi or Mother Teresa with an empty trunk and crying children. Poverty gives the strength of doing illegal, immoral things. The things which create poverty are the outcomes of poverty.
Corruption is an outcome of poverty. People opt for illegal means for fulfilling their basic needs. They take bribe; embezzle money to fill the gap between their expenditures and revenue.
The crime rate in a poor society is higher than a prosperous society. Theft, dacoity, Gambling, drug addiction, human trafficking, smuggling, murder, extortion and other crimes are significantly higher in societies which do not afford proper living to all its members. In frustration and anger, and sometimes in need people do not hesitate from committing any kind of crime.
The poor cannot afford education. The ruling elite has come to term with the idea that child of poor is not born to acquire education and to contribute in national development. A poor man’s children go to workshop instead of school. They work in the fields instead of laboratories. They work abroad and give their lives for few dollars instead of staying in their own country and earn respectfully. They think education cannot serve them but work can. A great dilemma not only for those who are devoid of education but for the country itself.
The brain drain of talented people to develop and rich countries, lack of educated and skilled persons in the required spheres and departments, along with corruption deteriorates the economy of the country. There arises a dearth of committed and patriotic managers who can run the economic institutions and affairs of the county. The weakness of research and development further mars the shrinking economy.
The fragile and immature economy has far-reaching effects. Those times have gone when wars were fought in fields. This is the era of economic and diplomatic warfare. The weaker the people, weaker is the economy and weaker is the defence of a country. Weak economy cannot dare to shout for integrity, dignity and sovereignty. With a begging bowl in one hand, gun cannot be aimed at developed and economically established adversary with the other hand.
Poverty can be controlled by few strict and stringent measures. The menace of corruption has to be controlled so that available resources do not go down the drain but are available for building opportunities. Strong anti-corruption laws should be formulated and implemented with full zeal and zest. Judiciary and anti-corruption departments must not be influenced by bureaucracy, politicians, military or anyone. The justice must be done and justice must prevail to curb corruption.
The literacy rate must be improved to make people skillful and capable of earning a decent livelihood for oneself. The cultural and family norms must not create hurdles in the way of education. Research based education must be encouraged because it not only in demand but gives good reward in the form of pay and privileges.
Gender disparity of wealth must be eliminated. Both genders must have equal access to work. Females should work side by side with men. Women confined within four walls cannot alleviate poverty. She must come out and serve the society and country.
Brain drain must be reduced and maximum intellects must be assimilated for prosperity and development of the country. Brain can be exported in the form of latest research and innovations and invasions ideas to earn much needed foreign exchange for the poverty-stricken country.
National cohesion must be promoted. National cohesion and unity unveils number of opportunities to curb poverty, unemployment and other social evils which have been undermining our beloved country.
The national economy must be rejuvenated on emergency basis. Non-development funds must be reduced, exports must excel the imports. A simple national lifestyle without ostentation be encouraged and promoted and all show of pomp and glory be discouraged. Political leaders and bureaucratic elite must lead the way in this regard to have any meaningful change. The foreign investment must be sought by promoting business friendly environment. Investors must be given special incentives to invest in Pakistan. Corruption and terrorism are the biggest hurdles in the way of foreign investment. These hurdles must be addressed with iron hands. Overseas Pakistani community must be encouraged to invest in Pakistan for Pakistanis.
Good governance must be ensured. Culture of participation of stakeholders, transparency and accountability must ensue.
There is need to introduce reforms in agriculture and industry. Agricultural productivity and cultivable area must be increased. Sustainable use of water, seed, and fertilizer must be ensured. Land should be fairly distributed to people for cultivation. They should be provided with free seed and fertilizer and must be charged after reaping of crop. Small and Medium enterprises (SMEs) are backbone of any economy and pivotal to every program aimed at poverty alleviation. Small scale dairies and poultry industry must be established to employ more and more people and generating revenue by exporting these products. Fisheries and forest industry must be supervised. Bee and silk industry can provide employment as well revenue.
Pakistan owns rich mineral resources. The need of time is to exploit them to their full potential to reduce unemployment, poverty and to promote national prosperity.
Political stability is very important for the eradication of menace of poverty. Politicians must have the courage, wisdom and understanding to revamp the weak democratic system and to fight dictatorship.
Pakistan is not a poor country but it is being managed poorly. In the last six decades, we have failed to realize the hopes and aspirations of the people and to secure a respectable living worthy of our potential and promise among the comity of nations. It is a fact that Pakistan is facing numerous problems, the solution of which are indispensable for the sovereignty and survival of our beloved land. Its never too late. Still we have time and resources to make Pakistan one of the most respectable and prestigious country of the world. Unless, we do not give a decent living to our citizens by freeing them from shackles of poverty, we would not be able to attain our rightful status in this globalising world.