Every third Pakistani is living below the poverty line
Poverty alleviation was one of the key objectives of the economic agenda of the PML (N) government and microfinance is the most effective instruments of poverty reduction.
As per World Bank estimates, around 25 million people live in extreme poverty in Pakistan and the adverse impacts of global financial, food, and fuel crises posed multiple challenges to Pakistan’s rapidly evolving social protection sector. The militancy crisis exacerbated the situation by exposing an even larger number of Pakistan’s vulnerable population to the risk of falling into abject poverty.
Experts believe that poverty cannot be described it can only be felt. One knows more about poverty when he is hungry and cannot purchase food, he and his children want new clothes but they can’t purchase it because of low income, he’s sick and doesn’t have money to have medicine, he wants to send his children to school but can’t bear educational expenditures.
The World Development Reports define poverty as “pronounced deprivation in well being”. Poverty can be measured by following three methods, i.e. Head Count Ratio, Basic Needs Approach and Poverty of Opportunity.
Poverty has many dimensions in Pakistan. People have not only low incomes but they also are suffering from lack of access over basic needs. The major challenge of today is poverty reduction. In Pakistan, Poverty Reduction Strategy was launched by the government in 2001 in response to the rising trend in poverty during 1990s. It consisted of the following five elements:
(1) Accelerating economic growth and maintaining macroeconomic stability.
(2) Investing in human capital.
(3) Augmenting targeted interventions.
(4) Expanding social safety nets.
(5) Improving governance.
Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)’s study on poverty shows that every third Pakistani is living below the poverty line. This is very shocking revelation for all of us. About 58.7 million out of 180 million Pakistanis are living below the poverty line. This below the poverty line population is living 52 percent in Balochistan, 33 percent in Sindh, 32 percent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 19 percent in Punjab. This provincial wise detail shows that Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are facing brunt of poverty and mostly in rural remote areas of their provinces. Punjab’s poverty is less but still alarming. Poverty requires deliberate measures and paradigm shift to invest on human development.
Experts said that the government needs to initiate more funds for the youth and unemployed through income support program. Conversely, lack of access to finance is a major source of locking people into poverty. “Vast majority of our people have no access to formal sector of any kind let alone finance.”
On the other hand, the process of development in Punjab has been somewhat skewed in its impact across the regions. Less developed regions of Punjab comprising barani tracts, sandy deserts of Cholistan, Tribal areas of D. G. Khan and Rajanpur and 11 districts of Southern Punjab have not kept pace with the rest of the province in terms of development and economic progress. With scanty rainfall, these ecological zones face the challenges of acute shortage of water, mostly small land holdings and primitive agriculture techniques. Government assigns high priority to the removal of regional disparities in the province. This objective is being achieved through direct investment in less developed areas to enhance rural household incomes and employment opportunities, improving infrastructure and providing financial support to enhance production and skill development of the target groups through participatory approach.
DFID assisted “Punjab Economic Opportunities Program (PEOP) initiated in 2010-11 in districts of Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Lodhran and Muzaffargarh has now been extended to 10 more districts i.e. Lahore, Sheikhupura, Faisalabad, Chiniot, Sargodha, Gujranwala, Narowal, Vehari, Khenewal and R.Y. Khan. Under this program, 54,057 youth including 21,123 female trainees have been provided skills training.
International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) has joined the efforts of Government of the Punjab for maintaining the regional balance and poverty alleviation by launching a project “Southern Punjab Poverty Alleviation Project” (SPPAP) in 2011-12 in the districts of Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Rajanpur and Muzaffargarh having a total cost of Rs4,126 million. During the current FY around 10,000 families have been provided assets creation package in the shape of provision of Livestock animals, land to landless widows and clean drinking facilities to masses. In the next financial year 40,000 beneficiaries will be provided support to enhance their incomes.
Sources claimed that Integrated Cholistan Development Program at the cost of Rs2,348 million will create a visible impact and improvement in the living quality of people of Cholistan. The package includes construction and rehabilitation of roads and water supply schemes and desiltation of Tobas in Cholistan.
Keeping these facts in view, the sector has been provided with an allocation of Rs7,150 million during 2014-15.
Agriculture and livestock sectors have a paramount role in ensuring food security for whole population of the province. In fact Punjab is also expected to contribute to food security of the whole country. Agriculture and livestock have immense economic potential as these provide food and fiber besides being major source of foreign exchange. Livestock is a newly emerging economic sector with high potential in terms of economic returns. Livestock contribution to agriculture value added stood at 55.9 percent while it contributes 11.8 percent to the national GDP during 2013-14.
In the context of global food crisis of 2008, major focus in agriculture & livestock is on meeting the challenges of food security and increase the growth rate for employment generation and poverty reduction in the rural areas. Hence, self-reliance, food security and promotion of exportable high value crops, milk and meat productivity enhancement accompanied with improved marketing are the key areas of emphasis.
New initiatives in Punjab for 2014-15 include: Introduction and Adaptation of Advanced Technologies through Local Development to Mechanize Various Farm Operations; Management of Fruit Fly with Special Reference to Non-conventional Methods; Targeting Malnutrition and Low Productivity through Balanced Use of Fertilizer; Development of Castor bean varieties and Sunflower Hybrids to Enhance Oilseeds Production; Establishment of Punjab Bio-Energy Institute (PBI) at UAF; Establishment of Export Oriented Floriculture Centre at Pattoki; Livestock & Access to Market Project (IFAD assisted); Establishment of University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences at Bahawalpur; Enhancing Dairy Production through Exotic Semen; Up-scaling Research Centre for Conservation of Sahiwal Cattle (RCCSC) Genetic Improvement Program at Jhang; Establishment of Model Veterinary Hospital at One Tehsil of each Division in Punjab and Provision of Rural Poultry Breeds through Augmenting R&D.