Pakistan’s social sector spending at lowest mark: UNDP

Mehtab Haider

Friday, March 29, 2013

The economy of Pakistan is though agrarian in nature, yet agriculture productivity has been on decline
The economy of Pakistan is though agrarian in nature, yet agriculture productivity has been on decline

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s social sector spending touched the lowest mark, which resulted in widening of inequality, Human Development Report 2013, launched by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on Thursday, revealed.

The report also said that the country’s politics is dominated by 100 families, which were represented in the recently dissolved national and provincial assemblies. Pakistan’s rank in Human Development Index (HDI) has already dropped to 146th position in 2013.

Titled “The Rise of South: Human Progress in Diverse World”, the report stated that women and people from poor and middle income categories hardly make their way into parliaments due to high cost of electioneering and socio-cultural constraints for women. According to the report, voters’ turnout in 2008 elections was a meager 44.1 percent against 87.4 percent in Bangladesh elections in the same year and 59.7 percent in India in 2009.

Beside other reasons, people’s lack of trust in the elections system to bring positive changes can be a factor in low voters’ turnout. However, the report noted local government system often provides opportunities of participation for poor and marginalised communities in the political process.

It further stated that income inequality in Pakistan increased from 0.27 to 0.29 (Gini-coefficient) during 2000-2010. However, disparities in terms of regions, social outcomes and access to productive assets are more pronounced than income inequality.

For example, net primary enrollment in Punjab is 61pc as compared to Balochistan’s 44pc and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s 52pc. Infant mortality rate in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is 76 per 1,000 as compared to Balochistan’s 104 and Punjab’s 82. It added in 2010 the average years of schooling for children in 20pc richest quintile of population were found to be 8.95 years against a mere 2.41 years for children of 20pc poorest quintile. Similarly, seven million children were out of school, of which 60pc were girls.

Pakistan has already seen societal conflicts and tension arising out of unequal distribution of and access to resources. These issues need to be addressed in a timely manner before they aggravate further, stated the report. Pakistan spends 0.8pc of GDP on health and 1.8pc on education as compared to Bangladesh and India’s 1.2pc on health and 2.2pc and 3.1pc on education, respectively. Brazil, one of the highest HD performing countries, spends 4.25pc of GDP on health and 5.7pc on education.

Pakistan’s expenditure on social sectors is lower than some of the poor African countries like Congo, which spends 1.2pc of GDP on health and 6.2pc on education.

At the same time, Pakistan needs to enhance the effectiveness of its expenditure by investing more on development (like teachers training, curriculum development, schools infrastructure) than spending (around 90pc) on salaries only.

The report acknowledges the Benazir Income Support Programme as one of the policy innovations that Pakistan has undertaken. Under the programme, Pakistan allocated Rs70 billion for 2012-13 to provide cash assistance to 5.5 million families, which constitute almost 18pc of the entire population. Thus, the programme aims at covering almost 40pc of the population below the poverty line.

The report identifies that lack of policies’ continuity remained one of the constraints to Pakistan’s long-term development.

Pakistan experienced one of the highest rates of industrialisation in 1960s. Pakistan’s five years planning tool was one of the most successful instruments, which was replicated by the Republic of South Korea.

While Korea has made tremendous achievements, Pakistan’s inconsistency in implementing long-term development policies has negatively impacted its pursuit for accelerated human development.

The economy of Pakistan is though agrarian in nature, yet agriculture productivity has been on decline – agriculture currently contributes less than 21pc to its GDP, noted the report.

With declining productivity, the potential for jobs creation in agriculture sector is on decline as well. Learning from the successful global experiences (like the Indonesia’s), Pakistan should either invest in improving productivity in agriculture sector or should shift the surplus labor to manufacturing, it advised.

However, this will need provision of appropriate skills to its people as has been done in a number of countries. The first generation of fast-growing Asian Economies – Hong Kong, China, Republic of Korea, Singapore and Taiwan – expanded employment 2-6pc a year before the 1990s, while raising productivity and wages.

Around 30pc of the population of Pakistan consists of youth. Unfortunately, a large portion (32pc) of youth are uneducated with no vocational and life skills. Resultantly, labor productivity is low.

Pakistan can therefore learn from different countries on how to enhance skills and productivity of its people. Similarly, Pakistan has to tap the regional market instead of looking to Europe and US only. The current official trade between Pakistan and India stands at a negligible $2 billion when compared to a combined market of around 1.5 billion people in the two countries.

While Pakistan, like many other developing countries, is one of the lowest contributors to green house gas emissions, it is confronted with the challenges of environmental degradations.

Estimates suggest that environmental degradation costs the country at least three percent of annual GDP, with disproportionate impact on the poor and most vulnerable. The country is vulnerable to natural disaster, stated the report. Source The NEWS

Published: Zarai Media Team

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