ONE of the daunting task for the countries in Asia and Africa is the reduction of poverty, which in spite of all the efforts of affected and vulnerable countries, continues to affect major portion of their population. In Pakistan, though the official data released indicates the Poverty level has gone down, but the same is being challenged by independent researchers and NGO. In Thar (Sindh) the people are dying due to poverty and lack of basic human necessities, like health care, clean water, food and power besides education facilities.
Although significant achievements have been made on many of the MDG targets worldwide, progress has been uneven across regions and countries, leaving significant gaps. Millions of people are being left behind, especially the poorest and those disadvantaged because of their sex, age, disability, ethnicity or geographic location. Targeted efforts will be needed to reach the most vulnerable people. Despite enormous progress, even today, about 800m people still live in extreme poverty and suffer from hunger. Over 160m children under age five have inadequate height for their age due to insufficient food. Currently, 57 million children of primary school age are not in school.
Almost half of global workers are still working in vulnerable conditions, rarely enjoying the benefits associated with decent work. About 16,000 children die each day before celebrating their fifth birthday, mostly from preventable causes. The maternal mortality ratio in the developing regions is 14 times higher than in the developed regions. Just half of pregnant women in the developing regions receive the recommended minimum of four antenatal care visits. Only an estimated 36 per cent of the 31.5 million people living with HIV in the developing regions were receiving ART in 2013. In 2015, one in three people (2.4 billion) still use inadequate and unhygienic sanitation facilities, including 946 million people who still practise open defecation. Today over 880 million people are estimated to be living in slum-like conditions in the developing world’s cities.
In the developing regions, children from the poorest 20 per cent of households are more than twice as likely to be stunted as those from the wealthiest 20 per cent. Children in the poorest households are four times as likely to be out of school as those in the richest households. Under-five mortality rates are almost twice as high for children in the poorest households as for children in the richest. In rural areas, only 56 per cent of births are attended by skilled health personnel, compared with 87 per cent in urban areas. About 16 per cent of the rural population do not use improved drinking water sources, compared to 4 per cent of the urban population. About 50 per cent of people living in rural areas lack improved sanitation facilities, compared to only 18 per cent of people in urban areas.
Women remain at a disadvantage in the labour market. Globally, about three quarters of working-age men participate in the labour force, compared to only half of working-age women. Women earn 24 per cent less than men globally. In 85 per cent of the 92 countries with data on unemployment rates by level of education for the years 2012–2013, women with advanced education have higher rates of unemployment than men with similar levels of education. Despite continuous progress, today the world still has far to go towards equal gender representation in private and public decision-making.
Large data gaps remain in several development areas. Poor data quality, lack of timely data and unavailability of disaggregated data on important dimensions are among the major challenges. As a result, many national and local governments continue to rely on outdated data or data of insufficient quality to make planning and decisions. A World Bank study shows that about half of the 155 countries lack adequate data to monitor poverty and, as a result, the poorest people in these countries often remain invisible. During the 10-year period between 2002 and 2011, as many as 57 countries had none or only one poverty rate estimate. In sub-Saharan Africa, where poverty is most severe, 61 per cent of countries have no adequate data to monitor poverty trends. In today’s rapidly changing world, real-time information is needed to prepare and respond to economic, political, natural and health crises. However, most development data have a time lag of two to three years. Recent innovations are helping to circumvent this problem.
Knowing where people and things are and their relationship to each other is essential for informed decision-making. Comprehensive location-based information is helping Governments to develop strategic priorities, make decisions and measure and monitor outcomes. Once the geospatial data are created, they can be used many times to support a multiplicity of applications. A geodetic reference frame allows precise observations and ‘positioning’ of anything on the Earth and can be used for many social, economic and environmental purposes, such as precision agriculture and monitoring changes in sea level rise.
Pakistan, which has been governed by civil and military regimes, since its independence (1949), could not develop a good political system. After its independence, the country saw an unstable democratic regime (1947–1958), with frequent governmental changes. During the first military regime (1958–1969), the high GDP growth, and foreign aid, only benefited the élite industrial society. During the democratic period (1972–1977), the government’s measures, including the nationalisation policies and restrictions on industrialists, created a considerable uncertainty, resulting in a fall in private investment and flight of capital. During the second military regime (1977–1988), again, the growth rate remained high, due to foreign aid and remittances, which fuelled the private and public consumption expenditures. Again the country saw a democratic era during the 1988–1999 period, with frequent changes in government, deteriorating law and order conditions and a poor economic situation. The military take-over, in 1999 continued till 2008.
Economic growth remained high during the 2003–2006 period during which the external factors played a major role in shaping the economic landscape of Pakistan. In addition to political instability, Pakistan has faced poor governance, natural disasters, conflicts and terrorism. These are serious impediments in the way of growth and poverty-reduction efforts. It is hoped the rulers will practically demonstrate their determination to tackle this hydra-headed issue, facing the country.
— The writer is Former Consultant, International Labour Organisation and International Organisation for Migration, Director (Emigration), Protector of Emigrants.