As many as 45.7% of the entire population is living under the poverty line, according to a door-to-door survey carried out by Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). The results sharply negate the outcome of another official survey which calculated incidence of poverty at 12%.
BISP Chairperson Farzana Raja told the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance that 80 million people live below the poverty line. The survey did not include Federally Administrated Tribal Areas where it was delayed because of the security situation.
The door-to-door poverty survey was launched for identifying the lowest income segment in order to provide Rs1,000 monthly grant to needy people. The country’s total population is 175.3 million, according to the National Accounts Committee.
The survey results were based on a comprehensive questionnaire and the answers have been securitised in a computer to avoid human errors, said Farzana Raja.
The results of the BISP survey negate the outcome of Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement (PSLM) Survey 2010-11. According to the results of the basis of PSLM survey which was a committee constituted by Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Dr Nadeemul Haque, the incidence of poverty has declined from 17.2% in 2008 to slightly over 12% in 2011. In 2010-11, the estimated population was 175.3 million and around 21.5 million people were living in abject poverty.
The government is reluctant to officially announce the PSLM survey based results. Experts argue that a drop in poverty is impossible when there is an average job growth of 2.6% in the last four years against the requirement of 8% and inflation has stayed in double-digits for the fifth consecutive year.
The government’s expenditures exceeding its incomes became the biggest reason for double-digit inflation in the country,” conceded Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh in the committee meeting. He said the government’s other big failure was decreasing investment. Out of every Rs100 income, the country invests only Rs12.5 – the lowest ratio in history, according to the Annual Plan Coordination Committee report.
Farzana Raja said that BISP data almost matched the PSLM data.
BISP is currently providing Rs1,000 monthly cash grant to 40 million people or 23% of the total population. IF the grant was being provided using the Planning Commission’s methodology 18.5 million people would have been deprived of the BISP.
He added that out of 80 million total poor in the country, 64 million or 36.5% of the population lives in chronic poverty.
She proposed the BISP can sit with Planning Commission and Pakistan Bureau of Statistics to share its findings.
She said the BISP needs Rs106 billion next year just to feed 40 million people, currently covered in the programme. However, the finance ministry has budgeted Rs60 billion, which is only 56.6% of the demand. Farzana Raja said that the US would soon provide $75 million under Kerry Lugar Act for the BISP.
The federal government has provided Rs126 billion to the BISP in the past four years while an amount of Rs26 billion was given by the foreign lenders, said Finance Secretary Wajid Rana.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2012.