Development scorecard: ‘There has been minimal citizen’s empowerment’

Published: September 15, 2012

Khadija Haq, the MHHDC president, was presenting the report titled "Governance for People’s Empowerment" at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

LAHORE: 

Despite positive changes to government structures in Pakistan, including the 18th amendment and the 7th NFC Award, the implementation of policies to empower people has been minimal, Khadija Haq says.

Haq, is the principal author of the Mahbubul Haq Human Development in South Asia report titled Governance for People’s Empowerment, which was released on Friday. It is the 15th report released by the Mahbubul Haq Human Development Centre (MHHDC) since its inception in 1996.

Haq, the MHHDC president, was presenting the reports findings about Pakistan at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

She said the media has come out as a strong institution over the last decade.

She said that social protection programmes had also shown improvement. She said the decision to make education a fundamental right for children in the 5 to 16 age group was good news. However, she also pointed out the lack of implementation mechanisms.

Haq said the country had well-endowed educational and health institutions in the private sector, but not in the public sector. A lack of economic opportunities has disempowered people. “There have been no official poverty estimates since 2005-2006,” she said. Using Poverty of Opportunity Index (POI), the report estimates that poverty in the country stands at 29 per cent.

She said while the superior courts were playing an active role, lower courts were unable to dispense justice effectively. As many as 1.2 million cases were pending in the lower courts in 2010. There were only 2, 000 judges to dispense justice to a population of about 175 million. “The solution exists in the policy,” said Haq, “the great challenge is its implementation.”

The report, focused on Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, measures the performance of various government institutions for the welfare of their people. It has assessed the functioning of the parliament, the electoral process, the role of the media, the judiciary and civil society. It says economic instability, gender inequality and a lack of flexibility in governance structures were the reasons that resulted in poor people’s empowerment.

There are 400 million illiterate adults in the region, including 250 million women. Over 160 million people lack access to drinking water and one billion access to improved sanitation services. There has been an increase in women’s participation, civil society engagement and advocacy in the region.

“29.2 percent of the population of Pakistan suffers from multiple deprivations compared to 7.8 per cent in Sri Lanka, 27.8 per cent in India and 35.2 per cent in Bangladesh,” said Haq.

Shahid Hafeez Kardar, a former State Bank of Pakistan governor, said, “Pakistan has three times the ministries compared to the US.” He said government institutions are overstaffed. He also said the effectiveness of official audit institutions was limited. He said the number of taxpayers in Pakistan was very low. He said institutional reforms were required to address the energy shortfall and of institutions, like Pakistan International Airlines and the Pakistan Railways.

Dr Nagesh Kumar, the chief economist at the United Nations Economic and Scoial Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said India had shown slight improvements in poverty reduction, infant mortality and spread of education and health facilities.

M Syeduzzaman, a former finance minister of Bangladesh, said, “Good governance is a pre-condition for good economic management.” He said Bangladesh was doing well to ensure gender parity at the primary and secondary education level but corruption was rampant.

Syed Babar Ali, the LUMS pro-chancellor, urged the region’s leaders to take corrective steps in light of the report.

Dr Adil Najam, the LUMS vice chancellor, said the report argued for humane governance on the premise that the cost of bad governance was borne by the “weakest and the poorest in the system.” Speaking about Tuesday’s fires in Lahore and Karachi, Dr Najam said it was a failure of economic, civil and political governance due to the disregard of laws and caring for the welfare of people.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2012.

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