The United Nations Development Programme recently issued its flagship publication, the Human Development Report 2013. Pakistan has been grouped in the Low Human Development category, ranking 146 out of 186 countries — the position shared by Bangladesh and outshined by most of the other Saarc countries. The country registered zero growth on the Human Development Index compared with last year and relegated by only one rung between 2007 and 2012. Pakistan’s performance on key indicators merits serious introspection.
In the maternal mortality ratio category, Pakistan depicts a dismal picture as the number of dying mothers, 260 per 100,000 live births, is highest in the region, except for Afghanistan which has 460 deaths per 100,000 live births. Sri Lanka has the lowest number — 35.
For infant mortality rate, the country ranks the highest in the region. Out of every 1,000 live births, 70 infants die. Even the Congo has a lower number of such deaths — 61. Other Saarc countries have better records.
With regard to female populations with secondary education, Pakistan has only 18.3 per cent of women at or above 25 years of age with a secondary education. This is far better than Afghanistan’s 5.8 per cent but considerably behind India (26.6) and Sri Lanka (72.6).
In female labour force participation, all countries — except Nepal — have better female participation than Pakistan, with it being a mere 22.7 per cent. Bhutan has an impressive 65.8 per cent.
Regarding the percentage of population in severe poverty, this makes up 27.4 per cent of Pakistan’s population; slightly better than India with 28.6 per cent, yet far higher than Nepal’s 20.8, Bangladesh’s 8.5, Bhutan’s 5.8 and the Maldives’ only 0.3 per cent. Severe poverty has cascading implications that impair performance on other human development indicators.
With regard to social sector spending, Pakistan has a stingy spending record on health and education, which corroborates its lack of political will to improve human development indicators. Both key pillars of human development receive crumbs of the budget allocations. Pakistan spends only 0.6 per cent of GDP on health, which is even dwarfed by highly unstable Afghanistan with 3.9 per cent. Bhutan spends the highest on health in the region — 5.3 per cent. Even the Congo spends twice as much on health — 1.2 per cent. Ethiopia (2.3), Yemen (1.4), Rwanda (1.7), Sudan (2.8) and Nigeria (1.6) deride our image in the international community. Likewise, Pakistan spends only 2.4 per cent of its GDP on education, which is significantly lower than 5.8 per cent of Bhutan and 4.7 per cent of Nepal. The Congo appends 6.2 per cent on this account.
In the category of military spending, Pakistan has the highest in the region after Sri Lanka, 2.8 and three per cent of GDP, respectively. Juxtaposing military spending with the social sector speaks volumes about Pakistan’s misplaced priorities, which leave a large part of society ill and illiterate.
Finally, allotment of seat for women in parliament (per hundred seats) is the only indicator that assuages the country’s sheepish rankings. Pakistan has the second highest percentage of female parliament members in the region (19.7 per cent) and is followed by Afghanistan with 22.7 per cent. Proudly, it is much higher than India’s 10.9 per cent.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2013.