Below the line: Increasing poverty affecting 40% population, says report

Published: January 22, 2014

With 77 million food-insecure people, 40 per cent of population is below poverty line. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: 

Increasing poverty levels over the past decade are now affecting 40 per cent of Pakistan’s population. according to independent research studies.

With approximately 77 million food-insecure people, poverty is the most important challenge for the government.

At the second annual conference of the Pakistan Strategy Support Program (PSSP) held here Tuesday, researchers and economists from across the country joined international consultants to present the findings of some recently conducted surveys.

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While presenting trends in poverty, Edward Whitney from PSSP said that poverty rates had increased over the last decade, though rural poverty is persistently higher than urban poverty.

According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in 2011, Pakistan was among the 26 countries having alarming levels of hunger. IFPRI Visiting Senior Research Fellow Sohail Jehangir Malik gave a presentation on the consumer price index (CPI) and its implications on welfare, saying that increasing unemployment and rising prices were resulting in loss of welfare.

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Malik said the Food Price Index had been increasing at a substantially greater rate than the General Price Index since 2007-08. He said the recent work confirms that dramatically declining estimates of poverty are a direct result of use of CPI to calculate the poverty line.

“Nearly half the population of Pakistan was declared food insecure in 2008,” he said.

Malik said that wheat is central to food security in Pakistan but wheat prices have implications for the consumers. He informed that wheat accounts for over 55 per cent of the total caloric consumption and poor households spend 24 per cent of food expenditure on wheat.

Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal noted that poverty had gone from 34 per cent in 2007 to 40 per cent in 2012 and was adding to the already-substantial number of development challenges. Iqbal said to combat the menace, Pakistan must embrace a research and evidence-based policy and transform agriculture, enhance the rural economy and ensure food and water security. “We need science to make our food security and poverty reduction policies more efficient and sustainable,” he said.

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While current economic indicators seem to be disappointing policymakers, Iqbal said the government hopes to achieve an average agriculture growth of at least four per cent per annum in the next decade, evolve an equitable system of food procurement and distribution and improve access to affordable food for poor households.

“This is a huge task. It involves a paradigm shift towards pro-poor growth strategies that will change institutions and local power structures in favor of the poor by giving them greater access to productive assets such as land and livestock and facilities for acquired education and skills,” he said.

Speaking to the media after the session, Iqbal said bilateral economic relations between Pakistan and the US must not be linked to internal affairs. “Aid should not be linked to internal matters.” Both the countries must work on mutual conditions and respect the sovereignty of one another, he added.

“The United States is supporting vibrant and sustained research and development efforts in Pakistan. The US and Pakistan’s joint efforts in the field of agriculture and economic growth will contribute to a stronger, brighter future for Pakistan,” said USAID Mission Director Gregory Gottlieb.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2014.

Reader Comments (4)

  • Jan 22, 2014 - 2:52PM

    People tend to handle the social conundrum through one dimension of focusing their energies on Primary education but the problem is not only quality education but also the lack of opportunity after they complete education.

    We see the solution to this problem in a completely different way, instead of a top down or bottom up approach, a bridge should be built from the center. By educating and creating opportunities for children who have passed some primary education. The key audience for this hypothesis can be students who have passed metric but cannot afford higher education or are forced to work due to their current social or economic constraints.

    The principle of this hypothesis is based on Social Business Principle, where young people can work and learn at the same time, the project being self-sustaining and reinvesting later in other social issues such as primary education, health, financing, etc.

    It is based on the outsourcing and off-shoring model, where people can work online on projects (Such as data entry and data punching, graphic designing, software development [later stages] and earn a better living). Learning would commence in a college/university style environment.

    Though, there have been other such initiatives in the past, most of them are related to establishing a cottage industry, followed by micro-franchising. We’re planning not to setup a product industry, but a service industry, which primarily focuses on the important of technical education, such that it becomes a trend builder for future generations.

    This will not only create jobs but help the students economically which is a short term solution. In long term it will create a better quality of life for the whole group and this will pass on to their families, to which the society can look up to as being an advantage of being educated and Self Sufficient. This might stop the school dropout rate and the youth will continue their studies and be part of this group of individuals. It will create an example for all the other students to follow their lead and lead them to a path of better living and well being in the society.
    I call this project Being Ghalib Initiative i.e. ‘being predominant’.

    For more details visit: http://www.TheGhalibFoundation.com
    or http://www.facebook.com/BeingGhalib

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  • jamal
    Jan 22, 2014 - 6:38PM

    The solution is land reforms, to devolve land ownership to the last peasant. Apna ugao, apna khao is the way to go. Organic seeds in favour of corporate seeds.

    Urban areas breed poverty.

    People need to be moved out into rural areas and encouraged to work on small farms they would own.

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  • Silence DoGood
    Jan 22, 2014 - 8:36PM

    No matter what one’s income, unless they learn how to save they will end up right back where they started.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVat9VBsSCg

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  • Observer
    Feb 7, 2014 - 2:41AM

    @jamal:

    “The solution is land reforms, to devolve land ownership to the last peasant.”

    No, the real solution is to make Pakistan a true Islamic state ruled by sharia laws as Pakistan was originally intended to be.

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