Philanthropy in many forms runs through the arteries of our society. It sustains people in peril, with food donated by bakeries, by businesses and individuals. Food donated outside the gates of the rich – a sight that will be seen more often during the approaching month of Ramazan – may be intended to appease consciences, but it also meets a very real need.
One question we may need to ask ourselves as times become harder is whether it is possible to organise philanthropic giving to bring maximum benefit to the largest possible number. It is true only the impoverished will benefit. Despite the difficulties in stretching static salaries to meet expanding bills the rising costs of food and other essential items, few who wear white collars would be willing to accept charity. But the potential of philanthropy in a society in which one-third of people live in poverty and are food insecure, according to reports put out this year by the UN’s World Food Programme, is immense. The question has been discussed within humanitarian organisations and others that run poverty alleviation programmes. The time has come to move these discussions off the drawing board and onto the ground.
If we are to address our most acute problems, we need innovative thinking. The government has shown little ability to come up with answers. Its agreements with international bodies and the inadequacies of past governments handicap it as does the narrowness of its own vision. We need to put in practice schemes that go beyond the ordinary and that do not necessarily depend solely on the government. The desperation of the situation calls for urgent action. The ‘sasti roti’ scheme in the Punjab is inadequate as is the Benazir Income Support Programme. We must look at other means to offer relief before things take a turn for the worse.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2010.