Have we achieved our poverty MDGs?

Published: August 1, 2013

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There is good news from fields other than cricket in Pakistan. The country has achieved Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1 of halving the proportion of population below the calorie-based food and the non-food poverty line, well before the deadline of 2015. At least, that is what the latest Annual Plan 2013-14, published by the Planning Commission, wants us to believe.

In taking stock of the progress towards achieving the MDGs, the recent report by the secretary general of the United Nations does say that MDG 1 has been achieved at the global level. In the case of Pakistan, however, this is too good to be true. The benchmark poverty rate was 26.1 per cent in 1990-91, during the tenure of the first PML-N government. It was to be brought down to 13 per cent by 2014-15.

According to the Annual Plan 2013-14, however, the incompetent PPP regime succeeded in slashing 12.9 per cent in 2010-11, which is four years ahead of the target year. At this rate of progress, poverty should have been completely eradicated by now. Has it been? You have only to step out of your house and the ugly face of poverty, inequality and unemployment becomes immediately visible. Moreover, public perception and some individual research suggest that poverty has been on the rise.

The claim in a document released by the PML-N government had never been made by the outgoing PPP government, which, out of sheer embarrassment, stopped publishing official poverty numbers. Pakistan had not notified an official poverty line until 2001. In that year, an official poverty line, based on a caloric norm of 2,350 calories per adult per day — 2,150 for urban residents and 2,450 for rural residents — was adopted. A minimum of non-food requirements was added. The line approximated to Rs673.54 per month per adult, equal to what it was in 1998-99 and Rs748.56 in 2000-01.

To facilitate comparisons with existing measures, the Planning Commission estimated a series from 1986-87 to 2000-01 based on the Household Income and Expenditure Survey data. According to these estimates, national poverty declined between 1987-88 and 1993-94. In this period, rural poverty was lower than urban poverty. Since 1996-97, poverty began to rise again, with the difference being that rural poverty was now higher than urban poverty. The ratio of poverty in 2000-01 was estimated at 32.1 per cent.

This year was redesignated as 2001-02 with a higher poverty ratio of 34.5 per cent. A change of database had occurred at this time. Pakistan had started conducting its own Household Income and Expenditure Surveys — renamed later as Household Integrated Economic Survey (HIES) — since 1963. These surveys were carried out periodically until 1996-97. On the advice of the UK-based Department for International Development, the HIES was merged into the Pakistan Integrated Household Survey (PIHS) in 1998-99. The 2000-01 estimate of poverty was based on the PIHS. Later, as part of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper process supported by international financial institutions, the Pakistan Social and Living Standard Measurement (PSLSM) was launched, with HIES as a subset. The results of the first PSLSM in 2004-05 were used to estimate poverty, placing the ratio at a low level of 23.9 per cent. To provide a benchmark, the year 2001-02 was shown to have a higher poverty ratio of 34.5 per cent, implying a poverty reduction of 10.6 percentage points in such a short period. This number, as well as the survey, has become controversial. In 2004-05, the survey seems to have been manipulated to ensure a downward bias.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2013.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • RAW is WAR
    Aug 2, 2013 - 3:52AM

    nothing coming out of Pakistan seems to be authentic.


  • Sajida
    Aug 2, 2013 - 4:57AM

    With an exploding population how can poverty not be on the rise?
    Have we achieved our poverty MDGs?

    However maybe in urban areas there a reduction because of informal economy.

    ” They’re part of another economy that doesn’t pay taxes or heed regulations. It probably employs more than three quarters of the nation’s 54 million workers and is worth as much as 50 percent of Pakistan’s 18 trillion rupee ($200 billion) official gross domestic product. And while the documented economy had its smallest expansion in a decade at 2.4 percent in the year ended June 2011, soaring demand for cars, cement for houses, and other goods shows the underground market is thriving.”
    The Secret Strength of Pakistan’s Economy


  • Roni
    Aug 2, 2013 - 8:38AM

    Without making a single power plant in long era of Gen Mush and transferring army perks to civilian budget and other fake data Pakistan was doing very well. Now once again the same process has started. It is better not to issue wrong info than make us a laughing stock of the world. With the price of everything going up Naya Pakistan is doing very well. If you don’t believe me ask Lahore Throne.


  • Indian
    Aug 2, 2013 - 12:08PM

    @Raw is War: Sir the case of Indian MDG achievement claims is even more farcical – the ruling UPA coalition has recently announced, quite incredibly, that “from 2004-05 to 2011-12 poverty fell by 2.24% annually as against 0.74% in the preceding NDA regime”, that is, “In absolute numbers the number of poor fell by 138 million during these seven years, an Indian and even a world record” that has led to “many UPA spokespersons joining ranks with the opposition, decrying the existing poverty line as a cruel joke on the poor”

    These quotes are from a recent article in Times of India All India print edition.

    There may be doubts about Pakistan’s MDG achievements being cooked – but there is absolutely no doubt that India’s corresponding data is a blatant lie of gigantic proportions. We will all do well to get out of our school-boyish jingoism and face the harsh reality that ‘the India story’ is a fairy tale.


  • indi
    Aug 3, 2013 - 7:45PM

    @Indian: acc to WB india shall meet almost all of its mdg targets by 2015 pakistan none…. so frnd our neighbour is hopelessly hopeless :)


  • optimist
    Aug 4, 2013 - 12:40PM

    Pakistan has a big informal economy. So the poverty mentioned in papers may not be reality.
    Even the widows in Pakistan come up with 60 – 70 Lakh Rupees cash when buying a house. The same widow doesn’t even have a bank account.
    We need to formalise that part of economy. What we are on papers (hopeless) doesn’t reflect the ground reality (my family works in property market and I have seen it all since childhood – btw even my family members are not registered tax payers – everything is registered in the name of other relatives and minors. So even they are poor despite driving good cars and living in big houses registered under some ‘poor’ relatives name).


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