Exploitation and violence against the poor, deprivation of women, bonded labour in its various forms, the misery of life in urban slums, and people driven away from rural areas in desperation are well-known manifestations of poverty.
But for Dr Asghar Sheikh Nasir, former United Nations Development Programme country director, the present-day discourse hardly has anything to offer to rid the world of this menace.
On Friday, Dr Nasir was speaking at the launch of his book, titled ‘The Phenomenon of Poverty and Bad Governance’, held at Karachi Gymkhana. Former chief justice of Pakistan, Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui, was presiding over the ceremony with Justice (retd) Haziqul Khairi and former ambassador Shahid Amin were among other guests.
The author of nine books claimed to present a new approach to understand the seemingly irresolvable dilemmas that individuals and communities are facing today. “There is a dire need to redefine the methodologies of reducing poverty all around the world,” said Dr Nasir, adding that the leaders of the developing countries should now understand that false ideologies must be set aside.
For Dr Nasir, the so-called Third World remains miserable. “Over the past 50 years, the rich nations have given over one trillion US dollars in aid to poor counters,” he pointed out. “The amount should have boosted the growth rates and helped millions to escape poverty. Yet, one has failed to find the link between aid and fast economic growth.”
He explained that the poor countries that received a lot of aid did no better than those that received a little. “Subjugating millions of people will not work anymore in an era that has started with the promise of emancipating mankind,” he said. “Fake promises and false ideologies will land up into the dustbin of history.”
To what extent are decision-making approaches in developing countries useful in reducing poverty? Dr Nasir finds the answer in the negative with the unavailability of honest policy-makers, who lack the capacity to project their plans in an unpredictable future.
For the author, the authoritarian governments, which have no respect for the rule of law, are common occurrences in the so-called Third World. “Such governments are detrimental to the aims of development and poverty alleviation.”
He pointed out that the amount of information that the decision-making demands is usually unattainable in the developing countries. “[The available information] might not only be inadequate but also could be unquantifiable,” asserted Dr Nasir. “As a result, a degree of risk and uncertainty becomes inherent in the policy-making process, leading to miscalculations and misguided diagnosis.”
Sharing his views about the book, Justice Siddqui said that the author lists the factor of bad governance as one of the major causes for failure of governments in the least-developed and developing countries of the world. “To deal with this growing menace, he suggests revamping the existing criminal justice system to adequately punish those involved in tampering the process of poverty alleviation,” he said.
For Justice Siddiqui, the author identifies two major groups hit by poverty. One group is engaged in the agriculture sector and the other falls in business-related groups. There are different factors behind poverty in these groups, such as the lack of sustainable economic growth, the absence of a trickledown effect of whatever economic growth is taking place and misplaced priorities when formulating economic policies.
Published by the Royal Book Company, the book is divided into seven chapters and is available at the price of Rs500.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2014.