Curbing inflation, poverty

Experts, rights activists, economists suggest greater investment in agro-based industries, consistency in policies.


Express November 11, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Development experts, rights activists and economists at a discussion on Wednesday called for increased investment in agro-based industries and consistency in policies to tide over high inflation and poverty.

They attributed the alarming rise in suicide incidents and other social ills to high inflation and uneven distribution of resources.

The discussion on the impact of inflation on people was organised by the Women Action Forum (WAF) at the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) office.

Noted writer, poet and independent development expert Harris Khalique, agriculture economist Dr Mohammad Azeem and Head of Trade Policy, ActionAid Aftab Alam were among the participants of the discussion.

They said poor management of the economy and lack of value addition in production were exacerbating inflation in the country.

“Considering the current level of inflation, government should stop exporting food items and use its resources at the maximum level for the betterment of people. Our resources are being wasted due to faulty policies,” they said.

Flood survivors are dying due to hunger and the government is busy in purchasing F-16s, they lamented.

Speaking on the occasion, Harris Khalique, adviser to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) held global commodity pricing, surge in oil prices, deregulation and liberalisation of economy, population explosion and poor agricultural growth responsible for high inflation and poverty.

“For the past 15 years there has been no growth in agriculture in our country,” he said.

Khalique also said that a large number of youth was unemployed and if inflation continued in the same pattern, they would be compelled to indulge in social ills. “There is no second opinion about the fact that unemployment coupled with skyrocketing inflation breeds crime,” he said.

The social activists added that 50 per cent of children in the country were not enrolled in schools.

Highlighting the government’s management of flood, Aftab Alam said that it was not focusing on the ‘right areas’ for rehabilitation of the affected people.  “There are many people living in camps who did not have the money to go back to their homes. Children are being abused and women are being trafficked to other areas,” he said while explaining the lack of security and mismanagement at the relief camps.

Stressing the need for better planning for the agriculture sector, he said that the government was distributing wheat among producers who actually needed oilseeds or other crops. Similarly, every province has its own needs and demands as far as agriculture was concerned. These should be catered to accordingly, he maintained.

According to Alam, government needed to come up with a long-term livelihood programme for the growers, rehabilitating irrigation system, redistributing livestock and poultry and empowering women. “Proper water management and price control mechanism should also be introduced and more importantly monitored,” he stressed.

Mohammad Azeem said the current inflation had given rise to malnutrition and food insecurity in the country.  “There is no concept of nutritional poverty in the country,” he added.

The subsidy on wheat is not at all benefiting the producers or the consumers but the middle man.

He said currently the people of Pakistan are facing iron, protein and calcium deficiency as “they cannot afford to purchase food rich in these nutrients.”

He said about 24-25 per cent people in the country had iron deficiency, 11-14 per cent were calcium deficient and about 85 per cent were lacking in Vitamin-A.

He further said social security net programs are of no use in the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th, 2010.

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