Chief Editor: Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

Poverty alleviation – why are we Failingby Ms. Sabahat Ali


There is no standard definition of who is poor and who is not, although we look at the living conditions of the people to get an idea of their situation. Typically, it is when someone experiences a fundamental deprivation in wellbeing. Poverty is a multi-faceted phenomenon manifesting itself in a vicious circle; low saving and investment results in low income, poor education, lack of health facilities, unequal distribution of wealth and poor infra-structure. The goal for human development is to increase human capabilities and the level of choices. This will results in a benign and better environment in which humans are given sovereignty and respect. 

The vicious cycle of Poverty is a phenomenon often used by economic scientists. It simply means poverty begets poverty. It is a concept that illustrates how poverty causes poverty and traps people in poverty unless an external intervention is applied to break the cycle.

Poverty can be Absolute involving the chronic lack of basic requirements like food, clean water, health and housing; or it can be Relative when it is in relation to othert members and families in the society; or Situational when it occurs due to some adversities like natural calamities or diseases; or it can be Generational when it is handed over to individuals and families from generations before them.

Poverty alleviation involves the strategic use of tools such as education, economic development, health and income redistribution to improve the livelihoods of the worlds poorest by governments and internationally approved organizations.  Poverty cannot be completely eradicated due to human factors. Alot of Poverty Alleviation Programs  have been designed over the past few years to break the cycle of poverty. The results have been encouraging but there is still alot to be done. They also aim at removing social and legal barriers to income growth. Quality education empowers people to take advantage of opportunities around them and helps impart knowledge, information and life skills they need to realize their potential. At the micro level, the incidences of poverty are highly linked with literacy and education. Education is considered to be the most significant factor distinguishing the poor from the non-poor. Educational differences also explain the poverty gaps in rural and urban areas, supporting the idea that literacy is likely to have higher returns in urban areas . Better healthcare facilities and provision of food and clean drinking water is essential for the disruption of the poverty cycle. Provision of skills and training to help economic activity help the people to earn money and make a living. Steps taken to redistribute income and development of the infrastructure and economic facilities to the rural areas also help in reduction of poverty. The empowerment of women has relatively recently become a significant area of discussion with respect to development and economics suggesting that promoting gender equality through empowerment of women is a qualitatively significant poverty reduction strategy.

Pakistan has not experienced a secular decline in poverty; rather poverty has fluctuated during the last three decades. There could be several reasons for Pakistan not being successful in poverty reduction. There is no doubt that Pakistan has a long history of poverty reduction policies but could not achieve the poverty reduction targets because of poor implementation of right policies and programmes.  Another major flaw in Pakistan’s poverty alleviation policies, has been that the majority of the policies were ‘universal’, in which the entire country and/or entire population was equally targeted. As a result, the coverage and implementation of these policies remained inadequate. The poor governance, and deteriorating law and order situation, are also among the major obstacles to running business in Pakistan. The rising militancy, during the last few years, has also created an overall uncertainty. Pakistan is hardly spending 2 percent of its GDP on education, and allocation for the health sector is stagnant at only 0.6 percent of GDP. As reported earlier, education expenditure, as a percent of GDP, has declined during the recent period and Pakistan is unlikely to achieve, health and education related targets. The highest, and most persistent, levels of poverty occur in those rural areas of Pakistan, which are traditionally considered feudal, such as rural Sindh, Southern Punjab, the tribal areas of Khyber Pakthunkhawa (KPK) and Balochistan. In rural areas, landed élites have a decisive influence, not only on the social and economic life of residents, but also on local, as well as central and provincial decision-making. Although poverty in Pakistan is spread widely, there are pockets of poverty in southern Punjab, rural Sindh, KPK and Balochistan. No attempt has, so far, been made to target poor regions for development and poverty reduction. Thus, there is higher inequality, across regions and provinces, in terms of physical and social infrastructure. The province Punjab has better ranking, while the two provinces, KPK and Balochistan are poor by all infrastructure indicators. Even within Punjab and Sindh, the rural Sindh and southern Punjab, have poor level of access to physical and social infrastructure, as compared to the northern and central Punjab. The high population growth rate also has several implications for economic growth and poverty reduction. The growing labour force cannot be absorbed productively in the weak economy, leading to high youth unemployment and underemployment. The rising militancy, and worsening law and order situation, during the last few years, have adversely affected the macroeconomic and political atmosphere. To succeed in reducing poverty we need a solid political determination and development of organizational ability to ensure macroeconomic stability and successful poverty alleviation policies at the macro level and empowering the poor at the micro level.

Ms. Sabahat Ali a freelance contributor based in Abbottabad.