How to Alleviate Poverty in Pakistan?

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Government should work with all stakeholders and develop the network of organizations. The experts may be involved to coordinate activities and events at regular intervals in different regions within the country. The Universities and NGOs may be made part of these networks.

Remember, poverty can be eradicated through taking social, economic and political measures in a coordinated way.

Muneer Ahmed

Poverty has social, economic, and political dimensions. It is a social contract and every society has its own definition. Generally, income levels per day/year are considered as poverty measuring tool. In order to eradicate poverty, the government, NGOs and other social welfare organizations act with different economic strategies in the country or regions. Every year, different loan schemes are approved by the government for unemployed youth and other skilled persons. Various skill-based training are offered as well to these aspiring graduates. Banking sector also provides agricultural and small business loans for this purpose. But the poverty gap between urban and rural population still exist.

Different studies show that households led by the educated leader are less poor than those who are not. It is observed that poverty is less in those regions where rural-urban linkages are strong, communities are strong, and people have jobs overseas.

The tribal regions remained poverty-ridden due to having no access to education, other civic services and health and education facilities. The source of income is limited, and people prefer to remain with families in rural areas than joining any urban job which is mostly low paid as they are less qualified along with poor communication skills. On the other hand, housing and transport issues in urban areas compel them to remain in their tribal regions.

In our country, there are some communities which support and facilitate other community members to groom themselves. They provide supervised support in terms of training, housing, health and finance. The Ismaili Community, Memon Community and Bohra Community’s work in Sindh and rest of the world for well-being is a success story. The main reason is that the community provides a platform in terms of economic and social support. The families are motivated, supervised and facilitated for education, business, and other social activities. These communities also empower women to take the lead in education, health, and business.

Many studies are conducted to explore the working mechanism of such community welfare organizations, and it is found that due to local or internal check and balances, no one dares to misuse community assets. The community approach also takes care of education and health needs. Both are important for finding better job opportunities, and it results in increasing the income of the household.

As it is said that one size does not fit for all; therefore, local arrangements may be made as per regional dynamics to alleviate poverty. The loans provided by the banking sector and other organizations have the missing link of facilitation and guidance. There is a need that loans should be provided along with an expert in the domain who may periodically guide lenders for not only developing a proper business plan as well as facilitation during the execution of the business. In the current scenario, the loan acquired from a bank doesn’t help them to get out of poverty but further aggravate their financial position. There is a need that sincere and dedicated experts of the domain may be involved locally to guide and supervise loan-based activities regularly. There is also a need for developing a network of organizations which are offering such initiatives, for sharing good practices and finding the solution to issues being faced in day to day activities in different regions.

There is also an opportunity to utilize ICT based job opportunities in terms of freelancing; which are currently playing a major role in the international job market. The ICT companies are earning more revenue because of the high demand for ICT products in the form of web applications etc. The Government’s initiative of Digital Skills is considered a success story, as trainees have successfully acquired different projects from renowned foreign companies. The Payoneer Company has ranked Pakistan at No. 4 in the world for freelancing jobs. There is potential in this area and most of the graduates need proper guidance to apply their knowledge in the right place and right direction.

There are many Massive Open Online Courses  (MOOCs) offered by different world Universities on the subject of poverty alleviation which may be co-opted with regular courses in Universities for learning good practices from the experience of qualified faculty of developed world. During these years, IT University Lahore and COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad had integrated two courses of Edx of Stanford University, USA in their BS program in computer science. There are also other reliable sources of information like World Bank, Asian Development Bank, UNDP etc. where case studies of different countries are placed for benefit of the public.

The planning commission may revise strategies for new Public Service Development Projects in the light of success stories. The implementing organs of the state need to be trained properly and monitoring mechanism of the social sector projects should be integrated with ICT based check and balance. It will be appropriate that representatives of the community be involved in development sector for ownership and sustainability purpose. Recently, Ministry of Human Resource Development of India is offering loan for developing higher education sector. The approach has compelled the institutions to spend loan in a professional manner and resultantly Universities focus on those program which may help them return loan. Unfortunately, in our case most of the times, the grants released by the Government through HEC are spent mercilessly.  The fund utilization reports are vetted and same are shared with funding agency. There is lack of transparency in flow of the funds as well as utilization of the funds. The local stakeholders i.e. Civil Society, Media etc. are not given access to financial books as there are possibilities of disclosure of misuse or improper use of funds.

It is suggested that the Government may work with all stakeholders who are working individually for poverty alleviation and develop the network of organizations involved in poverty alleviation. The experts may be involved to coordinate activities and events at regular intervals in different regions within the country. The Universities and NGOs may be made part of these networks. Remember, poverty can be eradicated through taking social, economic and political measures in a coordinated way.

(The author is PhD Scholar in Government and Public Policy at National Defence University, Islamabad)

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