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DAWN - Features; September 23, 2003

September 23, 2003

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Millennium goals unlikely to be met: World Bank

By Julio Godoy


PARIS: The world will not meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 without a dramatic improvement to services, a senior World Bank official says.

“The world as a unit will probably halve the proportion of people living on less than one dollar per day due to the remarkable economic growth of India and the People’s Republic of China,” Shantayanan Devarajan, chief economist behind the World Bank’s Human Development Report released on Sunday told IPS in an interview in Paris.

“But in other large parts of the world, as in Africa, and in several Latin American and Asian countries, this goal will hardly be reached.”

Devarajan was in Paris last week to release the World Bank’s World Development Report 2004. The report, officially presented this Sunday in Dubai at the general assembly of the World Bank, analyses the quality, quantity and efficiency of basic services such as education, healthcare, sanitation, running water, and electricity.

“Too often, basic services fail poor people,” says the report, titled ‘Making Services Work for Poor People’. “Freedom from illness, and freedom from illiteracy, two of the most important ways poor people can escape poverty, remain elusive.”

The Millennium Development Goals agreed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1992 call for eradication of extreme poverty, hunger and child illiteracy, and for reduction of child mortality. They call for fighting gender inequality, for promoting girls’ education, and the empowerment of women.

Other goals of the Millennium Development Agenda are improving maternal health by reducing maternal mortality by three quarters, reversing the spread of HIV and AIDS, ensuring environmental sustainability, raising official development assistance, and expanding access to world markets for the products of the poorest countries.

“Due to the failure to provide good basic services, the world is far from hitting the right path towards achieving universal primary education, towards eliminating the obstacles girls continue to face in education, and towards reducing child mortality,” Devarajan says.

The World Bank did, however, find that “strong examples of good services, which prove that governments and citizens can do better than they have so far,” Devarajan says.

Successful health, sanitation, and educational services have the empowerment of people in common, he says. “Whenever the clients of basic services, poor people that is, can influence service providers, and thus influence the services, they work better.”

Devarajan cites a programme in Bangladesh for primary education of girls where bank accounts were opened in the girls’ own name to allow them to manage their funds.

In addition, non-governmental organizations offered financial support to schools. The measures led to an improvement of services, such as enrolment of female teachers, and the construction of separate latrines for girls. “As a result, the rate of literacy has improved,” Devarajan said.

The World Bank report underlines the importance of community-based services as provided in Cuba. “Even if the country has been experiencing a severe economic crisis for more than a decade, Cuba has been able to maintain lower levels of infant mortality than many industrial countries,” Devarajan says.

The reason is the “sustained focus the Cuban political leadership has placed in health for more than 40 years now,” he says. “The Cuban government sees the good of the people as a key performance indicator by itself.”

To meet this commitment, the Cuban government has established a system of clinics, staffed by several specialists and nurses, Devarajan says. Additionally, the Cuban government has created a community health programme, with specialists looking after patients at clinics as well as at home, school or work. The level of investment in a service is no guarantee that the service is working for poor people, Devarajan says. “Take the case of Senegal,” he says. “Although it has been a peaceful, democratic country practically since independence 40 years ago, and has a fairly good system of superior education, its rate of primary school completion is only 40 per cent of the child population. That is roughly equal to that of Congo Zaire, a country mired by dictatorship and extremely violent wars, and which practically has no public administration.”

In such cases, the role of non-governmental organizations can be central in taking the place of state agencies in running basic services, Devarajan says.

The World Development Report 2004 places empowerment of people and their proximity to service providers at the centre of an analytical model that identifies how services are working towards meeting the Millennium goals.

This model, called the ‘framework of accountability relationships’ between poor people, policy makers and politicians, and service providers, indicates that clients of services often have little clout with politicians, and “that is why public services often become the currency of political patronage and clientelism.”

A direct relationship between poor people and providers means that clients can help tailor the service to their needs, the report says.—Dawn/The InterPress News Service.

Centennial tome on Iqbal, Pakistani Adab

While he is at his job, Iftikhar Arif allows no respite to any one. During his tenure, the Academy of Letters becomes a word spewing factory and its learned mill hands acquire robotic productivity. Now this year alone which has not ended yet the Academy has spilled more refined verbiage on our vast unlettered landscape than the tons of crude the Tasman Spirit has released on Karachi’s unwashed coastline. What enables him to achieve so much is probably the freedom that the exercise of a carefully-crafted neutrality gives one to work with and which one might roughly equate with what is popularly termed as ‘without fear or favour’. In our government working culture though the former cannot entirely be gotten rid of and should therefore exercise some check on the latter too. The discrete administrator is able to strike a healthy balance between fear and favour which enables him to keep the assembly line moving.

The Academy’s publications so far this year include three major voluminous works, two in celebration of Allama Iqbal’s centenary and one on writings of women from the five continents. The two volumes on Iqbal, one in Urdu that was published this last winter and the English compendium that has just been released, cover hundred years of studies on the poet. The Urdu volume was reviewed in this column. It has rightly been hailed as a landmark collection of critical essays, memoirs and impressions and analytical writings on the Allama’s thought. The English selection of studies similarly covers nearly all aspects of Iqbal’s poetical oeuvre, his thought as well as his life. Selections from published sources are not meant to be exhaustive and can hardly be satisfying to sundry tastes. The compiler remains in a dilemma, divided and torn between choices, to the very last minute before hitting the press. Each good piece that he leaves out to include another of equal merit costs him wakeful nights of anguish. It’s not just a thankless job; it’s a job for a heartless man. One can only sympathize with Dr Waheed Ishrat. With so much wanting in most spheres of our national life and being treated to the sight of expensive behemoths hatching sterile eggs all around, seeing this good work of dedication gives one some relief in the gathering gloom.

Pakistani Adab 2002 in two volumes, one devoted to poetry and the other to prose has made an appearance after five years. The volume on poetry is a delightful one-poem-a-poet anthology. Going through it gives you a feeling of lightness, like channel surfing. Compiled by Jalil A’ali and Yusuf Hassan, it is certainly not the best of selections from last year’s published verse, but it does give you an idea and probably a rough sense of the time and the disquieting feeling of sameness in the work of so many poets. I would imagine some if not many of our worthy poets might object to the certain verse that was chosen as their best for the year, since in ghazal particularly it happens quite often that only one or two couplets stand out among the padded material. But this late self-assessment is often too late. The compiler, however, is in double jeopardy as his own aesthetics is on test when all he has done is select a poet’s finished and published piece. Yet the number of those who would be pleased to know they were there in 2002 would be much larger indeed. The late Jon Elia’s apney sab yaar kaam kar rahey hein says it all when he quips: Da’ad-o-tehsin ka yeh shore hai kyon? Hum to khud sey kalaam kar rahey hein!

Bulk of the prose volume compiled by Mansha Yaad and Hameed Shahid comprises short fiction, as many as 48 stories which should present in their sweep a fairly good account of our national output in this genre. While the rest of the 46 stories will be read when life’s own running tale takes a respite, I chose to read Mansha Yaad and Hameed Shahid’s to find what in their view constituted a selectable story. Mansha Yaad’s Karman Wali is a very subtle exposition of what lies beneath apparent goodness and how wily dogma collaborates with the powerful against the weak. It uncovers the meanness that often underlies pity and how one cannot bear the loosening of one’s hold on another. You help someone out of compassion and when your help frees the recipient of his dependence on you, you start regretting your own generosity and find ways to reduce the obliged person to his original bondage. Poverty is not merely an economic state but a pathological trait of the human psyche that seeks to keep people under control. It is a deliberate mechanism of the powerful to retain their hold on the weak and keep them under their subjugation. Poor societies who imagine they can throw away the yoke of poverty with dole and aid of the rich are living in a fool’s paradise.

My slow thyroid doesn’t permit my admittance into thick plots and Gothic rural mysteries. Uninviting texts lull me to sleep. I laid aside Hameed Shahid’s dark tale about herds of goats and swine reluctantly after failing to work up any curiosity in the goings on and hoping the author had not applied the same selection criteria on stories of other writers.

The Academy has also brought up to date their key bibliographical work. It had remained suspended from 1995 to 1999. The missing editions were brought out together last year and now the 2002 catalogue has also been published. Saeeda Durrani looks after this tedious work. It has 1252 entries, all duly indexed. Bibliographies with indices are only published in unfailed states.

Woman dean lays stress on training

By Shamsul Islam Naz


I N spite of a traditionally male-dominated environment in the University of Agriculture, women have succeeded in proving their mettle in just three years of introduction of a merit-oriented policy, leading in all fields and capturing the seat of dean of Faculty of Sciences.

Dr Rakhshanda Nawaz, who by dint of outstanding performance achieved the prestigious office of dean, is the first woman to become chairperson of an important faculty of the Agriculture University.

Prof Dr. Rakhshanda Nawaz (52) did her PhD in chemistry in 1994 from the Punjab University. Besides holding a degree in MPhil from the Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, and an MSc in chemistry from the Punjab University, she has a teaching experience of more than 32 years to her credit. Before her elevation, she was chairperson of the Department of Chemistry. Her husband, Dr Mohammed Nawaz, is also a distinguished professor.

The Faculty of Sciences, established in 1974, has nine departments — Botany, Business Management Sciences, Chemistry, Computer Sciences, Islamic Studies, Mathematics and Statistics, Physics, Social Sciences and Humanities, Zoology and Fisheries.

A major portion of the old campus is covered by the faculty and its departments. It has 80 teachers, including 39 women, which is the highest number in any faculty of the institution. The faculty has 34 labs containing the latest equipment which has recently been upgraded and replaced with 147 modern computers. So far, 3,825 students have passed MSc, 359 MPhil and 27 PhDs from this faculty.

Talking about plans to improve its working, Dr Rakhshanda told Dawn that the Faculty of Sciences was housed in the old campus established over 100 years ago. Poor maintenance had degraded the condition of the building. Recent improvement and renovation restored the structure and extended classrooms and labs to meet the increased needs of admissions and workload.

She said the development project from the Ministry of Science and Technology provided a sound basis for improvement of lab equipment and chemicals. The research group concept of the vice-chancellor has streamlined the research endeavour.

“Today, we are better off so far as the physical infrastructure is concerned. But we need to improve impressively in scholastic activities and output. The Agri Varsity has the desired physical infrastructure and the ability to play a pivotal role in the field of agriculture, animal and basic sciences.”

The universities, she said, should not only provide expertise of the highest standard, but should also produce leaders and not workers in their respective disciplines. “We have the physical facilities, but only a few outstanding faculty members. It is always the man behind the gun who is important. We have inadequate and inadequately-trained work force in different disciplines. The possibilities of foreign training are decreasing in the new international scenario. Therefore, we have to stand on our own feet and become self-reliant at least in the disciplines vital for our national strategic developmental plans.”

When asked about the shortcomings of the faculty, she said adequate training in mathematics was the basic requirement for most of the scientific disciplines. However, we did not have any qualified teachers. This held true for most of the disciplines in the Faculty of Sciences.

Chemists trained in the field of organic synthesis could help earn foreign exchange by synthesizing thousands of chemicals required for drug development, insecticide and pesticide and many other applications. Secondly, we needed to improve the intellectual foundation of the faculty. Some of the problems could be addressed by proper training of the faculty members. It was needed to converge the expertise and pool their talent for the task of national importance, she said.

The pooled talent should constitute a task force for the uplift of existing work force and for training further expertise in different disciplines. She claimed she was formulating a plan for increasing the quality and number of faculty members for which financial assistance would be sought from the Higher Education Commission. The HEC policy for the universities, when introduced, would help provide the required incentives for talented and outstanding workers.

About the role of women in the sciences, she said in Pakistan women were playing a very important role in different fields, but it was invisible. “The census clearly indicates that the rate of admission of girls to higher education has already increased and is more than the boys. The performance of girl students is generally better in the labs as well as in classrooms. These days most of the girls coming for higher education are from middle class families and seeking jobs on completion of their degree programmes. The role of science in our society is in the developmental stage, and at present all science teaching institutions are primarily male dominated.”

She claimed she would try to bring changes for further improvement of the faculty, and result-oriented policies would be formulated for the benefit of students and making them fully trained in the field of science in consonance with the present day requirements.

When asked why females were more inclined towards the Faculty of Sciences, she said the purpose of education in our society was to get some respectable place and the job which could be achieved by getting degrees in science subjects. Degree programmes like MCS, MBA, MIT and MBIT were popular among the business community and commercial organizations. Since women were also entering every sphere of life, these subjects had become popular among them.

She said most of the girls obtaining degrees from the faculty were seeking jobs of different nature and categories, and thus contributing their share in society. She said job opportunities for women were limited, on the basis of hard work and intellect, but they were somehow making a good ground for employment. She said the number of female employees in the Agri Varsity had increased. Previously, girls were selected only as teachers, but now they were working in different positions in administration departments and in labs as assistants or technicians purely on academic merit.