ISLAMABAD: Though over 14,000 women die in Pakistan during childbirth every year, the successive governments have never given population welfare the importance it deserved.

This was stated by former senator and information minister Javed Jabbar at a workshop here on Monday. Titled “Role of media in social change”, the workshop was organised by the Population Council.

Mr Jabbar said though polio was a national issue, it was getting a proper attention at the government level. On the other hand, least attention is being given to population welfare.

All government departments and stakeholders should join hands to tackle the issue of population, he added.

Former minister says like polio, population welfare should also be taken up as a major national issue

“We have doctors, midwives and trained staff all over the country but still we are facing the issue of mother and child death much more compared to other countries,” he said.

Mr Jabbar said media had to play its role in highlighting the issue of population welfare. Media houses only highlight the issue on the Population Day and then forget it.

“Unfortunately, the media is attracted only by burning issues and population welfare could not become a burning issue for them.”

He said mediapersons should understand that if they highlighted the issue the government’s attention would automatically be diverted towards it. Dr Ali Mir, the director programme, Population Council, said Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) and Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) were higher in Pakistan compared to neighbouring and Muslim countries.

“A few decades ago, Pakistan was much better than Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and other countries in terms of MMR and IMR but now those countries have improved their statistics compared to Pakistan,” he said.

Malaysia, Turkey and other countries progressed because they kept a balance in the growth of their population and resources. In Pakistan, the population increased without planning. It may be mentioned that the United Nations (UN) announced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 1990. The members of the UN pledged to improve different health indicators by two-third till 2015.

Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal were way behind Pakistan in 1990 but they have now achieved the MDGs. According to the MDGs, under-five mortality rate should be 52 per 1000 births which is at the moment 89, infant mortality rate should be 40 which is 74 at the moment. MMR is 276 per 100,000, according to MDGs it should be 140 by 2015. Skilled birth attendance is 52 per cent which should be 90 per cent by the end of 2015.

Taxation system and impact on children

Speaking at the launch of a report, “Taxation system in Pakistan and its impact on children’s lives”, Member National Assembly from Islamabad Asad Umar said our children were suffering because we have other priorities.

Every day, approximately 1000 children under the age of five years die in Pakistan mostly of preventable causes.

The event to launch the study report was organised by Child Rights Movement(CRM).

Mr Umar said, “We should begin tax auditing from the parliament. Most of the parliamentarians avoid paying taxes and that’s why they are least interested in tax reforms or improving the tax-to-GDP ratio, which is less than 10 per cent in the country.”

“Though Article 25-A of the constitution makes education a fundamental right for children aged from five to 16 years, it is estimated that between 47,000 and 65,000 children are out of school in Islamabad,” he said.

The researcher of the report, Ejaz Ahmed, (executive director Centre for Peace and Development Initiative) said, “In 2010, Pakistan had lower tax-to-GDP ratio than countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal and Philippines.”

Only Bangladesh and Ethiopia were collecting lower tax as a percentage of the GDP than Pakistan. He said Pakistan’s tax-to-GDP ratio was equal to that of India. However, Pakistan’s ability to collect taxes has shown a decline or stagnation during the last decade because the tax-to-GDP ratio has never exceeded the 10.3 per cent level achieved in 2002, he said.

Published in Dawn, November 11th, 2014



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