THE year 2015 was ushered in with a lot of positive news, at least in terms of numbers. Has the impact been felt by rural Sindh? An informal survey suggests it has not even though Sindh’s revenue has increased over the years.

Ali Meghwar, a resident of Mithi, said he did hear the news of reduction in petrol price, but was still paying the same fare for travelling to Hyderabad. Rozina, from Sukkur, said there was no decrease in the prices of food items. Many others complained that they were struggling to put two meals on the table every day.

According to ‘Clustered Deprivation’, a 2012 report by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), “58.7 million people in Pakistan live in multidimensional poverty with 46pc of rural population and 18pc of urban households falling below the poverty line.”

In Sindh, the report added, 46pc rural households are poor compared to only 20pc urban households. Tharparkar and Mirpurkhas are the poorest districts in Sindh, followed by Badin, Tando Mohammad Khan and Thatta.

Dr Qazi Masood, IBA’s Director of Research, said that though numbers for inflation had gone down “mainly due to administered prices”, the poor have to receive any benefit. “The commodities whose prices came down carry weight and affect the overall inflation, but the Sensitive Price Index (SPI) did not show much change, hence the benefit of inflation did not reach the classes,” he said.

He said the only beneficiaries were people who owned personal transport, “else, even bus fares, cab fares and airfares have increased.” He added that ideally the government could have imposed price reduction. “The government should have earmarked the sum (savings following the reduction in petrol prices) worth billions for specific projects, including hospitals and development schemes, rather than letting it go up in smoke.”

According to the Pakistan Emergency Food Security Alliance (PEFSA), a monthly food basket providing bare minimal nutritional value for survival for a family of seven comes down to Rs9,790.82 or Rs326 per day. The food basket includes low-quality rice, flour, lentils, milk, sugar, ghee, basic vegetables, egg, banana and excludes seasonal fruits/vegetables and red meat/mutton. The minimum wage is Rs12,000.

Chief Executive of Hisar Foundation, Dr Sono Khangharani said the cost of production and inputs has not gone down. “Their wages are not in line with the prices of the commodities. When a person earning Rs200 a day spends over 60 per cent of his earnings on food, how do you expect him to change his life?” he questioned.

“Education, clean water and health are available to only those who have the money. There is inequality in our system and the gaps can’t be filled due to a change in a single factor. Though on paper inflation is down and so are the prices of petroleum products, the purchasing power in rural areas remains limited. There has been no change in the prices of flour, pulses, meat, etc,” he stressed.

‘Even in terms of human development, we don’t have any schemes. Sure, the government is providing youth loans, but they are aimed at the educated, urban lot. There is a huge population out there which is uneducated, unskilled and unemployed. Small loans by NGOs help fill some gap, but that is no long-term solution,” he added.

Dawn tried to contact government representatives, but there was no response.

Published in Dawn March 22nd , 2015


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