AS Pakistan prepares for the UN summit later this month, domestic focus is said to be on the next set of collective development targets – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – regardless of precious little achievement in terms of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were adopted at the turn of the century and for which this is the cut-off year.
In its 70th session that commences on Sept 15, the UN General Assembly will celebrate the world’s progress, albeit uneven, on the MDGs and will launch the SDGs to guide development efforts globally till 2030.
Talking to Dawn, Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, was confident of more meaningful participation on the part of Pakistan in the UN General Assembly meetings this year. “We are already interacting with the provinces and have created a group in the Planning Commission to evolve proper systems and prepare annual plans in light of the SDGs,” he said over the telephone from Islamabad. “The task is facilitated as we are equipped with Vision2025, which will now be readjusted to envelop the new set of global development goals and be extended to 2030.”
The Progress Report acknowledges that Pakistan was off track on all but nine indicators, thus prospects of achieving any of the eight MDGs by 2015 were dim
“We will adopt the SDGs with a resolve to translating them into the national development agenda to be launched in January, 2016, along with other UN member states. We will dedicate a group of experts in the Planning Commission to monitor and report annual progress on the new set of well-defined, benchmarked social development targets,” he emphasised, while blaming the “lack of commitment and the failure of successive governments” to own the MDGs for missing the goals by a depressingly wide margin.
Among other things, the MDGs focus on ending extreme poverty, reducing child mortality, achieving universal literacy and ending gender discrimination by forging partnerships between governments and the private sector to promote sustainable economic development.
Other nations will attend the forthcoming session with their 15-year MDGs progress reports, but Pakistan does not have a current one, a source in the relevant office told Dawn.
Vested with the responsibility to monitor and report social indicators annually, the Planning Commission abandoned the exercise halfway through the MDG framework period in 2007-08. In all, Pakistan produced five reports with questionable findings based on what the authorities called ‘interim data’.
According to knowledgeable insiders, the UNDP supported the Planning Commission in 2002 to establish the Centre for Research in Poverty and Income Distribution (CRPRID) for monitoring progress on the MDGs, and provided funding to the Bureau of Statistics to develop and implement the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement survey for further monitoring. The CRPRID was mandated to build consensus amongst stakeholders, launch an advocacy drive in the media and develop poverty estimates using recognised methodology.
The shop was closed as the funds dried up because of political intervention. In 2008, the enterprise attained a new nomenclature; the Centre for Poverty Reduction and Social Policy Development (CPRSP). This was done as the PPP government launched its Benazir Income Support Programme under the World Bank and UNDP patronage.
The CPRSP tried to develop a social protection policy, but the process was initially delayed due to devolution in 2010; a couple of years later, the CPRSP was shut down by the Planning Commission’s then deputy chairman, Nadeemul Haq, who instead created the Growth Centre (GC), a public-owned company, to deal with development issues.
Not too long into its tenure, the current government pulled the shutters down on the GC and in came the National Coordination Committee (NCC) with the task of engaging with the provinces and relevant ministries on the issue of the MDGs. The NCC wasted no time in developing the Acceleration Framework for Health and Education to achieve the MDGs. Yet as the world meets to review the MDGs in their termination year, the NCC is not in a position to report Pakistan’s on-ground position.
While the country was fooling around with all these confusing acronyms, the longstanding annual Pakistan Economic Survey dropped its chapters on poverty and income distribution. This was done in 2007 as the then prime minister Shaukat Aziz considered them “politically damaging.” The two elected governments that succeeded the quasi-military government of Gen Musharraf and Mr Aziz did not feel the need to re-induct these two critical chapters in the annual review of the national economy.
No less intriguing were the findings of the last MDG Progress Report that was launched in 2013. It projected Pakistan as being ahead of target on the overarching goal of poverty, but lagging in subsequent indicators. Against the 15-year target of 13 per cent, poverty was reported as being down to 12.5pc. Nevertheless, the report acknowledged that the country was off-track on all but nine indicators, concluding that the prospects of achieving any of the eight MDGs by 2015 were dim.
The puzzling part was – and remains – the source of the data used in the report in the absence of the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement survey. It was also not clear why the reduction in poverty, if one assumes the report to be credible, failed to improve other indicators that have a direct established relationship with the poverty level.
The projections of the said report were so outrageous that even the PML-N hierarchy was and is unable to defend it. The top guns of the economic team have mocked the findings both publicly and privately. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, for instance, has said that social progress is not achievable unless economic growth picks up pace. The deputy chairman of the Planning Commission supports this view.
Experts believe, however, that even stellar growth may not automatically improve the plight of vulnerable segments of society. For many of them, “closed door analytical exercises by expensive consultants” are nothing but a drain on public resources. “The interests of the poor will only be served under public pressure and with the participation of the intended beneficiaries in the process of inclusive development,” they argue.
“The debate at the UN may be necessary but it is certainly not sufficient,” they say. “As long as civil society and mass platforms are weak, it would be lame to expect the ruling clique – regardless of the government’s military, quasi-military or civilian orientation – to voluntarily grant economic rights to people or divert resources to promote their well-being.”
By signing the landmark Millennium Declaration at the turn of the century, Pakistan adopted eight development goals -the MDGs and committed among other things to bring poverty down to 13pc. As the termination year comes to an end, nothing but thin air floats around. The war on terror and the several natural and man-made disasters that dotted the preceding 15-year timeline would have somewhat rationalised the failure had Pakistan missed a target or two. The fact that tsunamis, earthquakes, revolts and wars in the same period could not stop a host of other nations from making significant progress on the MDG scale makes one wonder ...
What went wrong where?
THERE are several factors that contributed to the weak performance of Pakistan in terms of extending the social cover effectively and efficiently to save the vulnerable citizens — the poor, the women and the children — from dehumanising conditions of the various shades of poverty.
More than the availability of resources, it was the orientation of the security state, eroding confidence of people in the government, increasing income disparity, social fragmentation across all divisible dimensions and the absence of active citizenry that made the half-hearted exercise of achieving MDG targets more of a costly gimmick than anything else.
The focus of global advocates of the drive to end poverty in Pakistan was also not inspiring. Yes, the UNDP did provide an annual update by collecting and processing data, but did it motivate the policy-makers? Not much, if the results are anything to go by.
The donors leaned too heavily on the decadent, hierarchal, bureaucratic structures of the government and the scores of self-serving NGOs instead of propagating the agenda in society through media to galvanise public opinion. After 15 years of doling out money liberally to NGOs and the government, the baseline indicators show that savings of people in the developed world were wasted in the name of lofty goals on parasitic elements in Pakistan by equally indifferent elements on the other side of the divide; the donors.
The input from the team of reporters that has put together this report reinforced the impression that the awareness about the global campaign on MDGs in Pakistani society was next to nil all these 15 years. Even educated classes and legislators had scant knowledge about the goals or the distance covered.
Pakistan climbed seven steps on the global GDP ranking from 35th in 2000 to 27th currently, but had a slide on the global Gini Index to 113th out of 261 countries and regions reviewed. The Index measures the degree of inequality in distribution of family income in a country.
Put together, the numbers means that the size of the economy did expand even if one chooses to ignore the gigantic informal economy that envelops much of the ballooning Service sector that makes up more than half of the GDP despite under-reporting. If somehow this segment is also taken into account, the actual size of Pakistani economy is bigger than reported. The fact is reaffirmed by the gap in per capita income and spending in the country. According to latest figures, the per capita income hiked to $1,513 in 2014 against almost double per capita spending. The inflow of remittance does not justify the wedge.
Besides, according to Pakistan Economic Survey, the last 15 years saw record foreign capital inflows, in loans and grants, amounting to a whooping $45bn. The horror stories of human misery in the wake of terrorism, earthquake and successive floods touched the hearts of donors who doled out liberally. There are those who believe that it was the mind — not the heart — that was touched as nations scrambled to limit the possibility of spillover of problems in Pakistan to the region.
Where did all that easy money go? The reconstruction work of earthquake is still in progress 10 years down the line and water from the last flood still inundates certain areas in Sindh.
But the tale of social wellbeing of the multitude is best told by progress — or lack of it — on MDG indicators. An analysis of the budgetary spending pattern over the past decade-and-a-half shows that revival of democracy in Pakistan has not been able to alter much the order of fiscal priority. There appears to be a disconnect between what is needed and what is done in terms of investing the public money.
In policy papers, such as Vision-2025, human capital development is often identified as the most important area for public investment, but the Sharif brothers seem to be captivated by road infrastructure and transport projects. The exact percentage is not available, but they eat up major portion of the development budget.
Pakistan has been grouped with countries referred to as ‘N-11’ (‘N’ refers to ‘Next’). It is among the nations outside BRICS, having a high potential of becoming world big economies in the 21st century. The country is sadly at the bottom in the global ranking of tax generation. Of the 261 countries assessed, it is positioned 202.
What does that mean? For one thing, it demonstrates beyond an iota of doubt that Pakistanis are not inclined to trust the government — regardless of who happens to be heading it at any given time.
In the light of our experience with the MDGs, it would be naive to expect any other outcome if the business of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is conducted in the same manner. The hierarchal structures need to be challenged and public to be involved to create a national ownership for the drive forward.
Still, the government can’t do it alone. The corporate and professional hierarchy has to realise that it stands to gain with the rest of society if development is broad-based and sustainable. In the final analysis, however, the level of achievement on social agenda will depend on the social pressure from those who stand to benefit the most from the desired change. Anyone?
Punjab: well begun, but only half done
MOHAMMAD Ramzan, a construction worker from a village on the outskirts of Bahawalpur, was 19 when the world adopted the MDGs in the year 2000. Fifteen years later when the world was expected to have achieved the time-bound targets, a totally illiterate Ramzan is struggling to feed his family of six, including his ageing parents. His elder son, now 10, works as an ‘apprentice’ at a motorcycle repair shop in Muzaffargarh and his younger son, just 7, helps his uncle at his roadside tea stall.
“There’s no use sending them to school; they must work and learn to earn their livelihood from an early age,” Ramzan said when asked why his children were not at school. “What’s the use of going to school and sleep on an empty stomach? My older boy is strong for his age, but the younger one is too frail to do hard jobs. So his mother gave him under the care of her brother.”
Punjab was the first province in the early 2000s to link its annual development investment with the MDGs and is assessed by the UNDP to be “far head of the other provinces” in achieving targets for 2015. Yet it is still “off track” in achieving the targets for the “majority of indicators”.
Officials blame the recent years of economic slowdown, political instability, terrorism, floods and other factors for missing the targets. “Punjab was on track on almost all indicators before the economic growth started to flag in 2008,” a senior official claimed.
“But the progress on MDGs slowed down because of economic slowdown on increasing political instability and worsening security conditions in the province and elsewhere in the country,” he went on, adding: “Global financial crisis, sharp spike in the world oil and commodity prices and decreasing assistance from both the multilateral and bilateral donors also affected the government’s ability to finance development projects targeting poverty and regional inequalities in the province.”
Officials, however, insist that the Shahbaz Sharif government was committed to achieving the targets for the MDGs by 2018. “The present government is the first one working for the achievement of MDGs. It is implementing its growth policy to expand the economy of the province by eight per cent by 2018, cut poverty, create jobs, put children in schools, increase opportunities for women and improve health facilities and cover,” a provincial planning and development department official said.
The growth policy focuses on “increasing private-sector investment, narrowing security gaps, imparting skills to two million people, creating one million jobs annually and promoting inclusive growth with special focus on women, girls and the marginalised to achieve the MDGs”.
“The policy gives special attention to pro-poor initiatives and interventions to alleviate poverty, creation of jobs, provision of school education and health facilities to all and gender mainstreaming to achieve the MDGs,” the official argued.
Other officials said the government’s poverty-focused investments targeted at improving the productive sectors and infrastructure, and the social sector spending has sharply been raised over the last five years because of the space provided by increased fund transfer under the National Finance Commission (NFC). “The province’s annual development programme (ADP) has been increased to Rs400 billion for this year with chunk of it allocated to the social sector,” he stressed.
But many remain skeptical of the government’s commitment and ability to pull off growth and achieve the MDG targets in the next three years. “In the past we have not seen enough commitment on the part of the government to raise findings for sectors that directly help the poor and alleviate poverty,” said an economist who has worked for the federal government in the past.
“The social sector and the region that houses most of the poor in the province — southern Punjab — were the main victims of the 30 per cent development investment cuts last year. The cut in funding for social sector development and the poorer southern region was made to make room for projects that would politically help the ruling party in the next election without regard for its impact on the common man,” he claimed.
He noted that the increase in federal transfers under the present NFC award in the last five years was mostly diverted to non-development expenditure. “The allocations for the development budget don’t even match the government’s own medium-term development framework. The amount of Rs400 billion set aside for development in the budget for the present year, for example, is 11 per cent lower than the funds envisioned in the MTDF,” he concluded.
Unless the government actually spends more money in targeted areas, people like Ramzan will never be able to send their children to school or gain access to clean drinking water and health cover.
Sindh: failures and excuses galore
EVEN a layman can tell that Sindh has missed the 2015 MDG deadline. All one wants to know is the magnitude of the failure. Judging by a 2012 UN report, the province has hardly moved forward from where it was at the dawn of the millennium. That makes it a spectacular failure.
The number of people living with hunger was 31 per cent in the province in 2001-02. By 2005-06, it ranged between 19 and 26 per cent, depending on the agro climatic zone. The cut-off target was 13 per cent.
The under-5 mortality rate should have reduced to 52 deaths per 1000 live births. But it was last recorded at 100 in 2006-07. “Certain other relevant indicators pertinent to the under-5 mortality rate, such as the number of children under the age of five suffering from diarrhoea over the preceding 30 days, show significant variation and worrisome trends across districts in Sindh,” the UN report noted.
The maternal mortality ratio (MMR) was reduced from 600 maternal deaths per 100,000 to 350 in 2008-09, but it was still a far cry from the target of 140.
On the positive side, Sindh has fared better in promoting gender equality. The parity index for primary education was 0.77 in 2010-11, meaning that for every 100 boys completing primary, there were 77 girls. “The educational targets are likely to be achieved in certain districts and may be achieved at the provincial level if the performance is maintained,” it noted.
Apart from Sindh’s poor performance, one thing is clear: there’s a serious — very serious — lack of updated data. We, in 2015, are talking about a 2012 report which itself sometimes relies on 2005 figures. Apparently, we must wait until 2025 to know for sure if Sindh is really going to meet or miss the MDGs by end-2015. If this is not funny, what is?
Kaiser Bengali, who has been adviser to the Sindh chief minister, however, can’t wait till 2025. “MDGs? They won’t even be able to meet the SDGs,” he says, referring to the Sustainable Development Goals which are to replace the MDGs. “We have to do a lot of work. We have to revamp the education system ... But unfortunately, we haven’t yet begun.” He blames government’s deficient sense of responsibility as one reason behind the province’s present difficult situation.
Another general reason can be governments’ love affair with excuses. For instance, in the foreword of the UN report quoted above, Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, after conceding that the performance was not that satisfactory with some indicators, tried to even things up: “Let me also point out that in the backdrop of devastating floods which inflicted considerable damage to infrastructure and loss of lives, the MDG-related achievements of the Government of Sindh become even more significant.”
Wow. We are moved.
Taking refuge in such words is, however, not peculiar to any province or leader. Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal, in his written reply to the Senate last year about Pakistan’s performance on MDGs, said: “Reasons for missing most of the indicators include internal and external, economic and non-economic challenges.” What other challenges any country on the globe ever faced, one might ask.
Coming back to Sindh’s tale of woes, the province would now do well to at least sustain the little progress it has made in some indicators while trying to forge ahead.
KP: it’s nothing but more of the same
AS is the story elsewhere, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa failed to achieve the MDG targets, with government officials linking the failure with thin resources coupled with natural and man-made calamities.
Taking cover behind anonymity, an official said no proper analysis had been done on MDGs in the province which “mostly relies on UNDP reports”.
With UNDP technical assistance, a special cell was established in the province to monitor the implementation of MDGs. The cell packed up business in June 2014. Since then, the official said, there was no focal unit or person to oversee progress, if any, on the MDGs.
But he said the province had evolved a Strategic Development Partnership Framework (SDPF) in the recent past which in effect has pushed forward the deadlines of certain MDGs by three years. Under the SDPF, poverty alleviation, infant mortality rate, and maternal mortality ratio targets would be achieved in 2018. But the targets are not as ambitious under the SDPF as was the case with the MDGs.
For example, against the MDG target of bringing poverty ratio down in KP to 13 per cent in 2015 from 39 per cent recorded in 2011, the province has now pledged under the SDPF to bring down poverty to 30 per cent in 2018.
In terms of reducing Extreme Poverty and Hunger from 39 per cent to 13 per cent, the province could not achieve the stipulated targets. The population below the poverty line in KP at 39 per cent is substantially higher than the national average.
Under Universal Primary Education, the province could only achieve the net primary enrolment ratio of 67 per cent against the target of 100 per cent. The literacy rate has improved from 38 per cent to 52 per cent against the envisaged MDG target of 88 per cent. KP is also off-target on several gender equality indicators. The ratio of girls to boys in primary education is 0.81 against the MDG target of one; the ratio of youth literacy (15 to 24-year-old) is 0.60 against the target of one; share of women in wage employment in the non-agriculture sector is 6.54 against the target of 14. However, the target of proportion of seats held by women in the National Assembly has been achieved which is 17 against the national level of 22.
Infant mortality rate (IMR) was supposed to drop down from 79 to 40 deaths per 1000 live births, but the province could only bring it down to 60. Besides, immunisation targets have also been missed, but the target related to the proportion of children under five who suffered from diarrhoea has been achieved.
The coverage of lady health workers (LHWs) in the province is 58 per cent of the population against the MDG target of 100 per cent and the national average of 83 per cent. The maternal mortality rate (MMR) was to be reduced from 275 to 140 per 100,000 but the actual achievement is 250.
Data related to the six indicators under the goal of combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases is scant and sketchy.
In the domain of environmental sustainability, however, the province has progressed much beyond the targets as forest covered area and the land area protected for conservation of wildlife stand at 17.4 per cent and 12.4 per cent against the respective targets of six and 12 per cent. This, indeed, is some achievement.
Balochistan: the back of beyond
INTERNATIONAL donor agencies and NGOs dealing with health and education are of the unanimous view that Balochistan has failed miserably in meeting the MDG targets. In fact, the province has the highest rates of infant and maternal mortality in the country.
“Infant and under-5 mortality rates have been estimated at 72 and 89 per 1,000 live births,” said an official of the World Health Organisation (WHO), adding that Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) are 97 per 1,000 births and 785/100,000 respectively.
An NGO, which conducted survey on missing facilities at state-run schools and the standard of education in several districts of Balochsitan, believed that tens of thousands of children were still out of school. The survey report said that most schools had not even a single teacher. “Hundreds of schools in Balochistan have no boundary wall, toilets and furniture,” the report said.
Another NGO working for gender parity point out that incidents of honour killing were still continuing in Balochistan.
A senior official of the provincial government frankly admitted that Balochistan was the province with the weakest social indicators in Pakistan. It has scored lowest in 12 out of 13 key indicators for education, literacy, health, water and sanitation. Immunisation rate is 53 per cent against the national rate of 81 per cent, and the lowest adult literacy rate of 37 per cent against the national rate of 55 per cent. The incidence of poverty is the highest in the country, with 52 per cent households being poor.
“We could not achieve the MDG targets and have been far away from them,” a senior financial manager of the Balochistan government conceded. “However, our ‘today’ is better than our ‘yesterday’ as the government has realised the significance of putting in place a strategy.”
The three-party coalition has now started paying special attention towards some sectors, especially Education, said Sardar Raza Baraich, Advisor to Chief Minister on Education.
In the health sector, the government is no doing a few things that may improve the situation in the years ahead, said Health Secretary Noor-ul-Haq Baloch.
The main reason for the dismal performance of the province on the MDG scale was the insurgency that started in 2002 which badly affected the social sector, said a senior government official.
Silence that speaks
THE questions were simple. Why is it that the MDGs – which focus solely on the social sector – failed so consistently in attracting the attention of electronic media policymakers all these 15 years? Was it because of lack of support from the corporate sponsors or was it the general feeling that the audiences would not be interested in the subject? But they remained unanswered for a whole week despite polite reminders.
They were sent to the Executive Director, Chairman and Secretary-General of Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), the umbrella body that features leading names in the media industry. Not a word from any of them. Not even an acknowledgement. One wondered if the website showing the contact info was outdated. As such, a call was placed to the PBA office which confirmed that all the names and email addresses were correct and the persons concerned were still holding the three offices. The only obvious inference can be that the questions failed to capture the fancy of the media owners.
While the private sector picks its spots depending on which side of the bread happens to be buttered, the public-sector broadcaster can surely be held accountable for profit motive is not the sole driving force behind its policies. Along with the two questions mentioned above, another question was added to the mail that was sent to Pakistan Television (PTV).
The question, again, was simple: “In the case of PTV, any detailed discussion on the (MDG) matter would have dropped a hint at the failure of the sitting government of the time. Was that a factor in PTV’s decision to touch the matter only superficially?”
The mail sent to the address mentioned on the PTV website bounced within seconds. The Head of Current Affairs was located at the Karachi Station and a mail was sent right away followed by reminders and a phone call. No response. Not even an acknowledgement.
Away from all the rhetoric, the national media is clearly as desensitised as the policymakers are when it comes to doing anything concrete about the social sector. The questions posed were not just simple. They were perhaps too simple to answer. And the blanket silence is not too difficult to decipher. It’s a silence that speaks for itself.
Corporate social irresponsibility
|Scavenger girls rummage through garbage in Peshawar. The young ones collect recyclable material which their families sell and earn a living.—White Star|
SAVE for some of the big local corporates and multinational firms, the entrepreneurs of most companies drew a blank when asked about their contribution to the MDGs; for many, it had to be spelled out.
Some senior executives of big companies who had attended seminars held by the Corporate Social Responsibility Centre Pakistan (CSRCP) had an idea of its goals in consultancy; trainings; reporting Database and Global Reporting Initiatives (GRI). “Yet, I am not aware of any work on the eight international development goals that were established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000,” said one.
A senior executive at a multinational firm said: “Big companies that have worldwide exposure and who are required to submit reports to their overseas head offices do allocate funds for those goals: alleviation of extreme poverty; promotion of primary education; child mortality and maternal health”. He said the figures could be traced in the annual accounts of those companies.
Industrialist Majyd Aziz, however, argued that most entities allocate and spend funds for those social responsibility goals in their individual capacity and as permits their budget. He stressed that the state should shoulder the greatest responsibility of welfare of the people. “But look at the budget allocations on poverty alleviation, health and education – nothing but a pittance,” he argued.
Another head of a corporate firm agreed that it was primarily the responsibility of the government to initiate and organise work on those goals. He thought that corporates had too much on their mind to worry about what was going on outside their factory windows. “With perennial problems of energy and water shortage, political upheavals, increasing taxes, changing and tightening regulations, all of which put their bottom lines at risk, most companies decide to sit tight on their pile of cash held in reserves”, he said but insisted that most big companies do adequately look after their workers and families by providing reasonable wages and salaries, free education to their wards and free healthcare benefits.
Another head of a local pharmaceutical firm said that his company was working with a non-governmental organisation (NGO) to provide free medical care in around two dozen dispensaries set up in rural Sindh.
He agreed that the work on MDGs should be taken in stride by both the government and the affluent private sector as the world had now progressed from MDGs to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2016-30.
The ‘politics’ of MDGs
A RANDOM survey of parliamentarians across the political spectrum threw up interesting answers suggestive of a lack of focus beyond the staple bread-and-butter diet of rhetoric that keeps the political machinery moving. Here are some excerpts:
Senator Farhatullah Babar (PPPP Khyber Pakhtunkhwa): “We have been missing all MDGs and this is really worrying because we cannot say that there was any conspiracy behind missing the targets of social sector or gender equality. Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani has decided that there will be a whole session to discuss the MDGs and why Pakistan missed them.”
MNA Dr Ramesh Kunmar Vakavani (PML-N Sindh): “This is strange that we achieved even the 20-30 per cent. The majority does not even know what MDG is. What have we done to improve the social sector or even to eradicate polio? The director-general of the National TB Programme is at holding the seat on deputation for the last 10 years and have we eradicated TB or reduced its prevalence? No, we are simply wasting donors’ money.”
MNA Ali Muhammad Khan (PTI Khyber Pakhtunkhwa): “I myself do not know the list and details of the MDGs and this might be true for almost all the parliamentarians, but, frankly speaking, the fact is that we do not have the class of politicians who have been social workers or are aware of the ground realities. This is the reason why politicians are losing credibility.”
Senator Saleem Mandviwala (PPPP Sindh): “This is unfortunate. Possibly there has been too much fire-fighting, too much emphasis on law and order, politics and non-issues in and outside the parliament. Besides, even the ordinary people do not seem to be much interested in pushing for social-sector improvement.”
Senator Sajad Turi (Independent from Fata): “I do not know much about MDGs, but what I know is, yes, we have missed the targets for social development. And the departments say that there is law and order issue or there is not enough money. I say that the past has not been good, but we shall better ignore the past and look forward to achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There is need to revamp the system step by step, changing the mindset, officials and even the approach.”
The NGO factor
|Children at a slum in Lahore attend class at a makeshift, open air school.—White Star|
NON-governmental organisations (NGOs), said to be ‘partners in development’, have been active on many a social front. However, despite an active NGO presence in the country, not much has changed for the man on the street. The situation on ground remains in vivid contrast to the success stories that are generally seen in the annual reports that are peppered with the MDG buzzword.
Talking to Dawn, an NGO Project Manager said: “No one will say that their projects failed to deliver results. Go through any development sector organisation’s report, and there will be success stories but you won’t see a vast improvement in net results. The NGOs by their very nature are too small to cater to the needs of the masses.”
Most NGOs working actively on issues related to education, health and poverty alleviation excused themselves from speaking on the role of NGOs and the dismal failure in attaining the MDGs. It tells its own tale.
A Communication Officer for an NGO in the poverty alleviation field, however, insisted that there “is a silver lining”, adding, “The NGOs did try to influence policies, train journalists, go for capacity building and data collection which the government uses in its reports.”
“For NGOs to sustain, it is always good to highlight the good work they do. Our projects depend on funding and if the money isn’t there, we have to close the project. For us, getting the word out is important and the easiest way to do this is to get journalists together for a workshop or a seminar,” she said when questioned about the ‘good press’ the NGO sector generally receives despite no favourable results on the ground.
Media development expert and activist Adnan Rehmat differed. “Most donors want their work to be reported, but don’t want the issues to be highlighted.”
As the cut-off year comes to an end, caught up in their bids to garner sustained funding, NGOs in Pakistan seems to have missed out on a huge opportunity to become true partners in development.
Lack of capacity is the culprit: UNDP
BASED on both data and evidence, Pakistan has not achieved most MDG targets, and its behind others in the region except Afghanistan. Reasons? Country Director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Marc-Andre Franche points his figure towards the “lack of capacity to plan, implement and deliver results”.
While pointing out Pakistan’s rather weak performance, Mr Franche said there were precious few indicators on which progress was comparatively better. Pakistan has been able to achieve the target of access to improve water resources; a target that has been achieved at the global level.
Though there doesn’t exist a consensus figure on consumption-based poverty, the top UNDP official in Pakistan said there has been at least declining trend since 2007-08. The trend on income-based ($1.25 a day) poverty is also declining, he pointed out.
About the level of poverty in Pakistan and ranking of Pakistan, he was not sure about the percentage of poverty, but said, “We think poverty is a multi-dimensional issue and should, therefore, be viewed and measured in that context. Progress on multi-dimensional poverty is not satisfactory.”
"We think poverty is a multi-dimensional issue and should, therefore, be viewed and measured in that context. Progress on multi-dimensional poverty is not satisfactory."
Over the last seven years, UNDP has been reporting country-specific multi-dimensional poverty indices in its Human Development Reports. According to the 2012-13 data, the multi-dimensional poverty headcount for Pakistan was 45.6 per cent.
Narrating success stories, the UNDP official said prevalence of HIV/AIDS among the general population is low. The proportion of seats held by women in parliament is also good, but progress on other key indicators and targets has been less satisfactory.
The infant and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the region. Pakistan has the second highest number of out-of-school children. Targets on gender parity at all different levels of education — primary, secondary, tertiary — have not been achieved either.
About the potential of Pakistan in achieving MDGs, the UNDP official explained that countries in the region have performed much better on social sector indicators than Pakistan. Citing example, he said that while Nepal was lagging behind Pakistan on gender parity and enrollment rates in 1990 when the MDG framework was adopted, it has now surpassed Pakistan.
Mr Franche was of the view that with sound and consistent social-sector policies, Pakistan could have performed much better. Also, public spending on social sectors like health and education remained dismally low. With just two per cent of GDP spending on education, Pakistan could not address the issue of out-of-school children.
In addition to low budgetary allocations, the capacity and quality of spending were also big issues. Around 90 per cent of expenditure has been on non-development heads like salaries, he said.
When asked about the UNDP assessment of the capability and capacity to achieve MDGs, he said Punjab had performed better among the four provinces, but it was because Punjab had a better baseline — the social indicators were better than other provinces even in 2000 when the MDG framework was adopted. But, overall, not a single province was able to achieve any of the MDG targets.
Professionals lament govt failure
PROFESSIONALS have lamented the failures of the successive governments in bringing down the poverty rate, which according to them was 42 per cent.
Dr Sher Shah Syed, a leader of the Pakistan Medical Association, attributed tardy progress to non-seriousness of the governments. “They sign the international protocols, but they don’t come up to the expectations”.
“Had the rulers tried most of the issues confronted by the people could have been resolved,” he remarked.
He said that 42 per cent of the country’s population is living below the poverty line, and they have no assets to bank on.
Arif Hassan, an architect and town planner who had remained associated with the UN task force on housing in slums, said that because the governments don’t consider itself accountable to people, it feels no compulsion to resolve their problems. The fact is that the rulers care more for opinion of multilateral institutions such as WTO and IMF than people of the country.Neither the UN, nor the governments have a solution to the question of poverty, because they don’t address the housing needs of the people. They judge poverty on the basis of income per person, and it was the reason that they don’t consider that someone should have a house as an asset.
UN wants to reduce slums, but who will address the emergence of new slums that were going to be set up because housing needs of the people are not being fulfilled. It is the basic fault that was not being addressed.
So when we say that the solution of the poverty is in delivering $1 per person, the question of housing cannot be addressed and people may not have assets. So this is not the right method to reduce poverty.
Kaneez Fatima, a labour leader, was of the view that poverty cannot be reduced because all the money goes down the drain due to corruption and malpractices in governance.
She said that change in the system was the only solution to reduce poverty.
She said that demonstrations are held but no one pays attention to resolve grievances of the protesters.
ONE of the reasons successive governments didn’t feel the pressure to meet MDG targets was the absence of active citizenry which allowed the officialdom to go scot-free all these 15 long years.
The country was governed both by democratic and military dispensations during the period, but the result was pretty much the same as the term ‘MDG’ failed to ignite the fancy of the masses; the youth, which constitutes around 55 per cent of population, being no exception on this count.
A random sample survey conducted by Dawn comprising 100 young adults — 18 to 25 years of age — pursuing a Business degree at leading universities in Karachi, threw up the shocking conclusion that only six per cent were aware of the term. And even they simply claimed to have “heard the terminology somewhere”. Asked to recall the goals, they were clueless.
As such, the next question about the list of targets and indicators that were to be measured remained completely unanswered.
It suited the governments to keep the masses ignorant, but those studying at premier institutions of higher learning can’t be absolved of their responsibility to behave like aware citizens.
Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2015