ALLEVIATING poverty and inequality calls for effective policy intervention that is only possible when extensive data is collected through household surveys. Such was the realisation that prompted the Sindh government on Monday to announce it would conduct a survey prior to implementing a poverty-alleviation programme. Unfortunate delays in providing relief to underprivileged Sindh districts, particularly drought-ridden Thar, has resulted in severe malnutrition and stunting. For relief to come to these desperate communities, the government must collect data to identify areas where socioeconomic disparity has caused much suffering. This information will help it design projects that ensure the provision of basic human needs such as food, safe drinking water and healthcare. Moreover, the authorities must know that only national housing or living standards measurement surveys, for instance, will furnish essential data on income, consumption, health, education etc. Flawed surveys result when the sample size is unrepresentative or the questionnaire worded incorrectly. While these considerations may be apparent to Mr Shah’s team, international agencies that have tried and tested methodologies to enhance data quality could also be consulted.
Officials in the last government might have claimed that Pakistan saw a decline in poverty levels, but the scale of the challenge to offer relief to the vulnerable is still huge. Tailoring development projects in line with resources especially at a time of economic downturn is imperative. While the prime minister has taken note of starvation and poverty in Thar, as always the onus lies on the PPP-led government to provide relief to its long-suffering constituents. If Pakistan is to meet its UN SDG poverty eradication target by 2030, concrete steps to boost economic activity and develop institutions and processes are mandatory. Here the key question is how best to create decent living standards. Only information-based action plans that are implemented and go beyond political rhetoric will earn this government respect on the world stage and acceptance from its own people.
Published in Dawn, October 3rd , 2018