Poverty Alleviation in Pakistan is no more an Enigma


Over the past few years, Pakistan has made noteworthy improvement to defeat poverty. It’s been reduced by more than half since 2000. In 2016, Pakistan became the first country worldwide to announce Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the national development agenda. Pakistan further undated the national poverty line in the same year. Pakistan is committed enough to improve and implement multi-dimensional poverty measures. Once we have a look of the development made by Pakistan in last one decade to fight out poverty we get to know that according to the official figures the poverty headcount ratio declined from 29.5% in 2013-14 to 24.3% in 2015-16. Pakistan was amongst the top 15 countries that showed the biggest annual average percentage point decline between 2000 and 2015, of all 114 countries for which the World Bank measures poverty index.  In 2015, around 50 million people in Pakistan were living below the national poverty line. This is to a certain extent owing to the macroeconomic crisis resulting from structural economic issues and the lack and insufficient completion of pro-poor policies.

In order to further cope with the poverty issue, the incumbent Government has launched the “Ehsaas” program on 27 March 2019. The aim and objective of the program is to lessen disparity, investing in people of Pakistan as well as lifting lagging districts. Ehsaas program is all based upon the idea of creating a welfare state. This is only possible by countering privileged capture and leveraging 21st century tools. This can be done by using data and technology to generate accuracy safety nets as well as by endorsing financial insertion and admittance to digital services. This are many other aspects as well which includes women empowerment,  investing and focusing on human capital structure to eradicate poverty, sustainable development and financial growth and conquering the economic barricades to accessing health and education.  The mechanism and formulation of this program based on multi-sectoral collaboration by the Government for solving several issues. The functional capacity of the program is also based on focusing the joint federal-provincial leadership. The role of private sector is really imperative. The mainstreaming of this sector is also part of the course taken by provision of equal participation to benefit people locally. This private-sector inclusion is indeed a support for creating jobs and promoting livelihood. The foundation of this program based on the idea of strengthening institutions, precision as well as good governance. It is noteworthy to mention that Ehsaas program is formulated for those living in extreme poverty. They include, orphans, widows, the homeless and disabled people,  those who can’t afford their medical expenses, unemployed people, poor farmers, laborers and those who even don’t have money to eat and live a life. Another very important aspect is that this program also helps out students from low-income backgrounds.  There is also a special place for women and elderly people those who don’t have enough monetary support to run their affairs. The utter purpose is to mitigate the causes which are creating poverty in the country by providing a solution to the underlined problem. Poverty reduction strategy of Ehsaas program is expressed in four pillars and at present embodies 115 policy actions, which may be extended as the procedure of consultations on the program, further widens. These four pillars comprise of dealing with elite capture while emphasizing on the governmental system and approach to form parity; safety nets for underprivileged sections of the population, creating jobs and livelihoods along with human capital development which is indeed a necessity presently. In May 2019, Prime Minister Imran Khan has appointed Dr Sania Nishtar a special assistant to the prime minister on social protection and poverty alleviation with the status of federal minister. Since then she is working hard to achieve the desired goals. Dr Nishtar has been described once as extremely qualified and brilliant. She was previously appointed co-chair to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) high-level commission on non-communicable diseases, and as chair to the US National Academy of Sciences initiative on the Quality of Healthcare in low and middle-income countries and heads the United Nations International Institute for Global Health’s Advisory Committee. In 2015, Government of Pakistan nominated her to succeed Antonio Guterres who is now United Nations secretary general, as the High Commissioner for Refugees. In 2017 she was again nominated to succeed Margaret Chan as the WHO director general. Dr Nishtar is author of several research papers and books. Her most recent publication, Choked Pipes is a textbook for post-graduate level studies and a reference guide. At the end of last year, an independent report was published by Delivery Associates which indicated that Ehsaas program which is a flagship project of poverty alleviation initiative is an evident example of swing from the politics of benefaction to politics of performance. The report, entitled, ‘The Ehsaas Programme: Shift from politics of patronage to politics of performance’, is based on the first year performance of this program. It was mentioned in the report that initially taken steps to ensure transparency are highly appreciable.  Multi-sectoral and results-driven approach also attracted many around the world.  There were many other achievements mentioned in the report. They included, Ehsaas Kafaalat, which provides unrestricted cash transfers to millions of the poorest women, Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarships, which aprovides over 50,000 scholarships a year to students from a deprived background and Ehsaas Nashonuma, a provisional cash transfers to fight out malnutrition. Last year amount of Rs1.2 trillion was allocated being COVID-19 relief package whereas Rs180 billion disbursed through Ehsaas Emergency Cash along with multiple other economic stimulus measures. There were many other initiatives introduced under the umbrella of Ehsaas program which included,  Ehsaas Kafaalat, One Woman One Account (7 million families to benefit), Special Persons (2 million families to benefit),  Ehsaas Amdan Programme, Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarships distribution and Ehsaas Nashonuma to fight stunted growth. Programs like monetary support for widows, Ehsas homes for orphan children, Panah-gahs for homeless people as well Sehat Card for the deserving people across Pakistan are also in action.  All these initiatives and programs are moving ahead successfully.


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