An Evaluation of Public Strategies & Policies

Despite achieving a respectable growth rate of exceeding 5 percent over the last 45 years, almost 14 percent of the population is still undernourished and more than one-third still cannot meet their basic needs. No doubt, the proportion of the poor has declined from 46 percent in 1984-85 to 34 percent in 1990-91, but the fact that at least one-third of the population is poor and that the poverty may have increased once again is a cause for concern.

Strategies of economic development pursued in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s have been markedly different. Growthmanship, pursued in the ’60s, did not trickle down the benefits to the poor. There is conflicting evidence on trends in poverty during this period, Even though food poverty may have fallen somewhat, the number of poor who cannot meet basic needs hardly showed any decline [see Nasim (1973), Alauddin (1975), Mujahid (1978) Kemal (1981)]. The policy of growth with redistribution, pursued in the ‘70s, also failed to reduce poverty because of the stagnant per capita income and because food subsidies did not reach the target groups. The structural adjustment programs, initiated in the late ‘70s but pursued more vigorously by the end of the ‘80s aim at improvement in the allocation of resources without much regard to the income distribution. Under the programme most of the consumption subsidies have been withdrawn and instead safety net instruments of zakah, ushr and Baitui Maal have instituted but they have proved to be inadequate.

Whereas poverty may be reduced by subsidising the consumption of the poor or by transfering the incomes to the poor, direct intervention in the production process by way of promoting those activities which generate more employment and have desirable income distribution effects can be even more effective. Despite the fact that the rate of open unemployment in 1990-91 was about 6.3 percent and under and open unemployment was about 15 percent, very little effort has gone into that direction. No doubt, successive governments in Pakistan have initiated self-employment programmes and a Manpower Commission was also appointed in the ‘80s, yet not much effort has gone into encouraging labour-intensive industries and production techniques.

The present study examines Pakistan’s experience in eradicating poverty with a view to determining the areas of omissions and commissions in the policy formulation. Four mechanism which may generate poverty or help in the alleviation of poverty examined in the study are:

  1. economic programmes and policies which promote employment such as the choice of technology, promotion of large or small firms, etc.;
  2. the taxation policy of the government;
  3. the provision of social services to the poorer section the society; and
  4. transferring income to the poorer sections of the society.

Dr. A. R. Kemal


Source: Poverty Alleviation in Pakistan: Present Scenario and Future Strategy, Mohibul Haq Sahibzada. Republished with permission.
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