Poverty Alleviation: Seminar
I sincerely thank the Institute of Policy Studies for giving me the opportunity to join you in the concluding session of this International Seminar on “Poverty Alleviation.” I believe you must have benefited a lot from this well organised dialogue, high-level presentations and thoughtful discussions by renowned economists, sociologists and scholars on a subject that is of paramount importance to all concerned.
You all must be aware that this Institute is trying to promote policy-oriented research with professional integrity, commitment to the Islamic ideology and the socio-economic, political and security interests of Pakistan in particular and of the Muslim Ummah and humanity in general. The Institute, has made valuable contribution in the fields of education, foreign policy, Pakistan economy and Islamic Economics. I congratulate the Chairman and his colleagues for their continuing efforts to present a balanced view on a number of global and national issues.
The timing of this seminar could not have been more appropriate as all the less developed and poor countries are engaged in a thorough and active phase of the poverty alleviation. Seminars, symposia and workshops of this nature help review current efforts, sort out tested principles and guidelines and suggest mod-els that could be applied in different conditions. I am sure the report of this seminar will make a valuable contribution to the literature on poverty. This is sufficiently evident from the conclusions drawn and recommendations made in the seminar communique.
I wish here to re-emphasise some of the more useful suggestions made during these two days of deliberations and as reflected in the communique.
First and foremost, poverty alleviation must receive due priority and serious consideration in the development agenda, nationally and intemationaly. As Prof. Khurshid rightly said, we have to do something without further waste of time, or else poverty will sort out its own solution as evident from the human history. I also agree with the observation that there are in-built and inherent flaws in the present day economic development strategies, which only help to perpetuate and increase the incidence of poverty. This phenomenon is not specific to under-developed and developing countries. The rich-poor gap is widening even in the most developed countries. This calls for serious thinking and demands restructuring of the whole system making it more responsive to the needs of the common person as an imperative of social justice and equity.
Regarding country-specific measures, as proposed in the seminar, an important area relates to the necessity of integrated policy approach that encompasses all key sectors like employment, food availability, shelter, education, health, environmental protection and utilities.
The observation that the incidence of poverty is increasing in spite of grandiose development plans and huge allocations and that it reflects the lack or inadequacy of political commitment at the highest levels and wasteful delivery machinery appears correct. Policies must be translated into action plans and timely implemented.
The role of private sector is certainly very important which has proved particularly more effective and instrumental in creating mass awareness and motivating and mobilising the target groups through community-based social organisations.
I am happy to note that the seminar has also discussed the important issue of child labour, which in fact is the direct outcome of poverty situation. Children get neglected, deprived of education and forced to labour market only because the family finds it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to meet the both ends meet. Suggestion with respect to gainful employment for all ablebodied persons is key to solving the issue of child labour. Economically well off families never permit their children to get wasted for want of little more income.
The ideological perspective is of great importance particularly for the Muslims who stand committed through faith and conviction to eliminate scars of poverty from the face of the society. Islam has laid great emphasis upon the plight of the poor and the destitute and according to Qur'an neglect of the poor is directly associated with the most grievous penalty. Moreover, in Islam supporting the poor assumes an obligatory character and disregard for the poor becomes tantamount to abandoning religion. This emphasis is manifest particularly in the institution of zakat.
The seminar has also discussed, though briefly, the vast historical heritage of Islam pertaining to the alleviation of poverty. In this historical context, particularly based on Ottoman period, the institution of zakat, provisionism, cash waqfs, business partnership, the prohibition of bartar and institutionalisation of the pilgrimage are very important and provide essential guidelines for a meaningful poverty alleviation programme. Muslim countries can manage to alleviate poverty from their societies through these institutions and more particularly the zakat if its collection is regulated by law, its sources are widened to include all means of acquiring wealth and the disbursement targets only the needy members of society.
With these words, I extend again my congratulations to the Institute of Policy Studies for giving me the opportunity to share with scholars and distinguished participants my brief views on this very sensitive issue.
Mr. Wasim Sajjad
Source: Poverty Alleviation in Pakistan: Present Scenario and Future Strategy, Mohibul Haq Sahibzada. Republished with permission.