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Human Development Report

Pakistan was ranked 152 out of 189 countries on Human Development Index (HDI) as per the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) annual report. The index measures long-term progress on life expectancy, knowledge (number of years of schooling) and standard of living (Gross National Income expressed in 2011 international dollars using purchasing power parity – PPP).

The applicable year is 2018 which effectively implies that the onus of such low ranking must fall on the previous administration. The UNDP cautions each year that “it is misleading to compare values and rankings with those of previously published reports, because of revisions and updates of the underlying data and adjustments to goalposts.”

The table provides HDI trends for Pakistan based on consistent time series data and new goal posts as determined by UNDP. Three observations are in order. Firstly, life expectancy rose from 60.1 years in 1990 to 62.8 years in 2000 while it rose much faster between 2000 till 2018 to 67.1 years. Secondly, years of schooling also rose much faster between 2000 and 2018 (5.4 to 8.5 years) relative to the decade before (from 4.6 to 5.4) as did GNI that is rose more sharply between 2000 and 2018 (from 3358 to 5190 in 2011 PPP dollars) relative to the decade before (from 3195 to 3358). And in 2017-18 Pakistan’s intensity of deprivation was 51.7 percent.

In 2010, UNDP began to compile a multidimensional poverty index (MPI) looking at multiple deprivations suffered by individuals in 3 dimensions notably health, education and standard of living. The most recent survey data is for 2017-18 wherein 38.3 percent of the Pakistani population is multi-dimensionally poor while an additional 12.9 percent is classified as vulnerable to multidimensional poverty.

The percentage intensity of deprivation in Pakistan for 2017-18 was 51.7 percent (against Bangladesh’s 47.5 percent and India’s 43.9 percent), and vulnerable to multiple dimensional poverty 21.5 percent (against Bangladesh’s 16.7 percent and India’s 8.8 percent). However, those below the percentage of poverty line in Pakistan was very low, at 3.9 percent (against 14.8 percent in Bangladesh and 21.2 percent in India) which may be reflective of what Prime Minister Imran Khan has always maintained notably that Pakistanis, individually and institutionally, are one of the highest donators to charity in the world. However this low figure implies that the need for safe houses is not acute in this country.

The question is how come the post 2000 Pakistani administrations were more focused on improving HDI? The answer may partly lie in the millennium summit 2000, where 147 heads of state and representatives of 189 countries adopted the Millennium Development Declaration which proposed eight development goals referred to as Millennium Development Goals. By 2015, 195 countries agreed on specific sustainable development targets/goals for their country – a commitment that gave leverage to multilaterals if a signatory country sought project/programme (budgetary support) loans. Pakistan – termed a perennial borrower from the IMF as well as other multilaterals (at present we are on the 23rd International Monetary Fund programme) – could not ignore the targets set as SDG targets, though the country has always fallen short of achievement of targets.

Comparisons with regional countries including with the South Asian average show Pakistan performing poorly in terms of: (i) inequality in life expectancy at 29.2 percent (compared to South Asian average of 20.2 with India far outpacing Pakistan at 19.7 and Bangladesh at 17.3 percent), (ii) human inequality coefficient at 30.2 percent for Pakistan against India’s 25.7 percent and Bangladesh’s 23.6 percent with total South Asian estimate at 25.3 percent; and (iii) inequality in education at 43.5 percent against India’s 38.7 percent and Bangladesh’s 37.3 percent (with South Asia at 37.5 percent). A similar picture with Pakistan performing the worst in the region emerges for gender development index though Pakistan performs well in terms of female seats in parliament due without doubt to reserved women seats – unelected and based on the party leader’s choice rather than on the ballot box.

The question that the public needs a response to is whether the Prime Minister’s signature ehsaas programme has the capacity to improve Pakistan’s poor statistics? There is no doubt that Imran Khan’s vision is to end poverty, improve the standard of living and ensure the provision of social infrastructure to a greater percentage of Pakistanis than before. However Ahsan Iqbal’s Vision 2025 was no less ‘visionary’, read unrealistic based on the country’s macroeconomic indicators, and implementation suffered due to lack of adequate funding by the then Dar-led Finance Ministry which was focused on reducing the fiscal deficit.

The indicators today are no better though the IMF has approved the 2019-20 budget, a prior condition, that envisages considerable increase in current expenditure (40 percent from last year and in actual terms around 1.5 trillion rupees though allocations for BISP/Ehsaas are embedded in current as opposed to development expenditure outside the Public Sector Development Programme as in previous years) while development expenditure was budgeted to rise by 40 percent (around 200 billion rupees). Be that as it may, as per the consolidated federal and provincial budgetary operations data released by the Ministry of Finance for the first quarter of the current year (July-September) disbursements were as follows: (i) only 8.8 percent of the total budgeted under PSDP, though Monday last the Finance Ministry claimed that actual development spending during the first four months of the current year rose by 27 percent compared to the same period the year before. The actual amount disbursed for October was not shared; and (ii) social protection was disbursed 547 million rupees which is 0.27 percent of the budgeted commitment. Given that Sheikh has placed many items under different heads in the budget, no doubt to give himself space to defend lower disbursements than the budgeted amount for any specific item/sector, it is difficult to determine exactly how much has been released for BISP and or Ehsaas during the first quarter. If so, then clarity rather than confusion, the basic mantra of economists, is being compromised.

Be that as it may, Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) was launched during the Zardari-led government and by 2018-19 the Khan administration released 118.6 billion rupees for BISP. This year BISP and Ehsaas (it is unclear how much overlap there is between the two, if any) are budgeted to receive 200 billion rupees as stated by Dr Hafeez Sheikh during a press briefing hence assuming that the current year’s total BISP disbursement remains at least at the same level as last year the rise in allocation is around 81.4 billion rupees – not as significant a rise as claimed by Dr Hafeez Sheikh.

The question is would Dr Hafeez Sheikh be allowed to continue not to disburse the budgeted amount for Ehsaas? While Dar’s position in the cabinet was virtually that of deputy prime minister, Dr Hafeez Sheikh does not have the same standing in the Khan-led cabinet. Besides Dr Hafeez Sheikh, with no history of standing up to any directives issued by his boss – be they economically appropriate or not – will be able to stall disbursements for the Ehsaas programme if specifically instructed by the Prime Minister to do so.

To conclude, the higher budgeted allocation for the current year for social sector development/Ehsaas, if actually disbursed during the current year, is not sufficient to cater to the needs of the growing ranks of the unemployed leave alone make a difference in raising the percentage of those under a state subsidised social security blanket.

ANJUM IBRAHIM, "Human Development Report," Business Recorder. 2019-12-23.
Keywords: Political science , Economic condition , Economic growth , Climate change , Poverty , Crime , Citizenship , Imran Khan , Pakistan , Turkey , China , Malaysia , GDP , IMF , BISP , 2019

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