Project launched to counter population issues


With an aim to take a holistic view of all matters relating to population and health by conducting a policy-oriented research and academic programmes, the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) launched a project of ‘Centre for Population, Health and Social Policy’ (CPHSP) here on Friday.
The launching-ceremony was held here at a local hotel in which health experts and PIDE representatives including PIDE Vice Chancellor Dr Rashid Amjad, Population Council, Pakistan, Country Director Dr Zeba Sathar, UNFPA Country Representative Rabbi Royan and PIDE Joint Director Dr G M Arif participated in the ceremony while Advisor to Prime Minister on social sector Shahnaz Wazir Ali was the chief guest.
Speaking on the occasion, Shahnaz Wazir Ali said that health was very marginalised and neglected sector in Pakistan because of budgeting priorities. After spending on debt services and defense, very little left for social development sector, she commented. She said the transfer of resources to provinces was not conditional to investment in health and education. She explained that NFC awards had not placed priority to investment in social sector. She, however, was of the view that social policy, health and population was the centre of progress and growth of a country, adding there was a great need of such programmes like CPHSP to address the fundamental health issues of the country.
“There is an immediate need that the research material on health and education should be available to policy makers and parliament committees while making decisions. Although health economy is a new concept for many of us in Pakistan but if we would not have a health economist with a health minister the result will be ultimately poor decision-making,” she asserted. “Besides other numerous problems, refusal to polio drops was one of the major issues being faced by the health authorities, but we found hardly anyone from research or medical community to counter it,” said Shahnaz, adding, “After establishment of this centre, I am hopeful that we will get health and social policies to counter such myths that through polio drops we are trying to control the population,” she hoped.
PIDE Vice Chancellor Dr Rashid Amjad pointed out that in Pakistan they devoted only 0.7 percent of GDP to the health sector and the latest figures in the New Growth Framework by the planning commission suggested the figure may have come down to 0.5 percent. He added the private expenditure constitute two-third of the total health expenditures out of which 99.6 percent are out-of-pocket expenditures indicating a large gap in health services.
“Sadly the needed interest and commitment to population and demographic issues is lacking as few students want to study in this field. Yet Pakistan today stands on the verge of a demographic disaster, if serious attempt will not made to bring down the growth rate in Pakistan,” he said.
He assured that PIDE would continue to play its role in coming up with the ideas and policies suggested to turn over Pakistan’s economy toward higher and sustainable growth which would improve living conditions and health of its population.
Elaborating the project, CPHSP Director Dr Durr-e-Nayab said the centre proposes to carry out policy oriented research in the field of health through a multidisciplinary lens mainly that of economics and demography.
She said: “Some of initial areas of interest for the centre include supply and demand of health, poverty and health dynamics, production of health and costs of health care especially after decentralisation of health in the 18th Amendment.” It is relevant to mention here that a German Agency GIZ will also assist the PIDE in said project, she concluded.