Old wine in a new bottle
Poverty alleviation is a standard promise made by each consecutive government in this country whether civilian or otherwise and most if not all have fallen well short of achieving this crucial objective which is the foremost part of UN’s sustainable development goals. Yesterday the government launched what it calls a first of its kind poverty alleviation programme where the idea is to place all existing institutions under one central body with the likes of BISP, Zakat department and others working under a single head. Taking one look at the track record and effectiveness of any one of these funds it is obvious that this is merely old wine in a new bottle. Given the precarious state of the economy with more money going out than coming in, the PTI simply cannot fund a genuinely original programme for poverty alleviation and have merely stamped their name onto this so-called new initiative.
Lack of rationalization in the allocation of available funds further exacerbates the situation where the government has already decided not to reduce defence spending rather has plans to increase it while at the same time development budgets are being slashed. Last year the World Bank published an eye opening report stating that the gap between the poverty head count rate in rural Pakistan and urban areas had remained unchanged since 2001-02 with 36pc in the former and 18pc in the latter. Rural areas are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to almost all aspects of service delivery. The PTI is offering nothing new while it is evident that policies of the past have been unable to bring about any significant change in poverty levels in the country. If this government truly wants to live up to its promise of change then it should make some tough decisions to redirect funding towards improving the standard of and access to basic education, availability of clean drinking water and health services for a start. Job creation will only be possible once the economy stabilizes and shows signs of growth and that will of course take time but what the PTI is trying to pass of as a ‘plan’ is a non-starter.