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Still far behind

Publication Date : 31-10-2012


With three years left to go to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, Pakistan’s performance doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. There has been some criticism of the MDGs, including that they are too basic or that some indicators are difficult to measure. But for a less developed country like Pakistan, they provide a reasonable framework for assessing progress in fundamental areas of concern including poverty, gender equality, health and education. The UNDP claims that “sufficient progress has only been made on about half of the targeted indicators”. But a closer look at the organisation’s own assessment of Pakistan’s progress paints an even bleaker picture. There has been movement in a handful of areas, including the Lady Health Workers programme, women’s political participation and treatment of tuberculosis. But the literacy rate, for example, was 54 per cent in 2008-09, according to the UNDP, versus the goal of 88 per cent in 2015. Only 30 per cent of those living in high-risk areas are receiving malaria treatment and prevention versus the goal of 75 per cent. Poverty ranges from 17 to 35 per cent of the population depending on whom you believe, compared to the 13 per cent goal for 2015.

Speak to experts about why Pakistan is not making better progress, and the answer usually depends on what organisation they come from and development theory they buy into. There is the view that only economic growth will lead to better socio-economic indicators. Others argue that the government has to provide a social safety net to improve the lives of citizens and the quality of the workforce. On both counts, the country is failing. Last year’s GDP (gross domestic product) growth of less than four per cent was far below the seven to eight per cent needed to employ the country’s growing population. As far as the state goes, beyond the reasonably successful Benazir Income Support Programme, it is entirely unclear what other large-scale projects the government has undertaken.

Real progress towards the MDGs requires a concerted effort on a number of fronts: better preparing the provinces to take on the recently devolved health and education sectors, increasing the budget for development, continuing to include the MDGs in economic planning — the latest Economic Survey and growth framework do not incorporate them — and involving the private sector and civil society. Even spreading the word would be a good place to start; shockingly few parliamentarians, citizens, businessmen and members of the media are aware of what the MDGs are and what is being done to achieve them. Without a genuine campaign on the issue, Pakistan has no hope of even coming close to the goals for 2015.


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