Prime Minister Imran Khan was use to criticise the governments of PML-N and PPP for ignoring the human development when he was in opposition. In his speeches as chairman PTI, he was use stress the need to develop the human resource in Pakistan. He made pledges to spend more on education and health after forming the government.
Now he is the prime minister of this country and his party is in power in center, Punjab and KPK. But in last six months, no policy to develop the human resource came to the limelight. PM Imran Khan and his government are perusing the same old policy of “growth without development” in last six months.
No state can claim itself as a welfare state without providing social protection, social and economic justice and equal opportunities to its people. Welfare state protects the most vulnerable population with social spending programs and policies. In a welfare state, the main focus of economic policies always has been to provide basic needs, services and facilities to poor population. The well being of the most downtrodden sections of the society is the upmost aim and focus of a welfare state.
If Imran Khan is serious to make Pakistan a welfare state then he should change the economic model of growth without development. He needs to formulate the economic policies centered on the concept of well being of the most exploited, repressed and deprived sections of the society. This cannot be achieved without significantly increase the allocations of money for education, health and social services and programs.
The problem is that Pakistan lags behind with the countries that have same GDP growth and per capita income. The countries like Sri Lanka are doing much better compare to Pakistan on human and social development. This ‘social gap’ primarily exists not because of any lack of resources, but due to poor prioritisation of the allocated resources. There has been a lack of consistent linkages between economic growth and poverty reduction.
A number of factors contribute to the persistent social gap in the country including low financial allocations, governance issues and political instability. Pakistan is among the countries that spends less on education, health and social security. Most of the workforce is not covered under social security net. Large numbers of workers are not recognised as the part of workforce by the government.
Pakistan needs to include Social inclusion in the policy framework to improve the lives of all those individuals and segments of the society that have been left out of the economic growth. The weaker sections of the society lack education, health, economic opportunities and employment.
There should be different ways to measure social inclusion. At least three dimensions needs to be considered:
Human Development: by looking at education, health and income above the poverty line.
Economic Development: covering poverty, labour force participation, assets, and savings.
Women Empowerment: This is measured through girls’ education, assets ownership, and decision making/bargaining power.
Pakistan lags behind on all fronts. Pakistan is among the three worst countries in the world for gender inequality. Pakistan ranks 147 out of 188 countries on UNDP’s Human Development Index with an HDI value of 0.550. Labour force participation ratio is 48.2 percent in the country with more than half of the population being unemployed.
In addition to low labour force participation, there are a number of other issues. Pakistan has a minimum wage of Rs14, 000 per month which has a weak implementation, due to poor enactment of labour laws. The gender wage gap is alarmingly high in both the formal and informal sectors.
Pakistan has one of the lowest spending on social protection, not only in the world but within the South Asian region also. Pakistan spends 0.6 percent of its GDP on social protection compared to India’s 1.5 percent, Nepal’s 1.3 percent and Bangladesh’s 0.7 percent spending. Outreach of social protection programmes is very low in Pakistan, with the coverage reaching out to 21.2 percent of households in rural areas and 10.4 percent in urban areas.
The concept is also embedded in Article 38(a) and (e) of the constitution of Pakistan:“The State shall secure … the well-being of the people, … by raising their standard of living… provide for all citizens, within the available resources of the country, facilities for work and adequate livelihood with reasonable rest and leisure, … provide social security by compulsory social insurance or other means, … provide basic necessities of life such as food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief, for all such citizens, irrespective of sex, creed, caste, or race, as are permanently or temporarily unable to earn their livelihood on account of infirmity, sickness or unemployment; reduce disparity in the income and earnings of individuals.”
There are two success stories in Pakistan to provide social protection to the marginalised sections of society. Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) is the largest social protection programme in the country, established in 2008 as a commemorative initiative for Benazir Bhutto. BISP’s core initiative is unconditional cash transfers, which is complemented by conditional cash transfers for education (Waseela-e-Taleem), vocational and technical training (Waseela-e-Rozgar), micro-finance (Waseela-e-Haq), health and life insurance (Waseela-e-Sehat).
In order to improve girls’ enrolment in schools and reduce their dropout rates, the government of Punjab launched the Education Reform Programme in 2003. Female School Stipend is part of the programme. A cash transfer of approximately USD2 per student per month is made on a quarterly basis on the condition of 80 percent attendance. The programme has reportedly been successful in increasing enrolments by 11 to 32 percent and decreasing dropouts by 25 percent.
Much needs to be done to lift millions out of poverty and deprivation. They need social protection, economic opportunities and employment with better wages to improve their lives.
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17 November, 2019