ISLAMABAD: The PML-N led government has agreed in principle to include controversial poverty figures in the upcoming progress report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), The News learnt on Wednesday.
According to the Economic Survey 2007-08 conducted during the Musharraf-era, the number of those living below the poverty line had come down from 22.3 per cent to 17.2 percent of the total population. However, nobody at the Planning Commission was willing to buy this figure at the time and include it in the Economic Survey 2008-09 as the country’s economy was under severe strain due to high inflation.
Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal gave the go-ahead for the inclusion of the 17.2 figure and the 12.4 percent figure in accordance with the 2010-11 survey into the progress report on achieving MDGs targets envisaged under United Nations umbrella until 2015.
When contacted for his version, Iqbal admitted that controversies are lingering over poverty figures and that the government has decided to revive a dormant technical committee to resolve these issues.
“The 17.2 figure is included in the report but a technical committee has been constituted to understand the methodology used to obtain poverty figures,” Iqbal added.
A source in the Planning Commission corroborated Iqbal’s statement. “There will be a footprint published along with these numbers stating that these are interim numbers and technical committee will review official methodology to come up with its findings,” the source said.
Meanwhile, a peer review on the progress report of MDGs will meet today (Thursday) comprising representatives of federal, provincial governments and experts to review the report in detail after which the matter will be decided once and for all.
The PPP-led regime had repeatedly refused to endorse the poverty figure on the basis of 2007-8 and 2010-11 surveys, which they believed were contrary to ground realities.
The UNDP’s Human Development Report 2013 ranks Pakistan at 146th with a Human Development Index (HDI) value of 0.515. The report showed a gradual increase in the country’s HDI value from 0.504 in 2011 and 0.503 in 2010, though Pakistan’s rank slipped in 2012. Other composite indices place Pakistan at a lower rank. The Inequality Adjusted Human Development Index is 0.356 and multi-dimensional poverty index is 0.264 and Gender Inequality Index for Pakistan is 0.567.
Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM) 2011-12 shows mixed results in terms of the education enrolment indicators. The literacy rate (children above 10) has improved from 57 percent in 2008-09 to 58 percent and adult literacy improved from 54 percent to 55 percent in the same period, while primary and middle school gross enrollment rate also registered a one percentage point improvement. However, the declining rate of primary and secondary net enrollment is an area of grave concern for policy makers, particularly after the devolution of the subject to the provinces.
Immunization of children also improved during 2011-12. The PSLM also reported trends in terms of the water supply and sanitation indicators. Whereas the sanitation situation at household level has registered an improvement (in terms of 72 percent of population using flush toilets compared to 66 percent in 2010-11), access to drinking water to urban and rural population of Pakistan is 92 percent and 88 percent respectively, with an average of 89 percent in 2011-12.