How to tackle poverty

By Mansoor Ahmad
June 16, 2024
A representational image showing men distributing food to people in Karachi on May 2, 2020. — AFP

LAHORE: Poverty is linked with the level of corruption in a country. Well-governed but natural resources-starved Japan has almost no poor, while poorly governed, resource-rich Pakistan has 40 per cent of its population poor.

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Countries everywhere are poor because their governments are corrupt. It is said that the poor feed the rich in Pakistan, which is close to reality. At the peripheries of posh localities, we find slums which are allowed to thrive because children and women living in these slums are essential for maintaining the lifestyle of the rich.

They serve in rich households with miserably low salaries.

In fact, when relatives of the rich visit them from a developed economy, they envy them as all their household chores are performed by servants from slums at miserably low wages.

People living in slums will remain poor for generations to come because every member of each household irrespective of age works in the residence of the rich. It is inhumane and illegal to employ children, but people are rarely held responsible for this corrupt practice.

The poor need fair treatment and the availability of a level playing field to wriggle out of poverty. Governments have to adopt prudent measures to facilitate the poor.

We should look at the measures taken by countries with the same GDP as that of Pakistan that succeeded in eradicating poverty. South Korea is one such example. Decades ago, the per-capita income in South Korea was roughly the same as in Pakistan. Sixty-five years later, there is no comparison between the two economies.

The per-capita income in Pakistan has tripled during this period while that of South Korea has increased 28 times.

To emulate Korea, Pakistan will have to design policies that yield better economic outcomes by empowering the entire population with good health, quality education and ability to withstand challenges like natural disasters.

Empowering Pakistan’s youth with skills and knowledge is another investment that could eradicate poverty.

These young people will not only get jobs in the country but also have access to employment opportunities overseas. The Pakistani immigrant population could double in five years through a careful and well-planned approach of imparting the skills needed in and outside the country.

Aging populations in developed economies need such young skilled people to give a boost to their labour-starved economies. Without sustained economic growth, these aging economies will not be able to generate resources for their ever-increasing elderly population.

Pakistan may well see its workers’ remittances doubling to $60 billion in next five years if a dedicated approach in this regard is adopted.

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