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August 29, 2006

Poor governance root cause of rising poverty

Lahore

August 29, 2006

KARACHI: Bad governance and misconceived policies play a major role in growing poverty in Pakistan and to cope with this menace developing slums, boosting agriculture and giving more market access to poor people were inevitable, said experts at a conference held on Monday. The two-day national Conference on Urban-Poverty, organised jointly by the National Urban Poverty Alleviation Program-UNDP and Aga Khan University (AKU), opened at the AKU Auditorium.

Chairman Saiban-Action Research for Shelter, Tasneem A Siddiqui, in his paper on “Genesis of Urban Poverty’ said that “poverty was not just about money. It is about access to power. It is deprivation not only in economic terms, but also at the social and political level”.

He said that persistence of poverty in Pakistan was neither accidental nor because of natural causes, but it is the result of misconceived macro policies, which our governments have consistently followed during the last 59 years.

He said that foreign aid could not reduce the poverty and World Bank and IMF were not the solution. Discussing the failure of government policies, Siddiqui said that the rapid industrialisation policy claimed to have brought Pakistan to the take-off stage, had in fact made the rural poor poorer.

He said that trillion of rupees had been spent to create physical and social infrastructure to indirectly reduce poverty, but this money went in waste due to the flawed planning and bad governance.

He said that poorest households also suffered from lack of access, especially to social services such as health and education, whereas 50 per cent of the rural population of Pakistan was land-less, while 75 per cent of urban economy was informal.

Siddiqui pointed out that poor often lacked access to information and other support services that could directly help increase their income in their existing production activity. He said that it must be admitted that the poor had been

surviving in spite of the state, and not because of the state.

He said that the people should be actively involved in the process of planning and development to help reduce poverty. Professor Mehtab A Karim of AKU said that the rapid growth of cities in developing countries was becoming a major challenge. He said that in 1950 only 18 per cent people in developing countries lived in cities, while in 2000 they exceeded 50 per cent mark.

He said that migration had been the major factor in growth of urban population in Pakistan. He said that Karachi was considered as a city of migrants who came here from within Pakistan and from all the other neighboring countries.

Prof Mehtab said that today about 85 per cent of Karachi’s population consisted of migrants and their descendents. To reduce the urban poverty, he called for provision of low-cost housing, improved public transportation, rational policies, waste management, improved sanitation and better allocation of resources for health and other basic urban services.

Dr Nadeem-ul-Haq, Director Pakistan Institute of Development Economics and Chief Economist, Planning Commission, Government of Pakistan, said that both the government and corporate sector had failed to properly conduct research on poverty.

He said that all research was being done by donors, whom he called actual think tanks of the government. He said that these donors, in fact, were formulating the governmental policies. He opined that poverty was relatively an urban problem, while the rural areas had no in-built mechanism for survival which compelled villagers to migrate to urban areas when faced with acute poverty.

He said that the urban development was the key to alleviate poverty. He said that for reducing poverty it was a must to develop liberal cities, open economy for poor and make poor-friendly policies. Adviser to the Sindh Chief Minister for Local Government, Waseem Akhter, addressing as chief guest, said that the government was taking many steps to check the growing urban poverty. He said that suggestions of this moot regarding cutting poverty would be given serious consideration by the government.

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