Sunday April 21, 2024

Untargeted philanthropy

By Mansoor Ahmad
March 29, 2023

LAHORE: Poor people, who account for almost 40 percent of the population, anxiously wait for Ramazan. They get plenty of food as the philanthropic spirit of the people is at its peak in Ramazan, but they are disappointed this year.

This is because true philanthropic spirit is almost exclusively demonstrated by the middle class families only. Unfortunately, the percentage of the middle class has declined appreciably during recent years particularly after hyperinflation in the last six months.

The situation can be judged by the fact that the government is providing subsidies to families earning Rs60,000 per month. Two years back those earning Rs60,000 per month formed the majority of the middle class.

Pakistan’s minimum wage is Rs27,000 per month. Now those earning more than double the minimum are looking for alms. This has reduced the normal philanthropic amount that was distributed among the poor.

In terms of amount, the richer segment of the society spares a much larger amount. But their method of untargeted relief distribution results in a much lower impact on the poor.

On the other hand, middle class families distribute relief goods or cash after assessing the status of the poor families. Mostly they distribute alms at the door step of the deserving poor.

They make efforts to help the poor by providing goods at their doorsteps or call them one by one at different times and handover the goods. In this manner, the dignity of the poor remains intact.

However, the rich do not have time to make such assessments on the needs of the poor. They buy goods, food or clothing in bulk and distribute the goods to mobs that are either invited at their residence or outside their offices.

Some businesspersons personally distributes the Ramazan relief package to each person that comes to the collection centre, but most distribute it through their staff. Criteria is to distribute on first come first serve basis. No identification of the recipient is needed for this methodology of relief distribution.

The lack of identification and crosschecks benefits thugs more than the poor. All the family members of some strongmen of an area make a queue and each is given the package. They retain one package and sell the rest at lower rates in the market.

Some families, particularly widowed women do not want alms this way as it hurts their dignity. Also, strong armed recipient families push them away. This lopsided distribution deprives nearly 40 percent of the deserving poor from being served.

Benefits would go to a larger population if the rich take some pain in assessing the deserving families.

They may not go to individual families for assessment, but can assess the status of the deserving through their staff too.

The assessment might cost 5 percent of what they intend to part with, but their packages would reach a larger population. Philanthropy is for serving humanity and not to simply distribute the amount reserved for philanthropy randomly to anyone who asks for alms.

The richer segment of the society accounts for hardly 5 percent of the population and provides help mostly to those who come to their doorstep and beg for help.

This has mostly benefitted professional beggars.