Some member of a WhatsApp group has posted the World Bank report on Pakistan’s situation in the post-flood scenario. It’s horrible. It says that as a direct result of the floods, Pakistan’s national poverty rate could rise by 2.5 to 4.0 percentage points, thereby affecting human development in disaster-affected areas. The report titled “Macro Poverty Outlook for Pakistan” is a must-read for those who are afraid of poverty as the size and length of shocks will differ across regions and households depending on the severity of the flooding as well as the effectiveness of relief and reconstruction efforts. The severe floods and soaring inflation would harm poverty, according to the forecast released on Saturday.
Poverty in Pakistan is a pressing issue. Although the indicators show that there has been an improvement over the years, the phenomenon exists all over the country. According to the Asian Development Bank, 21.9% of the population lives below the poverty line. This means that they do not earn even the minimum wage necessary for survival. Poverty is a multifaceted phenomenon that is correlated with several social and economic factors, such as household size, education level, gender, remittances received, and the employment status of the household head.
The proportion of Pakistanis living in poverty has decreased over the past 20 years, dropping from 61.6% in 1998-1999 to 21.5% in 2018-19. It fell from 47.4% to 10.7% in urban areas and, over the same period, from 67.5% to 27.6% in rural areas. According to provincial estimates, poverty has decreased over the past 20 years in every province. In 1998-1999, poverty rates were 61.8% in Punjab, 57% in Sindh, 71% in KPK, and 55.9% in Balochistan. In 2018-19, the national poverty rate was 21.5%, while it was estimated to be 16.3% in Punjab, 24.6% in Sindh, 27% in KPK, and 40.7% in Balochistan.
Pakistan’s multidimensional poverty decreased the least among other South Asian countries, according to the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2022. The number dropped most for India and least for Pakistan. The Multidimensional Poverty Index calculates poverty in multiple areas. According to new indicators, a lack of money is not the only thing that makes one poor. Poverty encompasses a lack of education and the means to receive an education. Lack of access to health also constitutes one of the most important parts of the Multidimensional Poverty Index. Lack of sanitation and the unavailability of cooking fuel are also determinants of poverty, according to the UNDP. The most prevalent profile, affecting 3.9% of the world’s poor, includes deficiencies in housing, sanitation, cooking fuel, and nutrition. The highest percentages of people in Pakistan are lacking in these areas (31.2%) and housing (30.6%), respectively. The disparity between the number of people living in poverty in South Asia (80,000, primarily in Pakistan) and the Arab States (214,000, dominated by Sudan) is startling. Only these four indicators show the deprivation of more than 45.5 million poor people: nutrition, cooking fuel, sanitation, and housing this profile is primarily made up of people from South Asia, with 34.4 million of them living in India, 2.1 million Bangladesh, and 1.9 million in Pakistan.
The state of Pakistan needs to focus on this as poverty is not a standalone issue. With poverty comes many other vices such as malnutrition, stunted growth, increase in crime rate to name a few. Once this issue is solved, the country is likely to prosper economically as well as in many other dimensions. The recent floods exacerbated the problem which also showed a negative impact on other indicators. To develop the country in aspects of both human and economic development, poverty is the first place to start. Pakistan should take inspiration from its friendly neighbour China who, through various poverty alleviation programs took a large proportion of its population out of poverty.