June 25 2007: Poverty remains a serious concern in Pakistan as a large segment of the population lives in poverty. According to the rebased GDP numbers, the per capita income comes to US$845. Poverty rates, which had fallen substantially in the 1980s and early 1990s, started to rise again toward the end of the decade.
More importantly, differences in income per capita across regions have persisted or widened. Poverty varies significantly among rural and urban areas and from province to province, from a low of 14% in urban Sindh to 41% in rural NWFP.
Pakistan has grown much more than other low-income countries, but has failed to achieve social progress commensurate with its economic growth. The educated and well-off urban population lives not so differently from their counterparts in other countries of similar income range.
However, the poor and rural inhabitants of Pakistan are being left behind. For example, access to sanitation in Pakistan in rural areas is 30% lower than in other countries with similar income.
According to World Bank, what is startling is the fact of highest incidence of absolute landlessness, highest share of tenancy and the lowest share of land ownership in Sindh. The wealthy landlords with holdings in excess of 100 acres, who account for less than one per cent of all farmers in the province, own 150 per cent more land than the combined holdings of 62 per cent of small farmers in the province with land holdings of less than five acres.
Crops and livestock have been devastated by the four years drought exposing more than 50 per cent of its rural population to extreme poverty. Sindh being on the lower riparian, water supply remains less than what is needed and hence all the problems.
The World Bank found Sindh to be endowed with many characteristics of a high growth region. At one time it was the most industrialised province accounting for 40 per cent of the country’s manufacturing output in the country.
Rich in mineral resources, the province possesses one-third of total deposits of the country. At one time it was the most efficient producer of agricultural goods. The per capita income in Karachi was 55 per cent higher than the national average at the time of independence. Karachi was the first city in Asia to have a full-fledged airport and its seaport was the main supplier of cotton and grains to Europe in 19th and 20th century.
The city’s seaport is well connected by extensive road and rail network with all parts of the country and is well extended to India in East and up to Central Asia in North. The province has highest literate population, a strong entrepreneurial class, a large pool of educated labour with relatively low wages and home to many institutions of higher learning,
According to the World Bank report “Sindh should be on a fast growth track and Karachi should have been a flourishing metropolis’’.
Instead of building on the initial advantages to become country’s growth engine, the province, “has been gradually losing position of pre-eminence’’ the report notes and goes on to illustrate its observations with facts that show the rise in unemployment in the province.
The report warns of deterioration in unemployment situation as it counts 610,000 unemployed in the year 2003-04 and nearly half a million persons are likely to be get added each year for next ten years.
“Without a sustained growth rate of around 7-8 per cent per year, the number of unemployed in Sindh could go as high as 1.6 million by 2013-14'’ warns the report.
The province’s share in the national gross domestic production (GDP) is found to have fallen in almost all sectors with the largest declines recorded in large scale manufacturing, finance and insurance, transport and communication sectors.
Another significant observation of the World Bank is that the Sindh’s development indicators are not only low in absolute term, but are growing less rapidly relative to rest of...
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