ISLAMABAD: Statistics reveal stunning increase in poverty in Pakistan impacted by the prices of energy and food in the past three years.
These happen to be the worst years as far as the poverty situation in the country is concerned, data reveals.
The Federal Bureau of Statistics data updated for the Centre for Poverty Reduction and Social Policy Development (CPRSPD), Planning and Development Division, shared with The News indicates an upswing in the headcount poverty ratio for 2008-09.
The steep increase in the prices of petroleum products, electricity and natural gas as well as food items (especially flour, sugar and meat) began in 2007, while the situation worsened in 2008 with global increase in POL and commodity prices.
The financial meltdown followed as industry could not cope with the rising energy prices triggered sharp slowdown in growth and high inflation.
This situation impacted Pakistan’s economy generally and the poor households particularly, as the report indicates.
The government is yet to make this report public after its preparation is formalized and the relevant officials in high places approve its launch.
The News obtained salient figures from this report revealing that the increase in food and energy prices since late 2007 compelled the government to launch a household income and expenditure survey for assessment of poverty increase and vulnerability of the countryside and city-slum majority.
Survey to make such assessment got delayed for inexplicable reasons but the reports based on a 5-year old assessment got regularly updated for the federal cabinet’s appraisal.
The updated Planning Commission’s Interim Report based on 2004-05 poverty head count number of 23.9 percent put the increase in poverty at around 6 percent for the year 2008-09. The newly updated figures say this ratio must go as high as 29.9 percent.
The World Bank’s Task Force on Food Security had put the ratio at 29.2 percent in 2004-05, 33.8 percent in 2007-08 and 36.1 percent in 2008-09. Such estimates placed 62 million people of the country Below the Poverty Line (BPL) in 2008-09.
The new assessments say at least 20 million people might have joined the previous headcount on BPL population.
The poverty increase situation thus stood as follows: 22.3 percent of the population in 2005-06 to between 30-35 percent in 2008-09; now this population is beyond 40 percent.
The data is explained in a manner that the increase in BPL population in the rural areas is more tragic as people lost their small holdings to inflation and overall expenditure per family unit increased by more than 20 percent in the past 3 years.
Though the increase of inflation-hit population in the urban areas remained more pronounced, the net impact was far lower than in the rural areas.
More than 50 percent of the urban workforce underwent decrease in actual wages viz a viz inflation.
The high food prices undermined the government efforts for poverty reduction as food price hike severely eroded poor households’ purchasing power.
This situation indicates a serious risk of massive school dropouts at primary levels while fresh enrolments would also be on the decline.
The poorest households are compelled to spend more than 78 percent of incomes on food and other most essential expenditure, while health and education are tragically compromised areas.