Monday, 6 June 2011

POVERTY: Pakistan: Economic Survey to miss official poverty figures

June 02, 2011

ISLAMABAD: The Economic Survey 2010-11, to be launched by Minister for Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh today (Thursday), will not possess any official figures of people living below the poverty line in Pakistan as the PPP-led regime has been unable to complete a poverty survey in its over three years rule, The News has learnt. Having no official poverty figures in the country, the Planning Commission’s Centre for Poverty Reduction and Social Policy Development’s National Project Manager Yasin Junjua has resigned from his post citing personal reasons as the sole cause for leaving this organisation at this crucial juncture. “Yes, my resignation has been accepted by the competent authority,” Yasin Junjua confirmed while talking to The News here on Wednesday.
However, official sources in the Ministry of Finance confirmed to The News that the Planning Commission in consultation with relevant authorities sent a detailed analysis on poverty trends to be incorporated in the Economic Survey for 2010-11 but there was no official poverty figure because there was no survey done. Thus, the exact figures could not be unveiled in the upcoming Economic Survey.
However, referring to UNDP’s multidimensional indicators of poverty for Pakistan by CPRSPD, it stated that in terms of deprivation of different indicators around 52 percent fell below the poverty line. The CPRSPD also dwelt upon assessments on poverty done by the Panel of Economist and Task Force on Food Security in its working paper. But it is fact that there has been no official poverty figure in Pakistan since 2005-06 when the Musharraf regime had calculated that 23.9 percent of the population was living below the poverty line.
Although, the poverty survey was done in financial year 2007-08 on the basis of which the poverty was assessed sliding down from 23 percent to 17.2 percent which was also validated and released by the World Bank but the PPP led regime refused to endorse it on the ground that these results were contrary to the ground realities.
The poverty survey called Pakistan Social and Living Standard Measurement (PSLM) portion of Household Income Expenditure Survey (HIES) was due in the last financial year 2009-10 to collect data from 77,000 households from all four provinces but the government did not provide funds to the Federal Bureau of Statistics (FBS).
During the ongoing financial year 2010-11, the HIES portion of PSLM was underway and at one stage it faced a blow when the government stopped its funding for the second half but the strong worded communication sent by the FBS to the Planning Commission paved the way for releasing of funds so the survey exercise continued without any interruption.
“We expect that the data of ongoing survey of PSLM will be forwarded to the Planning Commission by September 2011 after which the authorities would be able to come up with latest poverty figures,” a senior official of FBS told The News.
The sources said that the Planning Commission was working on different proposals to bring changes in methodology for calculating poverty as in Pakistan the Consumer Price Index (CPI) based inflation was used to come up. Under the much touted Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), the poverty scorecard survey all over the country was underway but the economic experts did not consider this ongoing survey as alternate to HIES portion of PSLM because the survey done by FBS provided comparable data of households to analyse real time changes occurred in level of poverty in households over certain period of time.

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