Monday, June 01, 2009
By Mehtab Haider
ISLAMABAD: The World Bank (WB) has validated a decline in poverty by 5.1 per cent in Pakistan, suggesting that compared to the earlier 22.3 per cent of the population living below the poverty line, the number stands revised downwards to 17.2 per cent of the total population, official documents available with The News reveal.
The Planning Commission high-ups, however, are in no mood to accept this positive development and are reluctant to include the latest figures in the upcoming Economic Survey 2008-09, which will be launched before the budget for 2009-10. Their doubts stem from the apparent incredulity of the figure showing a positive trend during the economic recession.
The World Bank has endorsed the poverty figure of 17.2 per cent and verified the correct use of methodology to calculate this figure by the subordinate institution of the Planning Commission’s Centre for Poverty Reduction and Social Policy Development (CPRSPD).
But apparently, this is not enough for the Planning Commission bosses, who appear extremely averse to owning up this latest poverty figure, the because PC’s own panel of economists, led by renowned economist Dr Hafeez A Pasha, had estimated poverty in the range of 37.5 per cent just a few months back.
“It is an awkward situation for the Planning Commission, as from top to bottom, everyone talked about poverty line figure in the range of 35 per cent to 40 per cent and now, how they can endorse another analysis done by its another subordinate institution — CPRSPD — showing almost half of poverty of 17.2 per cent, compared to the Panel of Economist number of 37.5 per cent,” the official sources said.
According to the documents available with The News, the WB validated the decline in poverty from 22.3 per cent in 2005-06 to 17.2 per cent on the basis of the data collected in 2007-8 under the Household Income Expenditure Survey (HIES). The latest survey found that poverty in the urban areas stood at 10.10 per cent and in the rural areas, it stood at 20.60 per cent.
Planning and Development Division Secretary Ashraf M Hayat told The News that nothing had been finalised in this regard. When asked whether the government would release the latest poverty figures in the upcoming Economic Survey 2008-09, he said the government would review the situation, which could take a month.
Planning Commission Chief Economist Dr Rashid Amjad, when contacted, told The News that the government was reviewing the latest poverty estimates and nothing had been decided in this regard so far.
But when the Planning Commission’s Member Social Sector Shaukat Hameed was contacted, he said he was not going to verify any information regarding validation of the WB about the latest poverty estimates. When informed about the presentation given by the WB experts on May 29, a copy of which is available with The News, he said they were going to brief Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali on Monday (today) and a decision would be taken on the latest poverty estimates.
But sources claimed that the government had almost decided not to release this latest poverty number, because it did not match the ground realities and was contrary to the existing situation. Those, who favour the release of the latest poverty figures, argue that the government should not change its goal post, as this would ruin all the past efforts to stick to the consistent methodology, endorsed both by the donors as well as Pakistan’s relevant economic ministries. The poverty is estimated by using the CPI-based inflation in Pakistan and poverty’s Guru Nanak, Khakwani, also endorsed this way of calculating poverty during the Musharraf-Shaukat Aziz regime.