Economic inequality rising in Pakistan

Islamabad, July 30 (IANS) Economic inequality has been rising in Pakistan even though consumption-based poverty and multidimensional poverty which includes health, education and living standards, has dropped, a UN Development Programme report said.

According to the UN report, Pakistani economist Mahbubul Haq’s theory in 1968 — the problem of 22 families controlling 66 per cent of industrial assets — remained relevant due to rising inequality as the richest 20 per cent consume seven times more than the poorest 20 per cent, Dawn online reported.

The report titled ‘Development Advocate Pakistan’ said inequality has grown even though consumption based poverty has dropped from 57.9 per cent to 29.5 per cent between 1998-99 and 2013-14.

Multidimensional poverty has fallen from 55.2 per cent to 38.8 per cent between 2004-05 and 2014-15.

In 1987-88, the Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, was 0.35 and this number has risen to 0.41 in 2013-14, the report said.

The report said, the most critical challenge of the 21st Century was achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, which includes ending poverty in all its forms.

The report said Pakistan’s Multidimensional Poverty Index, released last month, found that 54.6 per cent of rural Pakistanis were poor compared to 9.3 per cent population in cities.

Multidimensional poverty stands at 31.5 per cent in Punjab province and 73.7 per cent in Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

“The multidimensional poverty in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Rawalpindi is below 10 per cent, it exceeds 90 per cent in Killa Abdullah, Harnai, Barkhan, Sherani Kohistan.”

The report said some Pakistani districts were as well-off as any developed country while others were on par with the poorest in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Haq called for reforming Pakistan’s economic, social and political institutions to help prevent the concentration of such immense wealth with a few. Although the landscape has changed considerably since then, his recommendations remain painfully valid,” the report said.

Pakistan’s response to inequality was superficial and focused on symptoms rather than root causes. As a result, inequality persisted.

To tackle inequality, key institutions need to be reformed and fiscal, monetary and other policies should be made equitable, the report recommended.

–IANS

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