The fall of the Roman Empire
was a major event in human history. One of the principal causes of the
destruction of the Romans was the vast inequality in fortunes. The poor
state of education and literacy, lack of employment and advanced
economic interaction, and government corruption and political
instability were the major contributing factors responsible for the
collapse of the central Roman state.
Is Pakistan not plagued by all these factors? Pakistan has major
challenges of inequality, where income, gender, health and educational
inequalities exist in extreme forms.
Several million children of school-going age are estimated to be out of school,
more than several thousand people of our labour force are unemployed,
several million households are still living in multidimensional poverty,
about half of the total population is food insecure and thousands of
children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor
sanitation. A long list goes on. But the question is: would these rising
inequalities in Pakistan lead us towards destruction? My answer to this
particular question is ‘yes’.
We cannot rule out the link between these rising inequalities and
violence, political instability and social fragmentation. According to
the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2013-14,
per capita income in the country rose from $897 in 2005-06 to $1,386 in
2013-14, despite deteriorated internal security and frequent natural
disasters. However, public spending on health and education has reduced
and priority has been given to infrastructural development. Spending on
health and education is 0.4 per cent and two per cent of the gross
domestic product, respectively.
If we take stock of different indices and rankings around the world,
such as those related to the economy, human development, gender equality
and prosperity, etc. Pakistan almost ranks poorly or fall in low
categories in all rankings. This is all because we keep ignoring our
people, especially the oppressed.
To improve its ranking, the country needs to uplift society by
addressing all types of inequalities through investing in people’s
capabilities. The government needs to change its spending priorities
and should be focused towards social sector development. If we give
access to the poor and the middle class to equitable economic resources
and ensure their participation in the democratic process, we will then
have a more sustainable and prosperous nation.
Fiscal inequalities are also vivid. Most of the tax is collected from
the lower or middle income class. Indirect taxation in Pakistan hits
the poor harder, whereas the tax burden on the elite is very low. A
progressive tax regime can be a game-changer.
Currently, Sindh has a high malnutrition rate and is highly food
insecure. News reports show that drought and famine in Tharparkar
district have wreaked much havoc. Apart from this, government negligence
is adding fuel to the fire.
This food inequality is also connected with poor land distribution
practices and water management. Half of the population is landless. Only
five per cent of landowners own two-thirds of the total land. The bulk
of our farmer community is made up of small farmers, of which, 65 per
cent farmers own less than five acres of land. We must have justice in
land distributions and land reforms are the need of the hour.
There is a need for bold action to address all types of inequalities
immediately. It’s a ‘now or never’ situation. If there is political
will, then governments can ensure universal health and education, they
can ensure access to land, agriculture and improved food security. They
can also ensure gender equality and social justice.
Rights-based social mobilisation can help improve the situation.
Social movements can help and mobilise people to raise their voices for
their rights. Brazil, Bolivia and Sweden are examples of the same, where
active movements have improved social justice and wealth distribution.
An active civil society can also help frame and implement a pro-poor
legal regime, which, in turn, can reduce poverty and improve income
Source : http://tribune.com.pk/story/791259/fighting-inequalities/
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.