Human development in Pakistan: challenges and way forward
Development is far a broader concept in comparison to growth. It reflects social and economic progress which are being defined as a vital and necessary condition. These conditions are not sufficient as such conditions cannot only guarantee the development.
In the words of Amritya Sen, development is about creating freedom for people and removing hurdles to greater freedom. Greater freedom in such scenario enables people to choose their own destiny. Indicators such as poverty, lack of economic opportunities, corruption, poor governance, lack of education and lack of health on the other side are considered as hinderances to development and freedom.
Thus, when it comes to development indicators as per the human development index major parameters include life expectancy at birth, adult literacy and number of years children enrolled at school thus leading to improved standard of living.
Over the past years Pakistan has seen decline in their ranking of human development index from 147 in 2015 to 152 in 2019. Primarily this has been seen because of the major factor in the form of inequal distribution of income, resources and access to basic facilities in the form of health, education, food and shelter.
Though efforts are being made to improve the figures associated to human development and some of the sectors at very nascent have some developments. These developments include shelters for the poor and needy, education related steps taken, health card being primary indicator for access to health and program for social safety in the form of Ehsaas. But still there are challenges in Pakistan which has differentiated people based on the money they have for living.
In his book Growth and Inequality in Pakistan, Dr. Hafeez A. Pasha pointed out education as one of the biggest challenges which Pakistan is facing in the form of human development linked to poverty as poverty growth elasticity is greater and is on rising trend.
Similarly, looking at the current data for Pakistan it can be seen that life expectancy stands at 67.1, expected year of schooling 8.5, mean year of schooling 5.2, Gross National Income Per Capita $5190 and GNI per capita minus HDI ranking is of -17. With these numbers Pakistan is placed at lowest bottom of the countries under Medium Human Development Index. Numbers itself shows that education as always is the primary concern here where Pakistan is lacking.
Studies further have found that with backwardness in agriculture sector there is low generation of income for population living in the rural areas directly or indirectly. Similarly, growing population rates at increasing rate is making resources insufficient to meet the needs of the people therefore making resources scarce for increasing population. To this widening income gap and increasing population inflation in the recent past have also influenced the fixed income and salaried group negatively as there is no proportionate increase in income.
It can be further argued that health though being prioritized in the budget, there is no significant amount of development taking place in this sector. There has been greater distance between health services and consumer of the services, there has been higher cost of accessing health services and there has been limited access to the present facilities because of inequal income distribution and low purchasing power parity.
These challenges therefore are primary reasons to bring in inequality in development framework of Pakistan which has called in for people to say that Pakistan is different for poor and rich. This inequal distribution has thus brought in externalities to the system in the form of challenges linked to security, social, economic and cultural.
To improve the development framework and improve overall human development paradigm in Pakistan, education services should also be uniform across the board depending upon level of education
To improve and build on development framework for Pakistan on equality basis, first and foremost thing which should be looked into is improved governance structure and work on hinderances in the implementation of policies. For this purpose, when looking at the education sector assessment should be made around number of new enrollments in the school in comparison to the number of students going from private school to government school. This step itself will help in identification of the gaps in education policy and implementations linked to it.
Second, as far as programs for social safety net are concerned Ehsaas program which is in its nascent stages need to integrate other programs within itself and have uniform implementation framework across the board. For this purpose, implementing partners should be local who have sound knowledge of the area of implementation and can ensure its presence post implementation to ensure monitoring and evaluation.
Third, to improve the development framework and improve human development in Pakistan there is need to have uniform health system which can be seen missing. Within health system improvement can be in the form of not only access to health services which itself is another challenge because of distance between consumer of services and services. For this purpose, there is need to reduce distance between services and consumers, there is need to reduce cost of health both in terms of basic health checks, major surgeries and accidental services. This will help in reducing health inequality.
Fourth, to improve the development framework and improve overall human development paradigm in Pakistan, education services should also be uniform across the board depending upon level of education. For this purpose, as done in different programs while looking at the past focus should be on capacity of teachers, increased number of teachers, increased space for the schools particularly at primary level and reduction of distance between school and student.
Thus, in short to improve the development framework in Pakistan, there is need to improve the governance structure which may bring in revisiting the policies and amendments in the system. Second, within any social safety program there is need to bring in localization approach while implementing the program and there is need to ensure strong monitoring during whole process and introduction of uniform health as well as educational system.
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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.