Pakistan is witnessing a worst kind of income inequality related issues, as the rich and the poor here live in totally different worlds. This was stated by Adviser to Balochistan government on Economic Affairs, Kaiser Bengali, while speaking at the 18th Sustainable Development Conference, organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), here on Wednesday.
Taking part in the panel discussion on ‘Human Development and Governance for Inclusive and Sustainable Development’, he said that to tackle the issue of inequalities, proper land reforms and elimination of feudal system was the need of the hour. Dr Tariq Banuri said that sustainable growth required actions for achieving zero poverty and the government must take steps towards planning and implementing sustainable development goals (SDGs). "In order to keep our goals achievable, we have to bring down population growth to a manageable rate," he added.
Dr Shoaib Sultan Khan of the Rural Support Programmes Network, said that the network was working at local level to empower marginalized communities. He added that to achieve a sustainable development, a socio-economic pillar besides administration and politics was necessary.
Shakeel Ahmad from UNDP said that social spending at local level could benefit the poor and marginalized people and improve social sector indicators. He said spending in each province should be based on Human Development Index (HDI) or Multi-poverty Index (MPI) so that each province could get equal spending.
On the topic of ‘Climate Change Adaptation and Migration in Semi-Arid and Mountainous Regions’, experts from International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Dr Amina Maharajan and Dr Giovanna Giolo said that due to climate change, many parts of the world with major populations were witnessing labour migrations and relocations issues as a result urbanisation was increasing, leading to many social, economic and employment related problems.
Dr Giolo said that "it is almost impossible to identify the drivers of climate change that are contributing through migrations". In the same context, Dr Khatau Mal Thari from Tharparkar said child labour was also stimulated by migrations, causing chronic social problems. Speaking at a panel on ‘South Asian Women Parliamentarians for the Rights of Women’, Dr Andrea Fleschenberg dos Ramos Pineu presented her study on gender quotas in political set-ups, and looked upon the challenges which parliamentarians have to face in terms of representation at the government level. She said that issues like terrorism were over shadowing other problems like food security, health, and education, and women were the ones being marginalized.
Member of National Assembly Arifa Khan said these problems were an offshoot of the industrialisation of South Asia by the West. She emphasised that funds should be allocated to tailor energy crisis in the country, which had become an international issue.
Member of National Assembly Saman Jafri said that decision-making should be done and policies should be worked upon at grass roots level. "Women are the primary victims of all natural disasters and there is poor economic development, but they are not the part of peace-building process," said Veena Sikri, former Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh said and added that there was a lack of political will and the administration heads of commissions were dominated by mafia which should be reviewed.
Speaking at a panel on ‘Energy Security of Pakistan’, Eng M A Jabbar, Chief Executive of Qaim Automotive Manufacturing, highlighted the shortage of energy and said that aggravated figures regarding our gas reserves had led to wrong policy decisions. Dr Shaukat Hameed Khan, a nuclear physicist, spoke on nuclear, coal and hydropower generation for energy security and said that significant policy has not been developed according to the massive potential of indigenous resources in Pakistan.
Focusing on the role of regulatory bodies and energy crisis in Pakistan, Dr Gulfaraz Ahmed, the founder chairman of National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NeprA), said that low energy consumption per capita was the biggest energy challenge and that knowledge economy needed to be promoted in services sector. Tahir Basharat Cheema, former Managing Director of Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO), highlighted energy governance as the core energy issue and said that the look-after charges should be given to lower officials.
SDPI Adviser Eng Arshad Abbasi discussed different avenues of energy security and said shale gas was the lifeline for Pakistan. Dr Asma Khuwaja from NDU also talked extensively on shale gas and its comparative analysis with LNG. Speakers at a panel discussion ‘Food Security in Pakistan: Current Situation and the Way Forward’ were unanimous that long-term planning and a broader vision were needed to overcome food, water and energy crises in Pakistan as well as in South Asia.
Lola Castro, UN World Food Program (WFP) representative, said illiteracy, poverty and inadequate food supplies were the main hurdles in the way of a country’s progress. She said WFP supported Pakistani communities in restoring their livelihoods and enhancing their resilience to future disasters. She further said WFP was also helping Pakistan in Zero Hunger Programme and Scale-up Nutrition (SUN) to formulate multi-sectoral policies and strategies.
SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri highlighted the role of government in providing adequate food to its citizens and lack of co-ordination and ineffective implementation of policies. According to the State Food Insecurity Report, he said, in Pakistan the number of malnourished people had increased from 28.7 million in 1990 to 41.4 million in 2015.
Dr Gholam Rasul from International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Nepal, discussed the nexus between water, energy and food, saying that water scarcity was one of the leading factors contributing to food shortage. WFP’s Dr Krishna Pahari emphasised on investing in the improved variety of climatic resistant crops and drought-resistant varieties in order to fight food insecurity.
Aslam Gill and Malik Zahoor from the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, critically analysed the efforts made on the part of international donors, and said that the lack of implementation of policies was the major problem. At a panel titled ‘Political Economy of Transit Trade in South Asia’, former Governor of State Bank of Pakistan Dr Ishrat Hussain said bilateral relations between Pakistan and India had kept the region of South Asia less integrated. He added that the political economy of trade was more focused on politics than economy.
Khalid Malik from Beaconhouse University said: "We should open our borders to each other as East Africa did and adopt a more strategic approach towards regional integration."
Prabir De, Fellow of Research and Information System for Developing Countries, said that India had the status of Most Favourite Nation (MFN) but still no routes had been exchanged. He also said that Pak-China Economic Corridor was a positive step that would lead to initiation of other economic corridors in the region. On Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan, Nazir Kabiri, the Afghan Advisor on Finance, said that the atmosphere had become positive between the two countries, as the Nawaz government seemed enthusiastic about economic cooperation with Afghanistan.
In the same context, Rameshwor Khanal, former Finance Secretary, Nepal, stressed that political conflicts must not be a hindrance in trade movements. Haroon Sharif, World Bank Advisor on Regional Economic Cooperation (South Asia), said the growth of South Asia had been stunted due to geo-political issues. Brendan Vickers, Economic Advisor of Commonwealth, UK, suggested that a good port was necessary for the success of any economic corridor such as Mombasa Port in East Asia.