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Business Recorder

Published Date: Nov 20, 2012


Speakers at a seminar on Monday expressed concern over meagre allocations on social sectors like education, health and poverty alleviation and underlined the need to have a increased investment on social sector to provide universal social security benefits to the vulnerable population.

The seminar on “Realising the Rights to Social Security: Towards New Solutions” was jointly organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) at a local hotel. Dr Saba Gul Khattak, former member Social Sector, Planning Commission of Pakistan; Dr Pervaiz Tahir, former Chief Economist; Dr Nadia Tahir, Associate Professor in Economics at University of Lahore; Taseer Alizai from International Labour Organisation (ILO) were the main speakers of the seminar.

Zeenia Shaukat from PILER moderated the proceedings and maintained that government priorities can be gauged by the fact that per head social security spending is Rs 10 and defence expenditure per head is Rs 3100. Dr Saba Khattak underlined to have a political consensus of all the political parties on the social protection for all schemes. She deplored that in the past social protection schemes were introduced by various political governments, but the next governments scrapped them because of lack of coherence in these schemes. She underlined the need to strengthen the architecture of all the social protection institutions available in the country like Employees Oldage Benefit Institution (EOBI) and Workers Welfare Fund. She said coverage of these institutions is limited.

The World Bank provides funds only for social safety net schemes like Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) through poverty score cards, but there is lack of funds for social sectors. She said social protection programmes are often seen as a vote buying approach in the countries like Pakistan.

Senior economist Dr Pervaiz Tahir in his presentation on “Public Resources for Social Protection” said it is the responsibility of the state to provide basic facilities to the people. The leadership role should be played by the government and it should not drift from its basic role.

He deplored that despite the constitutional provisions, various plan documents and several reports, a coherent social protection strategy has not been put in place at the national, federal or provincial levels of the government. At local level, usually the level at which social protection is delivered, does not figure anywhere. There are only some social safety net programmes, which are untargeted, duplicative and overlapping. Resource provisions also for these programmes are without any strategic framework, totalling only 1.86 percent of GDP in 2010-11.

Dr Pervaiz Tahir gave an overview of the government interventions relating to poverty related expenditures. Subsidies which are considered as indirect intervention during 2010-11 were about 1.28 percent of the GDP, where as the direct intervention were 0.58 percent of GDO, which included social security and welfare (0.10 percent), Benazir Income Support Programme (0.19 percent), Pakistan Bait-ul-Maal (0.02 percent), natural calamities & other disasters (0.27 percent).

Dr Nadia Tahir, Associate Professor in Economics at University of Lahore in her presentation on “Perspectives on Social Protection Gender Private Sector” said women’s work is invisible in Pakistan. There is no data available on women’s work because most of the time their work is unpaid and non-monetized.

She pointed out that informal and agriculture workers face limited work opportunities because of low and poor quality of education, low skill, low wages, poverty, lesser availability of civic facilities, banking services and harsh working conditions. She said social insurance should cover sickness, maternity, employment injury, unemployment, invalidity, old age, death of the breadwinner, widowhood, access to health care and family benefits.

Dr Tahir said it is not only the state’s responsibility to provide health, education and social safety net to the population, but private sector has a bigger responsibility. Private sector has to go beyond profit earning and should discharge its obligations. She said Gross Social Product is the answer so that women’s work is highlighted.

Taseer Alizai from International Labour Organisation (ILO) in his presentation on “Social Protection Floor Initiative for A Fair and Inclusive Globalisation” said peace can come through stronger, fairer and more cohesive societies. At present only one out of five persons world-wide enjoys this kind of Social Protection, he said.

In 2009 Chief Executives Board of the United Nations System adopted the Global Initiative for a Universal Social Protection Floor (SPF) as one of nine initiatives in response to the current global financial crisis. The Social Protection Floor included the supply of essential goods and social services (such as food, health, housing, water and sanitation, education, and life and asset-saving information) accessible to all. Realising access to the social services by ensuring a basic set of essential social transfers, in cash or in kind, to provide a minimum income and livelihood security for poor and vulnerable populations (children, young and older persons with insufficient income), he added.

Alizai underlined the need to constitute a National Task Force for social protection. ILO is working in 130 countries. “We have learned so far is to have a long term long-term policy development goal; a National consensus for Implementation plans and define ultimate shape of the national Social Protection Floor (SPF) as well as priorities and key steps on the way to get there; calculate the approximate cost of each component on an ongoing basis. Representatives of trade unions, civil society organisations, international organisations, government representatives, students, academia and media representatives attended the seminar.