In the absence of a fresh census all policy making is done on the basis of the 1998 census or other surveys.
Believe it or not but Pakistan’s financial policies and development planning is made on the basis of 18 years old census figures. Experts say there is no substitute for making policies and planning for development except holding a census regularly.
Government officials say that the policymaking is done by seeking help from other surveys, like Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey, etc. Generally, officials say the policies are made on the basis of estimated figures keeping in view the findings of 1998 population census.
According to the findings of 1998 census, Pakistan’s population was 132.35 million. There was over 57 per cent increase in population from 1981-1998. Out of that, 55.62 per cent population was only in the Punjab, while Balochistan had only 4.96 per cent of population.
“Also, it is sad that rather than strengthening our institutions and making them independent we have started depending on the armed forces as a substitute for every major thing like holding elections and census, etc.”
The government data of different departments and surveys can be faulty and based on doubtful sample surveys which cannot be a substitute of census survey findings.
“We make policies on the basis of “guestimates” rather than going for sincere efforts to conduct census survey on a regular basis. Our national data contains mistakes and many figures differ from one another,” says Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, executive director Sustainable Development and Policy Institute (SDPI).
Citing an example, he says that “Household Integrated Expenditure Survey (HIES) 2010-11 computed poverty in Pakistan to be 35 per cent based on the estimate that its population was 130 million. The same year, the Economic Survey of Pakistan cited Pakistan’s population as 177 million.”
He believes National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) or Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) are faulty data and by taking this data for surveys and policies we would be excluding a large number of people who are without CNIC or those who are above the poverty line. “Without having fresh census findings we cannot know what our people need — a Metro bus, an orange train or clean drinking water,” he says.
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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.