A paramount constraining factor in an accelerated push towards higher-level outcomes on the MDGs is the fact that attainment of MDGs is neither anchored in public policy discourse or policy formulation, nor is it specifically monitored by cabinet or parliament in Pakistan. In the absence of a central thrust or focus at the national policy-making level (i.e. mainstreaming”), existing gaps are not likely to be bridged, nor existing progress preserved. This report tries to bridge some of the gaps existent in current literature while capturing the progress made towards these goals. The report titled ‘Pakistan: Progress and Bottlenecks towards achieving MDGs’ was completed in July 2012. It synthesizes evidence and research obtained from different institutions – both public and private sector – and individuals who provided their valuable knowledge and insights. Common Wealth Foundation, UK was responsible for the financial assistance.
The paper is a desk based review of achievements and bottlenecks, drawing on sources identified through various literature searches, including reports by aid agencies; academic literature, such as journal articles, books and periodicals; online resources, such as needs assessments and impact evaluations; and other unpublished documents gathered in-country. Parts of the review are also informed by a series of key informant interviews.
The research suggests that the most visible progress made by Pakistan till the outbreak of the global economic turmoil in 2008 was in the goal of poverty reduction and hunger elimination. The poverty headcount ratio had fallen dramatically between 2001 and 2008 – with the ratio nearly halved to 17.2%. Since then, there are fears that due to the factors listed, progress on this front is likely to have been reversed. However, in the absence of an official assessment, this is less than clear for now due to the fact that there have been potentially offsetting developments, such as strong growth in the agriculture-dependent rural economy, and a doubling of inward worker remittances in the past five years.
In the case of literacy and health indicators, Pakistan is the farthest from attaining its MDG commitments. Financing constraints have compounded policy apathy to produce some of the worst progress indicators for MDGs related to literacy and health for all developing countries.
According to the research, a setback to MDGs accomplishment has potentially come from the recent 18th Constitutional Amendment, which has transferred sectors such as education, health and other basic public services to the domain of provinces. Two of the provincial reports that have been recently launched by UNDP i.e. for KP and Balochistan indicate that these two provinces will fail to meet the MDGs’ targets. Provincial governments lack the capacity and capability to handle public service delivery as the federal government has historically stepped in and provided the financing as well as the manpower and administration to run these services.
The research findings suggest that the strengthening of institutional framework for MDGs particularly policy planning, implementation and coordination between various tiers of the government will be crucial to close the gaps. Equally important, Pakistan will have to gear up its internal resource mobilization effort and divert additional resources to meet MDG targets, even at a stage beyond 2015. Currently, Pakistan’s tax-GDP ratio is amongst the lowest in the world. These efforts will have to be complemented by the international community stepping up to the plate and deliver on what it had promised in terms of enhanced assistance and market access.
The paper offers a unique and updated account of Pakistan’s progress towards MDGs and is a valuable resource for researchers aiming to expand the current work on MDGs vis-à-vis the Pakistani context.