Pakistan’s Emphasis on Social Development

Unlike Pakistan’s former government which primarily focused on security concerns, the incoming government has declared economic development to be their central focus.

development-economicThe political parties, people of Pakistan, and the global community have celebrated the smooth transition of the government.The incoming-government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) will have to be careful not to allow the weakening of federalism with Pakistan Tehrik-E-Insaf ruling in Khyber Pakhtunkhaw (KP) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) having the provincial government in Sindh. Both provinces are affected by terrorism, sectarian violence, assassinations and ethnic conflict.

Considering these challenges and concerns, it is important to draw attention on the importance of social development. The new government seems obsessed by the development of highways, the metro bus, laptops, the electricity/energy crisis and economic development. All of this is important, but equally important is the need to focus on Pakistan’s social development.

Countries that have made sustainable progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) have done so by focusing on the social and economic development goals. Clearly the trajectory of development has failed in ensuring the transformative impact on most of the targets identified for the MDG’s. Out of the 18 targets and 41 indicators, the time series data is available only on the 33 targets. According to the 2012 UN Report on MDG Pakistan is lagging behind on 20, slow on 04, off-track on one, on-track on just three, while five targets have been met.

The prevalence of underweight children below 5 years of age and the proportion of population below minimum level of dietary energy consumption has worsened since 2006, making it difficult for Pakistan to eradicate extreme hunger by 2015. The decrease in child mortality is also slow. Although it succeeded in bringing down from 124 per thousand in 1990 to 81 per thousand in 2010, the progress is much less than the target of 52 deaths per thousand targeted for 2015.

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The resurfacing of polio, tuberculosis and measles indicates failure of immunization programs.

There has been improvement however in malaria prevention by 5 percent from 25 percent in 2005-06 to 30% in 2008-09. The resurfacing of some of the communicable disease requires an equal emphasis and a balance in the attention given to the curative medicine and the preventive medicine.

Regarding education, the Net Primary Enrollment Rate (NPER) remains under 60 percent. Though the previous government worked to improve the literacy rate, it failed in preventing the drop-out ratio which increased between 2000-09 among those studying at the primary level. The female employment rate stands at mere 22 percent and the wages are also discriminatory. The increase in female employment indicates the residualization of the workforce.

During the previous government the increase in the direct cost of security was 115 percent, with an increase of 127 percent and 105 percent in the cost of security and public safety expenditures. But the former government had declared security as a main challenge. The incoming government has declared economic development to be their central concern.

It is important for the incoming government to realize that the trajectory must satisfy social development needs if a sustainable impact on the country and society is desired. The growth and the development of the country and the society has to be simultaneous. The relentless balanced focus is needed to guide Pakistan out of this quagmire.

Khalida Ghaus is the former Director of the Centre of Excellence for Women Studies; Chairperson in the Department of International Relations, University of Karachi, and Pakistan Centre for Democracy Studies. She is currently serving as the Managing Director of Social Policy and Development Centre in Karachi. Khalida has a PhD in International Relations. Read more articles by Khalida.