Galumph Progress of Pakistan on Millennium Development Goals

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the eight goals of progress to be achieved by the year 2015. In 2000, 189 states endorsed these goals following the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration.

They are meant to establish trends in primary education, maternal health, gender empowerment, infant mortality, extreme hunger and poverty, environmental sustainability, global partnerships for development, and care of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria.

A number of unfortunate events like food and fuel crises, natural calamities, unending political instability, and sociopolitical costs of war on militancy have derailed the developmental efforts in Pakistan. In the recently-held 68th session of the United Nation General Assembly, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif admitted that there are many problems in fulfilling the MDG targets. Pakistani government is embarrassed as it has not made any progress comparable even to the nations of sub-Saharan Africa. The government states that all development resources have been exhausted by the continued expenses on war on terror.

Syed Muhammad Ali, in his article ‘Pakistan’s Underperformance in Achieving MDG’ that the Commonwealth Foundation has recently found out the progress made on MDG indicators and Pakistan’s progress on poverty alleviation presents a dismal picture after some initial progress at the beginning of the last decade. Moreover, Pakistan will also not be able to achieve the literacy rate target of 88 per cent despite its positive graph on education.

While United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) would continue supporting the Government of Pakistan as the UNDP’s Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Nicholas Rosellini believes that Pakistan has remained steadfast to its MDG’s commitment despite its list of internal and external threats. He further believes that the Planning Commission of Pakistan (PCP) has done a healthy job by monitoring progress and coordinating efforts of different stakeholders working on achieving MDG’s. Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal has assured that the improvement will come in health and education sectors because the budget 2013-14 reinforces their development.

On the contrary, Afshan Subhoi writes in ‘Progress in MDG’s still a Mirage’ that over the years, the government has not been able to provide the basic infrastructure to the poor segments of the society. For 8 of the 13 years since Pakistan made its MDG pledges, the country was ruled by Gen Musharraf; the next five years saw a PPP-led coalition government. Without doubt, they are responsible for not doing enough. And yet the PML-N, which made passing references to the MDGs at just two points i.e. education and health, in its 110-page election manifesto, cannot claim to have integrated them into its economic strategy.
The eight goals have total 33 indicators, out of which Pakistan has made progress on only nine. In this context, Mehtab Haider writes:

‘Less than 900 days are left in reaching the deadline of 2015 and the world is making efforts to achieve the targets as much as possible. Here, in Pakistan, the progress report published by the Planning and Development Department says that the provinces have as usual differences in the pace towards completion of MDG’s which is, of course, a hurdle in the developmental projects being conducted at several places around the country.

There is an estimate that Pakistan has suffered direct and indirect losses of $68 billion between 2001 and 2011. MDG period commenced after 9/11 in 2001 when the nation entered into war on terror as a frontline ally, the benefits and loans from donors multiplied but the intensification of war after 2009 drained off all of its resources and has made it a debt container. Consequently, increased allocations required for education, health and environment sectors, to achieve MDGs, received less priority and the increase in salaries to compensate the rising inflation rates became the top priority of the government. Foreign investment also plummeted from a peak of over $5 billion in 2007-08 to $800 million in 2011-12.

In the second half of the last decade, Pakistan did see some improvement on the poverty reduction front with the poverty rate falling from 30.6% in 1999 to 22.3% in between 2000 and 2009. However, inflation has seen multiple increases, from 7.7% in 2007 to almost 12% in 2011 and settling at 10% in 2012. Such a high inflation adversely affects the vulnerable groups in a society because they face food insecurity and malnourishment which ultimately affects the maternal health.

Overall, Pakistan’s journey towards MDGs has been arduous and the destination is far away. The 18th Amendment and its active implementation from July 2011 by far changed the institutional and administrative landscape of the country. The ministries of education, health, environment, labour and social welfare were completely devolved to the provinces. It is believed that the provinces are now fighting to handle socio-economic problems competitively. Sharing of plans and agenda is, however, required. Attempts towards development and progress should be made with effective governance, participation and accountability.

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