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600 million poor South Asians: speakers underline steps for providing livelihood
Business Recorder, December 15, 2011


Adequate preparation for climatic change, fulfilling Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and pro-poor governance is the only way forward to provide comfortable livelihood along with food security to 600 million poor in South Asia.

This was the gist of presentations at the second day of 14th Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) 'Re-defining Paradigms of Sustainable Development in South Asia' organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

Participating in the discussion on 'climate change concerns and their possible impacts on South Asian countries,' Bipul Chatterjee of Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) International, India was of the view that food insecurity and livelihood threats are mainly due to the impacts of climate change in South Asia.

He called for adopting climate resilient measures including low carbon economy to minimise the impacts of climate change that causes large scale devastation in the shape of floods due to rising sea level as was seen in Pakistan in the recent past.

Naseer Memon of Strengthening Participatory Organisations said 70 percent of South Asian population directly or indirectly depends on agriculture, for which for regional co-operation and information sharing is vital to avert such natural disasters.

In the session on 'factors affecting the food security situation in resource constrained Pakistan,' the speakers said that availability of food in markets does not mean that poor people could afford to buy.

Umer Malik of Mehboob-ul-haq Human Development Centre said that low purchasing power and insufficient storage capacity in Pakistan along with less expenditure were the major roadblocks impeding access to food, not the agricultural production.

In the panel on 'Development Beyond MDGs,' Dr Saba Gul Khattak of SDPI flayed lack of focus on women empowerment.

A participant from Germany, Afshan Ahmad, stressed the need for ownership of MDGs to provide better health, education and other social services to poor segment of the society.

Terrorism is one of major causes in off tracking MDGs in Pakistan, she added.

Dr Peter Taylor from Canada highlighted room for improvement in quality of policy-making processes in South Asia, saying that research and development are interlinked as without reliable basic data, no policy could bear the desired fruit.

Dr Sagar Sharma of Khatmandu University, Nepal said that role of non-state actors was much vital from achieving MDGs in an effective manner.

Dr Bishnu Raj Upreti, Nepal said that every country needs to redefine MDGs according to its felt needs as conflict in some parts of the globe has changed the socio-economic paradigm altogether.

In the session on 'governance challenge: It there a way out?' the speakers said the governance constraints have to be seen in political and military institutions perspectives.

Dr Ishrat Hussain, former central bank governor, said that only those institutions should be focused upon for governance reforms, which have high pay off, spillovers and linkages to other services that could benefit the country as a whole.

Syed Akbar Zaidi said the foreign aid should be stopped as both military and political elites have mismanaged it.

It has been observed that about 42 percent of foreign aid was spent on military purposes.

Foqia Sadiq Khan of SDPI, said laws violation is noticed only when it is done by the weak and less resourceful sections of society while violation by elites remains unnoticed.

In the session on revisiting poverty debate: alternative ways for conceptualisation, measurement and targeting', Arif Naveed of SDPI, sharing district level poverty analysis, said 18 out of 20 poorest districts in Pakistan are in Balochistan and 20 least poor districts are in Southern Punjab.

Dr Vaqar Ahmed of SDPI and economist Dr Sajjad Akhter were of the view that the issue of poverty should not be politicised and institutions such as Federal Bureau of Statistics and Planning Commission should work as autonomous bodies.

Dr Sabina Alkair of University Oxford said there is a need of diversified and quality data collection for rigorous analysis of poverty.

During the session on 'security and development: the geo-politics of China-Pakistan-India relationship" the speakers said bilateral relationships among the three countries primarily revolve around their national security interests, ignoring human development.

Senator Hasil Bizenjo lamented the persistence of conflicts and their negative implications on the population as whole which distort the economic indicators of a country undergoing development process.

Speakers at a Policy forum on 'Education Financing in Pakistan: Challenges and way forward' demanded substantial increase in budget allocation for education from current meagre figure of 2% to 6% of the fiscal budget..

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