Pakistan dropped a spot to 152nd among 189 countries in the 2019 Human Development Index, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report.

The UNDP in Pakistan launched the Human Development Report 2019, on Thursday. The UNDP's Human Development Report (HDR) “Beyond Income, Beyond Averages, Beyond Today: Inequalities in Human Development in the 21st Century" gave Pakistan a score of 0.560. Sri Lanka is ranked at 130th, Bhutan, 134th, India, 129th, Bangladesh, 135th, Nepal, 147th, Pakistan, 152nd and Afghanistan is ranked at 170th on the list in the South Asia.

The UNDP launched the 2019 Human Development Report Pakistan at a function here which was attended by Dr Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, Dr Sabina Alkire, Director Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, Dr Aisha Ghaus Pasha, Member National Assembly of Pakistan, Shandana Gulzar Khan, Member National Assembly of Pakistan, Ignacio Artaza, Resident Representative of UNDP Pakistan, and Umer Malik, Policy Analyst, Development Policy Unit, UNDP Pakistan. It was announced that a national human development report would be launched next year.

This year's report shows that a new generation of severe inequalities in human development is emerging, even as the gap is narrowing on many of the unresolved inequalities of the 20th century. These emerging dynamics under the shadow of the climate crisis and technological change demand new approaches in policies at national and global levels.

Sharing the findings of the report, Umer Malik said that Pakistan's 2018 HDI of 0.560 is below the average of 0.634 for countries in the medium human development group and below the average of 0.642 for countries in South Asia. From South Asia, countries which are close to Pakistan in 2018 HDI rank and to some extent in population size are Bangladesh and India, which have HDIs ranked 135th and 129th respectively.

Pakistan's HDI for 2018 is 0.560. However, when the value is discounted for inequality, the HDI falls to 0.386, a loss of 31.1 percent due to inequality in the distribution of the HDI dimension indices.

As the inequality in a country increases, the loss in human development also increases, Malik added.

According to the data, Pakistan's life expectancy stands at 67; while the expected years of schooling was at 8.5 years, with the mean years of schooling standing at 5.2.

The country's Gross National Income (GNI) per capita was $5,190, the data showed.

However, the trend from 1990 till 2018 showed that Pakistan had steadily improved from being a low human development country to a medium development country, but the pace is very slow.

The HDI was created to emphasise that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone.

The report talks about the importance of addressing the different kinds of inequalities in the world today. The report measures the countries' progress beyond just economic growth, with the ultimate aim of unlocking people's full potential.

In Pakistan, 38.3 percent of the population (75,520 thousand people) are multi dimensionally poor while an additional 12.9 percent are classified as vulnerable to multidimensional poverty (25,454 thousand people).

The breadth of deprivation (intensity) in Pakistan, which is the average deprivation score experienced by people in multidimensional poverty, is 51.7 percent. The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which is the share of the population that is multi dimensionally poor, adjusted by the intensity of the deprivations, is 0.198. Bangladesh and India have MPIs of 0.198 and 0.123 respectively.

Inequalities in human development are not just about disparities in income and wealth. The 2019 HDR explores inequalities in human development by going beyond income, beyond averages, and beyond today. The report analyzes inequality in three steps: beyond income, beyond averages, and beyond today.

The report has highlighted that over a third of Pakistani children under the age of five experiences such “intra-household inequality".

Speaking on the release of the report, Resident Representative of UNDP Pakistan Ignacio Artaza stated the Global HDR puts a lot of emphasis on going ‘beyond today' to study inequality.

This means that we cannot solve the problem of inequality if we fail to understand the factors that will shape it in the future. “The Pakistan NHDR has a similar philosophy, hoping to put together a holistic brief on inequality reduction in the country that aims to bridge the gap between the richest and the poorest quintiles in Pakistan," he added.

“Evidence is the key to planning and we want to make sure that we review the findings of the report and analyze how best they can inform policy," said Dr Sania Nishtar. She also called for revision of National Finance Commission (NFC) formula to make it more targeted and reduce the poverty rate as well as inequality.

She further said that Ehsaas is about the creation of a ‘welfare state' by countering elite capture and leveraging 21st century tools such as using data and technology to create precision safety nets; promoting financial inclusion and access to digital services; supporting the economic empowerment of women; focusing on the central role of human capital formation for poverty eradication, economic growth and sustainable development; and overcoming financial barriers to accessing health and post-secondary education.

She further said that the program's premise is grounded in the importance of strengthening institutions, transparency and good governance.

The program is for the extreme poor, orphans, widows, the homeless, the disabled, those who risk medical impoverishment, for the jobless, for poor farmers, for laborers, for the sick and undernourished; for students from low-income backgrounds and for poor women and elderly citizens. This plan is also about lifting lagging areas where poverty is higher

The Ehsaas' poverty reduction strategy is articulated in four pillars include: addressing elite capture and making the government system work to create equality; safety nets for disadvantaged segments of the population; jobs and livelihoods; and human capital development, Dr Nishtar added.

Aisha Ghuas Pasha said that flawed fiscal policy, taxation structure, expenditure policy and the state captured by elite having access to influence policies are some of the major drivers behind the increasing inequality in the country. She said the country spends around 5 percent of the GDP on social protection which is not enough the tackle the situations. She further said that there is need of inclusive growth which could create job opportunities for the youth.

She also said that as mentioned in the report power imbalance is another reason behind the rising inequality in the country.

Dr Alkire reiterated the use of multidimensional poverty index to track progress with regard to the impact of poverty interventions. She lauded Ehsaas that is multi-sectoral and whole of the government programme to address poverty.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019