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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said that his government was committed to reducing poverty from 24.3 per cent to 19 per cent by 2023, while reiterating his "aim is to create an Islamic welfare state based on the principles of Riasat-e-Madina through inclusive equitable growth and economic modernization."

Addressing a high-level event themed, "Poverty At A Crossroad: Using Leadership and the Multidimensional Poverty Index to Build Back Better" being held on the sidelines of 75th United Nations General Assembly session in New York via video link, the prime minister said that around one billion people - almost 15 percent of the world's population - survive in poverty, lacking the income and capabilities to live with dignity.

He further stated that the poverty imposed massive human suffering and was the most pervasive violation of human rights as well as the root cause of socio-economic instability, and of most political and security problems across the world.

Khan said poverty eradication was the first among the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as it imposed massive human suffering and was the root cause of socio-economic instability.

He said that over the past 30 years, poverty had visibly declined. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered the worst global recession in over a century as over one hundred million people are likely to be pushed back into extreme poverty. A decade's development could be reversed.

"The Covid virus does not discriminate but it is the poor and vulnerable who have suffered the most from it," he added.

In Pakistan, the prime minister said that "we have been able to control the virus through our strategy of "smart lockdowns" and the government had done its utmost to shield the poor and the vulnerable.

"Despite our financial difficulties, the government implemented a $1.25 billion package to deliver emergency cash to over 15 million families, covering over a 100 million people. My government is implementing a multi-sectoral poverty alleviation programme - Ehsaas (which means compassion). It is the largest poverty eradication programme in Pakistan's history," he said.

The prime minister said as the UN secretary-general had observed that "inequality is the hallmark of our times", adding that today, the 26 richest people in the world own as much wealth as half the world's population does.

The richer countries have mobilized over $10 trillion to recover from the Covid crisis. The developing countries, on the other hand, are struggling to find even a small fraction of the $2.5 trillion they need, added the premier.

He added that apart from the direct attack on poverty, we need to address its systemic causes. At the national and international levels, the structures of finance, production and trade must be made fair and equitable.

The exploitation of the resources of the poor countries must stop. The illicit flows of the fruits of corruption and crime must be halted and the stolen assets returned to the countries of origin. And, developing countries must be helped to recover from the Covid crisis, to realise the SDGs, and to ward off the impacts of climate change, the prime minister said.

The premier said that the financial resources needed by the developing countries must be mobilised, through debt relief - which I called for last April; the creation of new Special Drawing Rights; and expanded official development assistance.

The realisation of the SDGs can be accelerated, especially through major investments in sustainable infrastructure - in renewable energy, transport, housing, water and sanitation.

New technologies must be mobilised and the digital divide bridged to enable developing countries to leapfrog into a modern development paradigm. He expressed that hope that the event the would contributes significantly to our collective fight against global poverty and the promotion of the SDGs.

Pakistan and Chile co-hosted the said event, "Poverty at a crossroad: using leadership and the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)."

The event was co-hosted by Karla Rubilar, Minister Social Development and Families, Chile, and Dr Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, Pakistan.

The event brought together expertise and policy influence from heads of six states: Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Sebastian Piñera, President of Chile, Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, President of Costa Rica, Juan Orlando Hernández, President of Honduras, and KP Sharma Oli, Prime Minister of Nepal.

Speaking at the session, Dr Sania Nishtar said Covid-19 was threatening to wipe out the development gains of the last century, and in doing so it was also reversing three decades of gains in poverty eradication.

"In my own country, Pakistan, just within 10 days of the lockdown, our government committed over a billion dollars to deliver emergency cash to over 15 million families. As our prime minister just mentioned, this is the largest programme in Pakistan's history, delivered end-to-end, digitally in the most difficult of circumstances.

Our experience with Ehsaas, has taught us that it is possible to make quantum changes in the delivery capability of governments, but in order for that to happen, bold policy, good data, and an unwavering commitment to integrity and transparency in delivery, and whole of government mobilisation is a must-and that has been the cornerstone of our poverty alleviating work."

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020