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ISLAMABAD: The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pakistan Resident Representative Knut Ostby on Friday highlighted findings of the Pakistan National Human Development Report (NHDR) 2020, and observed that the citizens can play a key role in setting the country's future by participating in the political process.

On Friday, the UNDP Pakistan hosted the second webinar of its Pakistan Inequality Debate series.

These webinars are being held to discuss the findings of the Pakistan National Human Development Report (NHDR) 2020: The Three Ps of Inequality: Power, People, and Policy, which was launched by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The webinar began with a plenary session, entitled "Policy as a Driver of Inequality: Centering People for Inclusive Policy", addressing the report's emphasis on policy.

The session included Dr Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety, as the chief guest; Knut Ostby; and former Federal Minister and NHDR 2020 lead author Dr Hafiz Pasha.

The panelists for the session included Dr Shamshad Akhtar, chairperson, Karandaaz and the Pakistan Stock Exchange; Dr Abid Suleri, executive director, SDPI; and researcher Dr Saba Gul Khattak.

In his welcoming remarks, Knut Ostby highlighted policy as a core strategy through which governments determine what kind of country they want to create for citizens.

"Citizen power is an important part of public policy. By participating in the political process, citizens can play an important role in defining the future of the country," said Ostby.

In her keynote address, Dr Nishtar spoke of the government's commitment to building a "welfare state" where rule of law, meritocracy and transparency is guaranteed to all citizens and a social safety net is provided to marginalized segments.

"This year we will cover 1 million families under Ehsaas Kafaalat, breaking a record -- this will be the highest number of families ever getting regular support from the government," said Dr Nishtar.

Dr Pasha, when presenting the report's findings, spoke of policy in the context of areas that need redressal.

"Pakistan has experienced high income and wealth inequality, with the richest groups co-opting the lion's share of national income, bank advances, farm area, and property.

The NHDR 2020 shows that the value of the privileges of Pakistan's vested interests added up to Rs2,660 billion in 2017-2018," observed Dr Pasha.

Moderated by Mosharraf Zaidi, CEO and senior fellow at Tabadlab, the panel discussion explored the role of policy in creating inequality in the country.

Speakers engaged in a wide-ranging discussion covering challenges to inclusive policy making; how financial inclusion can lead to greater human development; and how the government has leveraged policy for inequality reduction in the wake of COVID-19.

UNDP's Pakistan Inequality Debates continue to explore themes related to inequality at the national, provincial, and regional levels, with the goal to deconstruct Pakistan's disparities and move the country towards an equal Pakistan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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