EXPERTS WARN OF ALARMING RISE IN POVERTY CAUSED BY COVID-19
The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter 26 Jul 2020
KARACHI: Expressing concern over the state of economy and growing poverty in the country, speakers participating in a discussion held as part of the e-launch of a book on Friday suggested a number of policy measures that could help poor households cope with the Covid-19 shock which, they feared, may push 45.5 million additional individuals below the poverty line.
The event was organised by the department of economics of Institute of Business Administration (IBA).
Titled Policy Response during Challenging Times: Insights from the Federal Budget 2020-21 and the Way Forward, the book is authored by Dr S. Akbar Zaidi, Dr Asma Hyder, Dr Qazi Masood, Dr Muhammad Sabir, Dr Waliullah, Dr Adnan Haider, Dr Aadil Nakhoda and Asif Iqbal.
Sharing their projected estimates on growing poverty, the speakers pointed out that even the medium-level impact during the pandemic would push 45.5m additional individuals below the poverty line, with the total number of the poor approaching 94.6m (41.4pc of the total population).
At the provincial level the worst situation — in terms of the percentage of poor population — is projected in Balochistan (68.9pc), followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (49.8pc), Sindh (44.4pc), and Punjab (34.5pc).
Dr S. Akbar Zaidi emphasised the need for an innovative policy stance which should be opted to support households from different socioeconomic classes during this difficult time.
He expressed concern about an expected increase in inequality and a decline in socioeconomic indicators due to the Covid-19 shock.
Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2020
WHEAT FLOUR, SUGAR, GINGER AND GREEN CHILLI PRICES IN CITY INCREASED ONCE AGAIN
Aamir Shafaat Khan 20 Jul 2020
KARACHI: People continue to receive price hike shocks one after another ahead of Eidul Azha as flour (No2.5), sugar, ginger and green chilli prices have soared to new heights.
Flour millers have raised the price of flour (no.2.5) to Rs56.50 from Rs54 per kg, increasing Rs2.5 per kg.
Over the past two weeks, this is the fourth straight price jerk given by the millers to consumers.
The new price of a 10kg flour bag has been fixed at Rs570 as compared to Rs545. Two weeks back it was selling at Rs470 per bag.
The new rates of fine and super fine flour (maida) have been increased from Rs56.50 per kg to Rs59 per kilo, which is Rs2.50 per kg increase.
Flour millers have played havoc with prices amid reports of booking of 270,000 tonnes of imported wheat by the private sector which would arrive in the next two to three months.
Consumers witnessed a massive jump of Rs21 per kg in flour (no2.5) from April till to date while the federal, provincial and city governments literally have left the millers at their own to keep pushing up the rates.
The millers said the 100kg wheat bag price was increased to Rs5,100 from Rs4,800 four days back while it was Rs3,500 in April, citing reasons like non-release of wheat-loaded trucks arriving from interior of Sindh to Karachi coupled with movement of Sindh wheat to other provinces.
Pakistan Flour Millers Association Sindh zone chairman Khalid Masood has urged the Sindh government on July 17 to release wheat to millers during August and September to control the rising prices of wheat and wheat flour.
He said the international price of wheat is currently higher and as soon as it drops in the next 30 days, around 500,000 tonnes of imported grain would arrive after September.
Sugar, ginger and green chilli
The retail price of sugar has risen to Rs87-88 per kg from Rs85 per kg following increase in wholesale price to Rs82-83 from Rs78-79 per kg.
Wholesalers have blamed the millers for increasing the prices to Rs80-81, up by Rs4 per kg.
Amid ongoing inquiries and investigations by the government, consumers are still paying high prices for wheat flour and sugar despite good production.
As Eidul Azha is about 10 days away, retailers are charging Rs480 per kg for good quality ginger as compared to Rs400 per kg rate, up by Rs80 per kg ahead of Eid.
Small green chilli price, which was available at Rs60-80 per kg, is now Rs180-200 per kg, while big green chilli is now selling at Rs150-160 as compared to Rs40-60 per kg.
Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2020
EHSAAS PROGRAMME BEING ENHANCED FROM RS144BN TO RS203BN
The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter Updated 17 Jul 2020
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Dr Sania Nishtar addressing a press conference.—APP
ISLAMABAD: Amid adverse impact of the coronavirus on the poor and people belonging to low-income groups, the government has decided to enhance the Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme from Rs144 billion to Rs203bn.
Under the first phase of the programme [of Rs144 billion] 12 million families were provided four-month stipend of Rs12,000. Now with the increase in its funds the programme will facilitate around 17m families.
“It means that almost half of the population of the country will be covered under the programme,” said Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Safety and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar at a press conference on Thursday.
“The scope of emergency cash programme has been expanded to reach out to around 16.9 million deserving families with the increased budget of Rs203 billion,” she added.
Emergency cash programme will facilitate 17 million families
Accompanied by Information Minister Shibli Faraz, the SAPM said initially the programme was launched on April 9 with a budget of Rs144 billion for 12 million beneficiaries.
She, however, said 12.86 million beneficiaries across the country had so far received one-time cash assistance of Rs155.64bn through emergency cash initiative as in addition to Rs144bn over Rs10bn was distributed through other resources, including the Prime Minister Corona Fund.
“The government’s largest social protection programme, Ehsaas, has taken the lead in radically expanding social safety nets to help mitigate effects of Covid-19 within Pakistan,” she added.
Terming the programme a big success of the government, she said the programme was fully transparent, rule and merit based, and apolitical. “Sindh gains the most from this programme which shows its apolitical nature,” she said while giving an indirect reply to the allegation made by the ruling party in Sindh, Pakistan Peoples Party, that the province had been ignored and its people had not benefited from the scheme.
She said as compared to initiatives taken in other countries, the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme gained international recognition for disbursing in time cash assistance in a well organised manner and at a larger scale.
Dr Nishtar said digital capabilities developed over the past year as part of the Ehsaas strategy had positively been adopted in making emergency cash payments.
“Requests were sought through an SMS short code service; data analytics enabled eligibility ascertainment, using unique national identification numbers and drawing on the National Socioeconomic Registry and wealth proxies (travel, taxes, billing, assets ownership data and government employment status), and payments are biometrically verified,” she explained the process of payments made under the programme.
The beneficiaries who were eligible but facing problems in withdrawing money owing to faulty biometric identification were being paid out exclusively in the designated bank branches of partner banks.
Similarly, to ease out the payment process for families of deceased beneficiaries, Ehsaas has adopted a procedure under which the families of deceased beneficiaries are required to send out an application in her name (Dr Sania Nishtar) with Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) details of their dead family member along with those of eligible family member straight to Ehsaas offices at Islamabad.
Ms Nishtar said Ehsaas has also launched ‘Ehsaas Emergency Cash — Know Your Status’ Portal to offer an easy window to people registered with Ehsaas Emergency Cash to check their eligibility. “All applicants who have registered themselves through 8171 or Prime Minister’s Labour Portal can now easily check their eligibility status by entering CNIC number on the portal,” she added.
Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2020
WORLD HUNGER WORSENING AS CORONAVIRUS WEIGHS AND OBESITY RISES: UN
AFP Updated 14 Jul 2020
ROME: Nearly one in nine people in the world are going hungry, with the coronavirus pandemic exacerbating already worsening trends this year, according to a United Nations report published on Monday.
Economic slowdowns and climate-related shocks are pushing more people into hunger, while nutritious foods remain too expensive for many, contributing not only to undernourishment, but to growing rates of obesity in adults and children.
“After decades of long decline, the number of people suffering from hunger has been slowly increasing since 2014,” said the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World annual report.
Not only did people need enough food, but nutritious food, the study said, citing costly “health and environmental consequences” of sub-par diets.
Nearly 690 million people, or 8.9 percent of people around the globe, are hungry, the UN found.
That number rose by 10 million people in just one year to 2019, and by 60 million in the past five years, found the study, which said eradicating hunger by 2030 — a goal set five years ago — will be impossible if trends continue.
By 2030, over 890 million people could be affected by hunger, or 9.8 percent of the world’s population, it estimated.
Five United Nations agencies co-authored the report: the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Last year, the report estimated that over 820 million people were going hungry, but estimates were recalculated following revised data from China for prior years.
When measuring both moderate and severe food insecurity in 2019, the number balloons from 690 million to 2 billion people without “regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food”.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which has hit hard in nations with widespread poverty, could cause another 83 to 132 million people to become undernourished this year, the report said. Global trends had already been worsening before coronavirus, it said.
About a quarter of Africa’s population could go hungry by 2030 from 19.1 percent today, already twice the world average.
In Asia, the number of hungry people fell by 8 million people since 2015, although the continent remains home to more than half the world’s undernourished people.
Trends in Latin America and the Caribbean are worsening, with 9 million more hungry people last year than in 2015.
“A key reason why millions of people around the world suffer from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition is because they cannot afford the cost of healthy diets,” found the report.
Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2020