June 2020


Iftikhar A. KhanUpdated 12 Jun, 2020

ISLAMABAD: At least another 10 million people are expected to slip below the poverty line as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, the Economic Survey 2019-20 estimates.

“The Covid-19 is expected to have a negative impact on the Pakistan’s economy, and the number of people living below the poverty line may rise from the existing figure of 50 million to 60m,” reads the survey released her on Thursday.

The Planning Commission employs Cost of Basic Needs (CBN) approach for poverty estimation, which was estimated to be Rs3,250.3 per adult per month.

According to this methodology, 24.3 per cent of the population is below the poverty line. However, poverty headcount will rise depending on the aggregate consumption of households in the post-coronavirus scenarios estimated by the subcommittee of National Coordination Committee on Covid-19 on Economic Analysis headed by the Planning Commission.

According to scenario No 1, if household’s consumption goes down by 5pc, the headcount will rise from existing 24.3pc to 29pc, and that would lead to around 10pc people falling below the poverty line.

Economic Survey notes measures taken to address crisis caused by pandemic

Scenario-2 envisions a situation where a household’s consumption goes down by 10pc, the headcount in such a case could rise to 33.5pc.

The survey says the lockdowns, though partial, have repercussions on employment, and it is expected that due to partial lockdown, 12.6m workers may lose their jobs.

The survey, however, says that during the pandemic and post-crisis periods, short-term income losses will be offset by an unprecedented rise in social safety nets.

The government has extended outreach of its cash transfers to 12m households from the existing 5m. It means the support has been extended to 78m people, which is more than 32pc of the population. This will be the largest cash transfer in this region in terms of coverage.

Pakistan is committed to poverty alleviation in line with the SDGs target Goal-1 “No Poverty” in all its manifestations everywhere by 2030.

The survey says the government has taken a number of initiatives to reduce poverty, provide income security and increase the population’s access to social protection, including creation of a dedicated Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division to synergise the efforts of various organisations working for poverty alleviation and social protection in public and private sectors.

The government has launched a comprehensive and integrated Ehsaas programme that intends to bring together various existing social safety net programmes under one umbrella with an aim to reduce poverty, vulnerability, malnutrition and deprivation so that the fundamental rights of all citizens could be ensured.

Cash transfers are effective in helping the vulnerable to take charge of their lives and empower them to make financial decisions. However, additional programmes like conditional cash transfers and other social protection measures to target for universal coverage could be developed, using the strengthened policy research capacity of the Benazir Income Support Programme.

The government with limited financial resources is making the best efforts to fulfil its priority towards social sector development projects and to make progress towards the achievement of SDGs. Sensitisation at the provincial and district levels is a key to ensuring effective adoption and localisation of the SDGs.

In the wake of Covid-19, the government approved a package of Rs144 billion to provide immediate cash relief of Rs12,000 each to 12m poor families under the Ehsaas programme.

Unconditional Cash Transfer Programme is now improved and strengthened as Kafalat Programme, through which monthly cash stipends of Rs2,000 will be given to at least 7m most deserving and poorest women all over the country.

The Pakistan Baitul Maal is providing assistance to destitute, widows, orphans and other needy persons irrespective of their gender, caste, creed and religion through its establishment at the district level.

From July to March during the current financial year, it has disbursed Rs2.705bn through its core projects/schemes.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2020



The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter 13 Jun, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a webinar on Friday said the government had not been able to give due attention to the constant rise in child labour whereas development partners had also not been able to curb the menace.

They identified the deficient and conflicting legislation on child labour and rights as the main hurdle.

The webinar was organised by Development Communications Network on the topic ‘Covid-19 and Child Labour: the nexus of poverty, population and food security’. The event was held to commemorate World Day Against Child Labour.

The panels of experts included United Nations International Labour Organisation (ILO) Country Director Ingrid Christensen, Senior Programme Officer Child Labour in Agriculture at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome (Italy) Ariane Genthon, Executive Director Parliamentary Commission for Human Rights Chaudhry Mohammad Shafiq, Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Mohammad Ashraf Malik, Senior Programme Officer ILO Pakistan Saghir Bukhari, Pakistan Workers FederationGeneral Secretary Zahoor Ahmad Awan besides representatives from international and local NGOs and the private sector.

Ingrid Christensen warned that with Covid-19 spreading, over two million more children would be pushed into child labour in Pakistan. There is a strong link between child labour and socio-economic conditions, she added.

“To curb child labour we need to improve rural economy and working conditions of daily wagers and other marginalised communities that need long-term and sustainable partnerships between development partners and governments,” she said.

It was pointed out in the webinar that child labour survey was started last year in March with Unicef Pakistan taking the lead to access the situation on ground.

Ms Christensen however feared that due to the pandemic it might not be completed in time.

Ariane Genthon said: “We need more data on the involvement of children in harmful tasks in different sub-sectors of agriculture to help agricultural programmes and stakeholders take action.

“Covid-19 and the locust invasion will have detrimental effects on farmers. These will likely exacerbate the number of children in child labour. Agricultural stakeholders, including small-holders, can play a positive role in eliminating child labour in agriculture but we need to involve them.”

The participants observed that more than 71pc child labour is engaged in agriculture where poisonous pesticides are used that directly threatened health and lives of the children. “Unfortunately, increasing poverty and population force the farmers to engage their children in agricultural fields. FAO has launched an awareness campaign in selected districts of many developing countries to ensure that children are kept away from the fields. They can only be prevented from the fields if engaged in education or vocational skills after the farmers are subsidised for the inputs to the crops,” Ariane Genthon said.

Devcom-Pakistan Director Munir Ahmed said Pakistan was relying on three decades old data concerning child labour.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2020



Recorder Report 26 Jun, 2020

KARACHI: A senior economist at the State Bank of Pakistan, Asma Khalid, has said that a rising population and climate change will create challenges for Pakistan to secure food.

Speaking at an interactive seminar titled “Food Security in Pakistan”, which was organized by the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) at its Karachi office as well as at its regional office in Lahore and capital office in Islamabad via zoom video link, she said that the per capita consumption of food products that possess high-nutritional value like beef, chicken, fish, milk, vegetables and fruits is almost 6-10 times lower than that in developed countries which affects the labor productivity and young population.

Asma Khalid said that Pakistan ranked 106th among 119 countries in the Global Hunger Index, and has been characterized as facing a “serious” level of hunger due to undernourishment, micronutrient (iron, calcium, vitamin-A) deficiencies and a deficit of safe drinking water.

Under-5 malnutrition costs around US$7.5 billion every year, which is equivalent to 3 percent of the GDP and the cost comprises loss of future labor force, high under-5 mortality rate, low labor productivity emanating from stunting, anemia or iodine deficiencies in childhood, and prevalence of chronic weakness and fatigue etc.

She also emphasized on the need for support price for all crops and agriculture insurance in order to support the farmers.

“Almost 37 percent of our population is food insecure despite the fact that Pakistan is self-sufficient in major staples at present, and the main problem is access and affordability,” said Shaikh Sultan Rehman, vice president of the FPCCI.

He emphasized on the need for food security in Pakistan which has high linkage with human capital and strong economic implications.

While highlighting the facts and figures of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN, he said that high rate of malnutrition can dent around 3-4 percent of the GDP which mainly affects our young generation mainly due to rising of death rate, malnutrition and low future productivity.

Rehman told the audience that globally Pakistan ranked 8th in production of wheat, 10th in rice, 5th in sugarcane and 4th in milk production, and yet Pakistan occasionally faced shortage of these produce.

The vice president of the FPCCI added that hoarding and smuggling are other issues contributing to food shortages in Pakistan.

He underscored the need for implementation of the National Food Security Policy announced in 2018. The policy had envisaged increasing of agriculture production by four percent annually besides giving attention to agriculture research.

Khurram Ijaz, another vice president of the FPCCI, expressed his concerns over locust attacks which affected agriculture productivity.

Dr. Rafique Ahmed Chandio, director-general of the Agriculture Policy Institute, discussed different dimensions of food security, namely, productivity, availability of variety of food, accessibility and affordability. He called for strong coordination between federal and provincial governments and the private sector.

He said that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased poverty and unemployment in Pakistan which may deepen food insecurity in Pakistan. The government has initiated different programs in order to overcome poverty and unemployment, but institutions’ response is very weak due to insufficient data availability.

Moreover, the policies of the World Trade Organization, unfair trade regimes and tariff rationalization are hurting agriculture investment in Pakistan.

Muhammad Khalid Qaim Khani, additional director of Food and Finance, Sindh government, highlighted the issues of harvesting, particularly declining wheat production in Punjab and shifting from staple crops to other crops.

He also laid emphasis on improvement in crops quality, enhancing of crops yields and better use of pesticides.

Jamshed Iqbal Cheema, chairman of the Crop Protection Association of Pakistan, said that there is a high level of food insecurity in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa followed by Sindh due to rising poverty and unemployment.

He highlighted the importance of shifting consuming habits to crops having high potential like potatoes, maize, cow milk, etc., and which have high nutrition value compared to traditional foods.

Qaisra Sheikh, coordinator of women entrepreneurs of the FPCCI, focused on purification of food items and wastage of food in Pakistan. She also highlighted the issues of household women who are facing deficiency in food.

Nousherwan Mughal, an FPCCI member, underscored the need of establishing agriculture labs for value addition of agriculture products and innovation of new varieties of agriculture produce.

In his concluding remarks, Sheikh Sultan Rehman, vice president of the FPCCI, emphasized the need for forming long-term and consistent policies with consultation with all the stakeholders, establishing of warehouses and cold storages to save fruits and vegetables from going rotten and utilizing modern irrigation technologies to increase food security in Pakistan.

He also offered vote of thanks to the participants.

The seminar was also attended by Qaiser Khan, vice president of FPCCI, Shaukat Ahmed, former senior vice president of FPCCI, Nasir Hayat Magoon, senior member of FPCCI, representatives of the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation, the Seed Association of Pakistan, Croplife Pakistan, Sitara Chemicals and the Quetta Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Sultan Mehmood from the Seed Association of Pakistan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020