Human Development Declines Further in Pakistan – UNDP ReportBy Naseer Memon (The News, 2nd Nov 2014)

The UNDP has released its flagship document Human Development Report 2014 entitled “sustaining human progress: reducing vulnerabilities and building resilience”. The annual report provides status of all countries against vital indicators of human development.

Pakistan, ranked at 146 out of 185 countries, has been bracketed among low human development countries. Pakistan barely maintained last year’s ranking when it shared 146th position with Bangladesh. However, Bangladesh this year moved four rungs up and stood at 142nd position. With such an ignominious ranking, a nuclear power, flaunting atom bomb has been outshined by all other SAARC countries except the war-ravaged Afghanistan. Even Afghanistan has improved its position from 175th in 2012 to 169th this year.

Interestingly, all SAARC countries have improved their ranking compared to the previous year except India and Pakistan who just maintained their ranking. Sri Lanka is the only SAARC country that has been grouped among high human development fraternity. It has taken enviable stride from 92nd number in 2012 to 73rd position this year.

A cursory glance at Pakistan’s ranking on various indicators narrates a sorry state of human development in the country. Except Afghanistan, all other countries have humbled Pakistan on most of the indicators. Pakistan has the second highest maternal mortality ratio in the region. 260 mothers die during 100,000 live births in the country. This ratio for Maldives is only 60 and just 35 in Sri Lanka.

Similarly, the country has second highest infant mortality rate (IMR) after Afghanistan. 60 children out of 1000 live births die before the age of one year. Comparatively, the infant mortality rate in India is 44, in Bangladesh 33 and in Nepal 34. Even African countries Rwanda, Cameroon and Sudan have lesser IMR i.e. 39, 61 and 49 respectively.

Similarly, 86 out of 1000 children die before their fifth birth anniversary in Pakistan. Barring Afghanistan with 99 such deaths, all other countries have much lesser child mortality rate. Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bhutan registered only 11, 10 and 45 deaths under five year age. Even war-torn Sudan performed better with 73 deaths of under-five infants.

Likewise, Pakistan has third highest child malnutrition only better than Afghanistan and India. Alarmingly, 43.7 per cent children below five-year age are stunted in Pakistan. Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka have 33.5, 18.9 and 17 per cent of stunted children respectively. Sudan has lesser percentage i.e. 35 of stunted children.

Education is another area of inglorious performance of the country. Pakistan’s adult literacy rate 54.9 per cent is second lowest in the region after Bhutan. Maldives has an impressive adult literacy of 98.4 per cent followed by Sri Lanka with 91.2 per cent. African countries Cameroon (71.3) and Rwanda (71.3) have better adult literacy than Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistan has the lowest youth literacy rate. With 70.7 per cent youth literacy, the country is trailed behind by Bangladesh with 78.7 percent and India with 81 per cent.
Pakistan has also the lowest gross enrollment ratio (GER) of primary and secondary education. Afghanistan’s GER in primary education is 97 per cent compared to 93 per cent of Pakistan. Bhutan’s GER in secondary education is 74 per cent.

The UNDP report is in consonance with Pakistan’s status on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The government’s own report on status of MDGs in 2013 admits that out of 33 targets, Pakistan could achieve only 3 and the progress on 23 targets is off-track.

Being a chronic security state, the country drains much of its resources on traditional security measures. Contemporary concepts of human security are alien to the policy makers. Paranoia of internal and external threats has fettered human development since inception. Even war-torn countries are earmarking better resources on human development.

For instance, Pakistan spends only 0.6 per cent of GDP on health which is dwarfed by even highly unstable Afghanistan with 3.9 per cent. Pakistan spends only 2.4 per cent of GDP on education which is significantly lower than 5.8 per cent of Bhutan and 4.7 per cent of Nepal. Even Congo spends 6.2 per cent on this account.

Ignoring human security has devastating implications for society. In 2010, a UNICEF report made startling revelations by comparing the state of nutrition in Sindh with Chad and Niger. The report sends a wave of chill through spine by claiming that hundreds of thousands of children are at risk due to alarming malnutrition prevalent in the province. The malnutrition rate was reported as 23.1 per cent in north Sindh and 21.2 per cent in the South.

This scale of malnutrition has surpassed 15 per cent, the emergency threshold of World Health Organization and far exceeds the global average of 13.9 per cent in flood hit areas. The report also reveals that 11.2 per cent pregnant and lactating women were suffering from malnutrition in north Sindh and 10.2 per cent in the South.

The security mania has eclipsed the basic needs of citizens. It is an implausible idea to secure borders without securing basic human needs of citizens. According to a report of Social Policy and Development Centre “Social Impact of the Security Crisis”, allocation for health and nutrition in federal government’s public sector development program registered a marginal average annual increase of 0.4 per cent over the last five years. Whereas the security related expenditure during last ten years registered an average growth of 20.6 per cent. The figures speak volumes for our misplaced priorities.

Security across the world is biting human development needs and countries like Pakistan are a laboratory to gauge its social and political ramifications. In a country where “haves” and “have-nots” are multiplying exponentially, remiss of state to lifeline necessities of its subjects can culminate in a catastrophic socio-political vortex.

The ubiquitously prevalent felony has its roots in decades-long socioeconomic inequalities that kept diverging with every passing day. Emaciated social sector had not only been starving for resources, it was also pulverised by frequent natural disasters and multitude of conflicts. Elite political fabric coupled by over-centralised and unjust resource distribution has decimated weaker segments of society.

On external front, a trigger-happy foreign policy has been a causative factor to perpetuate border acrimonies. The security monster gobbled up the scant resources meant for development of millions of impoverished masses. Unremitting wars have created a black hole that continues to gulp down hard earned revenues.

It is an ignominious irony that we funnel our hard-earned resources in wars but ask tax payers of developed world to dole out coins to resuscitate our derelict education and health sectors. Basic social services are primary responsibility of the state, which has abdicated its role and tossed citizens at the mercy of a rudderless market. Boasting power to trounce every enemy, the state has kneeled before polio virus.

Pakistanis are the only creature required to show polio vaccination evidence at immigration desk for overseas travel. This year Pakistan has ashamed its own past record of polio cases by breaking psychological barrier of 200 cases in a year. Two other countries of the polio club Nigeria and Afghanistan have shown remarkable improvement to rein in polio, whereas we are on a polio proliferation spree. The world is watching us with trepidation to become the only polio sanctuary on earth.
We have a distinction of hosting more than 80 per cent polio cases in the world. More scandalous is the fact that polio virus with Pakistani provenance is now sneaking into polio-free countries prompting disconcerting travel embargoes. Dengue and malaria mosquitos deride our hubris of being a nuclear power. Terrorism, bad governance, corruption and failure on human development are some of the factors impinging on image of Pakistan.

Characterised as a security state, the country has developed an image of a problem child in the region. Enigmatically, the decision-makers are hardly sensitive to the faltering image of the country. Their unremitting obduracy and addiction to a confrontational approach is ostracising Pakistan in the world community.

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