Tag Archives: Inequality

Pakistan: Poverty & Inequality

By Raza Rumi

(An op-ed first published here)

As I sipped the tenderly brewed coffee facing the lush green golf course of a relatively new Lahore Country Club, the new reality of Pakistan became a little clearer. The sprawling premises of the club were a preserve of the Railways Department until the inefficient Pakistan Railways could not manage it and doled it to the new, oligarchic big business of Pakistan. Much ado was made when the land owned by the Railways was privatised and questionable deals were transacted in that moderately unenlightened era. Nothing came out of the public questioning and today a lavish country club, far removed from its downmarket environs, has sprung out for the affluent and the upwardly-mobile classes of Lahore and Punjab.

The classic barriers to entry created by the cliques that lord over Pakistan’s elite clubs is being undone. Pay a handsome fee now (way over a million rupees) and you are a member to this new “club” built on the ashes of the Raj steelframe, albeit, reminding one of the nasty remarks of Churchill on how the brown, rapacious Rajas would appropriate the space created by the wise and just colonists. As my host elaborated on the entry procedures to Lahore’s richy-rich club, I could not help but remember the compensation to a suicide bomber that has also increased over the years and now hovers between one to two million rupees. A grossly-overlooked fact is that the grinding poverty in the pockets of Pakistan, seemingly unaffected by the consumerist prosperity, is the key to our current turmoil and violence. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Pakistan, Poverty

Poverty the eye cannot see

By: Harsh Mander
Faye Hall

In India, there are near-constant debates about defining and measuring poverty, hunger, malnutrition and starvation. If these were merely of academic interest, this writer could pass them by in his uneducated ignorance. Any confusion could be rationalised by echoing an irreverent professor at the Delhi School of Economics, who compares statistics to a hapless and impoverished tribal man, arrested by a police inspector in a dreaded Indian police station. “If you torture both enough,” the professor tells his students, “you can force them to admit to anything!”

Yet we cannot afford to ignore the sometimes complex calculations of estimating poverty and hunger levels. Especially since the 1990s in India, these calculations have been deployed by public planners and finance managers to justify cutting back public expenditures on food security, by targeting a hitherto universal public distribution system (through a country-wide network of subsidised foodgrain ration shops) at only those who are officially ‘certified’ to be poor. The same calculations of allegedly declining poverty and hunger are used to limit public expenditures on a range of other programmes for the poor – such as pensions for destitute old people and maternity benefits – and to minimise official acknowledgement of the adverse impacts of the policies of ‘structural adjustment’ programmes. Continue reading


Filed under India, Inequality, Poverty

Karachi Calling – Urban notes from NPR

 “Does Karachi need a golf course for God sakes? … This is madness. I don’t have drinking water and I’m going to be watering the turf?”Amber Alibhai, general secretary of the public interest group Shehri, spends her days fighting with the city of Karachi about new development.

[Photo below – Junaid Bahadur Khan for NPR]

Amber Alibhai stands in her Karachi office.

Essay: Karachi Calling!

Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep writes about the contradictions of Karachi. As many as half of the Pakistani city’s 15 million or so residents live in squatter homes, even as foreign firms pour money into luxury developments.
The Urban Frontier: About the Series

This year, according to the U.N., half the world’s population lives in cities and the proportion will only increase. Morning Edition begins an occasional examination of the world’s cities with a series of profiles from Karachi, Pakistan’s economic powerhouse.


Morning Edition, June 4, 2008 · Karachi, one of the world’s most crowded cities, is debating its future. And those political debates keep returning to one subject: real estate. Developers are flocking to the Pakistani city, which has been profiled this week on Morning Edition as part of a series called “The Urban Frontier” about the world’s expanding cities.

Foreign developers are drawn to Karachi for at least two reasons. The first is demand. Pakistan may be a poor country, but many of it citizens are well off and developers believe they will pay a lot of money for expensive waterfront condos.

The second factor is a ready supply of investment capital in the Persian Gulf. To Dubai developers, for example, Karachi seems like a great investment.

A video from a Dubai development company features plans for a new city beside the old, with a new harbor, new parks and a nearly 2,000-foot tower that commemorates the year of Pakistan’s independence.

When the company brought its proposal to Pakistan, there was a meeting in the capital city of Islamabad. Word leaked out to Amber Alibhai, a public interest lawyer who is general secretary of an environmentalist group called Shehri. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Development, Pakistan, South Asia, Urban

Colonialism, Inequality, and Long-Run Paths of Development

Leave a comment

Filed under colonialism, Development, imperialism, Inequality

Pakistan: Stress on poverty reduction

By Ali Cheema

THE emphasis on eliminating poverty through the pursuit of social justice in the prime minister’s hundred-day programme is a welcome change from President Musharraf’s policy, which favoured the trickle-down recipe of poverty alleviation.

The previous regime’s erstwhile economic gurus went about the business of calculating the percentage decline in mean poverty in relation to the increased rate of growth, which became its battle cry. The much-advertised official verdict was that poverty in Pakistan had declined by over 10 per cent in the last four years.

The merits and demerits of the official calculations notwithstanding (the veracity of the official calculations is subject to intense debate), by becoming obsessed with average reductions the previous regime’s policy approach to poverty failed to develop an appreciation of the deep structural constraints impacting poverty in Pakistan.

These structural constraints impact poverty in a number of ways. Their primary impact is the tremendous variation in household poverty that is caused at the district and sub-provincial level. These constraints have resulted in the creation of high-poverty districts that are stuck in ‘poverty traps’, where endemic poverty is persistent over the long run. The socio-economic channels through which growth ‘trickle down’ is said to happen remain extremely fragile in these districts. That is, growth alone has not and will not deliver in these districts. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Economy, Income distribution, Inequality, Pakistan, Poverty, Surveys

India: the mirage of growth

Source: Hinduon Net

“The Indian economy has witnessed tremendous growth recently, but millions of people have been left untouched; some may have even been made worse off. In spite of the rapid population growth, the proportion of people below the poverty line has been coming down over the decades. The question is whether faster growth (claimed to be the result of the economic reforms started in the early 1990s) has led to faster decline in the proportion of the population below the poverty line.

Poverty declined by 8.9 percentage points in the pre-reform period and 7.8 percentage points in the post-reform period. But over a third of the population still remains in poverty in spite of growth rates that are claimed to be spectacular. The per capita availability of foodgrains has increased only about 10 percent since 1950.”

Full story: http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/stories/20080314250507600.htm

Leave a comment

Filed under Growth, India, Inequality