Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform, Ahsan Iqbal
said that government has adopted inclusive and sustainable economic
policies to minimize socio-economic inequalities.
Ahsan Iqbal noted that inclusive growth strategy implies egalitarian distribution of income and resources. As a developing country, Pakistan faces two challenges. On one hand, economy needs to grow rapidly and on the other hand, historically marginalized segments of society must be incorporated into processes of development. In order to effectively conceptualize and materialize this, government needs input from economists, gender experts, development specialists, think tanks and other civil society organizations. The purpose of this round table is to not only initiate a dialogue between relevant stakeholders but to design effective policies to address issues pertaining to inequality in Pakistan.
These views were expressed by Mr. Ahsan Iqbal while addressing a seminar on ”Bringing Inequality to the Public Agenda” in Ministry of Planning in collaboration with UNDP. The seminar was attended by government officials, development experts, members of academia and civil society.
Moreover, Minister said that income inequality is only one aspect of inequality in Pakistan. Disparities in terms of gender, region and digital divide are also needed to be addressed in order to ensure sustainable development in Pakistan. He elucidated that the launch of Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)is in this specific context. Moreover, he said that MPI would help governments to grasp the magnitude and intensity of inequities in Pakistan.
Ahsan Iqbal is of the opinion that in today’s knowledge age, education, innovation and IT are drivers of inequality. Countries which are at the cutting edge of knowledge are the leading countries of the world. Therefore, it is imperative for Pakistan to revolutionize its expertise in science and technology.
Moreover, Mr. Iqbal highlighted the major initiatives taken by government to encounter inequality in education sector which include launch of National Curriculum Reforms, Examination System Reforms, Transformational teacher training program, Science Talent Farming Scheme, Punjab Endowment Funds and provision of computers and labsto 2500 high schools in Punjab. He also suggested that existing education system in Pakistan creates structural inequalities due to use of Urdu as a language of medium in public schools and English in private schools. He is of the opinion that education should be blended in both Urdu and English languages , ”we may go for a mix of both Urdu and English at school level with description in Urdu and terminology/nomenclature in English”, he added .
Moreover, Minister noted that previously Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were regarded as some conventions that are ‘imposed’ on Pakistan by UN. Consequently, government and society at large never fully adopted them. But this government has internalized Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as National Goals and this is a major policy shift.
Furthermore, he said that Government has devised “Vision 2025” through a broader political consensus in which all relevant stakeholders were taken on board. Government has already taken multiple initiatives in education, health, skills development, social safety net, infrastructure, energy and disaster mitigation etc. Given the consistency of policies and political stability in Pakistan, Pakistan will emerge as one of the top 25 economies in the World by 2025.
Minister said that the publication of MPI is just a first step. Now government is in the process of would designing and implementing policies to address social and regional inequalities. In this context, the role of provincial governments is highly important and Planning Commission would fully facilitate all provincial governments so that they can take on inequality head on as highlighted in MPI. Minister was pleased to know that Punjab government has already taken some initiatives after the release of MPI to minimize regional inequalities in their province.
Ahsan Iqbal ended his talk with a sense of optimism that Pakistan will become a more equitable and prosperous country by 2025. He urged all stakeholders to collaborate with each other and he suggested that they should meet on quarterly basis to review recommendations and processes of implementation.