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S Asia's macroeconomic stability, more job opportunities to help reduce poverty level


ISLAMABAD, Aug 12 (APP): The overall macroeconomic stability, enabling environment for investment, greater employment opportunities and enhanced pro-poor expenditures have facilitated reduction in poverty level.
Accordingly, the incidence of poverty has fallen from 34.5 per cent in 2001 to 23.9 per cent in 2005. Resultantly, around 12.8 million people have come out of the poverty trap, said Minister of State and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, Muhammad Akram Sheikh while speaking at first meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) ministers dealing with poverty alleviation at Colombo in Sri Lanka, a message received here yesterday said.
Pakistan has subsequently launched an integrated and holistic Medium-Term Development Framework (2005-10) with an overarching objective of poverty reduction, subsuming the strategy articulated in Poverty Reduction Strategy Programme (PRSP).
The specific allocations for poverty reduction and achieving MDG targets have been set at Rs 712 billion, which account for 35 per cent of the total public/actor development programme in MTDF.
Akram Sheikh said following successful implementation of the first PRSP the pro-poor expenditures have reached 5.25 per cent of the GDP in 2005-06 as against 3.6 per cent of GDP in the year 2002-03.
During our recent reviews of MTDF implementation, he said, "we have further strengthened our focus on people-centred development efforts".
Deputy Chairman Planning Commission said poverty reduction is one of the biggest challenges of our time. Although poverty is still pervasive in most developing countries and it is a major concern in South Asia, which has the highest number of poor, unemployed and illiterate people.
South Asia, he said, despite its enormous human and physical assets, is one of the most deprived regions of the world. About two centuries ago this region had one-third of the world GDP but due to various factors, the share of the world GDP continued to fall and we currently have less than 2 per cent of the total world trade, he added.
In line with the regional approach and emphasis on poverty reduction, Akram Sheikh said Pakistan launched its first PRSP in 2003, which envisaged a high and sustainable pro-poor growth, improvement in governance, human resource development and strengthening of social safety nets for the vulnerable and chronically poor.
He said "we are strengthening our safety nets to bring the bottom 10 per cent of the income group out of the perpetual poverty, A nationwide Social Mobilisation Project is also being launched for organising rural poor into community organisations for their empowerment and uplift by harnessing their potential".
He said the high and sustainable pro-poor growth during the last three years at an average rate of 7.5 per cent has led to a sharp reduction in poverty.
Notwithstanding a devastating earthquake and the rising oil prices, during the last fiscal year, Pakistan has still managed to maintain the growth momentum with GDP growth at 6.6 per cent, he added.
He said the impact of poverty reduction is more significant in rural areas, where the poverty has declined by 11 percentage points, as against about 8 percentage points in urban areas.
Pakistan is also implementing the plan of action on SAARC a social charter and MDG goals and targets, which form an integral part of our MTDF, he said adding we are preparing annual reports regularly, incorporating progress on achieving the MDG goals and targets.
In addition to poverty reduction, he said, we are also giving high priority to implementing the plan of action on SAARC social charter, aiming at empowerment of poor, women, children, youth and transformation of the society to a safe, rich and healthy living for our future generations.