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Old Monday, May 21, 2007
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Default Millennium development goals

Millennium development goals: where are we now?By Zafar-ul-Hassan Almas

When UN Millennium Declaration was unanimously adopted by 189 nations and signed by 149 heads of state in September 2000, Pakistan was already committed to bring a sizeable number of populous above poverty line in the early 2000. Pakistanís targets were even more ambitious than all developing countries at large. The Developed world had committed resources to support low income countries to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by its target date 2015. The Millennium Declaration reaffirmed international communityís commitment to the right of everyone to reap fruits of development, peace, security and gender equality, and multidimensional nature of the poverty and its direct bearing on the whole development process brought it to the forefront of all objectives of overall sustainable development. The MDGs are intended for the member countries to further their efforts in the fight against poverty, illiteracy, hunger, lack of education, gender inequality, infant and maternal mortality, disease and environmental degradation. The Millennium declaration adopted 8 development goals, 18 time-bound targets and 48 indicators for developing countries. The development targets include:

(a) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

(b) Achieve universal primary education

(c) Promote gender equality and empower women

(d) Reduce child mortality

(e) Improve maternal health

(f) Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

(g) Ensure environmental sustainability

(h) Develop a global partnership for development

The country report on the MDGs released recently by the Planning Commission with the help of United Nation Development Program (UNDP) captures Pakistanís achievements, challenges and policies with reference to the goals and targets and reveals that there have been substantial improvements in the lives of people of Pakistan in particular and that of developing countries in general. The remarkable success in moving forward is partly credited to the government for its role in implementing wide range of programs and policies amidst enormous and complex structural problems.

Pakistan has made significant progress in all critical areas since the year 2000. The commitment of the Government to the MDGs was first reflected earlier in its policy document Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (IPRSP-I) in 2001. It was reinforced and reaffirmed in the final Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) in December 2003. The Medium Term Development Framework (MTDF) (2005-2010) has especially been aligned with the Millennium Development Goals which is indicative of unflinching resolve of the Government to scale up efforts towards realising these goals by 2015.

To achieve the Goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, Pakistan must reduce by 2015 the proportion of people below poverty line from nearly 34.0 percent in 1990 to about 17.0 percent. As on 1999-2000, the poverty headcount ratio was 34.5 percent with poverty gap ratio of 4.8 percent, share of poorest quintile in national consumption is 12.6 percent for rural sector and 4.8 percent for urban sector. This precarious condition of poverty demands two pronged strategy direct approach and indirect approach. The government is following both approaches. Subsistence allowance through dissemination of Zakat, food stamps and grants are part of the direct approach. Indirect approach is comprised of supporting the poor through empowerment by imparting skills and providing access to micro-credit, supporting economic growth to be more inclusive. Presidentís rozgar scheme is also a positive step to reduce the poverty ratio further. The target is not far away because the incidence of poverty has already been reduced by as much as 10.6 percentage points in five years and it is to be reduced by other 8 percentages points in next eight years. The encouragement for the government is coming from the fact that there is a strong concentration around the poverty line in Pakistan. A small increase in income and two or three years of higher growth may do miracles with poverty situation in Pakistan.

To achieve universal primary education under Goal-2, Pakistan should increase the primary school enrolment rate to 100 percent and wipe out the high drop-outs by 2015. The Gross Enrollment Rate (GER) for primary schools (age 5-9) has increased from 72 percent in 2001-02 to 86 percent in 2004-05. However, Net Enrollment Rate (NER) has increased from 42 percent to 52 percent in this period. It shows that the drop-out rate for primary education during 2004-05 is 34 percent which is higher than 30 percent in 2001-02. The gross enrolment ratio in primary education has tended to remain near 100 percent for boys and recorded an increase of nearly 20 percentage points in the ten years period from 1995 to 2005 for girls (93 percent). The adult literacy rate (10 years and above) has increased from 45.0 percent in 2001-02 to 54.0 percent in 2004-05. The tremendous rise in the female literacy rate is admirable both in rural and urban areas.

Regarding Goal 3, the gender dimension of current economic development is marvelous. The women rights are more protected in Pakistan today than ever before or any other developing country. Women are given a sizeable representation in the National legislature as well as in other walks of life. The governmentís efforts in promoting gender equality and empowering women is commendable. In government policy making now the man seems to be ignored which is extraordinary by the level of developing countries. There are structural and cultural challenges which are hindering progress on this count, and a strong political commitment is needed to counter the challenges.

Regarding Goal 4, Reduce child Mortality by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015: the indicators to measure progress toward this MDG include under five mortality rate; infant mortality rate (IMR) and proportion of one year old children immunised against Measles (Pakistanís target is to reduce IMR to 40 per 1000 live births and to increase measles immunisation rate to greater than 90 per cent by 2015). Child mortality has improved as a result of growing immunisation with the help of international donors. However, still facilities in far-flung areas are lacking and the government has done very little to improve health facilities.

Goal 5: Improve maternal health by reducing the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015: The indicators to measure progress toward these MDGs include maternal mortality ratio and the proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel. Pakistanís target is to reduce MMR to 140 or less and to increase skilled birth attendance to 90 per cent by 2015. The availability of health advisory services through lady health visitor has definitely increased but monitoring of extent of coverage is lacking.

To realise MDG goals the Health plan in the MTDF (Medium Term Development Framework) identifies policies and suggest allocation of resources to address Health issues. Immunisation coverage has shown remarkable progress during 2001 and 2005. Percentage of children aged 12-23 months fully immunised increased sharply from 53 per cent in 2001 to 80 per cent in 2005 depicting a substantial gain of 27 percentage points. There is no denial of the fact that access to basic facilities has definitely improved between 2001 and 2005. However, the rates are still low and poor benefit less from access to basic facilities.

In so far as Goal-6 is concerned, though Pakistan has a low prevalence of HIV as compared to other developing countries especially those are in Africa, yet the prevalence rate has slightly increased. The number of reported cases testing positive HIV/AIDS has increased from 1886 in year 2001 to 2431 cases reported until end December 2004. Similarly the number of full-blown cases has increased from 222 to 310 cases in the same time period. This increasing trend needs to be reversed to achieve MDG 6. The prevalence and death rates associated with malaria are consistently coming down. The major prevention strategies of the Malaria Control Program include the use of integrated vector control approaches in high risk districts, distribution of bed nets to pregnant mothers and children under 5 in selected RBM in 24 districts along with public awareness campaign for Malaria control. The program for controlling TB is also effective one and the death rate associated with TB has come down substantially in the country. The proportion of TB patients successfully treated has also risen from 25 per cent in 2000 to 45 per cent in 2005.

Goal-7 aims at ensuring environmental sustainability. As per assessment made in 2005, total land area covered under different forests has been less than 5 per cent instead of tall claims by the Government for its persistent efforts to preserve the natural resources. According to the UN standard the reserved and protected forests together should account for 20 per cent of the total land area to maintain biological diversity. The energy intensity has improved and clean fuel accounted for more than two-third of energy consumption. The proportion of population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation is to be halved by 2015 and Pakistan is only slightly off-track to achieve this target.

Goal-8 is basically a reminder to developed countries regarding their obligation to establish a fruitful global partnership for development. Developed Countries are required to provide development assistance to developing countries for the betterment of the environment. It is an irony that a huge gap still exists for developing countries between the development assistance required to meet the MDGs and what has been pledged by the developed countries so far.

Developing countries has too often has asked the developed countries that additional resources for implementing the development agenda should be channelised through the existing multilateral agencies. Moreover, allocations must be based on pre-defined and transparent criteria. Our own development experience clearly indicates that, ultimately, it is the availability of untied additional resources for use in accordance with national development strategies, which is most beneficial for recipient countries.
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