The price of neglecting social sectors

By Zubeida Mustafa

The state of the social sector in a country is an accurate measure of the value it attaches to human life. For howsoever strong a state might be in terms of military power and rich in economic resources, its institutional greatness will be judged by the quality of life it ovides its citizens.

This is basically determined by the social policy of the government, that is, the priority it gives to providing education, health care, housing and family planning facilities to the people. Pakistan’s performance in this context has not been one of which one can be overly proud. Of course, it depends on how one defines progress. If it is simply a matter of moving forward in terms of absolute numbers from a given baseline — a very low one at that — the country’s achievements over the decades since 1947 might appear to be very impressive. Continue reading “The price of neglecting social sectors”

Development of human resources an elusive dream

By Zubeida Mustafa

Exactly a week before the Federal Finance Minister presented the budget before the National Assembly, the UNDP released its Human Development Report 1991 which contains extensive data on 160 countries.

Using the key indicators of life expectancy, education levels and basic purchasing power as the criteria, the agency has devised the Human Development Index. Pakistan ranked a shocking 120th on this scale. In fact Islamabad, along with some others, was strongly castigated for its gross neglect of the social sector.

What the UNDP had pointed out a week earlier was vindicated on Thursday by the federal budget. Long on rhetorics and promises of providing food, shelter, education and health care to the people, the Finance Minister’s speech was palpably short on political commitment.

56-03-06-1991b

This was further confirmed by the budget document itself. Small wonder then that in his speech Mr Sartaj Aziz deemed it wiser not to go into financial details of spendings in the health and education sectors.

In the first place, the approach adopted by the government towards the social sector is full of contradictions. By extending the strategy of privatisation and deregulation to the education and health sectors as well, the planners hope to accelerate the tempo of development. Continue reading “Development of human resources an elusive dream”

Cities: Life in the world’s 100 largest metropolitan areas

By Zubeida Mustafa

The most significant modern day demographic phenomenon is the growing level of urbanisation in this century. In the year 1901 only one in ten of the global population lived in cities. By 2000, nearly half of the world’s people will.

54-03-05-1991b

What is more important than the level of urbanisation is its rapid pace. Take the case of Pakistan. In 44 years the urban population has grown from 15 per cent to 28 per cent of the total.

This change in demographic composition has had a profound impact on society, the national economy and the political culture of the country. It has also affected the quality of life in the cities in a big way because the municipal authorities have failed to keep pace with the growing population in providing the most basic civic amenities to the city-dwellers.

The economy has also not grown rapidly enough to provide jobs to the ever-widening stream of entrants to the urban labour market.

As a result, our cities have emerged as an explosive mass of humanity seething with discontent.

54-03-05-1991c

The Washington-based Population Crisis Committee recently studied the world’s hundred largest cities, ranging from Tokyo (population 28.7 million in 1989) to Pune, India (population 2.3 million).

The Committee looked into the key indicators which determine the quality of life in a city, namely, public safety, food costs, living space, housing standards, communications, education, public health, noise level, traffic and clean air. Cultural activities, employment and nutritional status were omitted because the data were either inconsistent or carried aclass or regional bias.

54-03-05-1991a

Pakistani cities cut a rather sorry figure in this survey. Karachi and Lahore which rank 22nd and 48th population-wise in the world are among the last fourteen in terms of urban living standards. Karachi is 87th and Lahore comes further down at 91st.

Karachi fares most poorly, according to the PCC report, on three counts: living space, communication and health. It could not have scored any less. Lahore’s score is equally bad in respect of the first two. Healthcare-wise it is better off but in terms of education it is worse.

The next two banes of Karachi life are noise pollution and traffic. Surprisingly, air pollution (on the basis of measurement of ozone concentration) is not considered to be too bad which makes one doubt the accuracy of UNEP’s standards that form the basis of the PCC’s assessment.

Another area which makes one sceptical about surveys that depend exclusively on government sources for their data is that of crime. Karachi emerges as a relatively safe place to live in, with only 5.7 murders per 100,000 people a year. Lahore is safer still.

Compared with Cape Town (64 per 100,000), Cairo (56) and Alexandria (49) which have the highest homicide rates, Pakistani cities might be rated as havens of security.

But those who live in perpetual fear in Karachi, know that the police are not always overly cooperative in recording FIRs for murder. Moreover there are crimes other than murder which also make life insecure.

What is certain is that the situation in our cities is definitely not better than what the PCC report calculates it to be. What is to be expected next? With an annual growth rate of seven per cent, Karachi’s problems will only multiply.

The city owes its expansion more to migration than natural increase. The people who are now moving over to the urban areas are being forced out of their homes by the growing impoverishment of the countryside.

The pattern of agrarian holding with its bias towards large landlords has left over four million rural households (nearly 24 million people) living below the poverty line because they are landless, are tenants on very small farms or their land has been fragmented because of the inheritance factor.

In the absence of land reforms, this pattern is unlikely to be broken. With no alternative source of employment generation in the rural areas, the exodus to the cities is there to stay.

Additionally the growing insecurity in the interior of Sindh born of rampant crime and lawlessness is uprooting people from the countryside.

What will be the future of this metropolis? If present trends are an indicator, Karachi will be a split city. On the one side will be the millions mired in grinding poverty. Three million of them live in kachchi abadis in conditions of crowding and insanitation. Their number will grow and by the turn of the century half of Karachi’s population will be living in illegal squatter settlements.

At the other end of the scale are the affluent classes. For them life in Karachi has its paradoxes. But their wealth enables them to buy all those facilities the civic authorities fail to provide — water (through bowsers), electricity (through generators), healthcare and education (through private hospitals, schools and universities) and transport (through their own fleet of cars). \

But their insensitivity to poverty notwithstanding, the rich cannot escape the reality of the misery of the have-not. Apart from the ugly sights of kachchi abadis creeping up to the walls of the mansions of the rich there is also the congestion on the roads which reduces the flow of traffic to a crawling 17 miles per hour in rush hours (according to the PCC report) and makes the rich rub shoulders with the poor, albeit in different modes of transport.

Most significant is the growing crime rate which should come as a stark reminder of the insidious erosion of urban life. In spite of the protection they seek to buy through private agencies and guards, the fact is that the affluent are more vulnerable to crime because of their wealth. This vulnerability is the price they have to pay for the comforts they can afford.

This class disparity, which is growing and will increase further with the government’s privatisation programme, has emerged as the hallmark of Karachi’s population.

The civic bodies’ failure to provide the basic amenities of life is giving rise to violent discontent. Water riots have become a normal feature of Karachi life in summer and the KESC staff has had to suffer physical attacks from a public suffering from the discomfort of prolonged power breakdowns.

Add to these the problems generated by unemployment and rising cost of food (even daal and roti, the poor man’s standard ware is exorbitantly priced) and you have an explosive mixture.

The ostentation of the rich only helps to fuel the seething dissatisfaction of the poor. The vulgar display of wealth by a few is bound to compound the unrest among the many, especially when they find themselves being progressively denied even those basic needs that they could take for granted as their right at one time.

Marx might be dead in Eastern Europe and dying in Soviet Russia. But the class conflict he wrote about continues to live and flourish in Third World cities bursting at the seams..

Source: Dawn 03-05-1991

 

 

Women power at work

By Onlooker

Ravaged by rains, overflowing sewers and digging by . civic agencies, the approach road to the Karachi Administration Society (adjacent to the PECHS) had been in a state of battered neglect for months.

No one came to attend to it when the post-monsoon road mending work was taken in hand all over the city in August.

Quite belatedly at the end of October, this heavily used stretch of road was put into good shape. Few are aware of the formidable ‘women power’. that went into its repair.

37-02-12-1988But the Councillor of the area, the KMC, the ZMC and other agencies concerned know better. They have found it impossible to ignore the forty or so women who have periodically visited their offices demanding what they insist is their right as tax-payers. They call themselves the Karachi Administration Women Welfare Society. Continue reading “Women power at work”

Fight against illiteracy: an uphill task

By Nafisa Hoodbhoy and Zubeida Mustafa

“Bina parhayjo waqt gunwaya”, the powerful TV jingle, came to mind as we walked one after-‘ noon through a long dusty corridor of a government school in Korangi. We (were on a surprise visit to one of the Nai Roshni schools.

Going up a flight of stairs in the school building, we came upon a classroom without window panes. Seated on dusty wooden benches, with books open before them on rickety desks .were 24 boys in dishevelled shalwar-kameez and chappals. They listened intently as their young bearded teacher taught numerals on the blackboard with almost religious devotion.

This was a maths class in progress at the Nai Roshni school. After the teacher had finished he called upon one of the children to come and recite the tables. The boy did so with great zeal in a sing-song tone and the class repeated the lesson after him. Even when the child made a mistake the class did not falter. It was the teacher who would intervene. Obviously the emphasis was on the rote method so common in the schools here. Continue reading “Fight against illiteracy: an uphill task”

The social sector: What the budget was likely to achieve

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE Federal Finance Minister has described Budget 1986-87 as being designed to provide relief to all sections of society in need of it.

Although there is greater emphasis on the social sectors and on welfare measures than before — their allocation having risen from 12 per cent of the budget in 1982-83 to 20 per cent in 1986-87 — the increase has been less than what was envisaged in the Sixth Plan. Continue reading “The social sector: What the budget was likely to achieve”

The story of high targets, low performance

By Zubeida Mustafa

EDUCATION planning in Pakistan has traditionally been lopsided, with the priorities misplaced. There has been too much emphasis on higher education, while the primary sector has, by and large, been neglected. Consequently, education has been like an inverted pyramid balanced on a narrow base.

The basic weakness in the government’s education policy lies in its reluctance or inability to allocate sufficient funds to this sector. Hence resources have had to be spread thin. Thus in 1982-83 Pakistan spent only 1.5 per cent of its GNP on education. Continue reading “The story of high targets, low performance”

What kind of state did the Quaid envisage?

By Zuhair Siddiqi

geust-cont“MR. JINNAH is direct and blunt”, wrote R. G. Casey, the war-time Governor of Bengal, “and no one has any doubt what he means when he speaks”.This is a tribute which even the severest critic of the Quaid-i-Azam would not question; but in the State that he founded, and among his professed devotees, there has never been a dearth of people who would not hesitate to distort even the clearest of his pronouncements to suit their own ends and purposes. Take, for instance, his historic presidential address to the Constituent Assembly on the eve of the birth of Pakistan, which Mr. Bhutto rightly described some time ago as “one of the texts of our nationhood”. That speech, which includes the most emphatic enunciation conceivable of the ideal of a secular, single-nation State, has been a headache for obscurantists all these years. They have tried to explain away, distort, and even press, its sharpest and most significant parts. Continue reading “What kind of state did the Quaid envisage?”