Fall in HD index

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IT is ironical that Pakistan’s ranking on the Human Development Index (HDI) 2019 fell one notch more and stood at 152nd position out of the total 189 countries. Most alarmingly, Pakistan’s ranking was lower than all comparable regional countries of South Asia as the country stood at 13% below the average HDI of South Asia including Bangladesh and India. As per Human Development Report (HDR) 2019 launched by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Islamabad on Thursday, HDI improved by 25% from 2000 to 2015 with an average annual growth of 1.2% but the progress slowed down since then.
The findings of the report should serve as a clarion call for our policy and decision makers as to why, instead of improvement, the trend has reversed over the last four years. It is not a coincident that the ranking of the country came down during years of political instability as both the previous government of PML(N) could not focus much on real problems of the country during its last years due to political and judicial turmoil and the incumbent government is still trying to stabilize things. The Human Development Index measures key dimensions of human development – a long and healthy life, access to education and a decent standard of living. As the index covers a broad range of dimensions of human progress or lack of it, it has become an acceptable international standard but unfortunately there is no serious debate in policy making or political circles in Pakistan. There was time when the country initiated Social Action Programme aimed at improving conditions in health and education sector besides poverty alleviation. There were also times when allocations for education were increased significantly and as a result the country’s graph on account of literacy, higher education, research and quality of learning increased proportionately but then the successive governments paid only lip service to oft-repeated commitments to increase allocations for the social sector. Apart from failure to increase education and health budget, the menace of ghost schools, ghost teacher, ghost health facilities and ghost doctors continues unabated, which speaks volumes about quality of governance and transparency in its working. PTI opposed mega project and claimed that it would instead focus on improving the life of the people but more people have fell below the poverty line during its tenure raising serious questions about efficacies of targeted programmes initiated by this and the previous governments to address the issue of abysmal poverty. The situation would not change until and unless every tehsil and district of the country are given clear targets on the constituents of HDI and their performance analyzed and monitored, of course, after making sure that they get the required resources for the purpose.