Prime Minister Imran Khan, known for his oratory, on Thursday dilated upon a subject that is agitating minds of the people since long i.e.
need for judicious distribution of resources, adding that his government was focusing on equitable distribution of resources to rich and poor by ensuring basic amenities of life for all.
In his address at the launch of Punjab Peri-Urban Housing project for low-income groups in Lahore, he said that no nation could prosper with an island of rich and a big sea of poor and regretted that during last 74 years, only a particular elite ruled the country.
No doubt, the PM has pinpointed a major flaw in economic order of the country as it was way back in 21 April 1968 that Dr Mehboobul Haq, then Chief Economist of the Planning Commission, identified Pakistan’s 22 richest families that according to his calculations controlled 66 per cent of the industries and owned 87 per cent share in the country’s banking and insurance industry.
And despite claims by successive governments the situation has not changed as concentration of wealth is still there among 200 to 300 families.
The policy of nationalisation pursued by late ZA Bhutto with objective of promoting the concept of fair and equitable distribution of wealth did not work and instead further harmed the country and its economy.
Credit goes to founding leader of PPP for empowering poor yet economic conditions of the poor did not change much despite launching of different schemes and initiatives.
A seven-marla scheme was launched by then Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo to provide shelter to low-income and poor but it was abandoned by his successors despite the fact that billions were spent on acquisition of land and construction of housing units.
Similarly, various governments in the past initiated poverty alleviation programmes but none of them could make any visible impact on the ground, as there was no focus on permanent rehabilitation of the poor.
The incumbent government has also expanded the scope of Ehsaas programme and initiatives like Langars and Shelter Homes are contributing towards goal of helping the poor but again element of permanent rehabilitation of vulnerable families is mainly missing.
It is also good that PTI government has introduced Sehat Card system to ensure provision of proper medical treatment to low income groups but a permanent solution demands more investment on improvement and expansion of the country’s health system.
With a growing and young population, future of country’s economic development relies on realising in full the human capital potential of its new generations.
The successive governments acknowledged the importance of investment in human capital but practically they did nothing in terms of increased allocations for education especially the higher education sector.
The Prime Minister launched the largest-ever scholarship programme last month (April 2021) that will help students of underprivileged segments of society access undergraduate education.
Under the programme, federal government will spend Rs5.5 billion every year for next five years on 70,000 scholarships but its scope will have to be increased to make it more relevant and meaningful.
It may also be pointed out that Federal Government, under the NFC award, has devolved a major chunk of national resources to provinces but regrettably they still not have devised a system of equitable distribution of resources downward to districts.
Fully functional and empowered local governments also contribute a lot in empowerment of people and giving them a sense of ownership yet here again PTI government does not seem to be serious to hold LG elections or devolve them genuine powers.
Experts point out that by acting strategically to cut inequality and particularly to redress inequality in opportunities, the country could not only lift more people out of poverty at a faster pace, but it could also achieve a more sustainable and inclusive process of development moving forward.
With this in view, we hope, government would come out with relevant programmes both through federal and provincial budgets that send a strong signal of fair and judicious distribution of national wealth.