Rolling out the Red Carpet

I welcome you to my blog and hope that you will like the tour. Please leave your footmarks with comments and feedback. This will through and through enhance my knowledge and profundity of thought. Enjoy! Asif J. Mir

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pro-Poor Budget

There is nothing more unequal than treating unequal people equally. Pro-poor budget have a clear bias towards the poor, in the sense that it work seeks to benefit the marginalized, rather than better-off sectors of the society. As such, there is often a commonly endorsed reference to pro-poor budgeting.

Raising pro-poor budget requires a strategy that is deliberately biased in favor of the poor so that the poor benefit proportionally more than the affluent.

Pro-poor budget wades into the needs of the poor. It looks for making a difference in the lives of the poor. It wedges in ex cathedra on the poor empowering them to have a hand in full tilt and to do them a wealth of good from the process of development. Pro-poor budget facilitates the poor to have enlarged opportunities for changing into healthy, educated, productive and shouldering responsibility. A pro-poor budget has a thought through partiality in favour of the poor so that he avails each to each more from government expenditure than the affluent.

The first and foremost move in getting through a pro-poor budget is the earmarking who the poor are. Understanding and measurement of poverty has evolved over time. It is now by and large recognized that poverty is not just a money related deprivation. It is an amalgamation of diverse losses of rights borrowing from the deficient welfare. Through thick and thin, budget must acknowledge to such structure of poverty. Through and through this exercise is indeed labyrinthine. That’s like pulling teeth. In crafting a pro-poor budget requires latest data about the degrees, magnitude and kinds of deprivations that make up poverty.

Owing to both practical and strategic reasons, it is important to establish a conceptual linkage between gender and poverty for promoting gender-sensitive budgets. It would be a mistake to simply equate the two categories. Gender imbalances and inequalities should run across every social, economic and political classification. The exclusion and deprivation experienced by the poor is not the same, and tends to be even more acute for women than for men. Gender allows us to stop envisioning the poor as a homogeneous category of people, whose needs can be addressed with the same recipe.

Pro-poor growth should direct resources disproportionately to the sectors in which the poor work (e.g. agriculture), areas in which they live (underdeveloped regions), factors of production which they posses (such as unskilled labor), outputs, which they consume (such as food), translated into strategy of pro-poor growth - employment generation combined with price stability of goods and services which are essential items. Policies need to be designed to reflect concerns of poverty.

In order to address poverty effectively the budget will need to have more direct rather than indirect means of taxation. This would help reduce prevailing high-income inequalities and help spread the benefits of economic growth.

Pro-poor budget means that the poor benefit disproportionately from economic growth. This is to say the proportional income growth (rate) of the poor must exceed the average income growth rate. The per-capita income growth rate of the poor must exceed growth rate.

This spurs three crystal clear policy messages. First, policies to promote growth should help the poor although they could do so more if they made growth pro-poor rather than neutral as it currently is. Second, reducing initial inequality, particularly asset inequality, should receive highest priority, due to its triple effect on poverty. Third, reducing gender inequality should equally be of highest concern to policy makers that want to achieve pro-poor growth.

It is clear that pro-poor growth that directly reduces poverty must be in sectors where the poor are and use the factors of production they possess. The vast majority of the poor is in rural areas, a majority depends directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihood, and the factor of production the poor possess and use most is labor, sometimes land, and even more rarely human capital. Thus pro-poor growth must be focused on rural areas, improve incomes and productivity in agriculture, and must make intensive use of labor. These things are nearly tautological, but often forgotten and are clearly not reflected in public policies or in the allocation of public funds by national governments or donors.

Heavy investment in the human capital of the poor will yield two benefits on poverty reduction. It will increase economic growth and it will make growth more pro-poor. The record of East Asia is a good illustration where high human capital accumulation promoted growth and poverty reduction.

Beyond a concern for increasing average incomes and reducing poverty, there is a greater appreciation for a need to enhance the security for the population if one is to ensure sustainable pro-poor growth. The security of the poor is threatened by physical threats. Thus, the poor are forced to avoid risks that may carry high rewards, can get trapped in cycles of poverty and insecurity, and are regularly pummeled by shocks that militate against sustainable reductions in poverty.

A pro-poor orientation to both the analytical framework and the policy-making processes desperately needs to put into practice. This entails significant governance innovations to guarantee, among others, peoples’ participation in the decision-making processes of the government, as a norm. The direct engagement between the citizens and the government through a process of engaged governance has the potential to achieve the objectives of good governance including bringing people to the government and government to the people.

The budget-makers need to remember that real enemy is poverty and deprivation, that their key weapon is their skill and professionalism and that their modus operandi is their humility. They are the custodians of a value system that defines the objective as demonstrating every single day that they are a caring democracy.

Attaining a pro-poor budget is a big challenge. It requires a bottom-up approach; that ensures that poverty eradication is a central issue and not a donor driven requirement. (

Nanotechnology: Preparing to live 100, 200 and even 300 years

Human aging is being controlled and researchers have proven that human cells can be created and in this century people will begin to live 100, 200 or even 300 years. Mice are already living 50% longer with the help of genetic inventions. Thanks to the human genome project, scientists are closer to identifying ways to decelerate human aging. Contrarily, with incompetent, insufficient, and laughable healthcare system in place, Pakistan seems to continue grappling with policy lapses. Due to factors related to high fertility rates, high illiteracy, high mortality, and above all uncreative methods of policy planning, Pakistan stands as a stranger to such a milieu. Its policymakers don’t even sense the world passing through a profound transformation. They lack their understanding for making decisions to understand forthcoming breakthroughs and strategically plan for new environs.

The rapid pace of technology and medicine are quickly posing the prospect of banishing aging and disease, and yes even most causes of death. Some of the most extreme but very possible aspects of technologies such as molecular manufacturing and nanomedicine promise continual cellular maintenance that will alleviate aging altogether and make it impossible for disease or toxins to injure one's body or take one's life. Present anti-aging treatments do not slow aging and do not extend life span more than quitting smoking, exercising, eating vegetables, or heeding ordinary medical advice does. While all over the world we have seen improvements in health and life spans, Pakistan has large gaps and much effort needs to be spent in narrowing that gap.

Although vainly wrestling with high female mortality at younger ages and during the reproductive years, Pakistan claims a life span of 65. This predominantly seems farce when almost one-half of women receive no antenatal care during their pregnancy and 72 percent receive no postnatal care at all.

The advancements in longevity can be generally attributed to improvements in sanitation, the discovery of antibiotics, and medical care. Despite tall claims, Pakistan’s record on these areas is hopeless. Now, as scientists make headway against chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease to extend anti-aging even further, such diseases in Pakistan are greater than ever and basic healthcare service is inaccessible to a vast majority.

There are theories on aging. The programmed theories hold that aging follows a biological timetable, perhaps a continuation of the one that regulates childhood growth and development. The damage or error theories emphasize environmental assaults to our systems that gradually cause things to go wrong.

Lengthening life expectancies in the industrialized nations are bringing about substantial changes including large increases in the number of elderly and in their proportion in the population. Such changes have occurred, for example, in the type of economic activity, housing, social services, and population make-up of the communities. With growth in the health care system and changes in the service mix provided, the elderly continue to consume more health care per capita and need different services.

Health care institutions, including hospitals, which are widely expected to experience increasing demand as the elderly population grows; organizations will provide home-based medical care and other types of assistance, allowing the individual to remain in their own residence; and a variety of assisted living facilities, ranging from adult day care to residential care to nursing homes.

Of greater concern, the already awful health care industry of Pakistan finds itself ill prepared to handle significant increases in the number of the very elderly. Today, there are almost 9.7 million senior citizens. When it has no policy in place for this population today, it has no concern for tomorrow. Neither public nor private sectors are equipped financially to deal with the problems caused by aging population. When a society starts aging, its economic vitality becomes inferior to that of young societies and sluggish economic growth reduces its opportunities to become well heeled. Thus, in Pakistan an aging population will become a heavy public burden, forcing its people to bring down the cost by establishing large institutions so that, by virtue of economies of scale, they could manage to provide the elderly with the most basic care and medical needs.

The health sector of Pakistan offers an inadequate remedy for the serious problems of an outdated and basically unsound system and hence needs an offensive. People must be offered a vision of a revitalized health care system that provides incentives for increased quality and technological innovation, while at the same time, reducing costs. Pakistanis need a system that gives them control over healthcare decisions, while encouraging them to set aside the resources they need to purchase this care.

The policy makers of Pakistan should keep themselves abreast of technological advances and management strategies by constantly scanning the literature and media, interviewing authorities, and drawing on other sources to identify emerging trends. These trends then need to be analyzed to select those that are most significant.

It needs to begin to prepare now for what will be a very different future. The key questions it needs to think about include: What is it that we should be asking? What is it that its policymakers need but do not get in their human development courses? People should be asking about connections -- connections between existing mindsets and human development. These connections simply are not made in most textbooks available for use in human development courses. In fact, effective change requires more than knowledge of human development. Effective change also requires the ability to devise strategies that take advantage of that knowledge … strategies for connecting research and practice. (