According to the January 2012 report released by The CIA World Factbook, Nigeria ranked 6th in the list of the poorest nations with its majority population living on an income less than $2 a day.
This is surprising as Nigeria – the 21 st world economy by nominal GDP ($633bn) and 20 th by PPP ($1,109bn) – is Africa’s largest oil exporter with its exports almost touching $100bn mark. Its fossil fuel reserves are the mainstay of its economy.
For economists, this is a case of “resource curse” – a situation where high economic resources fuel high corruption and a struggle among the top echelons of the society for higher personal gains ensues.
The result is that the poor are badly marginalized. High corruption, economic mismanagement, administrative incompetence, infighting, and high-profile terrorist activities have sealed Nigeria’s economic fate – at least for the time being.
Pakistan’s case would not seem much different. Though not as rich in fossil fuel resources as Nigeria – keep aside for a time the “yet-to- be-proved” Thar coal resources – we have not been able to exploit our economic potential due mainly to the recurrence of inefficient governments, particularly the so-called democratic governments.
Argue as much as you like, but the economic facts are proof that “the other party in the arena” always proved to be a lesser evil. But very few talk in terms of economics and those who do have little sense of the subject.
Pakistan had 34.4% of its population in 2000-01 living below the poverty line which was halved during the autocratic regime that stayed in power for the first 7-8 years of
the first decade of this century.
Varying measures are used to gauge poverty; the most popular being the World-Bank- designed $1.25 and $2 a day income measures. Pakistan uses the consumption-based caloric measure according to which a minimum of 2350 calories a day should be consumed by an adult.
Anything below that mark symbolizes malnutrition and thus poverty. Each of the two measures has its own shortcomings, yet these measures are to be used till such time better and less inaccurate measures are devised.
In the wake of the falling global commodity prices, the poverty in Pakistan has somewhat lessened during the recent years if measured on $1.25 a day basis. It means that those on lowest rungs of the ladder have got some relief.
But when the yardstick is stretched up to $2 or $4 a day mark, the results appear horrifying as they reveal the extinction of the middle class – more than 90% of the population is consigned to an income of less than $4 a day. The only redeeming factor perhaps is the fact that the $1.25 measure places us in a far better position vis-à- vis India.
Ray of Hope
Given the economic resources this country is endowed with, its people definitely deserve a better economic fate. The world has acknowledged the effort our army has made during recent times to control terrorism.
Our central bank has finally regained sanity and its policies of a low interest rate are going to boost business and industry. What we still need is a corruption-fee system of governance, no matter democratic, autocratic or a prudent mix of the two.
The only way to minimize poverty is to unleash our economic potential under a fair and dynamic system of governance.