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Friday, December 12, 2014, 09:47

South Asia struggles to tackle poverty

Policies and programs

Various poverty alleviation programs and income-earning opportunities have been running in the region. India, for instance, has introduced old age pension, family benefit and maternity benefit schemes, alongside free food programs for senior citizens, integrated rural development mechanism, rural housing and rural employment guarantee initiatives targeting the poor.

“All successive governments have tried to design policies for reduction of poverty, but they failed in reducing (poverty) to great extent,” says Kumar of CSDS.

Pakistan has also given a high priority to social welfare schemes, including the provision of basic facilities to the poor. A large number of different policies and programs have been introduced in the last few decades.

The Bangladesh government has a number of targeted social safety net programs, and administers specific policies in health, education and social development areas. These initiatives have helped raise standards of living, enhanced literacy rates, created jobs and augmented incomes.

“Major role in poverty reduction was played by micro-credit programs in support of the poor, particularly women,” says Rahman from the Centre for Policy Dialogue.

However, the country still faces many challenges such as those relating to nutrition intake, decent pay and access to affordable and quality healthcare and education services.

“Bangladesh will need to address formidable challenges in continuing its track record of poverty reduction. Maintaining a high GDP growth rate will be a necessity but this will need to be broad-based by implementing developmental projects and ensuring good governance,” says Rahman.

In terms of ratio, South Asia may have shown progress in poverty reduction. However, the actual number of people who cannot afford to feed themselves on a daily basis is still staggering.

“All the time we can’t be looking at percentage. We have to be realistic about the total number,” says Dhaliwal of MIT.


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