Despite poverty reduction, urban-rural gap widening in Pakistan: WB | Pakistan Today

Despite poverty reduction, urban-rural gap widening in Pakistan: WB

The rural areas in Pakistan remain far more disadvantaged in all aspects of service delivery while the decline in poverty did not reduce the urban-rural gap, the World Bank (WB) said in its report.

The recently published WB report titled ‘When Water Becomes a Hazard’, on the state of water supply, sanitation, and poverty highlighted the growing urban-rural gap in the country.

“Pakistan has made substantial progress in reducing poverty, but spatial disparities in poverty levels as well as in the pace of poverty reduction remain large,” the report said.

It stated that four out of five poor Pakistanis still live in rural areas, and there are large differences in the level and rate of progress on poverty reduction across districts.

The report, however, said that the incidence of poverty declined significantly in Pakistan over the past decade and a half, falling from 64pc in 2001 to about 30pc in 2014.

The reduction, it added. was coupled with an increase in asset ownership and dietary diversity, with substantial gains in both in the bottom quintile.

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa saw the largest decline in poverty, followed by Punjab and Sindh. Balochistan remained the poorest,” the report maintained.

The report said that the poverty head count rate in rural Pakistan was twice as much in urban areas — 36pc versus 18pc — and the gap had remained virtually unchanged since 2001-02. Combined with the slow pace of urbanisation — only about 35pc of the country’s population lived in urban areas in 2014 — this gap indicated that 80pc of Pakistan’s poor continued to live in rural areas.

It also found that districts that include large cities like Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sargodha, Sialkot, Multan, and Bahawalpur had much greater within-district inequality than other districts.

Summarising, it stated that over the past decade and a half, Pakistan saw a very substantial decline in poverty. Commensurate with this, access to water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure expanded, open defecation more than halved, and dietary diversity improved, even among the poorest.

Taking population into account, a large share of Pakistan’s poor lived in well-off districts in Punjab and Sindh, particularly Karachi, Faisalabad, and Lahore, it said.

“Health behaviours and access to primary curative health care also improved. Yet, surprisingly, two critical markers of child health: rates of diarrhea and stunting have shown virtually no signs of a decline,” the report said.

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