Tackling poverty in Pakistan, Learning from China
This year China has celebrated its 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Since independence, China’s journey of industrial, technological and environmental revolution remained remarkable and provides many lessons for developing countries like Pakistan to develop in a sustainable manner.
China’s industrialization and modernization process started in the 1950s and since then it has made remarkable achievements on all socio-economic and political fronts. Today, China considered a hub of technologies, innovations, trade and it is taking a lead in multiple fields, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics, international trade and investments, and is at the forefront of global negotiations including climate change.
There is so much to talk about China’s achievements, but let me just focused on the social sector only. In its efforts of alleviating poverty, China has lifted over 850 million people out of poverty, contributing more than 70 percent to the global poverty reduction endeavor. Moreover, the country is on track to eliminate absolute poverty by 2020.
Much of this progress achieved during the last 40 years of market reforms under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, which is also known as ‘Architect of Modern China.’ Since 1978, China has introduced a series of economic and social sector reforms which helped pulled hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.
How China was successful in making such huge progress in the social sector? This is the key question that boggles one’s mind.
There are mainly three major lessons learned from china’s model to fight poverty.
1. Consistency in policies
2. Inclusive and flexible development model/strategies
3. Acceptability/Adaptability to change
China’s consistent and long term policies were the major contributing factor to success in fighting poverty. The consistency in policies coupled with political consensus under 1978 economic reforms initiatives helps china to gain investor’s confidence in the social sector, which resultant in improved social sector development and helped overcome poverty.
China is a vast country, having 30 different provinces with different geographic conditions. In this scenario, China didn’t rely on one specific development model/strategy. For different provinces and localities, China developed different inclusive strategies as per the needs and demands of the local areas. So this flexibility in developmental frameworks for different regions and putting poverty alleviation central to overall comprehensive development strategies help eradicate poverty in China.
In China, poverty eradication was not just an isolated effort of the government, but part of an overall comprehensive development strategy. The comprehensive development strategy of China is not confined to the growth rate only, but it meant to include education, health, environmental protection, social security, and high-quality development. Also, China has a development history to adapt to different changes around the world including industrial and technological advancement. So this acceptability/adaptability helps China to develop a comprehensive development strategy which resultant in lifting people out of poverty.
Way forward for Pakistan
In Pakistan, as per the recent government economic survey, 24.3 percent of the population still lives under poverty and lifting them out is a hard nut to crack. However, China has given us a great learning opportunity to lift our people out of poverty.
First, Pakistan needs to shift its thinking and approach to fight poverty. If we wanted to empower our children and provide them with a secure and prosperous future, then we all need to develop a political consensus to ensure consistency in policies. We all have to make sure that every single child should have access to quality education, health, and a peaceful and secure environment, where he/she could grow without fear of any coercion.
Secondly, as Pakistan has a different socio-political and economic situation from China, so the Chinese model cannot be replicated in our country. The lesson learned from China is that Pakistan needs to develop its own comprehensive development strategy as per ground realities by putting poverty reduction central to developmental framework. This inclusive comprehensive development framework can only be successful if we develop political consensus and for just political point-scoring, we shouldn’t let the continuity of policies get disturbed. Moreover, our social protection policies should also incorporate the needs of our children, especially of a girl child, to help eradicate poverty in our society.
Lastly, Pakistan must realize the potential of Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) of informational, technologies and innovation. In this context, there is a dire need to educate and equip our young generation with modern technical skills as per the demand of changing the development paradigm and 4IR. Pakistan needs a paradigm shift in the education system to help fight poverty.
The government also needs to facilitate the private sector by providing an enabling environment for businesses to grow coupled with encouraging entrepreneurship culture and resultant employment generation. Furthermore, under the much famed China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) both countries must ensure that the local people along the route of the CPEC should get the benefit, as mostly the local communities are marginalized and living under poverty.