Editorial of The News Pakistan
12 March 2014
There is no reason why poverty levels should be as high as they are in South Asia. The region is fertile, and has resources both in terms of manpower and natural reserves. Yet a report launched in Karachi recently finds that 40 percent of the poorest people in the world live in South Asia. Four out of the eight countries in the region fall in the category of the world’s least developed countries as defined by the UN, with dismal figures appearing for them on the Human Development Index, which measures education, access to healthcare, child mortality, nutrition and a host of other indices that show how people live – and die. In South Asia, only Sri Lanka and the Maldives stand clear of the poverty trap.
A key reason for this was clearly identified in the report, titled ‘Crises, Vulnerability and Poverty in South Asia – People’s Struggles for Justice and Dignity’, produced by the South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication. As it has stated before, in reports produced since 2003, SAAPE noted that spending on the acquisition and development of weapons, rather than on people, was a major reason behind the desperate poverty the region found itself locked in. Speakers at the event agreed, and looking at the budgetary figures for India and Pakistan in particular, there is little ground to dispute this assessment. If the money we have spent over the years on guns had been diverted towards building human capital we would almost certainly have been living in a more secure country and a more stable region. Reports like this are a reminder of just how damaging the national security paradigm we have lived by for so many decades has been to all of us. We also need to think of changing realities, the unequal distribution of wealth being one. We see the inequity everywhere around us and the most vulnerable members of society – women, children, minorities – suffer worst. If things are to change we need a major re-think of policy, so that nations in our region can recognise that people come before all else, and unless they are secure no country can be safe regardless of its arsenals of weapons.