21 September 2017 

South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE) Poverty Report 2016 was launched at Government College University Lahore on 21 September 2017.  

"South Asia & the Future of Pro-People Development; The Centrality of Social Justice and Equality" report was jointly launched by Government College University Economics Department, Labour Education Foundation, Simorgh and SAAPE Pakistan.  

The Vice Chancellor, Professor Dr.Amir Hasan Shah of GCU welcomed the guests including Dr. Padma Parsad Khatiwada of Tribhuvan University Kathmandu, Dr. Kaiser Bangali, Dr Faisal Bari, Dr. Rubina Sahgal, Dr Karamat Ali and Farooq Tariq, Chief Guest Professor Dr. Khatiwada introduced the report and explained how neo-liberal agenda has played havoc with the lives of most South Asian people. He said that at a moment when market is projected and glorified as the emancipator of all miseries, SAAPE Poverty Report is of the view that market glorification has multiplied peoples’ misery in South Asia, paved the way for feudal and fundamentalist forces to grow and the corporate sector to loot the common resources in the region.  

Dr. Khatiweada said that while launching its fifth Poverty Report in Lahore, SAAPE has been publishing the triennial South Asia Poverty Report since 2003, and questioned the existing development paradigm. 

He said that this report is a knowledge document that brings out the commonality of experiences of all south Asian countries. We find declining quality of public institutions and dismantling of public services everywhere. In the absence of state- support, there is farmer suicide, mass migration, exploitation and bonded labour and even statelessness. The report questions the role of state in this context. He said that the report documents the creative use of constitutionalism in critiquing neo-liberal economics. The Poverty report does not negate economic growth- in fact, it argues for growth through justice rather than mere growth with justice and it consolidates people’s creative struggles to reclaim their fundamental rights by using constitution and instruments of law. The right to life jurisprudence in India and Jan Andolan II of Nepal are examples. 

Dr. Khatiwada said that the renewed vision of state is also mediated through resistance movements from the grassroots- be it right to education, livelihood, minimum wages, health services, maternity benefits or collective bargaining. In the end, it is the people renewing their contract with their state for development. 

Farooq Tariq, the lead editor of the report said that while South Asia houses 22 per cent of the world’s population, the region, however has only 1.3% of the world’s income. The idea that market will correct imbalances through demand and supply has led to the gradual withdrawal of state from publicly providing services like education and health. Depleting investment and state support has resulted in a crisis in agriculture, compromising food security and farmer’s livelihood. Growing informalisation of labour added on to the misery of the people. 

Farooq Tariq said that obsession with ‘growth economics’ in the region designed under the neo-liberal model has resulted only in intensification of inequality which in the long run has provided fertile grounds towards breeding extreme ideas of religious fundamentalism. The failure of the state in addressing popular discontents around the basic social security concerns has strengthened fundamentalist ideas in all South Asian countries breeding a ‘us versus them’ narrative. This is at the heart of violence and repression that minorities of all kinds are subjected to. 

Farooq Tariq told the gathering that the proclaimed poverty reduction by all the eight countries of the region is correct in the opposite. They explained the reasons behind the expanding real poverty in all eight countries of South Asia.  

The panelists Karamat Ali, Dr Kaiser Bangali, Dr Rubina Sehgal and Dr Faisal Bari commented on various issues raised by the report.  

Kaiser Bangali defended the pro people development through nationalisation under Bhutto in Pakistan. He said that it is myth created by World Bank sponsored economists that nationalisation was a failure, Commenting on the report, Kaiser Banghal said the report lacks anger, the poverty report must generate anger against the corrupt system.  

Prominent radical economist of Pakistan, Dr Kaiser Bangali said that the state is the space for political negotiation for people, especially the poor and marginalised. The marginalised groups turn to the state for rights and security- for example, women’s movements in south Asia, a repressive state really closes this space for negotiation on the inevitability of returning to the state for problems of development. 

Dr Rubina Sahgal raised issues of poverty and feminisation. She said women are the worst effect starta of society under the clutches of neo liberal economic agenda.  

Karamat Ali, director Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) raised the issue of expanding poverty line among the south Asian countries and its impact on working class. He said that today is marked as global day of peace, yet the ruling elite if the two countries, Pakistan and India spends nearly 65 Billion Dollars a year on militarisation. He said that the report also highlights the rising military expenditure of the state with a proportionate dismantling of social security system. The argument is that unless a 10 per cent annual reduction in defence expenditure is not made by the governments, social protection of the masses will become impossible. 

Dr Faisal Bari criticised the growing trend of privatisation of education and loot and plunder of private educational institutions. He demanded that state must ensure free quality education at all level for all citizens. 

About SAAPE 

South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE) is a regional platform of civil society organisations, social movements and people’s networks fighting unitedly against the structural causes of poverty and social injustices in the region and beyond.