Poverty & Disposable Income: Tale of Two Sisters

IRSHAD SALIM — Two sisters had different upbringings in the same household, where rent was not an issue as they lived in parent’s residence which was built on approx 5 marla and worth approx Rs15 lakh.

Sister A choose to stay home until fate had it that she was forced to seek employment for disposable income of Rs12,000 and paid in cash, without any tax withholding if any.

Sister B choose to educate herself, and got a gainful employment for Rs50,000 disposable income paid in cash, without any tax withholding if any.

In both the cases, neither the parents forced them to study, nor was there a mandatory (enforced) state requirement for children to study and seek gainful employment as they grew up.

A UNDP study shows that nearly 44 percent of our population contributes to multidimensional poverty line due to lack of literacy and education.

Other contributory factors to poverty (total 56%) include 20% for lack of access to basic health clinics.

Rest (100 – 44-20 = 36%) have causal relationship and are not independent attributes, in my view.

Ironically, an ongoing study by me tends to indicate that nearly 7 to 8 individuals out of 10 do not need disposable income for paying house rent –they live with their parents or with family in a fully paid/owned residence — they said they did not feel the need or did not get the opportunity to study. They however need disposable income to put food on the table — close to or at breakeven point of the poverty line. Unregulated wholesale-to-retail affairs, inflation, etc. add salt to their woes they said.

So now we have a situation.

To keep the business as usual, PM Khan’s team may have to give them “relief” as practiced. That would be a band-aid though.

The business as usual may not work in the long run, given the dynamics that have stacked up over decades to fuel ‘political economy’ by political governments.

Unemployment, and addition of more people below the poverty line, etc. are all symptoms of a “roulette economy” we have developed (willingly or unwillingly).

It did not happen under Khan watch. Agreed.

Still, the buck stops at his. During the Great Depression era in the U.S., out-of-the-box solutions were introduced, and they helped. Our “Gharib Awam” (I call the community Ghayyur Awam instead) may embrace or be nudged to embrace such federal initiatives if impediments on provinces’ level (due to 18th Amendment) can be mitigated on a win-win formula. Statesmanship is warranted.