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 the parent’s residence was 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 a disposable income (without any tax withholding if any) of Rs12,000, paid in cash.

Sister B choose to educate herself and ended up getting a gainful employment with Rs50,000 (without any tax withholding if any) disposable income, paid in cash.

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.

A UNDP study shows nearly 44 percent of our population contribute 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 not independent attributes, in my opinion.

Ironically, an ongoing study 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 family in a fully paid residence — , and said they did not feel the need or did not get the opportunity to study. They need disposable income to put food on the table — close or breakeven to the poverty line. Unregulated wholesale-to-retail affairs, inflation, etc. add salt to their woes.

So now we have a situation.

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

Business as usual may not work in the long run however, given the dynamics that have stacked up over decades.

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

It did not happen under your watch. Agreed.

Still, the buck stops at your desk. During the Great Depression era in the U.S., out-of-the-box solutions were introduced and it helped. Our “Gharib Awam” may embrace such federal efforts if impediments on provinces’ level (due to 18th Amendment) can be mitigated on a win-win formula. Statesmanship is warranted.