FeaturedNationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 36

Pakistan’s mixed score-card on SDGs

After lagging behind in recent years, Pakistan has made heartening progress in meeting its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including increased food security, better health facilities, and a reduction in child mortality and stunting.

This was revealed in the Pakistan SDGs Status Report 2021 compiled by the Ministry of Planning and Development. The report highlights the country’s progress on SDG indicators vis-à-vis their 2014-2015 baseline values. The report presents data on 133 SDG indicators with their corresponding latest values. Overall, Pakistan’s progress on the SDGs is evaluated as “modest.”

According to the report, the population living below the national poverty line declined by 7.6 percent from 29.5 percent in 2013-14 to 21.9 percent in 2018-19. In this way, 9.3 million people were lifted out of poverty between 2014 and 2019. The indicator for the proportion of the population living in households with access to basic services, including drinking water, access to sanitation, electricity, and clean fuel, has shown significant improvement.

Regarding the prevalence of stunted growth as per the SDGs indicator, it decreased to 37.6 percent in 2017-2018 from 44.8 percent in 2012-2013 at the national level. On gender equality (SDG 5), Pakistan shows progress on several fronts. The proportion of women in managerial positions (SDG indicator 5.5.2) nearly doubled between 2015 (2.7%) and 2019 (4.53%). Physical violence decreased by 5.3% from 18% in 2012-2013 to 13.6% in 2017-2018 nationwide. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, which had previously recorded the highest rates of physical violence against women (31%), saw numbers decline from 2013-2018 to 23.4% and 34.6%, respectively.

Access to clean water and sanitation (SDG 6) also shows improvements at the national and provincial levels. Better sources of drinking water are available to 94% of the country’s population. Access to improved drinking water in Balochistan increased by 17% from 2015-2020.

Pakistan’s commitment to the environment is proved by an increase in the share of renewable energy (SDG 7) by more than four times between 2015 and 2019. Reliance on clean fuel for cooking nationwide increased to 47% in the period from 2018-2019, from the floor of 41.3% in 2014-2015.

At the national level, a 32.6 percent reduction in the maternal mortality ratio was noted, taking the figure to 186 per 100,000 live births in 2018-2019 from 276 in 2006-2007. The proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel improved by 10 percent and reached 68 percent in 2019-20 from 58 percent in 2014-15. A slight reduction was also recorded in the under-5 mortality rate. The under-5 mortality decreased to 62 in 2019-2020 from 66 in 2014-2015 at the national level with disparities in rural and urban areas.

Regarding access to electricity, an increase of three percent was recorded in 2019-2020, with 96 percent of the population having access to electricity as compared to 93 percent in 2014-2015. The average hourly earnings at the national level increased from Rs. 76 to Rs. 109 during 2015-19 and urban areas had relatively faster growth in earnings than rural areas in the same period. The average urban hourly earnings increased from Rs. 83 to Rs. 116 and from Rs. 67 to Rs. 97 in the rural areas between 2015 and 2019, the report showed.

Undernourishment in the country fell by 4.2 percent in the four years between 2015 and 2019 under the SDGs indicator. Some progress was also noted in relation to the SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) targets. The proportion of small-scale industries in total industry value added increased to 10.5% in 2019-2020, from 8.4% in 2014-2015. A decline of 7% in the proportion of the urban population living in slums, informal settlements or inadequate housing (SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities) also occurred, from 45% in 2014 to 38% in 2018.

Regarding SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), birth registration of children under five showed an improvement of 8.2% from 2013-2018. Pakistan is also showing significant improvement on SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals) on its journey towards digital transformation. Fixed internet broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants increased by 20% in the three years from 2017-2020.

On the negative side, the government’s spending on education, health, and social protection stagnated at around 24 percent over the last five years between 2014-15 and 2019-20. The economy experienced retardation and the annual growth rate of real GDP per capita declined to 3.36 percent in the fiscal year 2019-20 from 2.04 percent in 2014-15.

Progress in the education-related indicators has been slow or marginally improved over the last five years. A dismal situation in the primary completion rate can be seen in the stagnation of 67 percent in the last five years during 2015-2020 at the national level. Similarly, a gender gap of nine percent between the primary completion rate of males and females also persisted in this period, as mentioned in the report.