Friday, September 20, 2013
A report published by UNICEF states that 6.5 million children in Pakistan are deprived of a primary education. According to the report, three out of every ten children never attend school. Furthermore, the report states that 2.7 million children in the country do not receive a secondary education. The report says that poverty will increase in the country if the education emergency is not immediately addressed. The report highlights statistics on the state of education in Pakistan: 38.9 percent of girls never attend primary school. 30.2 percent of children never attend school. 42.8 percent of children leave school before completing their education. Girls outnumber boys in the number of children being deprived of an education.
ONE glaring inequity, among many, in Pakistan’s socio-economic framework is the unequal access to financial services. While, overall, Pakistan has a fairly well-developed and relatively robust formal financial sector, a large part of the population is without access to it. This is borne out by the numbers. According to available data, as of 2008 only approximately 12pc of the entire population was ‘formally served’, while 56pc was ‘financially excluded’. A further 32pc of the population relied on informal sources of financing, ie loans from friends, relatives, shopkeepers, employers, a local landlord etc. Only 10pc of Pakistani adults have bank accounts — which is less than one-third of the regional average. Not surprisingly, gender disparity is high nation-wide, with 62pc of females financially excluded, compared to 42pc males. Only 3pc of Pakistani women have bank accounts, less than one-eighth of the regional average. The need to include more Pakistanis in the ambit of financial services is not just about access to credit, though that is an important element. Of equal importance is that households that are served by formal financial mechanisms such as micro-finance or conventional commercial banks, tend to have higher financial savings and greater financial security in times of need, as well as more social mobility and empowerment. A huge potential area of opportunity that has not been fully exploited, lies in formal financial institutions acting as conduits for ‘extension’ services, whether in agriculture or for small/micro-businesses. A number of factors are responsible for the prevailing state of affairs with regard to financial inclusion. As a corollary to the incremental privatisation of the banking system, its footprint gradually receded from the rural areas of Pakistan, and became increasingly concentrated in the urban and peri-urban centres. In addition, many private banks, and especially foreign institutions operating in the country, chose to operate a limited branch network, focusing on the more affluent segments of society. Before the mandatory introduction of ‘basic accounts’ by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) circa 2006, account holders falling below a minimum bank balance threshold were being excluded from the financial sector. Finally, low literacy levels, especially pertaining to financial products and services, act as a major impediment to greater financial access. Over the past few years, however, some important strides have been made towards increasing financial penetration in the country and providing access to more citizens. To increase access to formal finance, SBP has taken a number of important measures since the mid-2000s. These have included: • The establishment of micro-finance institutions (MFIs) • Introduction of ‘basic’ bank accounts • Mandating at least 20pc of new branches in under-served areas • Promotion of branchless banking (BB) A huge potential boost to efforts to increase the level of financial penetration in the country has come from the government-to-persons (G2P) cash transfer schemes introduced since 2008-09. The first of these, the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), has grown since its launch to reach more than 4.5 million beneficiaries, with annual unconditional cash transfers amounting to approximately Rs40 billion in 2012. The second G2P scheme in operation over the past two to three years was initiated in response to the massive floods that devastated large parts of Pakistan in 2011. Called the Citizen’s Damage Compensation Programme (CDCP), and consisting of two distribution phases coinciding with relief/recovery and rehabilitation, it was meant to essentially target low-income flood affectees. Cash transfers have been made through a number of traditional as well as innovative channels. For example, the network of Pakistan Post was used initially to deliver cash; this was augmented/replaced by use of digital means, such as smart cards and smart cash distribution points, ATMs, bank branches and mobile phones. For both BISP as well as CDCP, the bulk of the beneficiaries were not only those deemed as poor, but in most cases, they were also not connected to the formal financial sector. The combined number of beneficiaries of the G2P cash transfer schemes is roughly the equivalent of 35-40pc of the estimated unique bank account holders in Pakistan. This has presented both an opportunity as well as a challenge for the government and banks. On the one hand, moving even half of these beneficiaries to the fold of the ‘formally served’ would be a huge boon to efforts to finically include more Pakistanis. On the other, it could present challenges to the infrastructure and business models of private banks operating in the country. Notwithstanding the challenges, by end-March 2013, branchless banking accounts had reached 2.4 million, with over 350,000 accounts pertaining to G2P beneficiaries. For the January-March 2013 quarter alone, over 41 million transactions worth Rs171bn had been conducted under branchless banking, according to SBP. To fully leverage the opportunity presented by the large G2P cash transfer programmes to financially ‘include’ more Pakistanis, SBP, in conjunction with commercial banks, telecom companies and Pakistan’s development partners such as the World Bank, has taken a number of steps. The most important was to allow the conversion of virtual accounts opened for each registered beneficiary into a ‘level zero’ bank account. The next challenge is to upgrade the ‘level zero’ bank accounts, which do not cater fully to the banking needs of accountholders, to level one, which would allow for both deposits and partial-amount cash withdrawals. In addition, efforts to increase financial awareness and literacy will need to be up-scaled. Pakistan is not only behind its peers in terms of the depth of its financial sector, but has also been slow to increase the outreach of micro-finance and technology-driven branchless banking. With the success of the G2P programmes and other initiatives, it can finally catch up.
Successive attacks on the places of worship in two major cities of Pakistan have left at least four dead and dozens injured on Thursday night. According to details one person died and nine more were critically wounded after sectarian terrorists hurled a hand grenade at an Imambargah (Shia mosque) in Karachi. The attack took place in Majeed Colony\'s Sector II, in the bustling eastern neighbourhood of Landhi. \"Attackers threw a hand grenade on a Shia mosque, wounding nine people and killing one,\" Additional Inspector General of Police (AIG) Shahid Hayat said. Hours after Karachi Imambargah attack, a similar act of violence was reported from Peshawar in which suspected sectarian extremists pelted a mosque with grenades, located in Achini Bala area, killing three people and injuring scorers of others late on Thursday. Reports have it that armed men stormed the Perano Mosque, which falls in the remits of Sarband Police Station and carried out the attack when a large number of Tablighi Jamaat members was staying at the mosque. Tablighi Jamaat is a religious (Deobandi, Sunni Islam) movement based on the principle of the \"Work of the Prophet\" inviting to Allah in the manner of Hazrat Muhammed (PBUH). Analysts say it could be a reaction of Karachi Imambargah attack.
A delegation of PPP Balochistan on behalf of PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, led by provincial president Mir Muhammad Sadiq Umrani visited PSF leader Shaheed Sajeela Shahjehan’s residence here today to condole her Shahadat.
Teacher of shot schoolgirl says holding girls back from an education is not only robbing them of their dignity, it is denying their countries so much more
The Syrian conflict has reached a stalemate and President Bashar al-Assad's government will call for a ceasefire at a long-delayed conference in Geneva on the state's future, the country's deputy prime minister has said in an interview with the Guardian.