Had Pakistan been a welfare state, Karachi would not have been so badly hit by torrential rains
The writer is former Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Karachi and can be reached at [emailprotected] It is very easy to dream that Pakistan should be a welfare state but how this dream should be accomplished is the real issue. The reality on the ground is entirely different because of the lack of leadership at almost all levels which is not competent, honest and committed to strive for good governance, rule of law, justice and caring about the interests of people rather than maximising their wealth, power and comfort zones. What is a welfare state and how is it inconsistent with the ground realities in Pakistan? What are the major requirements and impediments for establishing a welfare state in Pakistan? David Robertson in his book, A Dictionary of Modern Politics , says, “Welfare state is a term that came into general use during the Second World War coalition government in Britain, largely as a result of the influential Beveridge report of 1944. This set up a plan for a comprehensive set of services financed largely out of national insurance contributions levied both on workers and employees. The scheme was to ensure not only the previously acquired right to an old age pension, but to put unemployment pay, sickness and inquiry benefit, and a variety of other financial protections against hardship on to a regularised basis.”
The writer is former Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Karachi and can be reached at [emailprotected]
It is very easy to dream that Pakistan should be a welfare state but how this dream should be accomplished is the real issue. The reality on the ground is entirely different because of the lack of leadership at almost all levels which is not competent, honest and committed to strive for good governance, rule of law, justice and caring about the interests of people rather than maximising their wealth, power and comfort zones.
What is a welfare state and how is it inconsistent with the ground realities in Pakistan? What are the major requirements and impediments for establishing a welfare state in Pakistan? David Robertson in his book, A Dictionary of Modern Politics , says, “Welfare state is a term that came into general use during the Second World War coalition government in Britain, largely as a result of the influential Beveridge report of 1944. This set up a plan for a comprehensive set of services financed largely out of national insurance contributions levied both on workers and employees. The scheme was to ensure not only the previously acquired right to an old age pension, but to put unemployment pay, sickness and inquiry benefit, and a variety of other financial protections against hardship on to a regularised basis.”
While Britain is no more a welfare state in a traditional sense, only Canada and the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden to a large extent take care of unemployed and sick people. The US over the years has withdrawn most of the concessions offered under the ‘New Deal’ of former American president Franklin D Roosevelt like social security, medicare and medicaid. Even then, human and social values to protect the vulnerable segments of society in the first and some developing countries, which should have been a priority in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, are not to be seen.
A welfare state is a system where those wielding power are accountable to people and the law and where the state while collecting taxes is supposed to use such resources for the wellbeing and empowerment of the people by providing them access to basic necessities of life like clean and safe drinking water, respectable public transport, better health and educational facilities. A welfare state cannot be created by equating it with the Riyasat-e-Madina while living in comfort zones and denying people a better quality of life. Not even 1% of the conditions which existed in the world’s first welfare state in Madina are met by those who commit to transform Pakistan as a better place for the vulnerable and disempowered segments of society.
Likewise, not even half a step has been taken by those at the helm of affairs since the creation of Pakistan till today in the direction of establishing a welfare state. When more than 25 million children are out of school, massive corruption and nepotism has taken the toll of so-called developmental programmes, and under various photo sessions the privileged class in possession of political power and confined to their comfort zones try to launch health programmes, one can only see a mockery of a welfare state.
There is no dearth of talent and human resource in Pakistan but when it comes to the implementation of various programmes aiming to augment the quality of life of people, one can witness contradiction in theory and practice. In principle, there is no disagreement in Pakistan that the country should be a welfare state but when it comes to practice the outcome is quite dismal.
One can identify three reasons why the vision to have a welfare state of Pakistan has not been transformed into reality.
First, the culture of greed, lust for power, corruption and nepotism which is a reflection of feudal mentality in Pakistan is a major impediment in the way of establishing a welfare state. Lack of ownership and using all possible means to seek ill-gotten money for maximising wealth needs to be properly addressed. When the concept of a welfare state is merely based on rhetoric and gives people false hope, how can one expect any positive change in society? Unless there is paradigm shift in Pakistan’s culture which tends to keep things as they are and the elites are least mindful of their responsibility to bring socio-economic change in society the vision of a welfare state would remain hollow and far from reality.
Second, it is argued that there is a culture of charity in Pakistan and every year billions of rupees are donated to the poor and needy. In that case, why is the graph of poverty going up in Pakistan? Why, despite generous charity, there are millions of beggars on the streets of Pakistan? The reason for the rising poverty and beggary despite charity is the absence of the culture of philanthropy. In a welfare state it is the role of philanthropists who support projects and programmes in areas of poverty alleviation, youth empowerment through better education, and human and social development. If charity begins at home, philanthropy also becomes part of the culture. No government in Pakistan has taken the concept of welfare state seriously and has used it as a political tool in order to seek popular support in elections. A welfare state doesn’t mean that the state promotes beggary and dependence but that it ensures that the tax money is justly used to support those who are unemployed and require medical assistance. The government should have promoted the culture of philanthropy instead of charity so that the needy are provided skills to earn a livelihood instead of remaining dependent on public money or charity for generations.
Third, it is not only the government which needs to present a viable plan of establishing a welfare state and its proper implementation but the people should also be educated and contribute to generating resources to launch viable and corruption-free health schemes, retirement fund, housing, education and public transport facilities.
In the ultimate analysis, it is the state which is supposed to take up the responsibility of transforming Pakistan from a poor, underdeveloped and economically dependent state to a welfare state where each and every penny is judiciously used for the betterment of the people. Proper work ethics, will, determination, clarity, planning, integrity and commitment are major requirements if the leadership is to accomplish the vision of transforming Pakistan into a welfare state so that the future generations of this country do not carry the baggage of corruption, nepotism, poverty, foreign assistance, and economic and social backwardness.
Had Pakistan been a welfare state, Karachi would not have been so badly hit by torrential rains or people would not have been denied access to clean and safe drinking water, quality education, better healthcare and public transport. At the end of the day, it is the leadership which should get serious, and formulate and implement policies to ameliorate the socio-economic conditions of the people.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2020.
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Does Pakistan have a welfare system? ›
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|3||Islamabad||Islamabad Capital Territory|
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•government taking social responsibility (noun)
Social Services, welfare statism, social democracy.
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welfare state, concept of government in which the state or a well-established network of social institutions plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of citizens.What is the modern welfare state? ›
Modern Welfare State
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Pakistan is among the poorest nations in the world.
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There are two major types of public assistance programs; social welfare programs and social insurance programs.Why is welfare important? ›
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Social Welfare pertains to the efforts made by the government and voluntary organisations to help families living below the poverty line by providing them with medical care , public health services, looking after their household needs , helping in social adjustments etc.What is the history of social welfare? ›
The history of social welfare is an interdisciplinary study of the evolution of charitable works, organized activities related to social reform movements and non-profit or public social services designed to protect or benefit individuals, families and citizens of the larger society.