The latest projections of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation regarding the progress made in the field of education makes for a grim reading for Pakistan. The world in general is lagging behind on the ambitious target of at least twelve years of education for all, but Pakistan will only be able to get to 50 percent by the deadline of 2030.

The government has reiterated its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) time and again, with the latest reference being made by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi yesterday. The numbers paint a bleak picture, however. The National Nutritional Survey 2018-2019 revealed that one child out of three is underweight and hence, malnourished. By the deadline, one in four children will not even finish primary school education. Out of the 17 goals identified by the United Nations, the state of Pakistan cannot honestly claim substantial progress made in even a single one. Poverty, health, education, hunger, water security and gender equality are the most fundamental SDGs, and even in these sectors Pakistan is way behind the global average.

Governments, both in the past and present, have made trumped up claims of working to improve basic living standards in the country, but the number of people without access to basic necessities and living well below the poverty line points to an urgent need for more effort on part of the state. Grand initiatives are taken and large sums of money have been spent on various endeavours, and yet the country still struggles to support the citizens that need it the most.

Funds in the past have been wasted even though effective public spending is the only way to help members of the public that are denied basic rights and services. Now that spending cuts have taken place in all sectors, what does the future hope to bring in terms of development of SDG goals? On the surface, not much. The government needs to make sure every programme it spends on directly improves the lives of the targeted public and looks to offer long-term benefits instead of merely using stop-gap measures to improve the numbers. We have a little over ten years left to adhere to the SDGs, which is essentially only a process of self-improvement. Let’s hope that this governments and any others after it look to focus on these goals seriously.