To treat poverty in Pakistan we will have to begin by diagnosing it right. Nearly 60 million people live below the poverty line in Pakistan, making almost a third of the country poor under a new formula adopted by the government to measure poverty. With economic development being the only concern for the government, only time will tell if resources and opportunities will begin to be spread evenly in the country.

The report, from Pakistan’s Planning Commission, estimates that adults in up to 7.6 million households are earning less than 3,030 rupees per month ($30), raising poverty levels to 29.5 percent from nine percent under former estimates. The new poverty line calculates poverty by the cost of basic needs (CBN) rather than by food energy intake (FEI) as previously- the government making this change in accordance with the ‘best international practices’. One-third of the population living below poverty line in Pakistan is comparatively closer to reality than the earlier official figures.

The official poverty figures are out after a gap of nine years. One appreciates that the government revised the formula and raised the bar for itself by coming up with an increased poverty number. However, the point to be noted is that if at $1 per capita per day 30 percent of the population is living below poverty line, then raising this bar to $1.75 would automatically imply 52 percent population living under poverty.

If poverty needs to be tackled, accuracy of data is one of the biggest hurdles in Pakistan. It becomes questionable due to over delayed census in Pakistan, where there is no way of knowing how many people are living in Pakistan, let alone have a correct depiction of how many people are living under the poverty line. This only has a negative impact on poverty reduction policies and planning.

Poverty of opportunities, powerlessness, lack of say in decision-making and freedom of choices are all different manifestations of poverty. That is why poverty is measured through multidimensional poverty assessment methods in many parts of the world. The policies and plans to achieve SDGs cannot only be based on economic poverty figures- something that Pakistan needs to desperately tackle. The future looks grim if the government does not have a concrete plan to reduce poverty, one that is clear and does not simply rely on pleasing numbers.