Gathering Evidence for Policy Reforms in Pakistan

Pakistan classroom with child at blackboard

Source: © 2009 Z. Canepari/Panos

Pakistan faces persistent challenges of poverty, food insecurity, and weak economic growth: nearly 48 million people survive on $2 or less a day, more than one-third of children under age five are underweight, and the country ranks 52nd out of 84 countries in IFPRI’s Global Hunger Index. Evidence-based policy reforms targeted to poor and food-insecure people in rural and urban areas could help improve well-being in Pakistan, but achieving them requires marshaling evidence on current conditions and policy options and using it effectively.

In July 2011, at the request of the Government of Pakistan, IFPRI launched the Pakistan Strategy Support Program (PSSP) in Islamabad to contribute to pro-poor economic growth and enhanced food security in Pakistan. Funded by the US Agency for International Development, the PSSP is working in partnership with a Pakistani research institution, Innovative Development Strategies, under the guidance of a national advisory committee.

The idea behind the PSSP is to improve the Pakistani researchers’ capacity to  generate results that contribute to the country’s development strategy,  to improve policymakers’ capacity to demand and absorb this policy research, and to foster a broader and more integrated knowledge community—including researchers, policymakers, civil society, and the private sector—to support pro-poor policies and strategies.

The program’s first major research project is a wide-ranging, multiyear survey of rural households in the provinces of Sindh, Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. PSSP researchers will work with local researchers to collect, compare, and analyze data from household surveys covering a whole host of topics: agricultural practices, income, assets, consumption, education, employment, health, nutrition, economic shocks and safety nets, migration, and aspirations of household members.

“This dataset will provide credible and timely information that permits us to establish a baseline, benchmark progress over time, and understand the dynamics of income and employment. It’s central to determining how best to kickstart growth and promote employment and poverty reduction in Pakistan,” explained Sohail Jehangir Malik, senior policy adviser to the PSSP. “Credible real-time data are not currently available in Pakistan. Policymakers are operating largely in the dark. So this survey will be extremely useful in allowing them to evaluate the effects of various policies on the poor in real time.”

—Marcia MacNeil

In This Issue

Building Bigger Dreams

Can we improve people’s well-being by raising their aspirations?

Into the Spotlight

The grain teff has been consumed as a staple in Ethiopia for centuries but is little known outside the country. Now, researchers are training their attention on this understudied crop.

Untangling the Asian Enigma

Although South Asia has the highest concentration of undernutrition in the world, in the past two decades Bangladesh and Nepal have both achieved striking improvements in the nutrition of their citizens. How did they do it?

Does Money Talk?

FEATURE: Millions of poor people around the world are enrolled in safety net programs that hand out cash or food. What’s the best way to design these transfer programs?