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Mapping development across South Asia

Aug 13, 2009

SAARC Development Goals, a report by South Asian Network for Agricultural and Social Development assesses the progress of South Asian countries, taking MDG targets as the benchmark. Providing a comparative analysis, the document serves as a useful reference point to frame adequate policy responses.

SAARC Development Goals

Publisher: South Asian Network for Agricultural & Social Development (SANSAD)

Going by official data, the progress on health milestones in Nepal and Bangladesh, and income poverty in India, have been unprecedented. Driven by high rates of GDP and a buoyant global economy, the overarching goal of reducing poverty by half is well within reach of South Asia as a whole.

But in sharp contrast, the stark and growing inequalities and low levels of human development in the South Asian region have revived a lively debate on inclusive growth and the balance between wealth creation and redistribution.

The 13th SAARC Summit held in Bangladesh in January 2006, adopted the SAARC Development Goals (SDGs) for the period of five years from 2007-12. Taking into consideration both the South Asian context and specificities and the relevant linkages with international goals such as the MDGs, the SDGs include 22 priority goals for the period 2007-2012, eight of which pertain to livelihood, four to health, four to education and six to the environment. Progress towards achieving these specific SDGs will also effectively determine the success the countries will have in combating poverty in the region.

As a part of this study, systematic cross-country views and the detailed analysis of latest data sets have been used a reference point. This will help countries to contrast their performances with those of others and make necessary adjustments in their approach to bridge the gap in developmental deficits.

The report provides a rich sketch of progress of SAARC countries on health, education and literacy, child and maternal mortality, attempts towards reduction of poverty, improving access to safe sources of water and sanitation, gender parity and women’s empowerment as reflected in the trend values of indicators for the targets envisaged in SDGs.

To address the bottlenecks in achieving development goals in a time bound manner, we suggest following recommendations:

  • Five will Thrive: Each government of region has to allocate adequate funds towards employment creation schemes, food for work programmes, and supply of essential commodities at affordable prices for the poor so that they can be brought out of poverty trap. For this, the report recommends budgetary allocation of, equivalent to five percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) towards meeting the ends of livelihood sustainability of the people.
  • Four will Free: For majority of SAARC countries (except for Sri Lanka), health indicators including TB prevalence, maternal and child mortality rates, access to antenatal care and prevalence of institutional births present a sorry state of affairs. There is an acute need of substantial public investment in provisioning of quality healthcare services for all. Therefore, four percent of GDP should be devoted towards provisioning of public health care services for all.
  • Six will Fix: The quality of education remains an enigma for majority of the SAARC nations. Furthermore, even at primary school level, as per official estimates, roughly 10% percent of the children are out of school, independent estimates point towards much higher figures. Against this backdrop, the report calls six percent of GDP to be allocated towards funding of quality education for all.
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