MDGs remain ‘centrepiece’ of Pakistan’s agenda, despite economic setbacks: Qureshi

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 21 (APP): Despite adverse effects on its economy stemming from twin challenges of the war on terror and the devastating floods, Pakistan told a gathering of world leaders that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) remain centrepiece of the democratic government’s development efforts.“ We are committed to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and keen to work with the international community to turn the challenges into opportunities,” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in a speech to the General Assembly’s high-level meeting on MDGs. More than 140 heads of state/government are attending the meeting convened to take stock of the progress so far towards the MDGs which include slashing poverty, combating disease, fighting hunger, protecting the environment and boosting education  and to determine what else needs to be done to reach the Goals by their target date of 2015.
“Until a few years ago, we were on track to achieve a number of  Millennium Development Goals and targets,” he told delegates in the spacious hall of the 192-member assembly.
“However, negative fall out of security challenges posed by the ongoing fight against terrorism severely impacted on the economy, he said, adding:
“The unprecedented floods which hit the country in late July, causing massive loss to crops, dwellings, livestock, services, industrial and communication infrastructure have changed almost everything.
“The rehabilitation and reconstruction in affected areas would need billions of dollars. It would have its impact on economic recovery as well as achieving MDGs.”
Pakistan’s strategy, he said, rests on the following seven pillars:  Good economic management based on a pro-poor growth strategy relying on better fiscal and monetary discipline. * Improving governance by consolidating democracy and ensuring participation of people in decision making at all levels, both as a means of delivering better development results and ensuring social and economic justice. * Achieving high and broad-based economic growth focusing particularly on the rural economy, while maintaining macroeconomic stability. In our view agriculture holds the key to all efforts aimed at poverty alleviation. * Investing in and building human capital to ensure effective delivery of basic social services. * Bringing the poor and vulnerable into the mainstream of development by augmenting targeted interventions and expanding social safety nets. * Focus on empowerment of women and minorities as well as improving access to the quality healthcare and education. * Pursuing peace and forging close bilateral and regional economic partnerships with a view to sharing and leveraging our geographical location at the crossroads of three vital regions including South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia.
The foreign minister said the initiatives aimed at achieving these objectives include the following: a) Under Benazir Income Support Programme, female headed poor household are eligible for small cash transfers to meet basic needs. More than 3 million house holds are benefiting from this scheme. b) A new
Employment Commission has been established for creation of new jobs in public and private sectors. c) New Education Policy and Reforms Programme is geared to skill development for active and productive participation of youth in the development process. d) Women empowerment has been identified as one of the top priority by the government. e) Considerable progress has been made in reducing maternal mortality and controlling diseases.
However, we still have to go a long way. f) High priority is being attached  to ensure environmental sustainability. We would require greater support from the international community to meet this challenge.
“We are conscious of our responsibility and are determined to create a more prosperous, peaceful and harmonious world for our future generations,” Qureshi said in conclusion – APP