A new poverty index for Pakistan based on the Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) has been initiated with an agreement signed between the ministry of planning, the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and the United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) on Thursday.

Dr Sabina Alkire, director of the OPHI, Oxford University, one of the developers of the MPI, which has been released by UNDP in the Human Development Reports 2010, 2011, and 2013, said the fundamental reason to develop the MPI was ethical and it gives an overview of many kinds of deprivation for the poor and provides an integrated approach. It had helped many countries reduce poverty related millennium development goals, she said.

Specific indicators could be used to build a deprivation profile for each person and making a measure this way addressed all aspects of poverty- it was a high resolution lens which can zoom in to see things more clearly, she remarked. Nepal for instance had used MPI to reduce poverty to 45 per cent from 65 per cent in five years. MPI shows the intensity of deprivation and the burden of deprivation too, she explained.

In Pakistan using preliminary indicators and deprivation cutoffs, there was evidence that the percentage of people who are deprived has fallen. Balochistan was the poorest though it had five per cent of the population and MPI could be used to manage and coordinate policy, she added.

Marc- Andre Franche, country director of UNDP said Pakistan has a technical committee to develop the MPI and over 36 countries had adopted this. Such an index would be crucial to develop a robust revenue formula, improve policy design and monitor effectiveness of policy over time. Each country needs to choose dimensions that are most important for measuring poverty. In Pakistan, this is the first step for measuring the multidimensional poverty both at the federal and provincial levels, he said.

Professor Ahsan Iqbal, Minister, Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform said Pakistan was grappling with poverty and traditional unidimensional indices cannot reflect the real status of poverty levels. The MPI is more comprehensive, and looks at education, health and living standards and integrated aspects. He said there shouldalso be room to look at legal rights of people as an indicator.