India and Pakistan must reform their institutions of governance to accelerate economic growth on a sustained basis for poverty reduction, lawmakers and experts from both the countries attending a meeting in Dubai said notwithstanding the chill in bilateral ties.
The fifth round of 'Pakistan-India Legislators and Public Officials Dialogue' was held on Tuesday and facilitated by Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency.
"Participants highlighted that acceleration in economic growth on a sustained basis is an important policy objective for poverty reduction. For this policy and reform, the two countries must introduce reforms in institutions of governance," a statement released following the dialogue said.
According to the statement, participants from India highlighted a number of social safety net programmes that have helped alleviate poverty in India adding that success also needs to be based on equitable and sustained growth and the inclusion of stakeholders other than government.
"While the dialogue saw overall consensus on both global and South Asian success with some reduction in poverty numbers despite complexity of measuring poverty and disagreements on successful strategies, participants believed that continuing arms expenditure by both countries will be to the detriment of the welfare of the people," said the statement.
Those who attended the event included Kirti Azad, BJP MP from Darbhanga, Adarsh Shastri and Ajay Dutt, AAP MLAs in the Delhi assembly, and Mahendra Jeet Singh Malviya, Congress MLA from the Rajasthan assembly. Some prominent journalists from India also attended the event.
Dr Arif Alvi, MNA from Sindh (Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf), Muhammed Tallal Chaudry, Punjab MNA Pakistan Muslim League Nawas (PML-N) and Syed Naveed Qamar, Hyderabad MNA representing Pakistan Peoples Party represented the Pakistan side.
While Pakistani participants showcased economic growth and role of remittances, they also cited some success emanating from targeted-subsidy programmes in reducing poverty.
"Dialogue also recognised with concern the growing gap in rich and poor segments of society both in Pakistan and India. Comprehensive poverty alleviation strategies must also focus on reducing inequality within society in both countries. Participants highlighted exclusion of the poor in planning as well as in prioritising development schemes.
"There needs to be an increased focus on expenditures by governments in housing, public health, public education and in other social sectors," said the statement.
The two sides agreed that microfinance and availability of easy and cheap credit can go a long way in providing capital to poor and deprived sections of society for small business enterprises.
Highlighting food security as a critical looming challenge for Pakistan and India, dialogue participants emphasised that both countries must focus on revamping agricultural growth policies that are farmer-friendly and incentivise them as key stakeholders.
Tensions have been running high between India and Pakistan at the LoC and got escalated after the cross border terror attack on an army base in Kashmir's Uri town in September.
Photograph: Courtesy Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency