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Number of Poor Grows in Pakistan

June 15, 2000

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ The 1990s was a disastrous decade for Pakistan’s economy, with the number of poor people nearly tripling, according to the country’s annual economic survey released Thursday.

Forty-four million people now live below the poverty line, unable to consume even the basic minimum of nutritional food, compared to 17 million in 1987-88.

``Declining economic growth, persistence of severe macro-economic imbalances, lack of social safety nets and poor governance in the 1990s have had adverse affects on the country’s poor and most vulnerable,″ the 1999-2000 Economic Survey said.

Even so, the last fiscal year showed an increase in exports, a bumper cotton crop, a drop in inflation, a slight increase in investor confidence and a marginal increase in the manufacturing sector.

Pakistan marched into the 21st century with a military regime that threw out the civilian government in a bloodless coup in October 1999 charging rampant corruption and economic mismanagement.

Pakistan’s army ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has called it ``shameful″ that only 1.2 million people in a country of 140 million people pay taxes.

But the army government has run into powerful opposition in its attempts to document Pakistan’s economy and increase its tax base. Businesses have called daily strikes, virtually paralyzing the country and losing millions of dollars a day in revenues.

In Pakistan, most transactions are done with cash, and smuggling is a thriving business.


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