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Inter-governmental funds flows in Pakistan: are they reducing poverty?

The purpose of this paper is to see whether any link can be found between the inter-governmental fiscal transfers and the deprivation index in the districts of Pakistan. The data for the study was collected from 98 districts of four provinces of Pakistan for the year 2003 and 2007. The results of the study shows the transfers have reduced deprivation across the board but unable to solve disparity issue. In fact the results show the extreme inequality (ratio of maximum to minimum) has increased over time but average disparity (coefficient of variation) gives mixed results.

Keywords: Fiscal Federalism, Horizontal Inequity, Vertical Inequity, Intergovernmental Fiscal Transfer.


Pakistan is a constituent of four federating units--Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Paktunkhwa and Balochistan. There is a huge difference in the extent and quality of public services provision among these provinces. The variation in public service provision, that was mainly the result of intergovernmental fiscal transfers has created vertical and horizontal imbalances among the provinces, which were further translated into the districts of each province.

In Pakistan, like other developing countries, well defined and constitutionally protected intergovernmental fiscal transfer systems are operational. The National Finance Commission is a prime arrangement for the distribution of funds among the federal and provincial governments. Whereas the Provincial Finance Commission is responsible for the distribution of funds among the provincial, districts and sub-district governments. In Pakistan the prime responsibility of tax collection lies with the federal government, whereas, the responsibilities of the provision of social, economic and community services lies with the provincial and districts government. The purpose of the transfers in Pakistan from higher to lower level governments is to bridge the gap between the revenue and expenditures and to promote the equitable growth. This will also help reducing poverty among the districts.

The new system of devolution implemented in 2001 has brought several changes in the intergovernmental fiscal relationship among the provinces and districts. After devolution 2001 the provision of social services and few economic services were transferred to the district governments. This entails and envisages a new and comprehensive fiscal relationship between the Province and the Districts. The Provincial Finance Commission (PFC), a special feature of the 2001 devolution, announces a three year horizon and formula for the distribution of resources which predicts the flow of funds to the districts from the province.

The intergovernmental transfer systems have various objectives. However, the fiscal equalisation and redistribution of funds among the different tiers of government are the prime objectives of the fiscal transfer. The PFC gives a formula based allocation of funds among the districts to minimise the deprivation among the districts. The PFC deals with both vertical inequity--the inequity between the provincial government and districts governments--and horizontal inequity--inequities among the districts.

Since 2001 in each province the two PFC awards have been announced so far, first in 2001 and second in 2007. Similarly, attempts were also made to construct district wise deprivation index in each province like Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC) in 1998 and in 2005. The Deprivation Index indicates in each district of each province the number of people who do not access to basic needs of education, health, clean water and housing. Haroon (2007) constructed deprivation index for each district in Pakistan. The selection of indicators is based on the theory and district-wise data availability. These include literacy rate and out of School children, housing quality and congestion, residential housing services and employment status. The gender disparity is incorporated taking these measures separately for male and female population.

The purpose of this paper is to see whether any link can be ascertained between the PFC transfer and the deprivation index. The link between the funds transfer and deprivation index will indicate whether the funds transfer is pro-poor districts and fiscal equaliser or not.

The paper is organised as follow. Section 2 reviews the literature on the theatrical and applied issues of fiscal equalisation. Section 3 gives data collection, methodology and results and Section 4 gives the conclusion and policy implication.


There is a rich literature on fiscal federalism both on theoretical and applied aspects. Bhal, Boex and Vazquez (2002) discuss the issues of designing of intergovernmental fiscal transfer. This study mentions the generally accepted reasons for intergovernmental fiscal transfer are--improving vertical fiscal imbalances, improving the horizontal fiscal balances, compensating for externalities and funding for merits goods. Boex (2002) develop allocation formula for Decentralised Financing and Development Programme in Nepal. Boex (2002) included relative weight of rural population, relative weight of fiscal need and relative weight of development in the distributional formula. The paper highlight when there is suspect of measurement errors the Human Development Index should not be used as it will not be fiscal equaliser.

Qiao, et al. (2002) using panel data between 1985 and 1998 in China find that there is positive relationship exists between the growth and inequality, which implies higher growth will lead more inequality. Hofman and Guerra (2002) explain causes and consequences of fiscal inequities among sub-national government in East Asia. This study using the data of five countries China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam reveals that endowment and fiscal capacities among sub-national entities are large and reason for larger inequities before equalisation efforts. The study concludes that current system of equalisation in East Asia is mildly equaliser and even after such efforts the disparity is still large. Yan (2003) concludes that fiscal reforms of 1985 and 1994 failed to bring any fiscal equalisation. Ahmad and other (2000) conclude that the fiscal reforms have increased income distribution.


In this section we will discuss the results which will show whether the transfers are reducing poverty and deprivation at districts level of not? The results also touched upon the fiscal equalisation or income inequality among the districts. The "equalisation" or "fiscal equalisation" means "the capability of sub-national government to deliver similar level of services at similar levels of taxes," [Searle (2002) and Hofman and Guerra (2002)].

The data fox" the study is collected from different sources of Provincial and local budget documents. The Provincial development Statistics are used for the data on transfers, population and other provincial and districts variables. The government of Pakistan website is also used. The data for 98 districts of Pakistan ate collected -34 from Punjab, 16 from Sindh, 24 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 24 for Balochistan. The deprivation indexes are constructed by SPDC in 1998 and 2005 based on District Census Report 1998 and Pakistan Standard of Living Measurement Survey 2004

The purpose of the paper is seeing whether the transfer from the provincial government to the districts government is fiscal equalisers of not. To answer this question this paper uses different statistical results, which we discuss one by one.

The Table 1 (detailed relevant tables are given in the Appendix) gives the Rank Correlation between the first ranking on the basis of district deprivation index and the second ranking on the basis of per capita transfers to the districts. Table 1 gives two Rank Correlations one for 2003 and second for 2007 that indicate inter-temporal changes in the nature of transfers. The rank correlation for 2003 are based on the SPDC deprivation index 1998 and transfer on the basis of 2001 Provincial Finance Commission award. Where as the Rank Correlation of 2007 are based on the deprivation index 2005 and transfer on the basis of Provincial Finance Commission award 2007. In the deprivation index the most deprived district get rank 1 and least deprived district (most developed) gets last rank, where as the per capita transfer ranking is arranged on ascending order i.e. the district get maximum per capita transfer gets rank 1 and the district which get minimum per capita transfer gets last rank. The value of rank correlation indicates to what extent the per capita transfers from provincial government to districts government ate based on the district deprivation index. If the rank correlation is one it means the transfers are completely based on deprivation index and it is most desirable distribution system and minus one means most undesirable distribution system.

Table 1 gives rank correlation for the districts of Punjab province, which is the most developed and populated province of Pakistan. The first rank correlation for 2003 was 0.1804 which increased to 0, 4132 in 2007. This shows new PFC of Punjab government 2007 is more pro poor districts. This implies the per capita transfer has increased for those districts which are more deprived in terms of social and community services. Similar trend prevail for North West Frontier Province (Table 1) where the rank correlation which was -.06512 for 2003 increased to 0.4286 for 2007. This implies even in this province the new PFC is more pro-poor districts. The province Sindh which is the second largest province in terms of population shows both rank correlations has very little values implies insignificant link between the per capita transfer and deprivation level exist. The forth province Balochistan which is the largest province in terms of area but smallest in term of population the value of the rank correlation was -0.2626 in 2003 and further worsen -0.3626 in 2007. This implies that in this province the transfer are not based on deprivation level of districts and rich province gets higher transfers. This analysis shows in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over time the fiscal transfers are pro poor districts, whereas in Balochistan the transfers over time become less pro-poor districts and in Sindh it remained neutral.

This paper also tests the significance of regression coefficient of deprivation indices of 2005 and 1998. To test this significance the dependent variable is new deprivation index of 2005 and independent variable is deprivation index of 1998 and an intercept. The results of five regressions correspond to Pakistan, Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Balochistan shows very high and significant regression coefficient (Table 2). These results show the coefficients between new and old deprivation indices are 0.905, 0.790 and 0.864 for Pakistan, Punjab and Sindh respectively, whereas 0.779 and 0.856 for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan respectively. The variables in all these equations are significant at 95 percent level and shows at-least little changes are observed between two indices which imply that fiscal transfers have made little effects on deprivation rankings.

Table 3 gives province wise district wise summary of per capita transfer and deprivation profile for 2003 and 2007. This Table gives value of maximum, minimum and average deprived level of districts, the ratio of maximum to minimum deprivation and its coefficient of variation. This Table also gives value of maximum, minimum and average per capita transfers to each district, the ratio of maximum to minimum per capita transfer and its coefficient of variation. Table 3 indicate inter provincial and intra provincial (inter district) deprivation and disparity profile and per capita transfers and help us to evaluate whether the fiscal transfer in last few years have reduced deprivation and disparity both at inter provincial and intra provincial level.

This Table 3 shows at overall Pakistan level for 2003 the average per capita transfer level among district was 855.9 and increased to 1349.4 in 2007 which implies the per capita transfer, on average, have increased in the districts. The level of maximum value of transfer was 4476.36 increased to 5694.92 whereas the minimum value of transfer decreased from 425.3 to 389.4. The ratio of maximum to minimum transfer has increased from 10.51 to 14.62 and coefficient of variation of transfer increased from 0.2989 to 0.3277.

This Table 3 also shows at overall Pakistan level for 2003 the average deprived level among district was 64.51 but reduced to 58.45 in 2007 which implies the per capita transfer, on average, have reduced deprivation in the districts. This Table further shows the level of maximum deprived district which had value of 89.06 reduced to 82.76 whereas the minimum value of deprivation reduced from 24.59 to 20.59. However, the Table 3 shows that these fiscal transfers fail to reduce deprivation disparity, in fact, it has worsened it. The ratio of maximum to minimum deprivation has increased from 3.62 to 3.95 and coefficient of variation of deprivation increased from 0.123 to 0.131.

The analysis of per capita transfers and deprivation index for overall Pakistan show very clear trends. The per capita transfer has increased and average deprivation has decreased. The figures also show the ratio of maximum to minimum transfer increased and consequently the ratio of maximum to minimum deprivation has also increased. The figures also indicate the movement in the coefficient of variations in the transfers and the deprivation indices are in the same direction and increasing.

As for as the province wise changes in the per capita transfer and the deprivation levels are concerned, all four provinces also gives similar trends. In Punjab which is the largest populated province, the average deprivation level declined from 58.41 to 52.53 as a result of increase in average per capita transfer from 635.65 to 1098.92. The Punjab results show the extreme inequality in deprivation increases as indicated by the increase in the ratio of maximum to minimum transfer and maximum to minimum deprivation. However, the coefficient of variation of both per capita transfer and deprivation has decreased over time. This explains the inequality at average level has decreased over time.

The least populated but area wise largest province, Balochistan, show the average level deprivation has decreased from 73.16 to 69.20 as a result of average increase in per capita transfer from 1275.21 to 1532.92. The results also show the reduction in deprivation inequality but this can partially be explained by the ratio of maximum to minimum transfers.

The average decline in deprivation in other two provinces Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from 62.03 to 54.95 and 66.17 to 58.43 respectively can be explained by the average increase in transfers both in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The extreme deprivation inequality in Sindh has increased overtime and can be explained both by the increasing ratio of maximum to minimum transfer. However, the inequality in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa did not change despite a very high increase in the ratio of maximum to minimum transfer and coefficient of variation in the transfers.


There are several results of the study based on several statistical analyses. First, the analysis based on rank correlation shows in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over time the fiscal transfers are pro poor districts, whereas in Balochistan the transfers over time become less pro-poor districts and in Sindh it remained neutral. Second, there is significant increase in per capita transfers in all districts of Pakistan. These increases are due to increase in economic growth more than 6 per cent GDP growth for the last few years and special recognition of the devolution phenomenon in last several years. Third, deprivation has decreased almost in all districts in last few years because of significant increase in per capita transfers.

Fourth, the results of the study shows the deprivation inequalities have not reduced as a result of increase in fiscal transfers. In fact, in most of the cases, the deprivation inequalities have been increased. One, because the per capita increase to the least deprived districts equivalently the developed districts are much more than the per capita increase to more deprived districts. Two, per unit cost of service delivery is much higher in those districts which are very large in area and in those districts where infrastructure is weak and perhaps these aspects are ignored in the designing of transfers. Three, the own revenues as percentage of transfers are much less in most deprived districts compare to least deprived districts and the capability of using available funds is also more in least deprived districts. Four, the least deprived districts which are rich districts are also politically very strong districts. They can also in position to attract parallel funding from the higher level government and borrowing from the foreign donors. Fifth, reason that can be given why the deprivation has decreased but disparity did not, is the deliberate effort and perception of the government to take steps to improve deprivation situation first and then income distribution aspect will be taken into consideration.

Table A1
Rank Correlation Data for Punjab

               Rank Per Capita      Rank
                  Transfers      Deprivation
Districts           2003            2003

Attock               12              26
Bahawalnagar          5              11
Bahwalpur            25               9
Bhakkar               3               6
Chakwal               1              21
D.G. Khan            14               3
Faisalabad           33              30
Gujranwala           26              31
Gujrat               20              29
Hafizabad             2              20
Jhang                18              10
Jhelum                6              28
Kasur                28              19
Khanewal             22              12
Khushab               4              16
Lahore               34              34
Layyah                9               4
Lodhran              32               5
M.B.Din              21              23
Mianwali             11              13
Multan               31              22
Muzaffargarh         30               2
Narowal               8              24
Okara                24              15
Pakpattan            29               7
R.Y. Khan            10               8
Rajanpur             13               1
Rawalpindi           23              32
Sahiwal              15              17
Sargodha             16              18
Sheikhpura           27              25
Sialkot              19              33
T. T. Singh          17              27
Vehari                7              14

               Rank Per Capita      Rank
                  Transfers      Deprivation
Districts           2007            2007

Attock                7              25
Bahawalnagar         10              15
Bahwalpur            23               8
Bhakkar               2              14
Chakwal               3              27
D.G. Khan             9               5
Faisalabad           29              29
Gujranwala           30              33
Gujrat               28              30
Hafizabad            16              19
Jhang                20              10
Jhelum               11              26
Kasur                25              21
Khanewal             19              11
Khushab               4              13
Lahore               32              34
Layyah                6               4
Lodhran              14               1
M.B.Din              22              23
Mianwali              5              16
Multan               27              20
Muzaffargarh         24               2
Narowal               8              22
Okara                 1              12
Pakpattan            17               6
R.Y. Khan            26               7
Rajanpur             13               3
Rawalpindi           33              31
Sahiwal              18              18
Sargodha             12              17
Sheikhpura           34              28
Sialkot              31              32
T. T. Singh          15              24
Vehari               21               9

Table A2
Rank Correlation Data for Sindh

                    Rank                       Rank
                 Per Capita      Rank       Per Capita      Rank
                 Transfers    Deprivation   Transfers    Deprivation
Districts           2003         2003          2007         2007

Badin                 9            3            12            5
Dadu                  8            9             7            3
Ghotki               13            5            14           11
Hyderabad            10           15             4           14
Jacobabad            15            4             1            6
Karachi City         16           16            16           16
Khairpur              4           10            10            8
Larkana              12           13            11            4
Mirpurkhas           11            6            15           10
Nausheroferoze        6           12             3           12
Nawabshah             7           11            13            9
Sanghar               5            7             9            7
Shikarpur             2            8             6           13
Sukkur                1           14             2           15
Thar At Mithi        14            1             5            2
Thatta                3            2             8            1

Table A3
Rank Correlation Data for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

                     Rank                       Rank
                  Per Capita      Rank       Per Capita      Rank
                  Transfers    Deprivation   Transfers    Deprivation
Districts            2003         2003          2007         2007

Abbottabad             6           22            22           10
Bannu                 12           18            20           12
Battagram             10            3             2           13
Buner                 19            5             6           15
Charsadda             23           14            11           14
Chitral                1            7             3            5
D.I.Khan               4            9            15           11
Hangu                 15            6             9            3
Haripur                3           23            23           18
Karak                  2           13             8            4
Kohat                  5           19            16           21
Kohistan              16            l             1            8
Lakki Marwat           9           17            14            7
Lower Dir             11           10            17           22
Malakand Agency        8           15            12            9
Mansehra              13           12            10           20
Mardan                22           20            18           16
Nowshehra             14           21            21            6
Peshawar              24           24            24           23
Shangla               17            2             5            2
Swabi                 20           16            19           24
Swat                  18           11            13           17
Tank                   7            8             7            1
Upper Dir             21            4             4           19

Table A4
Rank Correlation Data for Balochistan

Districts            Rank                       Rank
                  Per Capita      Rank       Per capita      Rank
                  Transfers    Deprivation   Transfers    Deprivation
                     2003         2003          2007         2007

Awaran                 9            3             9            2
Barkhan                5            8             5           11
Bolan                 17           12            18           13
Chagai                24           14            24           10
Gwadar                16           20            16           18
Jafarabad             19           16            20           22
Jhal Magsi             6            5             6            7
Kalat                 13           18            11           20
Kech(Turbat)          12           19            12           12
Kharan                 7            2            22            3
Khuzdar               15            7            14            9
Killa Abdullah        23           11            23            8
Killa Saifullah       10           10            10            5
Lasbela               18           15            15           16
Loralai                8           17             8           17
Mastung                4           13             4           14
Musa Khail            20            1            17            1
Nasirabad             22            9            21           15
Panjgur               21            6            19            6
Pishin                 3           22             3           23
Quetta                11           24             7           24
Sibi                   2           21             2           19
Zhob                  14            4            13            4
Ziarat                 1           23             1           21


The authors have made a good attempt to examine whether there is any link between the inter-governmental fiscal transfers and the deprivation index in the districts of Pakistan. The authors have used the data for this study which was collected from 98 districts of four provinces of Pakistan for 2003 and 2007.

Although text is very well written but there are some repetitions. At some place authors merely replaced the variable and used the same sentence while presenting results of the next variable.

Secondly, I would like to comment that while presenting disparities using different measures for deprivation and fiscal transfers in Table 3, authors have got contradictory results. For example, in Punjab according to ratio of maximum/minimum, disparities in deprivation and fiscal transfers have increased while according to coefficient of variation disparity has declined. Similar is the case with Sindh and Balochistan where both of these indicators gave contradictory results.

This is mainly because of the fact that coefficient of variation do not satisfy the transfer-sensitivity property. The Pigou-Dalton principle of transfer requires that whenever a unit of income is transferred from a richer person to a poorer person and such a does not reverse the ranking of two individuals, the inequality index should decline. The Coefficient of Variation is more sensitive to upper part than other part of the distribution and therefore it may give misleading results. The well know Gini coefficient satisfy the principle of transfer, sensitivity. It is, therefore, important to use Gini coefficient to resolve this issue to some extent.

Thirdly, the authors results that the transfers have reduced deprivation across the board but unable to solve disparity issue are in line with the trends in reducing deprivation in term of absolute poverty but increasing inequality. Finally, while authors have summarised the result in conclusions, some policy recommendations should be given in discussion.

Talat Anwar

Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Programme Support Unit,



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Qazi Masood Ahmed <> is Director Research, Institute of Business Administration, Karachi. Akhtar Lodhi <> is Research Economist. Applied Economics Research Centre, University of Karachi, Karachi.
Table 1
Rank Correlation between Deprivation Index and per Capita Grants

                       Rank Correlation

                        2003     2007

Punjab                0.1804    0.4133
Sindh                -0.0882    0.0382
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa   -0.0652    0.4287
Balochistan          -0.2626   -0.36261

Table 2
Regression Equation Analysing the Stability of Deprivation Index

               Punjab     Sindh    Khyber Pakhtunkhwa   Balochistan

Constant       6.3592    1.34660         6.8723           6.5587
t-Values       2.6867    0.23243         1.4253           1.2761
BETA           0.7905    0.86409         0.7792           0.8562
t-Values       19.7614   9.39948        10.7573           12.2657
R-Squire       0.9243    0.86321         0.8403           0.8724
Observations     34        16              24               24


Constant        0.0232
t-Values        0.0112
BETA            0.9057
t-Values       28.6506
R-Squire        0.8953
Observations      98

Table 3
Disparities in Province-wise Deprivation and Fiscal Transfers

                                    Deprivation   Deprivation
                                       Index         Index
Province                               2003          2007

Punjab                Max             74.78         64.91
                      Min             34.34         29.22
                      Ave             58.41         52.53
                   Std. dev.           9.62          7.91
                 Ratio max/min         2.18          2.22
              Coeff. of Variation      0.16          0.15

Sindh                 Max             75.44         65.34
                      Min             24.59         20.94
                      Ave             62.03         54.95
                   Std. dev.          11.51         10.71
                 Ratio Max/Min         3.07          3.12
              Coeff. of Variation      0.19          0.19

Pakhtunkhwa           Max             82.96         71.72
                      Min             50.78         44.24
                      Ave             66.17         58.43
                   Std. dev.           7.38          6.27
                 Ratio max/min         1.63          1.62
              Coeff. of Variation      0.11          0.11

Balochistan           Max             89.06         82.76
                      Min             46.00         45.99
                      Ave             73.16         69.20
                   Std. dev.           8.52          7.81
                 Ratio Max/Min         1.94          1.80
              Coeff. of Variation      0.12          0.11

Pakistan              Max             89.06         82.76
(Overall)             Min             24.59         20.94
                      Ave             64.51         58.45
                   Std. Dev.           7.95          7.66
                 Ratio Max/Min         3.62          3.95
              Coeff. of Variation      0.12          0.13

                                    Per Capita   Per Capita
                                    Transfers    Transfers
Province                               2003         2007

Punjab                Max            966.71      1653.29
                      Min            425.87       638.85
                      Ave            635.65      1098.92
                   Std. dev.         130.12       189.21
                 Ratio max/min         2.27         2.59
              Coeff. of Variation      0.20         0.17

Sindh                 Max           1060.88      1728.83
                      Min            459.90       669.43
                      Ave            772.04      1390.12
                   Std. dev.         146.40       260.30
                 Ratio Max/Min         2.31         2.58
              Coeff. of Variation      0.19         0.19

Pakhtunkhwa           Max           1227.56      5431.50
                      Min            619.94       389.44
                      Ave            796.72      1493.76
                   Std. dev.         151.88      1232.37
                 Ratio max/min         1.98        13.95
              Coeff. of Variation      0.19         0.83

Balochistan           Max           4476.36      5694.92
                      Min            444.66       634.87
                      Ave           1275.21      1532.92
                   Std. dev.         798.41      1012.41
                 Ratio Max/Min        10.07         8.97
              Coeff. of Variation      0.63         0.66

Pakistan              Max           4476.36      5694.92
(Overall)             Min            425.87       389.44
                      Ave            853.99      1349.44
                   Std. Dev.         255.27       442.25
                 Ratio Max/Min        10.51        14.62
              Coeff. of Variation      0.30         0.33
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Author:Ahmed, Qazi Masood; Lodhi, Akhtar
Publication:Pakistan Development Review
Date:Dec 22, 2009
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