Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has hit back at criticism over a proposal to alleviate poverty by developing the local poultry industry, citing a similar recommendation by US billionaire Bill Gates.
In a wide-ranging speech on Thursday marking his government’s first 100 days in office in the capital Islamabad, Khan said rural women will be given chickens and eggs to start poultry businesses, which he said is a “great plan” to help eradicate poverty.
“I’m proposing such a plan which doesn’t require billions of dollars,” said the cricketer-turned-politician.
“The project has been experimented with. If we provide them (rural women) with injections, this will raise the [chickens’] protein intake and they (women) will have more chickens and eggs to sell. This is a way to uplift the poor.”
An estimated 24.3 percent of Pakistan’s population lives below the national poverty line, according to the latest World Bank figures.
Khan’s recommendation was received with both applause and amusement in the audience, but social media users and opposition politicians later mocked him, poking fun at the prime minister’s “eggonomics”.
“Dear Imran Khan please think 100 times before you speak on national and international platforms. Discussing eggs and chickens on a day when you’re presenting 100 days plan is ridiculous,” wrote Usman Khan on Twitter.
Dear Imran Khan please think 100 times before you speak on national & international platforms. Discussing Eggs & chickens on a day when you’re presenting 100 days plan is ridiculous. We voted you because we found you a different leader & expect alot. @PTIofficial
— Usman Khan (@Usmankh03) November 30, 2018
— Majid Agha (@Majid_Agha) November 30, 2018
Asad Umer: Sir, we are devaluing the Rs in order to balance out the demand….
Imran Khan: TELL ME ABOUT THE CHICKENS? ARE THE CHICKENS OKAY?
— Hassam Tahir (@hassamt1) November 30, 2018
— Kashif Malik (@Kash_malik) December 1, 2018
After listening to IK speech last evening, I am SHOCKED and concerned for our country. Eggs, Desi chicken, Kattas based economy at a time when fourth industrial revolution is on the horizon is a much too serious comedy. It shows what kind of agenda is being discussed in PM office
— Ahsan Iqbal (@betterpakistan) November 30, 2018
“After listening to Imran Khan’s speech last evening, I am SHOCKED and concerned for our country. Eggs, Desi chicken, Kattas based economy at a time when fourth industrial revolution is on the horizon is a much too serious comedy. It shows what kind of agenda is being discussed in PM office,” wrote Ahsan Iqbal, former interior minister and member of the opposition PML-N party.
‘Excited about chickens’
Responding to the social media storm, Khan posted a Business Insider article published in 2016, titled “Bill Gates explains why chickens are the ultimate solution to poverty”.
“For the colonised minds when desis [(ocal people) talk about chickens combating poverty they get mocked, but when “walaitis” (foreigners) talk about desi chicken and poverty it’s brilliance!,” Khan posted.
For the colonised minds when desis talk about chickens combating poverty they get mocked, but when “walaitis” talk about desi chicken and poverty it’s brilliance! https://t.co/bjvQQIVoRv
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) December 1, 2018
In 2016, Gates, philanthropist and founder of tech giant Microsoft, donated more 100,000 chickens to Heifer International, a charity that focuses on sustainable farming and women empowerment.
“It’s pretty clear to me that just about anyone who’s living in extreme poverty is better off if they have chickens,” Gates wrote in a blog, underlining the benefits of breeding chickens to impoverished families.
“It sounds funny, but I mean it when I say that I am excited about chickens,” he added.
Microsoft founder @BillGates launched a campaign to help extremely poor families in Africa by giving them chickens.
However, when PM Imran Khan talks about it, it becomes an issue.
Propagandists really can’t rise above their hate! https://t.co/9QiGwpCeAA
— Tehreek-e-Insaf (@InsafPK) November 30, 2018
Many jumped to Khan’s defence and also shared Gates’ theory on the subject.
— Najam Sethi (@najamsethi) November 30, 2018
Pakistan’s agriculture sector contributes more than 20 percent of the national gross domestic product (GDP) and is an important employer.
Khan’s new government, which came to power in July, is faced with huge economic challenges, marked by a mounting balance payments deficit.
On Friday, the Pakistani currency plunged almost five percent to a record low of 143 rupees against the US dollar.
Talks with the International Monetary Fund over a potential bailout package are currently under way.