After the conclusion of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015, the developing world is now gearing towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The scope of the SDGs is much wider than the MDGs. They include 17 goals, 169 targets and 230 indicators. But a striking difference between MDGs and SDGs is the relatively normative character of the latter. Consequently, the majority of the targets under SDGs are immeasurable, less specific and in some cases even vague. For these very reasons, renowned development economist William Easterly satirically called SDGs — Senseless, Dreamy, and Garbled. To be implementable, development goals should be SMART ie specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and having a clear time frame. In developing countries, where often well-defined development goals also prove hard to achieve due to resource and capacity limitations, vague and immeasurable top-down prescriptions are often quickly reduced to mere moral mementos. This is the reason which demands careful consideration of SDGs on the part of development gurus in policy and planning circles of Pakistan. I will analyse all SDGs in my subsequent articles. Here, I will analyse only the first goal — No Poverty. Target-1 of SDG-1 is eradication of extreme poverty based on an international poverty line (IPL) of $1.25 a day by 2030. It apparently looks like a simple target. But that is not the case; the IPL is prone to periodic revisions which over next few years may become a potential cause of complication in achievement of the objective of reduction in income poverty. The International Comparison Programme (ICP) of the World Bank periodically updates Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) of national currencies of each country. This PPP revision for poor countries results in change in IPL which is the average for the national poverty lines of the poorest countries. Between 1993 and 2005, the IPL was $ 1.08 a day. After 2005, it was reset to $1.25 a day. After latest revision of PPPs in 2011, the IPL has been set at $1.90 a day. By 2030, there is likelihood of further changes in the IPL which means Target-1, which is based on 2005 IPL of $ 1.25 a day, will become meaningless in terms of actual IPL prevalent in 2030. Target 2 of the SDG-1 is to halve the number of people living in multidimensional poverty. This shows an intention to go beyond the traditional utilitarian view in which income is the sole measure of human welfare. The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) has devised Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) which enables measurement of various dimensions of non-income poverty while also taking into account the intensity of poverty. The MPI has been adopted by the UNDP since Human Development Report 2010. As the MPI can be customised in accordance with national or even sub-national variations of human deprivations, it makes Target-2 both specific and measurable. But unfortunately other SDG-1 related targets are not SMART. The SDG framework promises a global cooperative effort but domestic budgets and policies should match external inflows. This requires a national consensus among all the key stakeholders to prioritise development financing vis-à-vis non-development expenditure Target 3 urges implementation of social protection systems including ‘floors’; which I presume is a reference to Social Protection Floors initiative of International Labour Organisation. These floors include a radical proposal of guaranteeing a basic income for children, older person and all those adult citizens who are unable to earn for some reason. It is bewildering how progress on this target will be measured? Target 4 requires to ‘ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance’. This target will make even Karl Marx turn in his grave. But it falters on the yardstick of SMART-ness. To the extent of components like access to basic services, it overlaps with a few other SDGs. There are some SMART components in Target-4 — like enabling the poor to access financial services and microfinance. Target 5 relates to building resilience of the poor against climatic, economic, social and environmental shocks. Similarly, the other two targets are no less generic precepts signifying resource mobilisation and importance of gender-sensitive and pro-poor policies and development strategies. It is obvious that among all the targets under SDG-1, only Target-2 qualifies as both specific and measurable thanks to the availability of MPI. It would still be in the best interest of the global poor if SDGs are simplified and made quantifiable goals and targets. Otherwise SDG framework will remain a moral lighthouse like Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Very few countries in the world disagree with the Declaration but hardly a few practically follow its precepts. Pakistan can play a leadership role in the global development discourse by raising these concerns at relevant UN forum. But under the given SDG agenda, how should Pakistan map its course? The most rational way forward will be to prioritise the SMART targets for optimum output. A haphazard pursuit of all specific and unspecific targets will be unproductive drain of economic and human resources. It is important to create synergy in SDGs and national development framework like Vision 2025 of Government of Pakistan. Since several SDG targets overlap, establishment and functionalisation of high powered SDG units at federal and provincial tiers should be the immediate concern. The next important challenge is development financing. The SDG framework promises a global cooperative effort but domestic budgets and policies should match external inflows. This requires a national consensus among all the key stakeholders to prioritise development financing vis-à-vis non-development expenditure. AC Pigou, one of the pioneers of modern welfare economics, had acknowledged as early as in 1920 that economic welfare will not serve as a barometer of holistic human welfare. Following the influential work of Amartya Sen, international development organisations like the UNDP now acknowledge that the ultimate objective of development should be to increase human freedoms. Such a philosophy of development solely focuses on ends rather than a proportionate emphasis on means as well as ends. Income and infrastructure are means to achieve the ultimate end of human wellbeing. If each development intervention is evaluated on this touchstone, real welfare can be achieved only then. In this perspective, despite the inherent abstractions in the design of the SDGs framework, it can help us to reinvent our entire paradigm of development. The writer is a development policy analyst Published in Daily Times, October 20th 2017.