Ajmal Khan Yousafzai
Pakistan’s current ranking in the Human Development Index (HDI), based on 2018 data, is lower than of other South Asian countries, except Afghanistan, Bhutan, and Nepal which is of great concern but the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor expected to bring change and improve both economic and social development. CPEC is without a doubt creating the atmosphere for attracting more investments, it also improving connectivity with infrastructure and digital advancement. Twenty-twenty is set to bring change and become economy revival year of Pakistan, as the work on CPEC has been accelerated with full pace.
The economist Dr. Mahbub Ul Haq devised human development as a standard of development, departing from the conventional notion of economic growth, was basically from Pakistan and had also served as Deputy Chairman for Planning Commission of Pakistan under Ayub Khan (1958-69) regime. Upon his depart from his position, he questioned the conventional paradigm of economic growth.
In the 1960s decade, Pakistan achieved a significantly higher growth rate than other regional countries. The empirical evidence that Dr. Haq gathered at that time led to the conclusion that the benefits of economic development had become concentrated in 20 businesses and industrial families of Pakistan, thus increasing inequality. With his outstanding study, Dr. Haq influenced the work and direction of UNDP, which has popularized inclusive human development as the most important and fundamental objective of a State.
The central theme of the UNDP’s 2019 human development report is inequality within and between States, and how it helps the well-entrenched interests in political power and economy to amass wealth and marginalize further the poor of their societies. This is also the story behind Pakistan’s low performance in the index.
The most important reason for Pakistan’s human development lagging behind its neighbors is that political and economic elites are not pushed forward about the miserable conditions of the country’s voiceless poor portion. They are the ones who dominate economic and social policy matters, and they have avoided investing enough in health care, education, and addressing the issue of horizontal inequality among gender and ethnic groups.
According to the human development report, 38.3 percent of Pakistanis suffer from multi-dimensional poverty, 21 percent live in severe poverty and 12.9 percent face the risk of being pushed to poverty. The good thing is that Pakistan has steadily made progress from 0.404 in 1990 to 0.560 in 2018, inclusive of all four dimensions of human development – life expectancy at birth, expected years of schooling, mean years of staying in school and per capita gross national income.
An average Pakistani can now hope to live seven years longer than in 1990. Schooling per child has increased by 3.8 years, and gross national income by a big margin of 62.4 percent. However, primarily because of inequality, growth in national income is not reflected in social development indicators. It still keeps its place in the classification of medium human development countries, as second-last in the list. It will take a few years more to see if pro-poor policies, reforms in governance and economy will reflect in the human development ranking of Pakistan.
Pakistan’s political stability and internal security centers on removing structural impediments in the way of addressing all forms of inequalities, vertical as well as horizontal. For this to happen, the poor have to organize themselves and use every social and political forum to articulate their demands for equality in processes and outcomes. Otherwise, the elites may remain non-responsive, despite risking political instability.
But the recent development and power shift has shown a glimpse of way forward. As the current government was struggling to counter the pervious governments mess the whole year of 2019. In the mean time, the CPEC first stage was completed and now second phase began. As this week, the government of Pakistan with the help from Chinese government started working on creating economic zones in different region of the country.
The creation of economic zones were also confirmed by the Chinese Abbassador in his speech on the occasion of Sangam Gala organized by the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad. Fedral Minister Asad Umar is also hopeful with CPEC entering second phase. 2020 is expected to be the turning point for Pakistan economic and social development. This year will mark Pakistan’s economic growth and development, the International Monitory Fund and World Bank has already shown satisfactions over Pakistan economic growth.
With the current fast pace on the CPEC projects, more Pakistanis will get job, better infrastructure will be introduced, country’s production rate will grow, import/export trade will grow, more earnings will come through export transportation taxation, income of labors will raise, better health facilities will be created, and life expectancy is expected to improve with the overall development.
This is only possible with the dedication and honesty of the leadership to fully implement and continue the pace of CPEC for the coming years. The Imran Khan government seem to be capable of doing so because He, himself doesn’t seem to be caring for getting elected again or having second term, he takes hard decisions and remains committed despite pressure from opposition or even internationally. He needs to be credited for totally changing Pakistani politics, as the young generation now questions the decision makers. The youngsters continue to demand for country’s improvement in all sectors. Also, the government is working hard to empower people, they have initiated multiple projects in this regard. This rapid completion of CPEC projects and the use of digital technology in the process is bracing the economy and the lives of Pakistani people. The question remains the same, whether Pakistan’s leadership will choose to embrace these technologies and take best advantage of the biggest project on the road to progress. Time will tell the tale of this government but the Pakistani nation remains hopeful. -The author is a staff member of The Daily Mail.