Tuesday, 29 January 2008

On Economic Miracles

Having been viciously struck down by the flu, I have been unable to blog much in recent times, even though there has been a great deal of grist for the mill.

By now the myth of Musharraf's economic miracle has been pretty much punctured, but just in case one wants some more details on the topic, here is some interesting reading:

An Interview with the economist Qaiser Bengali from The News which can be found here at Watandost.

An article from Dawn on the atrocious decline in Pakistan's social indicators as measured by the Human Development Index.

Just below the above article, in the same issue of Dawn is an article about the officially sanctioned abuse of public funds by the previous government even as food inflation reduces the purchasing power of ordinary people. One, amongst many startling figures noted in the article; "A report in this paper on Oct 23, 2007 said, ‘Government spends Rs 65 million on overseas treatment of 18 bigwigs’ and ‘that too in a country where the public per capita health expenditure is a measly Rs 360’." Yes, you read that right, the government spent Rs. 3,611,111 per head for the treatment of 18 rich members of the ruling class, while its average expenditure on the layman was Rs. 360 ($5.7) per person, most of which is not spent on treatment, but on infrastructure (building maintenance, electricity bills, the health ministry, etc.). To make further sense of why this happens, I refer you to my earlier post on how the state serves the elite, while failing the poor.

Finally, here is a report that the Caretaker Prime Minister, Mohammad Mian Soomro, has had to form a committee to "ascertain the accuracy, reliability and credibility" of the economic data put forward by the previous government. It seems, not unsurprisingly, that some of the data broadcast by the previous government as 'proof' of their economic achievements has proved to be unreliable. Surprise, surprise!


Edit: And on top of it all, here is an article in today's issue of The News about Pakistan's social sector and an analysis of the weaknesses of its social policy.


Z said...

Kaiser Bengali makes some interesting points, but the thrust of his thesis – that we have the PPP (and to a lesser extent Nawaz Sharif) to thank for Pakistan’s economic growth since the 70s and not the subsequent military governments – is difficult to take seriously given his arguments. He is clearly a PPP propagandist – a more balanced inquiry would be helpful.
From Dawn, Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur’ conclusion that “Our rulers…will never do what common sense and circumstances demand of them” is ridiculous; whereas Zafar Mehdi’s (also of Dawn) article on ‘stalled human development’ deals neither with ‘human development’ and nor does it demonstrates any sense of ‘stalling’. It barrages the reader with decontextualised static numbers. The only evidence he presents for his argument is the HDR index report. Even if we were to take that, as he puts it, as “the best measure for human progress because it incorporates all social and economic indicators”, then a simple graph of Pakistan’s HDR index between 1975 and 2005 showed that the trend was in line with South Asia as a whole. (see: http://hdrstats.undp.org/countries/country_fact_sheets/cty_fs_PAK.html).
I haven’t looked at the other links yet: I’m left with the distinct impression that more objective use of economic figures is required for us to figure out what effect Musharaff’s policies had on the social and economic development of Pakistan, if any.

Misanthrope said...

Qaiser Bengali's assertion has to be taken in context of the assertion commonly used by members of the Musharraf regime and their supporters that Military Governments are always better for the economy than civilian governments. This is in fact, what is also taught in our schools and colleges. While there is a strong state interventionist slant to Mr Bengali's ideas, he does provide an important corrective to this blanket assertion. The other articles are shrill, but put them together and you get an important sense of how absurd some of the claims of the Musharraf regime are.

interestingly enough, I am currently reading Shahid Burki's book on the Pakistani economy. Mr Burki is an ex-World Bank man who buys into the usual prescription for economic development, as well as the idea that military governments make for better economic growth. However he also takes a cautionary stance on the claims made by the Musharraf regime.