Notes from the Field

From Pakistan: New Study Analyzes Power, Economics, and Instability

December 10, 2008

A newly-released study, Power Dynamics, Institutional Instability, and Economic Growth: The Case of Pakistan, examines the causes of continuing development challenges in Pakistan.

Dr. Akmal Hussain, Distinguished Professor at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore, an economist, wrote the study, which was supported by The Asia Foundation.

The study was written in a year of difficulty and change in Pakistan, when events that would significantly impact the country were unfolding in rapid succession.  This continues in several areas. The country is dealing with an insurgency that is putting significant pressure on the military, police, government, and citizens. Terrorist threats and attacks are on the increase.  People in areas where there is conflict are being displaced in significant numbers. The country faces economic challenges that are profound”both on the macro level and the micro level.  Millions of people are struggling to cope with increased prices for basic commodities.

The study is important because it analyzes economic development in Pakistan in the context of historical realities, power, and institutions in the country.  It identifies seven strategic “drivers of change” that could address the root causes of development challenges for a major impact on development in Pakistan. The study discusses these “drivers” in detail, including the factors that inhibit their achievement. The study suggests some important initiatives that could lead to longer-term changes. Importantly, it makes recommendations concerning what the Government of Pakistan, donors, development professionals, and civil society could do to contribute to the process of change.

These “drivers” reflect the view that effective change must take into account the interrelationship between the polity, society, and economy. This is a unique study that examines the nature of Pakistan’s economic growth within the framework of power and institutions. The study does not take a sectoral approach to development.  Rather, it explores in some detail the question of unstable growth and endemic poverty in the context of the instability of the institutional structure and the underlying dynamics of power.

The government, donor countries, international finance institutions, development agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and talented individuals are working hard to deal with and address the challenges facing Pakistan.  The solutions to the problems are both short-term and long-term. Dr. Hussain’s study should stimulate new development thinking, inform planning, and contribute to creative and strategic choices and approaches that are important for the country and the region.

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