Pakistan faces an existential crisis that is far more serious than its financial difficulties. The “persistently low quality of basic services for human development,” which is both the cause and the result of the economy’s frequent boom-bust cycles, is what World Bank country director Najy Benhassine has identified as the threat.
Forty percent of our population under five is growing at a stunted rate, which is indicative of a decline in human development indicators. Approximately 7% of our kids do not live to be five years old. Both in rural areas and large cities, the majority of people lack access to clean water, waste management and sanitation services, basic healthcare, adequate nutrition, and quality education.Pakistanis only get eight years of education on average. We have the lowest life expectancy and the highest infant mortality rate in all of South Asia. We have a serious health crisis with six beds per 10,000 people and one doctor per 1,300 people.
Due to its low income, health, and education indicators, Pakistan is ranked 161 out of 192 countries in the Human Development Index for 2021–2022, placing it in the “low human development category.” India is ranked 132 on the HDI right now. Bangladesh is performing even better, coming in at number 129, while Sri Lanka comes in at number 73.
Pakistan’s human development indicators keep getting worse over time, and the country’s ranking keeps falling. This proves to Mr. Benhassine that Pakistan’s present economic structure is ineffective. Pakistan has “fallen behind its peers, significant progress with poverty reduction has now started to reverse, and the benefits of growth have accrued to a narrow elite,” the author of a recent UNDP publication claimed.
Like Indonesia, Thailand, India, Vietnam, and other countries, he suggested the nation could emerge from its crisis “through deep and sustained policy shifts in key areas”, thereby boosting growth and raising living standards.
In addition, he enumerated the necessary reforms, which included enhancing basic services, bridging the gap in human development, fortifying fiscal management, safeguarding the business and economic environment, and transforming the agricultural and energy sectors.
But the real question is, “Will those in positions of power and influence seize the chance presented by the current crisis to take the necessary action?” The World Bank executive correctly noted that there is widespread agreement that policies that have hampered development, benefited a small number of people, and produced extremely unstable and low growth need to be changed.
The elites are not, and probably never will be, a part of this consensus, which is the issue. Changes in policy cannot be made without upending the institutionalized Without severing these elites’ institutionalized hold on Pakistan’s power structure, no policy change is feasible. And given the political climate today, that is unlikely to occur anytime soon.