Rolling out the Red Carpet

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Worst Performer of Asia

Ranking 142nd among 177 countries and 135th in GDP per capita, Pakistan is the worst performer in South Asia in Human Development Index (HDI). HDI is the average progress of a country in human development. It focuses on three measurable dimensions of human development: living a long and healthy life, being educated and having a decent standard of living. Thus it combines measures of life expectancy, school enrolment, literacy and income to allow a broader view of a country’s development than does income alone.

Pakistan sustains diverse HDI between provinces and districts indicative of regional disparities in both the level of economic growth as well as in terms of health, education and the quality of life. There is considerable variation across provinces with respect to literacy rates, which vary from 51% in the Sindh to 36% in the Baluchistan. Similarly the primary enrolment rate varies from 75% in the Punjab, to 64% in the Baluchistan. As a consequence while the HDI for Pakistan, as a whole, is 0.541 the provincial HDI varies from the highest in the Punjab, at 0.557, to the lowest at 0.499 in Baluchistan. Islamabad has a greater weight of affluent citizens in its population with a far better social infrastructure than in any province of Pakistan. It is not surprising therefore that the HDI of Islamabad is 0.612 which is higher than that of any of the provinces in the country.

Among the districts, Jhelum has the highest HDI rank at 0.703 and Dera Bugti the lowest at 0.285. Data indicates the large disparities in terms of human development between the districts of Pakistan.

There is also a wide variation in the human development indices within each province. For example in the Punjab, while Jhelum has the highest HDI (0.703), Muzzafargarh has the lowest (0.459). The size and overall development of a district also affects its HDI rank due to intra district variations in income and social infrastructure. Thus for example Lahore has an HDI rank of 0.558 compared to 0.703 for Jhelum because of the much greater inequality of incomes and level of social infrastructure available to the poor and rich parts of Lahore district respectively.

Building the capacity of women Pakistan ranks 120 out of 144 countries. It is the worst performer in South Asia. The gender empowerment measure implies whether women take an active part in economic and political life. It focuses on gender inequality in key areas of economic and political participation and decision-making. It tracks the share of seats in parliament held by women; of female legislators, senior officials and managers; and of female professional and technical workers- and the gender disparity in earned income, reflecting economic independence. Economists agree that the greater the gender disparity in basic human development, the lower is a country's gender disparity index relative to its HDI. Pakistan ranks 76 in Female administrators and managers, 79 in female professional and technical workers, and 139 in ratio of female earned income to male earned income.

The poor governance is a leading cause of lack of human development in Pakistan. Economic stagnation, dire poverty and social inequalities are the result of continued corruption, inefficient management of public resources, and the exclusion of the poor in the development process. Transparency and accountability are lacking in Pakistan's government structures. In effect, it encourages a people-centered approach to better governance in Pakistan and highlights the importance of participatory governance for growth, poverty reduction and sustainable human development

Today the changing ideas are about sources of growth. The institutions are seen as fundamental. Development can be thought of as a process of creating and sustaining the economic and political institutions that support equitable and sustainable growth. Rather than building and consolidating institutions, Pakistan’s institutions are lucklessly being hanged loose.

Sustained poverty reduction requires equitable growth-but it also requires that poor people have political power. And the best way to achieve that in a manner consistent with human development objectives is by building strong and deep forms of democratic governance at all levels of society.

Human development is about much more than the rise or fall of national incomes. It is about creating an environment in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive, creative lives in accord with their needs and interests. Pakistan needs to understand that people are the real wealth. Its development should thus be about expanding the choices people have to lead lives that they value. And this implies much more than economic growth, which is only a means —if a very important one —of enlarging people ’s choices.

Fundamental to enlarging these choices should be building of human capabilities —the range of things that people can do or be in life. The most basic capabilities for human development are to lead long and healthy lives, to be knowledgeable, to have access to the resources needed for a decent standard of living and to be able to participate in the life of the community. Without these, many choices are simply not available, and many opportunities in life remain inaccessible.

The way of looking at development, often forgotten in the immediate concern with accumulating commodities and financial wealth, is not new. Philosophers, economists and political leaders have long emphasized human well-being as the purpose, the end, of development. As Aristotle said in ancient Greece, “Wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking, for it is merely useful for the sake of something else.”

In seeking that something else, human development should share a common vision with human rights. The goal is human freedom. And in pursuing capabilities and realizing rights, this freedom is vital. People of Pakistan must be free to exercise their choices and to participate in decision-making that affects their lives. Human development and human rights are mutually reinforcing, helping to secure the well-being and dignity of all people, building self-respect and the respect of others. (