Strategies for Socio-Economic Development in Pakistan

Education, health, rule of law and peace are the driving forces behind changes in the HDI figures.


By Abdul Rahman Malik

Real development transforms people’s lives. It does not only mean reflecting the ecoenomic statistics in order to impress the public that the government has undertaken various developmental projects to improve the living standards. Ergo, these projects would make no sense if the Human Development Index (HDI) continues to paint a dismal picture.

It is to our misfortune that countries Like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, seen well ahead of us in HDI rankings, are calling for steps on war-footing-basis to improve their HDI and other economic and social development indicators as we sit idle.

As per Statistics of United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Pakistan ranked 150 as of last year. India and Bangladesh retained their upward trends as Pakistan slipped down from its 117th rank in 1994 to 150. This is quite terrible as, despite the last 71 Years of Independence, our policies have failed to boost the human development indicators and socio-economic uplift in our country. Each year, billions of rupees are allocated for the development projects as proposed by the legislators at provincial and national levels. Yet, these developmental projects have so far failed to enhance the country’s human development outlook. Being targeted towards the big fish rather than bringing any change in the downtrodden masses, these projects mean nothing more than an economic number game.

Most of the developing countries focus on education, health, rule of law and peace. These are the driving forces behind changes in the troubled HDI figures and contribute largely to the sustainable development, where people are ready to accept change and sustain it for the long run.

The failed policies of development are the main causes of stagnant development. Just as a company trains its staff to learn all related complexities before launching any new product or service, the state should follow suit before launching public schemes.

Development means to tap or harness all available resources to bring in social, economic and political change that boosts the economy and brings prosperity to the country. The real development also means that if one believes that a community needs anything from the government; it is provided to them. The timely provision will stop the issue from further aggravating. Since in the case of delay, it may lead to anti-government sentiments and the government may start losing its hold over the public affairs.

We have become immune to the idea that getting foreign development grants would help develop our poverty-ridden areas, especially the rural areas and the slums in urban cities. However, real development starts with self-development, self-reliance, education and health.

The state can provide infrastructures such as roads, electrification, water supply healthcare, schools, colleges and universities. But to use all these resources, we have to focus on our self-development goals and tap the resources as per the desired requirements.

Think of this given situation. If we want to educate our children, we have to send our children to school to get education and training. Inversely, if we are reluctant to send our children to school and prefer sending them to work as child labour, we cannot blame the government for this. Since it is our approach that has not changed even when the infrastructure has changed and the government has fulfilled its promise of providing basic facilities to its people at their convenience.

The modern development entails four major aspects: Equality, Participation, Empowerment and Sustainability. It means that whatever development initiatives are undertaken, these must make sure that these are carried on equality basis. It should be ascertained that they promote participatory development approaches;q empowering people to have their say socially, economically and politically that may create the basis of sustainability of such endeavours.

The development and economic experts are of the view that genuine advancement should change the individual living standards and it should not be limited to have simple monetary benefits.

Pakistan has carried out some socio-economic initiatives such as BISP, Pakistan Baitul Maal and other poverty reduction initiatives but these programs and projects are aimed at providing the fish rather than the hook it is a rather flawed strategy.

The monetary grants will never serve as solutions for poverty reduction strategies rather make the poor community dependent on these cash grants that will ultimately destroy their abilities. The Government should impart some technical skills and fund their small enterprises through which the have-nots may generate income and change their financial ability that may raise their economic level to self-reliance.

The socio-economic programs should not be aimed at creating beggary or mockery or greed for money violating cultural norms but these should be directed to income generation and skill development.

To bring the real development, we need to study various development models of various nations to know that how these countries transformed the lives of people and brought lasting change by implementing effective development policies. In this regard, we can use the development or advancement models of China, Malaysia and Sri Lanka to find out the workable and feasible trends suiting Pakistan’ Development strategies given the current circumstances.

Besides advancements, we can also study these models to explore their strategies which helped increase the literacy rate and education standards in these countries.

The formative development policies must be people-centric devoid of other political reasons. The development policies must be comprehensive to attract people’s attention and transform their social-economic living standards.

The Government in this regard should come up with clear policy by taking all the stakeholders i.e NGOs, INGOs including UNDP and World Bank Experts, development and economic Experts, legislators and Policy think tanks such as Sustainable development Policy Institute (SDPI), Institute of Policy Studies   (IPS), Prime Institute, SPDC, PIDE, IDEAS-LUMS, NSPP, PITAD and IPRI for policy advice and suggesting strategies that may help Pakistan get out of the crisis .

The International Development organizations, Policy Think Tanks and Planning bodies such as Planning Commission of Pakistan may work out on the plan and may help government devise sustainable Development policy that works for many reasons as in past the flawed policies have dragged the country into the quagmire of Socio-Economic issues causing economic crisis and increasing the debt burden over GDP .

It is high time that we need to address these issues on time, else the circumstances will further aggravate the already dismal situation; Then, it will be beyond our control to find out a remedy or solution for it. The Experts may be taken on board at the national, provincial and District level to form socio-economic development strategies that may bring the real development in the country and the may reap the benefits of the economic boom.

The real development index (RDI)and the Human Development Index (HDI) rankings will only improve if the government and people be on the same page. The people and opinion leaders must identify the gaps through their voice and write-ups so that the same may be filled to fuel the development planning strategies with sustainable initiatives to raise our bottom rankings to higher scales of development.

We have to mull over the Socio-economic models of the countries that have achieved tremendous advancement in Poverty Reduction Strategies, human and economic development rankings.

In this regard, Chinese model may be ideal to get rid of poverty monster and raise the income levels of people so that a lasting change should be brought by tapping the existing resources and providing the basic facilities that may become the hallmark of change and development and setting examples for those who follow these footsteps.

Abdul Rehman Malik is a freelance columnist and can be reached at