Did South Korea Copy-paste Pakistan’s Growth Model?

Author: Pervez Tahir
Publication Year : 2020

Among the many myths that we in Pakistan have lived with, there is one that simply refuses to die. Some economists and quite a number of politicians tell the believing listeners that Pakistan in the 1960s was recognized internationally as a model of high growth. So far, so good. My South Korean colleague from the doctoral days at Cambridge, Ha-Joon Chang finds it “Totally plausible. Pakistan was the golden boy of the World Bank… in the 1960s.” Then the myth makers go on to claim that South Koreans copied Pakistan’s growth model and persisted with it to achieve what came to be known as the Korean miracle. Pakistan departed from the model and her economy got derailed. Of the Korean adoption, there is no documentary evidence. Ha-Joon smiled when I narrated the story, saying that the “evidence is anecdotal.” There are many versions of the story. One is that Mahbub ul Haq gave a visiting delegation of planners from South Korea a copy of the Second Five year Plan. I have spent over three decades working in the Planning Commission. Despite some serious search, I did not find any record of this visit. Mahbub ul Haq himself never talked about it, nor even hinted at it in any of his long list of writings. There is some evidence that a few Korean bureaucrats were sponsored by the World Bank for training at a civil service training facility. This could hardly be termed as a source of transmission of economic knowledge.