Pakistan’s Urban Policy: Turning Cities Into Slums

Publication Year : 2021

If you have lived in a middle-class neighborhood in a large city in Pakistan, you probably grew up deprived of what urban living offers elsewhere: quality education, entertainment, hope, and opportunities. What you know is chaos, congestion, religious zeal, violence, and a stifling sense of entrapment. No wonder millions of Pakistani youth have one goal: “Pakistan se zinda bhaag”. But this need not be the case. Cities in Pakistan could be transformed to become engines of economic growth. However, this would remain a dream as long as urban economic development stays on the back-burner of Pakistan’s economic policymaking. For the nation’s economic fortunes to turn, urban economic development has to be at the forefront of economic policymaking, which in the past has focused exclusively on agriculture and manufacturing, and more recently on remittances. Pakistan’s economists, too, have ignored the subject of urban economic growth. Hundreds, if not thousands, of academic papers have been generated that offer a tiny variation on the time-series models that focus on the macroeconomics of Pakistan’s debt-ridden economy. That is why having one of the nation’s preeminent economists, Dr Nadeem ul Haque, focus on urban economies is a rare but welcome event. In a recent PIDE working paper, Dr. Haque makes a strong case for developing cities to their potential to trigger economic growth. He identifies several shortcomings that have prevented urban economies from reaching their potential in Pakistan.