THE PAKISTAN DEVELOPMENT REVIEW
Solving Pakistan’s Poverty Puzzle: Whom Should We Believe? What Should We Do? (The Omer Asghar Khan Memorial Lecture)
Understanding Pakistan’s economic performance has never been easy. Its capacity to generate impressive rates of economic growth in the 1960s and 1980s with low levels of savings, investment and very poor human development indicators confounded its critics. Indeed during the overall period 1960-1990 Pakistan’s growth performance would place it in the top ten countries in the world. This made an eminent economist Professor Richard Eckaus remark, “Pakistan is a puzzle, a miracle of levitation. With one of the lowest domestic savings rate in Asia, its economy has performed quite creditably. Since we do not believe in miracles, we have to wonder whether the capital inflows that have sustained this growth will last”.1 Unfortunately they did not. Pakistan’s growth rate in the 1990s came tumbling down, the result of a number of factors of which a decline in capital inflows also played a significant part. If Pakistan’s growth performance has been in part difficult to justify then understanding or explaining changes and wide fluctuations in its poverty levels has posed even a more challenging task. Pakistan has witnessed over the last three decades periods of high economic growth, as in the 1960s, accompanied with increasing poverty levels, periods of low economic growth, as in the 1970s, accompanied by reductions in poverty levels, periods of high economic growth leading to a decline in poverty as in the 1980s and periods of low economic growth as in the 1990s accompanied by as we shall see by increasing poverty levels.