Economic history of Pakistan

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The economic history of Pakistan or the territory it today is forms part of has experienced growth and economic downtown. Since the country's independence in 1947 the economy of Pakistan has emerged as a semi-industrialised one, based heavily on textiles, agriculture and food production, though recent years have seen a surge towards technological diversification. As of 2014, agriculture accounts for more than one-fifth of output and two-fifths of employment. Textiles account for most of Pakistan's export earnings, and inflation has increased rapidly, climbing from 7.7% in 2007 to almost 12% for 2011, before declining to 10% in 2012 and to 2.11 percent in April 2015. Inflation Rate in Pakistan averaged 7.99 percent from 1957 until 2015, reaching an all-time high of 37.81 percent in December 1973 and a record low of -10.32 percent in February 1959. Pakistan suffered its only economic decline in its GDP only once in her entire history between 1951-52.[1]

The land forming modern-day Pakistan was home to the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation from 2800 BC to 1800 BC; historical evidence suggests that the civilisation relied on and carried trade through the Indus River, and its inhabitants were some of the most resourceful traders. Since independence the economic growth has meant an increase in average income of about 150 percent over 1950–96. But Pakistan, like many other developing countries, has not been able to narrow the gap between itself and rich industrial nations which have grown faster on a per head basis. Per capita GNP growth rate during 1985–95 was only 1.2 percent per annum, substantially lower than India (3.2), Bangladesh (2.1), and Sri Lanka (2.6).[2] Growth was slow during the 1950s averaging 3.1 percent per annum but accelerated to 6.7 percent during the sixties and remained generally close to 6 percent per annum till the early 1990s.

Ancient History as part of India[edit]

Indus Valley civilisation, the first known permanent and predominantly urban settlement that flourished between 3500 BC to 1800 BC boasted of an advanced and thriving economic system. Its citizens practised agriculture, domesticated animals, made sharp tools and weapons from copper, bronze and tin and traded with other cities.[3] Evidence of well laid streets, layouts, drainage system and water supply in the valley's major cities, Harappa, Lothal, Mohenjo-daro and Rakhigarhi reveals their knowledge of urban planning.

Though ancient India had a significant urban population, much of India's population resided in villages, whose economy was largely isolated and self-sustaining. Agriculture was the predominant occupation of the populace and satisfied a village's food requirements besides providing raw materials for hand based industries like textile, food processing and crafts. Besides farmers, other classes of people were barbers, carpenters, doctors (Ayurvedic practitioners), goldsmiths, weavers etc.[4]

In the joint family system, members of a family pooled their resources to maintain the family and invest in business ventures. The system ensured younger members were trained and employed in the family business and the older and disabled persons would be supported by the family. The system, by preventing the agricultural land from being split ensured higher yield because of the benefits of scale. Such sanctions curbed the spirit of rivality in junior members and made a peculiar sense of obedience.[5]

During the Maurya Empire (c. 321–185 BC), there were a number of important changes and developments to the Indian economy. It was the first time most of India was unified under one ruler. With an empire in place, the trade routes throughout India became more secure thereby reducing the risk associated with the transportation of goods. The empire spent considerable resources building roads and maintaining them throughout India. The improved infrastructure combined with increased security, greater uniformity in measurements, and increasing usage of coins as currency enhanced trade.[6]

Under the Mughal Empire[edit]

A silver coin made during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Alamgir II.

During the Mughal period (1526–1858) in the 16th century, the gross domestic product of India was estimated at about 25.1% of the world economy.

An estimate of India's pre-colonial economy puts the annual revenue of Emperor Akbar's treasury in 1600 at £17.5 million (in contrast to the entire treasury of Great Britain two hundred years later in 1800, which totaled £16 million). The gross domestic product of Mughal India in 1600 was estimated at about 24.3% the world economy, the second largest in the world.[7]

By the late 17th century, the Mughal Empire was as its peak and had expanded to include almost 90 per cent of South Asia, and enforced a uniform customs and tax-administration system. In 1700 the exchequer of the Emperor Aurangzeb reported an annual revenue of more than £100 million. In the 18th century, Mughals were replaced by the Marathas as the dominant power in much of Indian, while the other small regional kingdoms who were mostly late Mughal tributaries such as the Nawabs in the north and the Nizams in the south, declared an autonomy. However, the efficient Mughal tax administration system was left largely intact.

By this time, India had fallen from the top rank to become the second-largest economy in the world.[7] A devastating famine broke out in the eastern coast in early 1770s killing 5 per cent of the national population.[8] Economic historians in the 21st century have found that in the 18th century real wages were falling in India, and were "far below European levels."[9]

British India[edit]

The railway network in 1909 in British India.

After gaining the right to collect revenue in Bengal in 1765, the East India Company largely ceased importing gold and silver, which it had hitherto used to pay for goods shipped back to Britain.[10] In addition, as under Mughal rule, land revenue collected in the Bengal Presidency helped finance the Company's wars in other part of India.[10] Consequently, in the period 1760–1800, Bengal's money supply was greatly diminished; furthermore, the closing of some local mints and close supervision of the rest, the fixing of exchange rates, and the standardization of coinage, paradoxically, added to the economic downturn.[10] During the period, 1780–1860, India changed from being an exporter of processed goods for which it received payment in bullion, to being an exporter of raw materials and a buyer of manufactured goods.[10] More specifically, in the 1750s, mostly fine cotton and silk was exported from India to markets in Europe, Asia, and Africa; by the second quarter of the 19th century, raw materials, which chiefly consisted of raw cotton, opium, and indigo, accounted for most of India's exports.[11] Also, from the late 18th century British cotton mill industry began to lobby the government to both tax Indian imports and allow them access to markets in India.[11] Starting in the 1830s, British textiles began to appear in—and soon to inundate—the Indian markets, with the value of the textile imports growing from £5.2 million 1850 to £18.4 million in 1896.[12]

The British colonial rule created an institutional environment that stabilized law and order to a large extent. The British foreign policies however stifled the trade with rest of the world. They created a well-developed system of railways, telegraphs and a modern legal system. The infrastructure the British created was mainly geared towards the exploitation of resources in the world and totally stagnant, with industrial development stalled, agriculture unable to feed a rapidly accelerating population. They were subject to frequent famines, had one of the world's lowest life expectancies, suffered from pervasive malnutrition and were largely illiterate.

Independent Pakistan[edit]

Pakistan’s population has grown rapidly from around 30 million in 1947 to over 130 million in 1996. The rate of annual growth has averaged 3 percent since 1960.

Pakistan's average economic growth rate since independence has been higher than the average growth rate of the world economy during the same period. Average annual real GDP growth rates[13] were 6.8% in the 1960s, 4.8% in the 1970s, and 6.5% in the 1980s. Average annual growth fell to 4.6% in the 1990s with significantly lower growth in the second half of that decade. See also[14]

During the 1960s, Pakistan was seen as a model of economic development around the world, and there was much praise for its economic progression. The capital Karachi was seen as an economic role model around the world, and there was much praise for the way its economy was progressing.[who?] Many countries sought to emulate Pakistan's economic planning strategy and one of them, South Korea, copied the city's second "Five-Year Plan"; the World Financial Centre in Seoul is modeled after Karachi.

1950s and 1960s: Initial Decades[edit]

Between 27 October 1958 and 25 March 1969 under Ayub Khan Pakistan economic growth averaged 5.82% growth during his eleven years in office. Manufacturing growth in Pakistan during this time was 8.51%, far outpacing any other time in Pakistani history. It was the time when Pakistan first got an automobile industry, a cement industry and few other heavy manufacturing industries. However tax collection was low averaging less than 10% of GDP.[15] The Export Bonus Vouchers Scheme (1959) and tax incentives stimulated new industrial entrepreneurs and exporters. Bonus vouchers facilitated access to foreign exchange for imports of industrial machinery and raw materials.

Tax concessions were offered for investment in less-developed areas. These measures had important consequences in bringing industry to Punjab and gave rise to a new class of small industrialists.[16] Land reform, consolidation of holdings, and stern measures against hoarding were combined with rural credit programs and work programs, higher procurement prices, augmented allocations for agriculture, and, especially, improved seeds were introduced as part of the green revolution. However, academics have argued that that while the HYV technology enabled a sharp acceleration in agricultural growth, it was accompanied by social polarization and increased inter personal and inter regional inequality.[17]

Mahbub ul Haq blamed the concentration of economic power to 22 families which were dominating the financial and economic life of the country controlling 66% of the industrial assets and 87% of the banking.[18] During the same period there were construction of several infrastructure projects (notably Tarbela Dam and Mangla Dam), including canals, dams and power stations, began Pakistan's space programme.

In 1959 the country began the construction of its new capital city.[19] A Greek firm of architects, Konstantinos Apostolos Doxiadis, designed the master plan of the city based on a grid plan which was triangular in shape with its apex towards the Margalla Hills.[20] The capital was not moved directly from Karachi to Islamabad; it was first shifted temporarily to Rawalpindi in the early sixties and then to Islamabad when the essential development work was completed in 1966.[21]

Economy of East Bengal in Pakistan[edit]

1971 documentary film about East Pakistan

The partition of British India and the emergence of India and Pakistan in 1947 severely disrupted the economic system. The united government of Pakistan expanded the cultivated area and some irrigation facilities, but the rural population generally became poorer between 1947 and 1971 because improvements did not keep pace with rural population increase.[22] Pakistan's five-year plans opted for a development strategy based on industrialization, but the major share of the development budget went to West Pakistan, that is, contemporary Pakistan.[22] The lack of natural resources meant that East Pakistan was heavily dependent on imports, creating a balance of payments problem.[22] Without a substantial industrialization program or adequate agrarian expansion, the economy of East Pakistan steadily declined.[22] Blame was placed by various observers, but especially those in East Pakistan, on the West Pakistani leaders who not only dominated the government but also most of the fledgling industries in East Pakistan.[22]

1970s: Nationalization and Command Economy[edit]

Tarbela Dam is the largest earth filled dam in the world, was constructed in 1968. 
Prime Minister Secretariat in the new capital city 
Spread over 1700 acres Quaid-i-Azam University was constructed in 1967 
Pakistan Steel Mills was constructed in 1973, making it the largest industrial mega-corporation having a production capacity of 5.0 million tonnes of steel 

Economic mismanagement in general, and fiscally imprudent economic policies in particular, caused a large increase in the country's public debt and led to slower growth in the 1990s. Two wars with India - the Second Kashmir War in 1965 and the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 - and the resultant separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan also adversely affected economic growth.[23] In particular, the latter war brought the economy close to recession, although economic output rebounded sharply until the nationalisations of the mid-1970s. The economy recovered during the 1980s via a policy of deregulation, as well as an increased inflow of foreign aid and remittances from expatriate workers.

According to Muhammad Abrar Zahoor, nationalization of industries was concerned, it can be divided into two phases. The first phase started soon after the PPP came into power and the motivation behind it was distributional concerns — to bring under state control the financial and physical capital controlled by a tiny corporate elite. However, in 1974, influence and authority of the left wing within the party significantly decreased: they had either been marginalized or purged.5 The second phase began in 1974 and the motives and effects of the secondary phase of nationalizations differed from the initial phase. While the first phase was the result of a well thought out strategy motivated by ideological forces, the subsequent phase was the outcome of ad hoc responses to various situations.6 During 1974-76, the style of economic management Bhutto adopted reduced the role of Planning Commission as well as its capacity to offer advice to the political decision-makers. Corruption grew exponentially and access to state corridors became a primary avenue of accumulating a private fortune. In the way, groups and individuals in command of state institutions used public intervention in the “economy as a means for extending their wealth and power.”[24]

Bhutto introduced socialist economics policies while working to prevent any further division of the country. Major heavy mechanical, chemical, and electrical engineering industries were immediately nationalised by Bhutto, and all of the industries came under direct control of government. Industries, such as KESC were under complete government control with no private influence in KESC decision. Bhutto abandoned Ayub Khan's state capitalism policies, and introduced socialist policies in a move to reduce the rich get richer and poor get poorer ratio. Bhutto also established the Port Qasim, Pakistan Steel Mills, the Heavy Mechanical Complex (HMC) and several cement factories.However, the growth rate of economy relative to that of the 1960s when East Pakistan was still part of Pakistan and large generous aid from the United Statee declined, after the global oil crises in 1973, which also had a negative impact on the economy.[25]

Economic growth slowed in the wake of nationalisation. This is corroborated by the fact that whereas during 1960s, Pakistan's economy grew on average at 6.8 per cent per annum, during 1970s, growth rate fell to 4.8 per cent per annum on average. It is also true that most of the nationalised units went into loss, because decisions were not market-based. However, rapid economic growth is not the only macro-economic objective of a government. The government has also distributional objectives so as to reduce economic disparities. During 1960s rapid economic growth was accompanied by concentration of resources in a few hands.[26]

1980s-1999: Era of Privatization and Stagnation[edit]

Pakistan developed first motorway in South Asia in 1997, today it has expanded to 1,502 km long network 
Soviet–Afghan War, Significantly effected the economy of Pakistan with approximately 1.7 million Afghan refugees moving to Pakistan 
Benazir Bhutto twice led the country during this period and promoted social-capitalist policies 
Jinnah International Airport was greatly expanded in 1994 making it a regional aviation hub 
Periods GDP Growth Rate↓
(according to Sartaj Aziz)
Inflation Rate↑
(according to Sartaj Aziz)
1988-89 4.88%[27] 10.39%[27]
1989-90 4.67%[27] 6.04%[27]
1990-91 5.48%[27] 12.66%[27]
1991-92 7.68%[27] 9.62%[27]
1992-93 3.03%[27] 11.66%[27]
1993-94 4.0%[27] 11.80%[27]
1994-95 4.5%[27] 14.5%[27]
1995-96 1.70% 10.79%[28]

According to Sushil Khanna, professor at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, the Pakistani economy under Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq benefited from a number of special factors, both domestic and external. The completion of the long gestation period Tarbela Dam helped unleash an unprecedented agricultural growth, while fertilizer and cement investments undertaken under Bhutto contributed to the industrial growth. Tremendous boost to economic activity was provided by rising worker remittances, which rose to a peak of US $3 billion in 1982-83. In 1982-83, these remittances were equivalent to 10% of the gross national product of Pakistan. Zia also successfully negotiated with USA for larger external assistance, unprecedented in the history of Pakistan. In addition to direct assistance to Pakistan, the United States and allies funneled about US $5–7 billion to the Afghan Mujahedins through Pakistan, providing further boost to the local economy. Similarly, the narcotic trade which gathered momentum in the 1980s strongly supported the service sector of the economy. Under Zia, the economic policies became market oriented. Buoyant remittances and aid eased the foreign exchange constraints on the economy.[29]

As an aftermath of the 1990 general elections, the right-wing conservatives under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif came to the power for the first time in the history of Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif strike the stagflation with full force after forcefully implementing the Privatization and economic liberalization programmes.[30] The stagflation was temporarily ended in the country. However, Sharif's programmes were widely criticized by Pakistan Peoples Party in state media and the growth did not contain the sustainability.[30] The privatization programme under the economic liberalisation programme came with largely surrounded controversies and reckless by Nawaz Sharif to implement his programme.According to the Pakistan Peoples Party, Nawaz Sharif's government arbitrarily fixing the reference prices of the (privatized) state units and ignoring those suggested by the evaluations; though, Sartaj Aziz strongly dismissed the claims.[31]

After returning to power with heavy margins, Nawaz Sharif made several attempts to end the stagflation in the country. Overall, the conditions had been worsened and a year after being elected, Sharif ordered the nuclear tests in a response to India's nuclear aggression. Despite the Asian financial crises in 1997 and Russian financial crises in 1998, and amid economic sanctions in the wake of nuclear tests, the foreign exchange increased to $1.5 billion, the stock market improved and inflation was contained at 3.5% as opposed to 7% in 1993-96. Sharif's second government restored the GDP growth to 3.49% in 1997, tough inflation remains high at 11.80%. Little progress was made by Sharif in 1998, and his reforms only leveled up the GDP growth to 4.19%, while retaining the inflation and unemployment at 7.8%.[32]

2000s: Economic Liberalization, Growth and Re-stagnation[edit]

JF-17 Thunder became the first indigenous combat aircraft produced by the country. 
The poverty expenditure rate statistically dropped to 34.5%—17.2% in 2008 as part of the privatization programme. 
PTCL was privatized in 2005, which boosted revenue of over $1 billion 
Statue of a bull outside Islamabad Stock Exchange emphasis on countries economic record 

Under Shaukat Aziz's government, the country's national economic growth improved at the rate range by 6.4% to 9.0% a year.[33] All revenue collection targets were met on time for the first time in the history of Pakistan, and allocation for development was increased by about 40%.[34] However, this economical success is attributed largely to debt reduction and securing of the billion dollars worth US aid to Pakistan in return for the support in the US-led war on terror.[33] Moreover, despite a series of internal and external distresses, economic situation of Pakistan improved significantly and reserves increased to US$10.7bn on 30 June 2004 as compared to US$1.2bn October 1999. Exchange Rate became stable and predictable; the inflation rate dropped to 3.5% last 3 years as against 11–12% in 1990.

The administration of Yousaf Raza Gillani oversaw the dramatic high rise in suicide, corruption, national security, high unemployment, and without the sustainable economic policies along with compilation of other factors, the country's economy re-entered in the "era of stagflation" (a virtual period that country had seen in 1990s earlier).[35][36][37] The Pakistan economy slowed down dramatically to ~4.09% as compared to 8.96%—9.0% presided under his predecessor, Shaukat Aziz in 2004–08; while the yearly growth rate has come down from a long-term average of 5.0% to ~2.0%, though it did not reached to negative level.[36] Calculation performed by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, it pointed out that the "nation's currency in circulation as a percentage of total deposits is 31%, which is very high as compared to India", where 40.0% of the population fell under the line of poverty, with 16.0% rise in the inflation during his four years of presiding over the country.[38] The new strict and tight monetary policy could not tame the soaring inflation, it did stagnate the economic growth.[37] One economist maintained that stagflation took place when the tight monetary policy did not encourage the strong private sector to play a key part in growth. Analyzing the stagflation problem, the PIDE observed that a major cause of continuous era of stagflation in Pakistan was lack of coordination between fiscal and monetary authorities.[37][38]

Since 2013: Privatization and Liberalization[edit]

3000 km long China–Pakistan Economic Corridor construction begin in 2015 
Pakistan rolled out 4G in 2014, aiming to capitalize on over 140 million mobile phones in the country 
Fiscal Year GDP growth Inflation rate FDI
2013-14[39] Increase4.1% 108.5% Increase11.99%[40]

Sharif inherited an economy crippled with many challenges including energy shortages, hyperinflation, mild economic growth, high debt and large budget deficit. Shortly after taking power in 2013, Sharif won a $6.6 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to avoid a balance-of-payments crisis. Lower oil prices, higher remittances and increased consumer spending are pushing growth toward a seven-year high of 4.3 percent in the fiscal year of FY2014-15.[41]

Pakistan's GDP growth rate for FY 2012-2013 was down to 3.59% with estimates suggesting that it will only reach 3.65% by the end of 2013 however the government expects to increase it to 5.8% for FY 2014-2015. Business confidence in Pakistan is at a three-year high in May 2014 largely backed by increasing foreign reserves to $10b while it is expected that they will cross $15 billion by mid-2014. Along with that, in May 2014 IMF[42] claimed that Inflation has dropped to 13 per cent compared to 25% in 2008, foreign reserves are in a better position and the current account deficit has come down to 3 per cent of GDP for 2014. Standard & Poor's and Moody's Corporation changed Pakistan's ranking to stable outlook on the long-term rating.[43][44][45]

On 5 May 2015, Standard & Poor's revised projections for Pakistan's average real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for 2015 to 2017 to 4.6 per cent from 3.8 per cent and also upped its outlook on Pakistan's long-term 'B-' credit rating to ‘positive’ from ‘stable’. S&P attributes the largely positive projections to diversification in income generation, the government's efforts towards fiscal consolidation, improvement in external financing conditions and performance, and stronger capital inflows and remittances.[46]


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