Pakistan at 100: What do we need to do for a better future?

In this series, Dawn explores the issues being faced by the country nearly 100 years in, and how to tackle them.
Published March 20, 2019

In a new report, the World Bank takes a deep look at what Pakistan needs to do to have a better future for its people by 2047, a full ­century after the country’s birth.

In this series, the authors provide a brief summary of key recommendations of the report.

Explore the articles in the series below:

1. Shaping a brighter future for Pakistan

By: Illango Patchamuthu, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan

"In 28 years, Pakistan will turn 100 years old. The children born this year will be adults then. I wonder what they will see when they look around. Will they see a country teeming with opportunity? Or will they be in a country that does not offer enough jobs and does not provide the needed skills to compete?

Some of them may well be new parents at 28. Will they be able to look at their own children, and see a brighter future for them?

Pakistan has some important decisions to make if it wants to give its children the future they deserve."

2. For a prosperous Pakistan in 2047

By: Tazeen Fasih and Yoon (Yoonyoung) Cho, World Bank staff

"My parents’ gardener has six children — all aged eight or younger. While his wife is busy taking care of the youngest ones, barely 15 months and two months old, he brings the other kids along with him so they don’t wander in the streets.

As I look at the supposedly eight-year-old girl with a dupatta wrapped around her head, looking tiny, probably stunted, suddenly I realise how pervasive all the statistics Yoon and I have been working are — right there, staring at us in our face.

The 38 per cent stunting rate for the population, the fertility rate of 3.6 births per woman, the 22.6 million children out of school, the dismal learning outcomes for students, these are all here manifested in this family and its future."

3. Sustaining growth: The Investment challenge

By: Adnan Ashraf and Muhammad Waheed, World Bank staff

"Pakistan is not investing enough and its share of investment to GDP is one of the lowest in the world at 15 per cent, almost half of the South Asian average at 30pc. This translates into inadequate infrastructure, lack of access to sufficient levels of energy and water, poor quality of schools and hospitals.

More worryingly, private investment as a share of GDP has been declining and stands at less than 10pc in FY18. This low investment trap and declining labour productivity have reduced Pakistan’s growth potential."

4. Nothing changes without structural transformation

By: Siddharth Sharma, World Bank staff

"An average Pakistani firm lacks the capabilities to take advantage of these opportunities. It is poorly managed and not innovative. It does not grow: the average young firm (less than five years old) has just one employee, and the average 15-year-old firm still has just two to three employees.

This could be due to market failures that impede innovation, the acquisition of skills and access to credit. Another underlying issue is the misallocation of resources, with factors such as political connectedness sometimes mattering more than productivity in determining firms’ access to resources."

5. Pakistan has highest gender wage gap in world

By: Uzma Quresh, World Bank staff

"Pakistan stands near the bottom of women’s participation in the workforce. This lack of participation is at the root of many of the demographic and economic constraints that Pakistan faces. It is in that context that the World Bank, in its Pakistan@100 initiative, has identified inclusive growth as one of the key factors to the country’s successful transition to an upper-middle income country by 2047.

Pakistan’s inclusive growth targets require women’s participation in the workforce to rise from current 26 per cent to 45pc."

6. Elite capture of policymaking hobbles governance

By: Syed Rizwan Mahboob, consultant, and Raymond Muhula, World Bank staff

"Pakistan must deal with capture of the state by patronage interests. Inefficient subsidies provided to industrial players and lack of enforcement in tax collection as well as inability of the state to shepherd difficult but necessary reforms is a product of state capture. Elites influence public policy choices with significant consequences. Elite capture of various segments of the economy undermines the country’s ability to sustain welfare enhancing policy decisions, tackle the problem of tax evasion, rein in loss making state-owned enterprises and improve public sector performance.

Fixing these problems will no doubt be a difficult task. All these challenges require balancing the desire for political stability while increasing accountability. Pakistan will need to be both an accountable democracy — where democratic leaders are held to account for their performance, for delivery and for corruption — and a strong one, where democratic leaders can do their job without constantly being on the defensive."

7. Pakistan progresses on poverty reduction — but what about equity?

By: Silvia Redaelli, World Bank staff

"Inequalities in poverty levels and poverty reduction performance are compounded by substantial inequalities in access to and quality of basic services such as health, education, electricity, water, and sanitation. Being born in one of the country’s lagging areas and/or in a poor family largely predetermines a child’s chances of escaping deprivation and realising his or her full human capital potential in life.

Can Pakistan afford inequality of opportunities? The answer is no: not only in terms of social justice and social cohesion, but also — as shown by international evidence — because economic development that is not inclusive is not sustainable."

8. Towards a clean and green Pakistan

By: Marcelo Acerbi and Philippe Ambrosi, World Bank staff

"Environmental degradation is not only threatening environmental sustainability, but also Pakistan’s ability to tackle poverty, as well as its ability to generate a substantial share of its growth and employment.

Similarly, while Pakistan needs to think for the long term with regard to environmental sustainability, many of the actions it could take to control and reverse environmental degradation and adapt to climate change would have immediate benefits and be particularly helpful to the poorest, who are most vulnerable."

9. A regional counter narrative

By: Moeed Yusuf, United States Institute of Policy; Fei Deng, World Bank Staff. Both have worked on the Regional Connectivity chapter of the World Bank’s Pak @100 report.

Pakistan alone cannot achieve the suggested transformation. Other regional states are equally responsible for moving the connectivity agenda forward. The good news is that every South Asian country stands to gain tremendously from improved connectivity. And this reality hasn’t escaped the region’s policy circles.