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The story of other 99 percent Pakistanis
As Pakistanis celebrate 78th anniversary of the Lahore Resolution
passed on March 23, 1940, the key trend lines for their country continue to be very positive. Resilient people of Pakistan are overcoming multiple challenges stemming from the continuing war in Afghanistan and India's abiding hostility.
Pakistanis are defying all the prophecies of doom and gloom and thriving against all odds. Pakistan's trillion dollar economy is among the top 25 largest in the world. Rising disposable incomes are reflected in Pakistan being the world's fastest growing retail market. The increasing share of income of the bottom 20% of households puts Pakistan among the less unequal countries in the world. Pakistan is indeed rising.
By Riaz Haq
As Pakistanis celebrate the 78th anniversary of the Lahore Resolution
of 1940 on March 23 this year, it's time to ask the following questions: How is Pakistan doing? What is the reality? How is it perceived?
The worst 1% of the Pakistan story gets 99% of the media coverage, says Lahore-based Pakistani entrepreneur Monis Rahman. In the same vein, former US President Bill Clinton has said this about the media coverage of the continent of Africa: "Follow the trend lines, not the headlines".
So what is the other 99% of the Pakistan story that gets little or no media attention? What are the trend lines that are missed by those just relying on the headlines? Let's try and enumerate these:
1. Pakistan's economy has crossed the trillion dollar mark in terms of purchasing power, according to the IMF. It is among the world's top 25 largest economies. It is also the world's third fastest growing among the trillion dollar plus economies.
2. Pakistanis have consistently ranked higher than their neighbors on the United Nations World Happiness Index since it began producing annual reports in 2011. Pakistan rose from 80th place in 2017 to 75th place this year while all of its neighbors slid from last year's happiness rankings. Bangladesh dropped 5 spots to 115 while India slid 11 places to 133 among 156 nations ranked. China (86), Bhutan (97), Iran (106), Bangladesh (115), and Sri Lanka (116), India (133) and Afghanistan (145) all fared worse than Pakistan (75).
3. The share of national income of Pakistan's poorest 20%
of households has increased from 8.1% to 9.6% since 1990 , according to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (NESCAP)Statistical Yearbook for 2015
. It's the highest share of income for the bottom income quintile in the region.
4. Pakistan is the world's fastest growing steel producer
. Steel production in Pakistan jumped 39.3% to 5 million tons last year, according to World Steel Association
. Earlier, Pakistan steel industry ramped up its output from 2.9 million tons in 2015 to 3.6 million tons in 2016. Steel demand in Pakistan is currently about 10 million tons a year and growing at 25-30% a year. Half of it was met by local production while the rest was imported in 2017. Pakistani production capacity is growing at 40%, faster than 25-30% growth in demand.
5. Pakistan's public spending on education
has more than doubled since 2010 to reach $8.6 billion a year
in 2017, rivaling defense spending of $8.7 billion. Private spending on education by parents is even higher than the public spending with the total adding up to nearly 6% of GDP. Pakistan has1.7 million teachers
, nearly three times the number of soldiers currently serving in the country's armed forces.
6. There are over 3 million students enrolled
in grades 13 through 16 in Pakistan's 1,086 degree colleges and 161 universities, according toPakistan Higher Education Commission report for 2013-14
. The 3 million enrollment is 15% of the 20 million Pakistanis in the eligible age group of 18-24 years. In addition, there are over 255,000 Pakistanis enrolled in vocational training schools, according to Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA
7. Pakistan has emerged as the country with the highest percentage ofHighly Cited Papers
compared with the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) in the last 10 years, according to Thomson Reuters. Pakistan has done so despite the fact that its "R&D environment faced substantial economic challenges".
8. In 2014, Pakistan became the first Asian country and only the third in the world after Turkey and Serbia to be honored with CERN's associate membership
. The status of associate member is a step before full membership. As an associate member, Pakistan is entitled to attend open and restricted sessions of the organization.
9. Rising numbers of working women are bringing about a silent social revolution in Pakistan. World Economic Forum's gender parity program is led by Saadia Zahidi from Pakistan
. In her book "50 Million Rising", Saadia talks about her father being the first in his family to go to university. He believed in girls' education and career opportunities. She recalls him suggesting that "my sister could become a pilot because the Pakistan Air Force had just starting to train women. Another time he speculated that I could become a news anchor because Pakistan Television, the state-owned television network, had started recruiting more women".
10. China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
related projects aretransforming the least developed regions
of Pakistan. Energy and infrastructure projects are changing the face of vast regions of Balochistan, rural Sindh, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Gigit-Baltistan (GB) and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KPK).
11. Pakistan's labor force expansion
is the 3rd biggest in the world after India and Nigeria, according to UN World Population Prospects 2017
. Rising working age population and growing workforce participation of both men and women
in developing nations like Pakistan will boost domestic savings and investment, according to Global Development Horizons (GDH) report
. Escaping the low savings low investment trap
will help accelerate the lagging GDP growth rate in Pakistan, as will increased foreign investment such as the Chinese investment in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
12. Rising incomes of Pakistanis
are reflected in the retail sales growth which is ranked the fastest in the world. The market is forecast to expand 8.2% a year through 2016-2021 as disposable income has doubled since 2010, according to research group Euromonitor International as reported byBloomberg News
. The size of the middle class is estimated to surpass that of the U.K. and Italy in the forecast period, it said.
13. Pakistan is the 5th largest motorcycle market
in the world after China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam. With 7,500 new motorcycles being sold everyday, Pakistan is also the among the world's fastest growing two-wheeler markets. Passenger car and motorcycle sales in Pakistan are both soaring at rates of over 20% a year.
14. There are over 50 million broadband subscribers in Pakistan. Over a million new subscribers are being added every month, putting Pakistan among the biggest and fastest growing mobile broadband
markets in the world.
15. Pakistan's tourism industry
, currently estimated at $20 billion (6.9% of GDP in 2016), is booming
, according to data available from multiple reliable sources. World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC)
forecasts it to grow to over $36 billion within a decade. Significantly improved security situation has helped boost annual tourist arrivals in Pakistan by 300% since 2013 to 1.75 million in 2016, while domestic travelers increased 30% to 38.3 million, according to the state-owned Pakistan Tourism Development Corp. Hotel bookings increased 80 percent in 2016, according to Jovago, Pakistan’s biggest hotel booking website.
السلام علیکم و رحمۃ اللہ و برکاتہ!
محمّد عبد الحمید