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Why has Pakistan been left out of China and East Asia’s economic development boom?

kursed

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Comment / Opinion
Why has Pakistan been left out of China and East Asia’s economic development boom?
  • Despite Southeast Asia and China’s astonishing development story, some parts of the world have not shared in that inspiring progress
  • Constant conflict, the influence of radical Islam, ferocious local politics and challenging conditions have combined to impede Pakistan’s development
Topic | Inside Out & Outside In


David Dodwell
Published: 7:00am, 11 Jul, 2020



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This weekend exactly 50 years ago, I walked for a final time out of University Public School into the blinding Peshawar sunlight after a year as a gap-year teacher in what was then called the North-West Frontier Province, tucked under the Khyber Pass leading from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

Whether I made a difference to the lives of my 30-odd students – several had been killed during the year in local feuds – I never discovered, but my life had been transformed. Plans to study English and history at university were turned on their head midway through my immersion in Pakistan.

Instead, I reapplied to study social anthropology and
development economics

. My simplistic Christian views over how communities set rules over good and bad behaviour crashed and burned in the humble mud-built homes of local Muslims. The crude and complete confinement of women made me appreciate the freedoms and opportunities facing my three younger sisters back home.

Many back in Britain thought I was crazy to disappear to Pakistan and were alarmed at my decision to study something as esoteric as social anthropology and development economics. In truth, I, too, did not clearly know what possible relevance such a combination of study might have to my future life and career.

As it turned out, it could not have been more relevant. It paved the way for a 40-year journalistic career focused on Asia, and in particular China. It meant immersing in cultures most of my schoolmates never discovered and wrestling with
development challenges
across Asia that few mainstream economists were adequately equipped to analyse.

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02:09


By 19, I had learned one of life’s most important lessons: no matter how meticulously you or your parents strive to plan your life, you are doomed to stumble. The single most important force in our lives is chance – the influence of random, accidental events that suddenly and unpredictably transform your life and steer it in unimaginable directions.

I also discovered that no matter what the conventional wisdom about getting the best possible grades and earning a good degree as promptly as possible, my determination to take a gap year between school and university and spend it on the border with Afghanistan was one of the best decisions of my life.

Since then, I have been a passionate advocate of
gap years

, no matter what nervousness it generates among protective parents. Nothing can so speedily prepare a naive and inexperienced child for independent adulthood.
I have thought of this a lot recently. My research assistant has had her hopes dashed of a year of study at George Washington University in the United States, all because of the pandemic and the sudden appearance of tough new visa rules for students hoping to
study in the US
.
US limits on international visas leave Chinese students unnerved
8 Jul 2020
https://www.scmp.com/news/china/art...ts-international-visas-leave-chinese-students

Chance has sideswiped her carefully laid career plans. For sure, she will do well. But she is, because of the pandemic, probably heading in a direction quite different from that expected just two months ago.

While I managed to get back to Peshawar half a decade later – glimpsing into Soviet-occupied Afghanistan as yet another aspiring colonist strove to tame a profoundly untameable region, and witnessing jirgas in the Balochistan desert aimed at settling decades-old blood feuds – I never got back to University Public School or those pupils.

Neither was I able this year to fulfil a dream of returning 50 years later to explore what half a century had done to this remote, charismatic, impoverished part of the world. I blame
the Taliban
and the many dangers of searching for former tribal pupils now in their 60s, as well as the fear that it would have been a deeply sad story to unravel.
Having spent most of my life since the late 1970s focused on the astonishing development story that
Southeast Asia
and China have to tell, I am constantly reminded that some parts of the world have not shared in that inspiring period of progress. Pakistan is one of those places. I would have liked to return to examine why places like Peshawar captured such a small share of half a century of progress.


Some of the elements are obvious: constant conflict to the west with Afghanistan and Iraq and in the east with India and Kashmir means Pakistan has been doomed to be a pawn in the “
great game
” global powers like to play; radical Islam has combined with ferociously cantankerous medieval tribalism; the impossibility of trying to fit Western-style democratic institutions with local “patronage” politics; and the challenges of building even basic infrastructure across some of the bleakest, hottest desert regions in the world.

It still shocks me to see how far the region has lagged behind countries in East Asia. While between 1970 and 2019, the World Bank says China lifted its GDP from US$92.6 billion to US$14.3 trillion, and South Korea from US$9 billion to US$1.6 trillion, Pakistan’s GDP has grown from US$10 billion to just US$278.2 billion.

That is even worse than Bangladesh (US$9 billion to US$302.6 billion) and India (US$62.4 billion to US$2.9 trillion), and it sits well below Nigeria (US$12.5 billion to US$448 billion) and Brazil (US$42.3 billion to US$1.8 trillion).

On a per capita basis, Pakistan has done even worse as its population has almost quadrupled, to 220 million, in that period. Its per capita GDP today is about US$1,280, up from US$172 in 1970. The extremities of poverty and illiteracy have been purged, but progress has been painfully slow.


China’s success in
slowing population growth
provides a stark contrast, with GDP per capita up from US$110 in 1970 to US$10,260 in 2019. Other East Asian economies have grown similarly in that span – South Korea’s GDP per capita is up from US$280 to almost US$32,000, Indonesia from US$80 to US$4,140, and Malaysia from US$360 to US$11,400.
East Asia’s extraordinary success in reducing the gap with rich Western economies has been the story of my lifetime. It continues to perplex me that Pakistan, where the story all started, has shared in it so little. Therein lies the fickle force of chance, which continues to make a mockery of all our best-laid plans.

David Dodwell researches and writes about global, regional and Hong Kong challenges from a Hong Kong point of view

Source URL: https://scmp.com/comment/opinion/ar...n-been-left-out-china-and-east-asias-economic
Links
[1] https://www.scmp.com/comment/insigh...-western-way-whose-economic-development-model

[2] https://www.scmp.com/economy/china-...ocial-ills-four-decades-rapid-economic-growth

[3] https://www.scmp.com/better-life/ca...years-worth-it-why-taking-break-university-or

[4] https://www.scmp.com/news/china/dip...dents-cherish-us-education-dream-despite-year

[5] https://www.scmp.com/news/china/art...ts-international-visas-leave-chinese-students

[6] https://www.scmp.com/news/world/uni...sia-offered-afghan-militants-bounties-kill-us

[7] https://www.scmp.com/comment/insigh...6/how-chinas-belt-and-road-transforming-asean

[8] https://www.scmp.com/comment/insigh...reat-game-lives-waning-days-western-supremacy

[9] https://www.scmp.com/economy/china-...ulation-peak-2023-five-years-earlier-official

https://www.scmp.com/print/comment/...n-been-left-out-china-and-east-asias-economic
 

gangsta_rap

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Why is he blaming religion?

Religion didn't really have much to do with how the status quo dynasties (Sharif and Bhutto dynasties) from chewing up the country to their hearts content

In truth if we take JI as the premier religiously motivated political force in Pakistan, they have proven to be (to a degree at least) more honest than the other political forces. In truth JI has a history of being the most democratic party in Pakistan (no dynasty politics, internal party elections, egalitarian philosophy)
 

Morpheus

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Someone should first get this guy a map.

"constant conflict to the west with Afghanistan and Iraq"

Peshawar is a desert?!!!

"and the challenges of building even basic infrastructure across some of the bleakest, hottest desert regions in the world."

His article is horrible. He doesn't expand on any of the points. Just mentions them like bullet points. Just starts comparing numbers with other countries. Almost 2/3 of the article is just about his life story, which has very little relation to Pakistan. For someone who claims to be a researcher, he seems to have done very little research.
 
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vi-va

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SCMP, as stupid as always.
Didn't the author know Pakistan involved in many conflicts unwillingly in past decades? Afghanistan War in 1979-1989, Afghanistan War again after 9/11. Pakistan-India Kashmir conflicts, and many other social, military pressure.

The list goes on.

Stupid SCMP, shame.
 

Meengla

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Pakistani army always had choices. It was always the choice of who paid them more

I often respect your opinion but this time you are dead wrong! The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had everything to do with the Soviet-USA respective desire for domination of the world. The last thing Pakistan would have wanted the giant bear to come to Pakistan's doorsteps. In 1980 the Soviet Army was mighty army and to the best of my knowledge had never been defeated since WW II. In fact, the Soviets had crushed rebellions in some East European countries. My point is that the Pakistan Army would be foolish to invite the Soviets to Afghanistan when Pakistan was already in a serious situation with India.

However, Americans were all too happy to pay the Soviets back in Afghanistan. And that war directly led to most of Pakistan's current issues...
 

nahtanbob

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I often respect your opinion but this time you are dead wrong! The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had everything to do with the Soviet-USA respective desire for domination of the world. The last thing Pakistan would have wanted the giant bear to come to Pakistan's doorsteps. In 1980 the Soviet Army was mighty army and to the best of my knowledge had never been defeated since WW II. In fact, the Soviets had crushed rebellions in some East European countries. My point is that the Pakistan Army would be foolish to invite the Soviets to Afghanistan when Pakistan was already in a serious situation with India.

However, Americans were all too happy to pay the Soviets back in Afghanistan. And that war directly led to most of Pakistan's current issues...

Afghanistan was always a Soviet client state. Pakistan had a choice to cut a deal with the Soviets and avoid the Afghan war. Neutrality was an option - maybe not for the Pakistani elite
 

Meengla

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Afghanistan was always a Soviet client state. Pakistan had a choice to cut a deal with the Soviets and avoid the Afghan war. Neutrality was an option - maybe not for the Pakistani elite

I wish it were that simple. Less than a decade ago, India had joined hands with the Soviets to get the Soviet military and diplomatic umbrella to break the then East Pakistan from West Pakistan.
 

achhu

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vi-va

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Afghanistan was always a Soviet client state. Pakistan had a choice to cut a deal with the Soviets and avoid the Afghan war. Neutrality was an option - maybe not for the Pakistani elite
What are u smoking, dude.
Do you know it was UK and France who declared war with Germany before ww2? By your logic, Poland was a client state of either USSR or Germany, UK and France should cut a deal with the Germany and avoid the ww2.

Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact
Britain and France declare war on Germany

@Meengla
 
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nahtanbob

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I wish it were that simple. Less than a decade ago, India had joined hands with the Soviets to get the Soviet military and diplomatic umbrella to break the then East Pakistan from West Pakistan.

Did India really need USSR to breakup Pakistan ?

What are u smoking, dude.
Do you know it was UK and France who declared war with Germany before ww2? By your logic, Poland was a client state of either USSR or Germany, UK and France should cut a deal with the Germany and avoid the ww2.

Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact
Britain and France declare war on Germany

@Meengla

What makes you think UK, France and USSR did not try to cut deals with Hitler ?

Poland was an ally of France and UK

It is true UK and France declared war on Germany. They did not march into Germany like an aggressor. Nor did they have any intention or capability of doing so.

Turning to Afghanistan did the Pakistani Army even explore other avenues ? It is more like let us see how much money we can make off this
 

vi-va

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What makes you think UK, France and USSR did not try to cut deals with Hitler ?
You mean appeasement? which was latter criticized badly. Without appeasement, there may be no ww2 in the first place. Such a fool.

Poland was an ally of France and UK
That's called greedy and foolish in the first place.

UK and France neither equipped Poland for self-protection nor get prepared to provide protection.

UK and France just sit there like a doll, hoping their alliance with Poland can deter Hitler, in the meantime encouraging Germany to attack USSR. Deterrence failed, Hitler caught France completely unprepared for war.


The empire on which the sun sets, thereafter.
 

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