Pakistan graduated from low-income (level 1) to lower-middle-income (level 2) status at the end of Musharraf years in 2008, according to the United Nations. Can Prime Minister Imran Khan lead his nation to upper-middle-income (level 3) ranks by the end of his first term in office? What are his chances of accomplishing this ambitious goal?
Four Levels of Development:
The extensive data compilation and research by Professor Hans Rosling of Sweden has shown that the binary categorization of nations into developed and developing is no longer useful. Instead, he has proposed using 4 levels of development based on health and wealth indicators, a proposal that has now been accepted by the United Nations and the World Bank. Here's how Rosling and the United Nations define these 4 levels:
1. Level 1: One billion people live on level 1. This is what we think of as extreme poverty. If you’re on level 1, you survive on less than $2 a day and get around by walking barefoot. Your food is cooked over an open fire, and you spend most of your day traveling to fetch water. At night, you and your children sleep on a dirt floor.
2. Level 2: Three billion people live on level 2, between $2 and $8 a day. Level 2 means that you can buy shoes and maybe a bike, so it doesn’t take so long to get water. Your kids go to school instead of working all day. Dinner is made over a gas stove, and your family sleeps on mattresses instead of the floor.
Level 3: Two billion people live on level 3, between $8 and $32 a day. You have running water and a fridge in your home. You can also afford a motorbike to make getting around easier. Some of your kids start (and even finish) high school.
Level 4: One billion people live on level 4. If you spend more than $32 a day, you’re on level 4. You have at least a high school education and can probably afford to buy a car and take a vacation once in a while.
Imran Khan's Ambitious Agenda:
Imran Khan laid out his agenda in his first speech to the nation after taking the office of the prime minister. It was more like a fireside chat in which he spoke directly to the people to explain his priorities that emphasize education, health care and human development. These are the keys to leading Pakistan from level 2 to level 3. In order to pursue his priorities, Mr. Khan needs to first address the more urgent economic crisis which he acknowledged. Pakistan needs to deal with excessive public debt and pay for the necessary imports to move forward. He must also deal with financial corruption and mismanagement to free up the resources for his ambitious agenda of economic and human development of the nation.
Mr. Khan will almost certainly face stiff opposition from the status quo forces which stand to lose from the changes he seeks. They will fight to preserve their patronage networks and their power and privilege. They will try to bring down his coalition government with all they have got. They might even threaten his personal safety and security.
Democracy and Development:
Professor Hans Rosling has compiled extensive socioeconomic data and done serious research to understand how nations develop. He has shared his work in "Factfulness" that he co-wrote with his son Ola Rosling and daughter Anna Rosling Ronnlund. Here's an except on democracy and development from Factfulness:
"This is risky but I am going to argue it anyway. I strongly believe that liberal democracy is the best way to run a country. People like me, who believe this, are often tempted to argue that democracy leads to, or its even a requirement for, other good things, like peace, social progress, health improvement, and economic growth. But here's the thing, and it is hard to accept: the evidence does not support this stance.
Most countries that make great economic and social progress are not democracies. South Korea moved from Level 1 to Level 3 faster than any other country had ever done (without finding oil), all the time as a military dictatorship. Of the ten countries with the fastest economic growth, nine of them score low on democracy.
Anyone who claims that democracy is a necessity for economic growth and health improvements will risk getting contradicted by reality. It's better to argue for democracy as a goal in itself instead of as a superior means to other goals we like."
Pakistan's newly elected Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan has laid out an ambitious agenda that could take his country from level 2 to level 3 of socioeconomic development. It is achievable but the odds are against him because he faces stiff opposition from the status quo forces. The powerful dynastic duopoly of PPP and PMLN still dominates Pakistan's Senate whose support will be required for major reforms. The research by Professor Hans Rosling shows: "Of the ten countries with the fastest economic growth, nine of them score low on democracy." It's also supported by Pakistan's economic history where pace of development has consistently been faster under military governments than during civilian democratic rule.