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Is Economics Without Politics Possible?

S. Akbar Zaidi

By Akmal Hussain
United Nations Development Programme, Pakistan, 2003, pp. xiii 179, Rs. 450.00


General Pervez Musharraf, his Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, the military in general, and the IMF and World Bank in particular, will be delighted by this UNDP Report produced by Akmal Hussain. Political economists and serious social scientists will be hugely disappointed. Those who will be happy with this Report will be pleased largely because it ignores serious political issues and explains much of the underdevelopment and poverty in Pakistan, in terms of governance failure in the past. Those who will feel disappointed will do so for precisely the same reasons.   The Report begins with a review and explanation of the ‘multifaceted crisis’ in Pakistan’s economy, with discussion on three sets of crises. Akmal Hussain begins with the financial crisis in which he focuses largely on Pakistan’s huge debt problem, which for him, has emerged primarily because of poor governance, with non-development spending being used by governments to ‘prop up their power’. Discussion on the economic crisis follows, with comments on crises in the agriculture sector due largely to the water crisis, and in the industrial sector. This chapter then has a long section on the crisis of the Human Condition which looks at data in different sectors ranging from health and education to the crisis in poverty and issues related to gender and children.   After introducing us to the ‘elements’ of the crisis of the human condition, the next chapter deals with economic policy and the structure of the economy, both with a focus on poverty. This chapter presents an era/regime-based description of trends in the economy since 1958 giving us selective explanations for why poverty rose in certain periods, trying to identify structural reasons as to why it still persists today. The third chapter then looks at the nature and structure of poverty as it exists today in Pakistan, based an a survey conducted for this Report.   The survey results try to show the process of poverty creation, inform us about how the poor cope with their poverty and give us a great deal of information about the characteristics of the poor from the survey. The survey results are disaggregated for region, gender, by level of education, etc., showing how different group characteristics are affected by poverty as well as their coping mechanisms. This is a comprehensive chapter which looks at issues related to the debt of the poor in the sample, their access to ...

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