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Agriculture and Economy

Indra Nath Mukherji

By Mahbub-ul-Haq Human Development Centre, Islamabad
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2003, pp. xiv 242, price not stated.


Mahub ul Haq development centre was set up in November 1995 in Islamabad, Pakistan by the late Dr. Mahubub ul Haq, founder and chief architect of UNDP Human development Reports. With a special focus on South Asia, the Centre is committed to the promotion of the human development paradigm as a powerful tool for people-centred development policy regionally and nationally to reduce human deprivation.   Agriculture, which is the major source of livelihood for people inhabiting the region, has not been receiving the attention it deserves, particularly in the context of globalization. The purpose of this Report has been to assess the extent and performance of agriculture on economic growth and human development in South Asia.   The report examines the experience of South Asia’s agriculture since the Green Revolution in the 1960s. It examines why rapid agricultural growth during this period could not make a dent on rural poverty. It offers some suggestions as to what rural development policies could address the problem of poverty.   The Report argues that the benefits of economic growth have to be equally distributed through progressive public policy initiatives to achieve maximum welfare gains for all people and goes on to point to the strong positive correlation between agricultural and general economic growth since a vibrant agriculture provides a sound basis for industrial development.   The first message of the Report is that high levels of human development cannot be achieved if development priorities do not focus on the occupation of the majority of the people—farm and non-farm in rural areas. It calls for greater focus on the small farms, agricultural research and extension, services, to reduce over dependence on chemical fertilizers and improvement in agricultural marketing to enable farmers to get better price for their produce. It calls for not only access and availability of food, but also ability of the people to purchase the same.   The Report starts with a ten-year review of human development indicators of the region. During the decade of the 1990s, South Asia has achieved considerable progress in human and agricultural development. But this progress has neither been adequate nor equitable in lifting the region’s half a billion people out of poverty.   The Report shows how HDI values of all South Asian countries have been consistently improving during the nineties with the exception of Pakistan and Bhutan during 1998-99 (annex table 1). However it errs in stating that HDI rankings ...

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