Is Pakistan an emerging market?

Most people in the West believe that Pakistan is an unstable country on the verge of imminent collapse or an explosion of violence. It is consistently portrayed—by politicians, policymakers, and the media—as the most dangerous and dysfunctional state in the world, struggling with terrorism, an out-of-control military, and interreligious conflict.

And yet, Pakistan is included on Goldman Sachs’ list of the next eleven (N-11) most important emerging markets. Although it has (along with Nigeria and Bangladesh) “broad and systematic issues across a range of areas” that will prevent it from fully delivering on its growth potential, the country’s large population (it currently has 180 million people) assures its inclusion. Indeed, within a generation, Pakistan will have the fourth largest number of people in the world, behind only India, China, and the United States, and be a market too significant to ignore.

It was possible to see this potential before 2007. Ranked highly for the openness of its markets, the country drew billions in foreign investment in the mid-2000s while chalking up growth rates of seven percent per year. Its equity markets were one of the best performers worldwide. The middle class was expanding rapidly, reaching into the tens of millions. Goldman predicted in 2007 that Pakistan could “ultimately have the potential to become similar to the smaller of today’s G7 in terms of size.”

Of course, much has changed since 2007. Or has it? (more…)