Pakistan’s Next Generation: Insecure Lives, Untold Stories

CoverI’m in Lahore launching the third report from Pakistan’s Next Generation Task Force – I’m the Task Force’s director of research.

In the first report, we looked at the economic potential of young people in Pakistan and its ability to collect a demographic dividend as growing numbers of them enter the workforce.

In a second report, published in the run up to last year’s election, we explored the political implications of an electorate that is increasingly dominated by young voters, who are more likely to be educated, urban, and middle class than their parents.

Our third report focuses on how violence and conflict are shaping young lives. At its heart are 1,800 personal accounts which provide a stunning series of insights into a silent epidemic of political, criminal, domestic and sexual violence.

We demonstrate debilitating economic, social and physical damage, and a largely hidden problem – mental health impacts from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, self-harm, and suicide.

The report calls for urgent action to give a voice to the survivors and victims of violence, respond to their mental and emotional health needs, create opportunities for young people to opt out of violence, and promote reconciliation at provincial and national levels.

It’s a tough report that often makes for uncomfortable reading, but I think it’s essential not only for those interested in Pakistan’s future, but for all those engaged in the broader debate of how to build peaceful and inclusive societies.

You can download the report here.

Power and Politics in Pakistan: A Limited Access Order

Pakistan Political Economy Foreign Aid

The Limited Access Order (LAO) conceptual framework is an excellent way to understand why developing countries work the way they do, analyze their political and economic dynamics, and formulate policy ideas appropriate to their context. Its focus on power, violence, rents, and elite bargains provides far greater explanatory and predictive power than the standard template that uses developed countries as a model for how countries ought to work. As such, everyone in the development field working in a policymaking role should make use of it.

Created by Nobel Prize winner Douglass North, John Wallis, Steven Webb, and Barry Weingast, the LAO framework argues that:

No one, including the state, has a monopoly on violence . . . An LAO reduces violence by forming a dominant coalition containing all individuals and groups with sufficient access to violence . . . The dominant coalition creates cooperation and order by limiting access to valuable resources – land, labor, and capital – or access [to] and control of valuable activities – such as contract enforcement, property right enforcement, trade, worship, and education – to elite groups . . . The creation and distribution of rents therefore secures elite loyalty to the system, which in turn protects rents, limits violence, and prevents disorder most of the time. Continue reading

Can Foreign Aid Improve Pakistan ’s Political Economy?

Pakistan Political Economy Foreign AidLike many struggling countries, Pakistan’s two most critical problems are feckless leaders and a feeble state. Can donors do anything to help get such countries’ political economy moving in the right direction?

I recently convened a working group of leading Pakistani development professionals and outside experts at the Global Economic Symposium (GES) to discuss just such this question. Continue reading

Are Language Policies Increasing Poverty and Inequality?

African Languages

Language is one of the most neglected areas in the development field. It barely registers on any agenda to help poor countries despite its importance to a number of crucial areas and it being a barrier to progress in many fragile states. Why is this? Continue reading

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? Continue reading

Why do some countries have so few NGOs?

Homegrown nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) play crucial roles providing social services to the poor, holding governments accountable, aggregating the political power of the disenfranchised, and helping to shape public policies. Their importance to development is well known.

But what explains the reason why some developing countries possess so few independent organizations while others have a multitude?

Take Pakistan for instance. Whereas in Bangladesh, the former East Pakistan, NGOs have played such a prominent role that they have supplanted the state in some crucial areas, in Pakistan they are far less influential. Despite having 180 million people, the latter has relatively few important NGOs, think tanks, and independent monitoring organizations (IMOs), as pointed out by former ambassador to Pakistan William B. Milam in his book Bangladesh and Pakistan. Despite a generally positive government attitude (at least towards domestic organizations) and much growth in recent years, the number of important institutions pales in contrast to Bangladesh’s total. Continue reading

What’s Wrong With CGD’s Pakistan Initiative

The Center for Global Development has been organizing a Study Group on a U.S. Development Strategy in Pakistan. It published a report listing its recommendations last June.

Nancy Birdsall, CGD’s president, has also issued a series of open letters to the US government, such as the one posted recently.

CGD should be praised for undertaking such an initiative. Getting aid right in Pakistan matters a lot to US national interests, as well as to the idea that donors can contribute to state building. No fragile state is as important as Pakistan. Its governance problems have allowed terrorists to use its territory to plan attacks, and make its growing stockpile of nuclear weapons less secure. On the other hand, its strategic location and growing population (the country will be the 4th largest in a generation) ought to make it an important emerging market.

It is also rare that any think tank so closely examines aid policy in a specific country, though the importance of Pakistan means that two Washington organizations have done so in the last year (the Wilson Center issued a report in December).

But, CGD’s approach is flawed. Although the report makes sensible recommendations (on things like opening markets, promoting investment, engaging reformers, and improving USAID operations), it says almost nothing specific about Pakistan. There is no attempt to understand the drivers of its political economy, and the causes of its weak governance. There is no attempt to delve into the reasons why its leadership has consistently failed the country or why its state apparatus works so badly, especially for the country’s tens of millions of poor people. All its ideas more or less repeat verbatim what could be said about U.S. aid to almost any developing country. There is no context. Continue reading