India, Pakistan: a comparison
India and Pakistan are completing five decades of their independence. Since the partition, the relationship between the two countries has been uneasy and characterized by a set of paradoxes. There is a mixture of love and hate, a tinge of envy and admiration, bouts of paranoia and longing for cooperation, and a fierce rivalry but a sense of proximity, too. The heavy emotional overtones have made it difficult to sift the facts from the myths and make an objective assessment. There are in fact only two extreme types of reactions on each side. Either there are those who always find that the grass is greener on the other side of the pasture or those who are totally dismissive of the accomplishments of the other side.
This article attempts to present an objective, empirically-based and balanced view of the economic achievements and failures of both the countries during the span of the last five decades. The strict comparison becomes somewhat problematic because of the separation of East from West Pakistan in 1971 but, the analysis and conclusions drawn by and large remain valid.
First, the common successes shared by both the countries:
o Despite the prophets of gloom and doom on both sides of the fence, both India and Pakistan have succeeded in more than doubling their per capita incomes. This is a remarkable feat considering that the population has increased fourfold in case of Pakistan and threefold in India. Leaving aside the countries in East Asia and China, very few large countries have been able to reach this milestone. o The incidence of poverty (defined as $1 per day) has also been reduced significantly although the number of absolute poor remains astoundingly high. However, the level of poverty is lower in Pakistan. o Food production has not only kept pace with the rise in population but has surpassed it. Both countries, leaving aside annual fluctuations due to weather conditions, are self-sufficient in food. (Pakistan exports its surplus rice but imports small volumes of wheat). o Food self-sufficiency has been accompanied by improved nutritional status. Daily caloric and protein intake per capita has risen by almost one-third but malnourishment among children is still high. o The cracks in the dualistic nature of the economy -- a well-developed modern sector and a backward traditional sector -- are appearing fast in both the countries. A buoyant middle class is emerging. The use of modern inputs and mechanization of agriculture has been a leveling influence in this direction. But public policies have not always been consistent or supportive.
Second, the common failures of the two countries. The relatively inward-looking economic policies and high protection to domestic industry did not allow them to reap the benefits of integration with the fast-expanding and much larger world economy. This has changed particularly since 1991 but the control mind-set of the politicians and the bureaucrats has not changed. The centrally planned allocation of resources and "license raj" has given rise to an inefficient private sector that thrive more on contacts, bribes, loans from public financial institutions, lobbying, tax evasion and rent-seeking rather than on competitive behavior. Unless both the control mind-set of the government and the parasitic behavior of the private industrial entrepreneurs do not change drastically, the potential of an efficient economy would be hard to achieve. This can be accomplished by promoting domestic and international competition, reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers and removing constraints to entry for newcomers.
The weaknesses in governance in the legal and judicial system, poor enforcement of private property rights and contracts, preponderance of discretionary government rules and regulations and lack of transparency in decision making act as brakes on broad-based participation and sharing...