Is Pakistani Economy Recovering?
Pakistan's economy has grown at an average annual rate of 5.0 per cent over the last 62 years despite numerous impediments to its growth. By any standard, this has been a major achievement in terms of raising real incomes and alleviating poverty. The economic growth, however, remained uneven and interrupted by a variety of factors for a prolonged period. It was during 2000-07 that Pakistan's economy experienced the longest spell of strongest growth due to sound economic policies, structural reforms and a benign international economic environment.
Economic growth has slowed considerably in Pakistan over the last two to three years owing to a variety of domestic and external factors. What is worrisome is the new development where the growth number is being manipulated to paint a rosy picture. There was a story about the manipulation of growth number for 2009-10 in The News on May 16, 2010. The usual methodology to post a higher economic growth for the current year is to reduce the growth of the previous year. In other words, reduce the base to get a higher growth for the current year.
The growth number for 2007-08 was provisionally reported to be 5.8 per cent. The year 2008-09 was the most difficult year for the world economy as global financial meltdown triggered a full-fledged economic crisis. Strong economies like Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand witnessed negative growth. Pakistan, on the other hand, posted a positive growth of 2.0 per cent and outshined the strongest economies of the region in 2008-09.
How was this positive 2.0 per cent growth achieved? The 5.8 per cent provisional growth of 2007-08 was drastically revised downward to 4.1 per cent and as such the base was reduced to arrive at a higher number of 2.0 per cent for 2008-09. Some methodology for the calculation of value-added for some sectors was also changed without bringing to the notice of the National Accounts Committee.
The same process has been repeated according to the newspaper story for the year 2009-10. The Federal Bureau of Statistics (FBS) – the institution responsible for compiling the country's national income accounts, has revised the last year's (2008-09) growth of 2.0 per cent to 1.1 per cent and that too, by further trimming the growth of 2007-08 from 4.1 per cent to 3.7 per cent. Since the base of 2008-09 was trimmed to 1.1 per cent, the growth for the current fiscal year (2009-10) has risen to 4.1 per cent.
Not only the growth of last year was reduced but also growth of some components of the GDP was outlandishly jacked up in 2009-10. As reported in the news item, the growth of the construction sector was pushed up to an unbelievable level of 15 per cent. Only a lunatic would expect the construction sector to grow by 15 per cent in 2009-10 when the public sector development programme of the federal government has been slashed to one-half and the private sector construction activities are at near standstill. The production of cement adjusted for exports and that of iron and steel has been used as a proxy for calculating growth in value-added in construction.
The interesting paradox here is that while cement production unadjusted for exports, grew by 11.2 per cent and iron and steel registered a high negative double digit growth, the construction industry seems to have thrived and grew by 15 per cent. This is simply unbelievable. Furthermore, the growth of the livestock sector, which accounts for over 11 per cent of the GDP, has been jacked up as well according to the news item.
Though the FBS' staffers are technically weak, they are surely honest. My appeal to them is to do their job professionally as they have been doing in the past. The revision in growth numbers is common in every part of the world but unfortunately the extent of revision has grown significantly in Pakistan over the last few years. The provisional growth of 5.8 per cent in 2007-08 has been revised downward to 4.1 per cent and further to 3.7 per cent – a downward revision of 2.0 percentage points is simply unacceptable and has perhaps never happened before.
Should anyone accept that the economy has grown by 4.1 per cent in 2009-10 in the midst of deteriorating security environment, crippling impact of power shortages and mismanagement, persisting double-digit inflation and a higher interest rate environment? If the growth is really 4.1 per cent in 2009-10 – up from 1.1 per cent in the previous year, then the government and its economic managers will have to answer the following questions. Should we believe that the spate of suicide bombing and heightened political tension have had no impact on economic growth? Should we believe that the long hours of power outages have had no adverse impact on the economy? Should we also believe that the higher double-digit inflation and the higher interest rate environment have had no adverse effect on the economy? Should we re-write our own economic theory?
Economic theory armed with extensive empirical evidence suggests that the declining rate of investment, high inflation and interest rate, large fiscal deficit, armed conflicts, wars, political instability, corruption, absence of rule of law, high poverty rates, rising debt burden, and weak infrastructure will have negative effects on economic growth. How come economic growth accelerated from 1.1 per cent in 2008-09 to 4.1 per cent in 2009-10 in the midst of all the above-listed factors? Economic managers will have to answer these questions.
Pakistan's Economic Performance 2008-2010
Incompetence Worse Than Corruption in Pakistan
Pakistan's Circular Debt and Load Shedding
US Fears Aid Will Feed Graft in Pakistan
Pakistan Swallows IMF's Bitter Medicine
Shaukat Aziz's Economic Legacy
Pakistan's Energy Crisis
Karachi Tops Mumbai in Stock Performance
India Pakistan Contrasted 2010
Pakistan's Foreign Visitors Pleasantly Surprised
After Partition: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh
The "Poor" Neighbor by William Dalrymple
Pakistan's Modern Infrastructure
Video: Who Says Pakistan Is a Failed State?
India Worse Than Pakistan, Bangladesh on Nutrition
UNDP Reports Pakistan Poverty Declined to 17 Percent
Pakistan's Choice: Talibanization or Globalization
Pakistan's Financial Services Sector
Pakistan's Decade 1999-2009
South Asia Slipping in Human Development
Asia Gains in Top Asian Universities
Pakistan's Multi-Billion Dollar IT Industry
India-Pakistan Military Comparison
Food, Clothing and Shelter in India and Pakistan
Pakistan Energy Crisis
IMF-Pakistan Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies