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The growing economic inequalities in Pakistan can largely be attributed to corruption, mismanagement and lack of leadership. What Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Sunday gives a strong indication of what is fundamentally suffering in the country. He said that so far his government has paid off a significant portion of the total debt left by previous governments. When he took the reins of government in 2018, the country faced impending default. This forced the incumbent to seek economic aid from friendly countries and a $ 6 billion IMF bailout. The latter influences the country’s economic policies, thus increasing economic inequalities in the society where they were already strong.

The impact of policies conducted in accordance with IMF conditions is felt in all spheres of the economy due to increased gas and electricity tariffs, increased taxes and reduced spending in the social sectors. With the ever increasing amount of money spent on debt servicing, there is not much left to spend in development sectors. Thus, corruption, debt and debt servicing have resulted in a vicious cycle. The sins of a single group of leaders are revealed to the sons until the third and fourth generations.

Corruption has led to the concentration of the nation’s wealth in a few hands. About 20% of the population owns 50% of the country’s income. This blatant inequality did not emerge overnight. The other reason is the feudal system which is well established in the country. The system has become anachronistic in other parts of the world a long time ago, but it is gaining strength in Pakistan. This is reflected in their strong representation in legislative bodies. The other reason for increasing poverty in Pakistan is the low literacy rate of women. Improving the literacy rate of women translates into better health for both women and other family members and the spread of comprehensive education, hence better income. Bangladesh is now doing much better than Pakistan and India in this regard.

Posted in The Express Tribune on April 6, 2021.

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