Our global society is not a very compassionate society today. We
are quite fond of describing ourselves as one world, one planet, one
humanity, and one global society. But the blunt reality is that we
are at least two world, two planets, two humanities, and two global
societies – one embarrassingly rich and the other desperately
poor, and the distance between these two worlds is widening, not narrowing.
Can we really call it a compassionate society when the richest one-fifth
of the world consumes 80 per cent of the natural resources of this
planet and when it commands an income 78 times higher than the poorest
one-fifth of the world?
Can we really call it a compassionate society when there is so much
wasted food on the table of the world’s rich at a time when
800 million people go hungry every night and 160 million children
are severely malnourished?
Can we really call it a compassionate society when 1.3 billion people
do not have access to even a simple necessity like safe drinking water,
when about 1 billion adults grope around in the darkness of illiteracy,
and when 1.3 billion people survive in absolute poverty on less than
$ 1 a day?
It is certainly not a compassionate society when 134 million children
in South Asia alone work for over 16 hours a day in inhuman conditions
for a wage of only 8 US cents a day and when they lose their very
childhood to feed the greed for higher profits by their indifferent
employers, several of them the most powerful multinationals of our
It is certainly not a compassionate society when over one half of
humanity - the women of this world – are economically marginalized
and politically ignored, when their $ 11 trillion contribution to
household activities is simply forgotten in national income accounts
and when they command 50 per cent of the vote but they are less than
10 per cent of the parliaments of the world.
What kind of a compassionate society it is where modern jet fighters
are parked on the runways while homeless people are parked on city
pavements, where many desperately poor nations spend more on arms
than on the education and health of their people; where the five permanent
members of the Untied Nations Security Council sell 86 per cent of
the total arms to poor nations, often giving handsome subsidies to
their own arms exporters?
What kind of a compassionate society it is where millions of land
mines are strewn all over the world, waiting for their unsuspecting
victims; where it takes only $ 3 to plant a mine but over $ 1000 to
remove it, and where the international treaty to ban land mines is
ready but the US refuses to sign it?
What kind of a compassionate society it is where we all recognize
that nuclear weapons should never be used but where world leaders
are reluctant to abolish them since they are fond of playing global
What kind of a compassionate society it is where a few powerful nations
decide the fate of the entire world and where the supreme irony is
that powerful democratic nations themselves rule out democratic governance
in global institutions – such as the World Bank, the IMF, and
the Untied Nations?
The truth is that we are still far from the ideal of a compassionate
society. But let us be realistic. It is true that we may never be
able to create a perfect society. It is true that we may never be
able to eliminate all social and economic injustices or to provide
equality of opportunity to all the people. But we certainly can take
a few practical steps to make our global society a little more compassionate,
a little more humane. Let me identify at least six of these steps
which can become a reality only if all of us start a global civil
society movement for their achievement.
First, in a compassionate society, no new born child should be doomed
to a short life or to a miserable one merely because that child happens
to be born in the "wrong country", or in the "wrong
class", or to be of the "wrong sex" Universalization
of life claims is the corner stone of a compassionate society Equality
of opportunity is its real foundation – not only for the present
generation but for future generations as well.
In order to equate the chances of every newborn child; let us take
a simple step. Let us treat child immunization and primary education
as a birth right of that child – a right to survive and a right
to be educated. Let us persuade national governments and the international
community to issue birth right vouchers to every new born child that
guarantee at least these two investments in their future. The total
cost will be modest – hardly three billion dollars a year –
but it will provide a new social contract for our future generations,
and it will certainly create a compassionate society.
Second, a global compact was reached in March 1995 in the World Social
Summit in Copenhagen that the developing nations will devote 20 per
cent of their existing national budgets and the donors will earmark
20 per cent of their existing aid budgets to five human priority concerns:
namely, universal basic education, primary health care for all, safe
drinking water for all, adequate nutrition for severely malnourished
children, and family planning services for all willing couples. This
was the famous 20:20 compact. It required no new resources, only shifting
of priorities in existing budgets. And such a compact will remove
the worst human deprivation within a decade.
Here is a global compact already made. Let us ensure that it is fully
implemented. Let us get organized. Let us monitor the progress of
each nation and each donor towards these goals every year and let
us publicize it through NGO efforts and through all civil society
initiatives so that the world does not forget the commitments it made
only recently and which, if implemented, can provide a social safety
net to the poorest and the most vulnerable groups is society.
Third, a practical way to empower people is to provide them with micro-credit
so that they can find self-employment and self-respect – and
it really empowers them and unleashes their creative energies. Access
to credit should be treated as a fundamental human right, as Prof.
Yunus has so brilliantly and convincingly emphasized. The experience
of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh has already demonstrated that the
poor are good savers and investors and they are eminently creditworthy,
so that the banking system should take a chance on the future potential
of the people, not on their past wealth. Let us set up such micro-credit
institutions in each and every country, and in each and every community.
Fourth, it is time to establish a new code of conduct for arms sales
to poor nations. There are many punishments today for dug trafficking
and for laundering of drug money but not for arms sales. And yet arms
kill no less uncertainly than do drugs. Why are generous subsidies
given for such arms sales in several industrial countries today? Oscar
Arias, a co-chair of the State of the World Forum and former President
of Costa Rica and a Nobel Peace Prize Winner, has developed a sensible
code of conduct for arms sales, proposing a ban on such sales to authoritarian
regions, to potential trouble spots and to the poorest nations. This
code of conduct has the support of many Nobel Peace Prizewinners.
Any yet Oscar Arias has not found a single UN member who is willing
to sponsor such a responsible code of conduct for arms sales. Let
us generate enough public pressure in our societies for sponsorship
of this code. Let us go even further. Let us persuade the rich nations
to discontinue their export subsidies for arms sales. This is public
tax money. Why should it be spent to subsidize sale of death and destruction
to poor nations? Let us at the same time persuade the poor nations
to start cutting their existing military expenditure of $ 170 billion
a year by at least 5 per cent each year which can yield enough of
a peace dividend to finance their entire social agendas for their
Fifth, let us pledge that global poverty will be abolished in the
21st century, much as slavery was abolished a few centuries ago. Poverty
is not inevitable. As Prof. Yunus has so eloquently reminded us, poverty
degrades human dignity, it does not belong in a civilized society;
it belongs to a museum of history. But let us also recognize that
poverty is not a mere flue, it is a body cancer, it will take determined
policy actions to banish poverty – including redistribution
of assets and credits, provision of adequate social services and generation
of pro-poor growth. It will also require a new model of development
which enlarges human lives, not just GNP, and whose central purpose
is development of the people for the people by the people. Let us
also remind all nations of this world that abolishing poverty in the
21st century must become a collective international responsibility
since human life is not safe in the rich nations if human despair
travels in the poor nations. Let us recognize that consequences of
global poverty travel across national frontiers without a passport
in the form of drugs, AIDS, pollution and terrorism.
Sixth, let us return the United Nations to the people of the world
in whose name it was first created. The preamble of the UN, adopted
in this very city, in the penthouse of this very hotel, started with
the historic words: "We, the People." And yet the UN was
hijacked by the governments and it has become entirely an intergovernmental
body where the voice of the people is seldom heard. Even in international
conferences and summits, many dark curtains separate NGO representatives
from real decision making forums. The time has come, I believe, to
raise our voices in favour of a two-chamber General Assembly in the
UN, one chamber nominated by the government as at present, and the
other chamber elected directly by the people and by institutions of
civil society. This will ensure that the voice of the people is heard
all the time on all critical issues that affect their future.
There are many more steps one can map out to make our global society
more compassionate. I have mentioned only six simple steps which I
believe are doable.
But let me state quite clearly: building a compassionate society is
not a technocratic exercise. It requires solid ethical and moral foundations.
It requires entirely a new way of thinking of ourselves as a human
family, not just a collection of nation states. It requires a new
concept of human security which is founded on human dignity, not on
weapons of war.
In the last analysis, human security means a child who did not die,
a disease that did not spread, an ethnic tension that did not explode,
a dissident who was not silenced, a human spirit that was not crushed.
And the imperatives of this human security have become universal,
indivisible, and truly global today.
The choice before us is simple, though stark. We can either learn
to live together, or we can all die together.
Robert Frost summed up the challenge before us when he said:
"Two roads diverged in the wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference".
I hope that we show the courage, and the wisdom, to take the road
"less traveled by" as we build up a more compassionate society
in the next century.
The inevitable land reforms
Comprehensive land reforms are indispensable for any basic change
in Pakistan’s political and economic system. Without such reforms,
the nation may remain locked in a virtual political and economic paralysis.
Periodic elections will bring little change, as many of the same people
will be recycled through the legislatures, whatever their party labels
or affiliations. Major economic reforms will keep waiting, as the
feudal system generally believes in economic patronage rather than
in good governance. Any enlightened social changes will be held hostage
to the inherent conservatism of a feudal society.
This does not mean that no change is possible without land reforms.
Historic evolutions do not wait for particular events. But there is
no question that land reforms can greatly advance the prospects for
a constructive change in society – and at a much faster pace.
The recent experience of many other countries is fairly illuminating.
Let’s just focus on Asia. South Korea’s spectacular economic
advance in the last three decades was based on land reforms and mass
education. Indian Punjab has beaten Pakistan’s Punjab by a wide
margin in raising agricultural yields in the last five decades, principally
because of meaningful land reforms, widespread education and agricultural
research at Ludhiana University. China dismantled its agricultural
commune system in 1979 – even though the communes did not exploit
the cultivators the way our landlord system does – and the emergence
of owner cultivation and private incentives has increased economic
growth in China in the last 16 years at a pace which is the envy of
the world. In most other countries as well, land reforms have been
vital for economic and political change. In Pakistan, land reforms
are needed not only to increase incentives for higher production by
owner cultivators but also to change the political system.
Pakistan has already made two failed attempts at land reforms. In
1959, President Ayub fixed a land ownership ceiling of 500 acres of
irrigated land and 1000 acres of unirrigated land. But a large number
of exemptions were provided for orchards as well as for transfer of
land to heirs. In actual practice, less than 2.5 million acres were
acquired for distribution which benefited roughly 8% of subsistence
farmers. These land reforms failed to loosen the stranglehold of the
landlords on the political and economic system of Pakistan.
Another attempt was made by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1972, when the
land ownership ceiling was reduced to 150 acres irrigated and 300
acres unirrigated. There were few exemptions allowed and the reforms
looked very strong on paper. But their impact was totally diluted
in actual implementation. Much of their land was retained by the landlords
in the name of many family members and sometimes in fictious names.
Less than 0.9 million acres of land was acquired for distribution
– about one-third of the land acquired in the Ayub reforms.
Despite high expectations, the actual results were meager.
What went wrong in each case was not the original intention but the
subsequent implementation. The fatal flaw in both cases was the same:
the ruling class that was supposed to implement land reforms was also
the class that was going to be adversely affected by them. It was
triumph of optimism over experience to think that the ruling landlord
class will commit a collective suicide. This dilemma still haunts
us. It is easier to articulate what needs to be done. It is almost
impossible to identify a realistic way of doing it.
It is necessary today to prepare yet another blue print for comprehensive
land reforms in Pakistan, learning from the experience of other countries.
The heart of any such reforms must be the principle that the tiller
of the soil must become the real owner of the soil. And the tiller
must be supported by a liberal supply of agricultural credit, suitable
fertilizer and seeds, correct price incentives, appropriate technology
and adequate marketing facilities so that he can raise his agricultural
yields to international levels.
If all cultivators are to acquire some land, the ceiling for ownership
must be kept fairly low, considering the existing pressure of population
on land. An upper ceiling of around 12.5 acres for irrigated land
will be quite appropriate in this context. In fact, much lower ceilings
have been adopted in several countries. For rain-fed areas, the ceiling
may have to be 25 acres. These ceilings should apply to family ownership
to prevent holding of large amounts of land in the name of family
members. It is wrong to believe that commercial farming requires large
farms. In fact, experience shows that small farms have been extremely
productive in many countries because the tiller can take timely decisions,
contrary to an absentee landlord, and the benefits of higher yields
accrue directly to him.
At present, over 60% of the agricultural area in Pakistan is in holdings
above the ceiling of 12.5 acres. Of the 47 million acres of cultivated
land, 32 million acres are in holdings of over 12.5 acres. If land
reforms are strictly implemented, millions of haris and mazarehs can
benefit from the distribution of land. What is more, such sweeping
land reforms will greatly erode the present overwhelming economic
and political power of the rural elite and finally empower the poor
peasantry in the countryside.
Of course, redistribution of land is only the beginning, not the end,
of land reforms. Small landowners must be fully supported by government,
particularly through liberal credits and technology. They must also
be given the incentive of international prices, since it makes no
sense to offer much higher prices to agricultural producers in foreign
lands than to our own producers. No wonder we are becoming dependent
on rising agricultural imports.
But a neat plan for land reforms does not guarantee its implementation.
How can we persuade legislatures to enact such comprehensive land
reforms if the majority of their members come from the rural elite?
There are some indicators of change. To begin with, rural-urban population
balance is changing fast and there are likely to be more people in
the urban areas in the next few decades that in the rural areas. The
increasingly impatient urban middle class is going to demand both
land reforms and agricultural taxation, to curb the disproportionate
power of rural aristocracy in political and economic decision making.
To this demographic transition will be added many other forces of
change: rapid industrialization, economic globalization, border-less
information flows, stronger democratic institutions including a free
press and a more vigorous civil society. Such changes take time but
they are often inevitable and irreversible. It is also quite possible
that new political parties may emerge in Pakistan to demand basic
changes in the present system.
But can we rely on such historic forces? Do we have the time to wait
so long in a fast changing world? There are no convincing answers
to such troublesome questions. But one thing is certain. Such issues
must be discussed increasingly by our media and our civil society.
Ultimately, it is people, not governments, who are engineering changes
all over the world.
Poverty is cancer not flu
(Introductory remarks at the Special Event on Poverty Eradication
arranged by UNDP, 20 May 1997)
Let me welcome you most warmly to a discussion of the second theme
this morning. The earlier session has already analyzed the nature,
the character and the root causes of persistent poverty. Now we shall
be discovering the mysteries of what policies and programmes really
work or do not work in reducing poverty and what is the actual experience
of countries which have succeeded in their anti-poverty plans.
Let me use the privilege of the Chair to make just a few preliminary
observations to give some perspective to our subsequent discussion.
First, what is critical for our analysis is poverty of opportunity,
not poverty of income. Poverty of income is often the result, poverty
of opportunity is often the cause. Poverty of opportunity is a multi-dimensional
concept, embracing lack of education and health, lack of economic
assets, social exclusion and political marginalization. It is only
through a full understanding of the poverty of opportunity that we
can begin to sense why people remain poor. In fact, I firmly believe
that World Bank’s measure of $1 a day for absolute poverty has
seriously misled policy makers. It has focussed our attention on the
symptoms, not the causes. To ignore the poor upstream and to count
them endlessly downstream is merely an intellectual luxury. Our concepts,
our measures, our analyses must deal with poverty of opportunity,
not just with poverty of income. That is why I am delighted that the
1997 Human Development Report – with which I was associated
as an advisor – makes a major breakthrough in defining and measuring
the multidimensional nature of poverty. It is time to say a final
farewell to single-dimensional measures of poverty and to adopt a
more multi-dimensional view, however inadequate the measurement may
be in the initial stages.
Second, poverty cannot be treated as a mere flu, it is more like body
cancer. We cannot leave intact the model of development that produces
persistent poverty and wistfully hope that we can take care of poverty
downstream through limited income transfers or discrete poverty reduction
programmes. If the poor lack critical assets (particularly land),
if they lack credit since the formal credit institutions do not bank
on them, if they are socially excluded and politically marginalized,
then a few technocratic programmes downstream are not the answer.
The answer lies in a fundamental change in the very model of development
so that human capabilities are built up and human opportunities are
enlarged. In other words, the real answer lies in a major transition
from traditional economic growth models of human development where
people become the real agents and beneficiaries of economic growth,
and no longer remain an abstract residual of inhuman develop0ment
Third, we can all learn a great deal from various successful country
experiences for poverty reduction. Several countries have reduced
the proportion of their people living in poverty quite dramatically
in the last two decades – including Malaysia, China, South Korea
and Colombia. There are many explanations for their successful experiences
but, for busy policy makers, fervently searching for a few core strategies,
it appears that six elements stand out:
- Liberal investment in basic education;
- land reforms;
- availability of credit to the poor;
- a high rate of economic growth, evenly distributed;
- people-centered development models, with at least the essential ingredients of women’s empowerment and significant decentralization of decision making powers; and
- good governance, more good governance, and still more good
Take these six core elements, shake them up vigorously, put them in
a policy crucible, and it is likely – in fact, it is more than
likely – that pro-poor growth will come out at the other end.
We shall soon discover from our distinguished panel what combination
of various policies and programmes have made the critical difference
in their countries.
My fourth and last observation is about the constant debate between
those who believe that free markets and good for every one, including
the poor, and those who advocate judicious state intervention to protect
the poor. I believe that it is time to bury this counterproductive
controversy. There is no country in the world without some mix of
market competition and state intervention. The real challenge is to
discover that happy blend which delivers pro-poor growth. Let us face
political realities. Markets are not elected by poor people, governments
are. Markets can be brutal or indifferent to the needs of the poor,
governments cannot be. Markets are there to promote efficiency, as
they should. Equity is none of their concern. But governments cannot
ignore equity since increasing inequalities can disrupt the political
and social fabric of a society. So the real answer lies in finding
a judicious blend between market competition and state intervention
if are to ensure that, while GNP increases, human lives do not shrivel.
And in the process, let us also not forget that what finally makes
a difference in the lives of the poor are many civil society initiatives
– neither governments nor markets.
With these few preliminary observations, let me turn to our distinguished
panel who are going to present to you some practical experiences in
What is real VIP culture
The easiest steps have already been taken to abolish the VIP culture:
VIP rooms closed, elaborate motorcades abolished, no stoppage of traffic
for important officials, travel in economy class. These are commendable
gestures. But the more difficult steps remain.
The real essence of the VIP culture is to take from the poor and give
to the rich, to exploit the many for the benefit of the few. Its reversal
can be easily stated: take from the rich and give to the poor. This
principle is already established in all civilized societies. The days
of exacting a ransom from the poor are over. But Pakistan’s
VIP culture continues to take from the poor for the benefit of the
rich. Its abolition will take more than simple gestures. It calls
for fundamental reforms.
Take, for instance, the present taxation system. The poor pay most
of the indirect taxes. The rich landlords pay no income tax and the
powerful urbanites evade most of their tax liability. Abolition of
VIP culture means putting a hefty tax (at least Rs.25 billion a year)
on the landlords and collecting at least twice as much as currently
paid by the affluent urban class. These additional tax revenues can
then be used to lighten the burden of indirect taxes (particularly,
reduction in the presently high rate of sales tax), to provide more
social services (especially education, health, safe drinking water),
to make available subsidised foodgrains to the poor, and to reduce
government borrowings and inflationary pressures which are crushing
the fixed income groups.
Take the credit system. The banks (particularly, the nationalized
banks) take their chance only on the rich and the powerful. They hardly
ever lend to the poor. There are Rs.130 billion of stuck-up loans
in the nationalized banks and the DFIs. The rich have exploited the
system for their own benefit. There is no Grameen Bank, as in Bangladesh,
which would lend small amounts to the poor for income earning activities,
without giving any subsidy, and showing a recovery rate of 98 per
cent. The popular myth is that the rich are creditworthy, the poor
are not. But the reality is that the rich have stolen most of the
money from the government-owned banks and we have never banked on
the poor. The abolition of VIP culture means recovering all the stuck-up
loans from the rich and the politically powerful and to start a Grameen-type
Bank for the poor.
Take the allotment of urban plots. It has been the tradition of every
government to allot expensive urban plots to the influential classes
at far below market rates, thereby transferring substantial windfall
gains to a few. Such largesse must run into billions of rupees during
the last decade alone. (Some enterprising researcher should make a
rough estimate). On the other hand, successive governments have done
little to give urban plots to the poor, to build low-cost housing
for low-income groups, to upgrade Katchi Abadies and urban slums.
The abolition of VIP culture means cancelling the past allotments
of urban plots to a small urban elite, to collect from them the prevailing
market price of those plots (otherwise the plots should be confiscated
and auctioned), and to use the billions of rupees thus collected to
provide low-cost housing and subsidized plots to the poor urban dwellers.
Take even the matter of government expenditure on Haj and Umaras for
top officials and influential people. It runs into vast sums every
year compared to a paltry Rs.20 million given each year from the budget
(author5ized since 1985) to finance Haj for low-income government
servants through balloting. The abolition of VIP culture means abolishing
all Haj and Umaras for the affluent class at government expense and
to use the savings to finance more of such facilities for all lower-income
These examples can be multiplied in every walk of life. Our VIP culture
has created an affluent rentier class which pre-empts most of the
patronage of the state. If we are really serious about abolishing
the VIP culture, the patronage of the state should go to the poor,
not the rich and government allocations should be guided by competition
and merit, not by influence and contacts.
The VIP culture concerns not only allocations of government’s
patronage, it is also about arrogance of feudal power, about disregard
of the laws of the land, about totally arbitrary decisions by those
in power. Each time the corrupt escape accountability, each time some
honest officials are transferred or punished without even a formal
charge sheet, each time the government adopts different rules for
those in power from those out of power, each time that citizens are
denied equal justice, it is a blatant abuse of power. The VIP culture
is not a VIP room: it is feudal mentality, it is exercise of arbitrary
power; it is a deeply-ingrained attitude.
The illustrations given above still do not touch more fundamental
reforms. For example, over two-thirds of the land ownership is concentrated
in the hands of a few feudal families. A non-VIP culture can be created
only through sweeping land reforms which return the ownership of land
to the actual cultivator. There is an embarrassing divide today between
the haves and the have-nots, and the social lava may be about to burst.
The VIP culture can be abolished only by improving the present distribution
of income and sharing of the benefits of growth Pakistan’s politics
in dominated today by the culture of money. Abolition of VIP culture
requires abolition of money politics so that a new b reed of honest
and committed people can emerge on the political scene.
It is the feudal power structure which is at the heart of the current
VIP culture in Pakistan. It does not get reformed or abolished by
abolishing VIP rooms. If the aim is to abolish the real VIP culture,
we have hardly begun.
The nuclear race in South Asia
(This was the last public address of Dr. Haq at the North South
Roundtable Conference in Maryland, June 27 1998)
It will come to you as no surprise that I fully endorse the thesis
that there should be a genuine commitment by the existing nuclear
powers to a concrete timetable for nuclear disarmament. The recent
and unfortunate nuclear tests by India and Pakistan should be seen
as part of this problem, not isolated from this international commitment
to nuclear disarmament.
Having stated my agreement with these central propositions, what else
I have to say to you in the contest of the India-Pakistan nuclear
arms race may come to you as somewhat of a shock. I would like to
take you into confidence about this issue, since I have been closely
associated with it, and suggest a concrete strategy as to how we get
out of this present mess.
Let me first state my credentials on this issue. I have passionately
and firmly opposed nuclear tests by both India and Pakistan during
the past two months and have written extensively on this subject.
I have argued that India’s nuclear test was a blunder, not so
much a threat to its neighbor's security but to the human security
of its own people. I have argued that it should be a matter of no
pride for the two countries that powerful nuclear weapons are parked
in their bunkers while hungry, powerless people are parked on their
city pavements. I have argued that nuclear explosions are not going
to save these nations, but that social and economic explosions may
destroy them. I have argued that defense expenditures are already
large and heavy (12 billion dollars a year, twice that of Saudi Arabia’s
arm procurement and with six times as many soldiers) and can get out
of hand. Even a freeze of the arms race can finance a major part of
the social agendas of both India and Pakistan. I have also argued,
for good recourse, that we have seen this senseless blend before of
"vast human deprivation combined with a vast nuclear arsenal"
in the Soviet Union, with not very reassuring results.
I have written that no desperately poor nation has ever become a great
superpower merely by exploding a nuclear bomb; the route to economic
and political greatness is a difficult one. I do not defend the irrationality
expressed on this issue; I greatly condemn it.
However, what concerns me even more today is the hysterical and hypocritical
Western response to these nuclear explosions. I find this current
strategy, if there is one, is totally confused, largely immoral, highly
counterproductive and plainly stupid. So let me take you behind the
scenes, share some candid thoughts with you and suggest a possible
First, let me tell you why Pakistan reacted with nuclear test explosions,
for it is an indictment of the lack of a Western strategy, not an
indictment of Pakistan’s irresponsibility. After India’s
nuclear tests in early May, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan
army debated whether or not to conduct their own nuclear tests and
I am convinced they were resolved not to test as long as they could
be provided with the right security assurances. I argued at the time
that Pakistan had a golden opportunity to benefit from India’s
mistake by holding back from nuclear tests, but insisting on concrete
security guarantees from the United States, and end to the discriminatory
sanctions by which Pakistan was denied advanced US military technology
since 1990, and assurances that the Kashmir dispute could be resolved
by international mediation. In fact, the Pakistan government began
to explore three packages in which, if it abstained from nuclear tests,
it could be provided with US security guarantees to protect it from
any threat of attack by a nuclear-capable India. However, after several
weeks of negotiations, no viable package was ever offered by President
Bill Clinton’s administration, and the best option Pakistan
was presented with was merely a promise to review the Pressler amendment
which had served as the basis of the US sanctions. The result was
predictable: On May 28, and again on May 30, Pakistan exercised its
option to test unclear arms. But for those tests, I believe, the West
deserves sanctions, not Pakistan.
Second, what amazes and greatly enrages me is the hypocrisy of existing
nuclear powers on this issue. The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
(NPT) involved a two-part commitment: one by non-nuclear states to
refrain from acquiring nuclear weapons, and another by the existing
five nuclear powers – the US, Russia, China, France and Britain
– to eliminate gradually their own nuclear arsenals. The latter
commitment, naturally, never was honored. The nuclear powers, in short,
have violated their own commitments for 30 years, but they sit in
indignant moral judgment on countries that have violated the same
agreements for fewer than three months.
I am simply amazed by the hypocrisy of those who still control 30,000
nuclear bombs to condemn the existence of a few in the hands of India
and Pakistan. I am simply outraged by the arrogance of those who believe
that there is a God-given right for nuclear apartheid and that God
Himself drew a line in the sand in 1967 that those who had exploded
bombs before that date were the good guys and that those who were
to do so later were nuclear tyrants and pariah nations destined to
burn in Hell forever.
I am puzzled by the attitude of much of the international community,
such as France and China, against India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan
may in fact have done the international community a favour by raising
the stakes in not undertaking nuclear disarmament, reminding the world
that commitment remains unfulfilled, and serving a warning that more
nations may take this route unless the fundamental issue of nuclear
disarmament is tackled first.
Third, the current predicament illustrates the bankruptcy of the existing
Western disarmament strategy of economic sanctions against nuclear
violators. Why destroy a region where you must have greater stability
by imposing sanctions? Why, in doing so, lose your leverage to encourage
those countries now to adopt more responsible nuclear policies? Engagement
with India and Pakistan need not mean endorsement of their nuclear
tests. In fact, engagement in this case could help prevent these desperately
poor nations from considering the sale of their nuclear technology,
and would help to prevent any debt defaults arising from sanctions
which could push them to carry out such sales. Also, as it is, sanctions
do not bite. In Pakistan’s experience, sanctions – in
the form of the Pressler amendment – could even be considered
a gift, since the lack of US-supplied military technology encouraged
Pakistan to develop its own facilities.
The West’s strategy is also bankrupt in its failure to recognize
new countries joining the nuclear club as nuclear powers. No gate-crashing
is allowed, they have made clear. But that policy has made the Western
powers slow in understanding reality, as they were when Communist
China first acquired unclear arms in the 1960s. They try to avoid
dialogue with nuclear-capable states, but dialogue is exactly what
What could be sensible nuclear strategy for these powers? I contend
that they should admit India and Pakistan as members of the nuclear
club, and then compel them to comply as nuclear states with the terms
of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
The nuclear states could then begin to draw up the first timetable
for nuclear disarmament. The existing five nuclear powers could also
warn India and Pakistan about the risks of nuclear confrontation,
and invest real political capital into trying to resolve their outstanding
disputes so as to avoid that confrontation. After all, the crisis
in South Asia is as grave as any in the Middle East, Northern Ireland
or Bosnia-Herzegovina, just as with those crises, the United States
should respond by high-level mediation and visits by the US president.
What the Western powers need to do, in short, is to help South Asia
move from a nuclear arms race to a human development race, involving
regional bodies like SAARC.
Finally, we need to go far beyond calls for nuclear disarmament and
have more practical package for global negotiations. We need a new
Non-Proliferation Treaty; a new code of conduct for arms transfers;
a new commitment to discourage arms spending, including less official
developmental assistance and fewer export subsidies going to nations
which concentrate their scarce resources on military spending.
We need more transparency including better compliance with the UN
Arms Registry; more open procurement practices; monitoring of corruption
in arms sales, perhaps by groups like Transparency International;
and IMF and World Bank involvement in ensuring that military debts
and expenditures are accurately reflected and analyzed.
Finally, we need a civil society movement for decreased arms spending
in less developed economies, particularly on conventional arms, and
the diversion of those funds to development purposes. Perhaps with
such a strategy in place, we can stop not just the nuclear madness
but the insanity of arms races in poor countries in general, and finally
concentrate on the urgent task of improving peoples' lives.
System is to blame for the 22 wealthy families
(Article published in 'The London Times', March 22, 1973)
Five years ago I made a speech alleging that 22 industrial family
groups had come to dominate the economic and financial life of Pakistan
and that they controlled about two-thirds of industrial assets, 80
per cent of banking and 79 percent insurance.
At that time, Pakistan was still living through a period of great
euphoria. President Ayub was completing his tenth term in office and
the country was cheerfully celebrating his first decade of development.
Pakistan had undoubtedly done extremely well economically under President
Ayub’s pragmatic leadership and almost all key economic indicators
pointed to a fast rate of expansion. The growth rate in the gross
national product had been nearly 6 per cent a year for a decade and
a healthy export performance of 8 per cent a year had defied many
However, some of us who were living closely with the economic management
of the country had already begun to develop our doubts about the long-term
viability of such a pattern of growth. While the world was still applauding
Pakistan as a model of development – since outside donors always
need some success stories for their own comfort – we were getting
quite concerned that all was not well with the distribution of benefits
Some of the indices were fairly disturbing. The real disparity in
the per capita incomes of East and West Pakistan had more than doubled
during this decade even though we were reluctant to admit it publicly.
The real wages of the industrial workers, concentrated in a few key
urban areas had been reduced by about a third by a combination of
inflation and weak bargaining power of the unions. Personal income
inequalities had increased substantially.
It was evident that most people had remained unaffected by the forces
of economic change since the development had fast become warped in
favour of a privileged minority.
One can best illustrate this imbalance by looking at the distribution
of certain public and private services. From 1958 to1968 Pakistan
imported or domestically assembled private cars worth $300 million
while spending only $20 million on buses. During the same period,
about 80 per cent to 90 per cent of private construction can only
be described as luxury housing.
It was in these circumstances that I tried to focus national attention
on justice in the distribution of wealth in the midst of celebration
over a rapid rate of growth. I say this with no desire for self-vindication
because I recall how painful a decision it was. I was chief economist
of the National Planning Commission and much of what I had to say
was an indictment of the economic policies of the Government during
a period in which I was intimately associated with planned development.
It was little surprise to me that the mention of 22 families in that
atmosphere was treated as a bombshell, both by a stunned Government
and by the private sector in Pakistan. It is most annoying to question
success right in the midst of it. What surprises me, however, is that
in the past five years there has been so little analysis of the basic
issues inherent in Pakistan’s industrial and economic situation
and so little action despite all the hysteria about the 22 families.
This has been disappointing because references to 22 families should
only be treated as symbolic of the basic problems of income distribution
and social justice in Pakistan.
A myth has spread by now that the 22 families own all the wealth in
Pakistan. This is simply not true. The problem must be viewed in its
proper perspective. The modern industrial sector was, at most, 10
per cent of the national product of Pakistan in 1968 (including East
Pakistan) and now is about 15 per cent of the national product of
West Pakistan. Even if the 22 families control two-thirds of the industrial
assets in the modern sector – and the word is control, not own
– it still represents a rather limited control over total wealth
The distinction, unfortunately, was lost in the heated discussions
of the past five years. What is more, it was not so much the concentration
of income and wealth in the hands of a few industrial family groups
which raised fundamental questions of policy. Such a concentration
was probably inevitable in the initial stages of development and to
give them their due, the early entrepreneurs did an excellent job
of rapid industrialization. What gave us real cause for anxiety was
the growing collusion between industrial and financial interests so
that a few family groups had come to acquire control over basic economic
For all practical purposes, the 22 families had become by 1968 both
the planning commission and the ministry of finance for the private
sector. They preempted most investment permits, import licenses, foreign
credits and government patronage because they controlled or influenced
most of the decision-making forums handing out such permissions. They
had virtually established a stranglehold on the system and were in
a position to keep out any new entrepreneurs.
The 22 families were a by-product of government policies and a primitive
capitalistic system. The Government did not have the courage to change
the company law of 1913 under which the industrial sector of Pakistan
was still being governed in 1968. This antiquated framework of capitalism
permitted the industrial sector to have managing agencies, cartels,
trusts and all other anti-social practices aimed at cheating both
the consumer and the Government, The latter became both a conscious
and unconscious ally of the private industrialists by giving them
generous protection, excessive tax concessions, explicit and hidden
subsidies, and representation on many decision making forums.
If we are to evaluate properly the role of the 22 families in Pakistan,
we must see it in the perspective of the capitalist system that the
country has evolved over time. In blunt terms, Pakistan’s capitalist
system is still one of the most primitive in the world. Under it economic
feudalism prevails. A handful of people, whether landlords or industrialists
or bureaucrats, make all the basic decisions and the system often
works simply because there is an alliance between various vested interests.
Unfortunately, most of the criticism of the 22 families in the past
five years has been directed to individual family groups rather than
to the reform of the basic framework of capitalism. The present Government
has introduced some limited reforms by abolishing the managing agency
system and introducing a more progressive labour policy as well as
by taking away management though not ownership, of certain key industries.
However, these are rather small patches on a thoroughly rotten fabric
of a primitive and feudal economic system. What is required is a fairly
drastic surgery if a move towards a more enlightened and socially
responsible capitalism is to be made.
Pakistan badly needs to broaden the base of its economic and political
power to evolve a development strategy that reaches out to the bulk
of the population; and to innovate a new lifestyle which is more consistent
with its own poverty and its stage of development. This is not going
to be easy because in the past, modernization was foisted on a basically
feudal structure in which political participation was often denied,
growth of responsible institutions stifled and free speech curbed,
and where all economic and political power gravitated towards a small
There is not much that can be done to save development from being
warped in favour of a few in a system like this unless the basic premises
of the system are changes. The new constituency of peasants, labour
and students that President Bhutto hopes to fashion has still not
taken shape. Unless there is such a new constituency, unless the existing
power structure is drastically shaken, there is not much of a mandate
or instrument available for radical change.
The slogan of 22 families, therefore, has been rather overdone in
Pakistan and taken too literally, At times, it has become a convenient
camouflage for action against a few individual industrialists rather
than reforming the economic, as well as social and political institutions.
This is sad because the 22 families are a symptom, not a cause. The
basic problem is not the 22 families, individually or collectively,
but the system that created them, And it is time that Pakistan looked
to the basic causes of its problems and not merely to the symptoms.
HDC Report Launches:
Human Development in South Asia (1997 Report)
(Introductory speech at the launch of HDSA '97 in Islamabad, 9
The Education Challenge in South Asia (1998 Report)
(Introductory speech at the launch of HDSA '98 in New Delhi, 4
We are presenting to you today the first Report on Human Development
in South Asia 1997. This Report has been prepared by the Human Development
Centre over the course of the last one year. The Report was prepared
in close collaboration with UNDP and I do wish to express my sincere
thanks to Nay Htun for his consistent support and encouragement, to
Robert England for his help at every step, and to UNDP Resident Representatives
in SAARC nations for their substantive support with background materials
and data for this Report. I am grateful to my good friend Nay Htun
for the statement he has just delivered on behalf of UNDP. And I sincerely
thank Mr. Wasim Sajjad for agreeing to be our Chief Guest for this
launching ceremony. Mr. Wasim Sajjad is not only a leading thinker
and outstanding intellectual in our country, we are extremely proud
and honored that he is a distinguished member of the National Advisory
Board of the Human Development Centre.
The basic message of our Report is a profoundly disturbing one. South
Asia has emerged by now as the poorest, the most illiterate, the most
malnourished and the least gender-sensitive region in the world. The
governments of South Asia have made very little investment in providing
the basic social services of education and health to their 1.2 billion
people. The region is ill prepared to enter the global competition
of the 21st century. This is the blunt truth which is not yet being
faced by the policy makers of the South Asia region, nor adequately
recognized by members of the international community.
But the basic objective of our report is not to shock, but to persuade
policy makers to take urgent steps to correct the present situation.
The South Asia region has enormous development potential. If sufficient
investment is made in human development, if the overall policy framework
is liberalized and rationalized, if some fundamental institutional
reforms are carried out, South Asia can become the East Asia of the
21st century. This will require a very solid, patient effort, spread
over a long period of time. Today, the South Asia region has to face
the challenge of completely restructuring its development priorities.
Let me first start with a brief outline of the scale of human deprivation
in South Asia. Nearly one-half of the world’s illiterates and
40 percent of the world’s poor live in South Asia. Out of a
total population of 1.2 billion, around 500 million people are in
the category of absolute poor, surviving on less than one dollar a
day. More than one-half of the adults are illiterate, and over one-fourth
of the total population does not have access to even a simple daily
necessity like clean drinking water.
The burden of this human deprivation falls heavily on children and
women. About 85 million children in South Asia have never seen the
inside of a school. An estimated 134 million children lose their very
childhood, working long hours in inhuman conditions, many working
for an average wage of only 8 U.S. cents a day. Half of the world’s
malnourished children live in South Asia.
The situation of women is even more shocking. It is summed up in a
disturbing comparison in the Report. South Asia is the only region
where men outnumber women. While there are 106 women to 100 men in
the rest of the world, since biologically women outlive men, in South
Asia the ratio is exactly the reverse: only 94 women to 100 men. About
74 million women are simply ‘missing’ in South Asia –
the unfortunate victims of social and economic neglect from cradle
to grave. Adult female literacy is only one half of male literacy.
Female literacy rate is only 36 percent in South Asia compared to
an average of 55 percent in the developing world. South Asia has the
lowest ratio of female administrators and managers – only 3
percent compared to 20 percent in Latin America. And such indices
of gender disparity persist in a region where four out of seven countries
(namely, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) can boast of a
female head of government at present or in the recent past.
The many shocking statistics and disturbing graphs given in the Report
are sufficient to shatter the complacency of policy makers in South
Asia and the relatively detached attitude of the international community.
If South Asia slowly disintegrates, it will not only be a catastrophe
for its teeming millions, it will be a global tragedy as well. The
scale of this human tragedy will be far more extensive than anything
witnessed in Somalia, Rwanda or Burundi in recent years.
However, the Report is not pessimistic about the future of South Asia.
In fact, it offers a new vision of hope. The real wealth of this region
are its people. If sufficient investment is made in these people,
they can radically change the development prospects of South Asia
in the 21st century.
The Report presents a blueprint for such an investment plan for basic
social services over the next 15 years. If such a plan is implemented
by all SAARC nations, then they will be able to provide universal
primary education, basic health care for all, safe drinking water
for the entire population, adequate nutrition for malnourished children,
family planning services for at least 80 per cent of married couples,
and new credit institutions for the poor to create self-employment
Such a package of measures is expected to cost an average of $ 8.6
billion a year during the next 15 years, or an additional 1.6 per
cent combined GNP of South Asia, assuming that GNP grows by a per
cent a year. While this is a significant cost, it is certainly not
unrealistic. The Report points out several ways that such a package
of basic social services can be financed.
First, the SAARC leaders can agree on a compact to reduce their defence
spending in line with the rest of the world and earmark the resources
thus released for urgent social priority needs. If military spending
is cut, for instance, by 5 per cent a year in real terms, it can generate
a peace dividend of around $ 8 billion a year and can finance most
of the basic social services packages. Thus, if the South Asian countries
display the required statesmanship and vision, and if they find a
peaceful solution to their outstanding disputes, they can radically
transform the development prospects of the region.
Second, the Report recommends that South Asian countries should retire
their expensive domestic debts by privatizing their public assets
through international markets. The servicing of these domestic debts
is now taking away 5 to 6 per cent of GNP. If this debt servicing
is considerably reduced, or wiped off altogether, the current budgets
for education and health can be more than doubled.
Third, tremendous dynamism and creative energy is building up by now
in non-government organizations and at the grassroots level. The Report
cites many examples of successful civil society initiatives in various
SAARC nations. If their governments lends a supporting hand, these
NGOs and private initiatives can provide social services at the grass
roots level in a very cost-effective manner.
The Report recommends that the forthcoming SAARC Summit in the Maldives
in early May 1997 should direct their governments to prepare a concrete
plan of action for priority human investments over the next 15 years,
along with a realistic financing strategy. The Report also suggests
that the SAARC Summit should invite the most prominent thinkers of
the region to form an unofficial commission to produce a report on
a new vision for South Asia in the 21st century.
Let me conclude by saying that this is just the first report on Human
Development in South Asia prepared by our Centre in a series that
will be continued every year. If this Report succeeds in stimulating
a major debate on human development issues in the South Asia region,
it would have served its purpose.
Let us face it. We in this region are not the hapless victims of fate.
We can shape our own destiny. After all, human destiny is a matter
of choice, not chance. Our report outlines the choices that we all
can make – and we all must make. On those choices will depend
the future of South Asia.
It is a great privilege for me to launch the 1998 Report on "Human
Development in South Asia" in India this morning. We are very
fortunate in having Honorable I.K. Gujral as our Chief Guest. Mr.
Gujral is one of those rare individuals who are even more valuable
outside government than inside. His clear vision, outstanding intellectual
leadership, and deep commitment to human development issues make him
a great asset for the entire international community.
Let me also thank Dr. Brenda McSweeny for her great help and support
in our intellectual enterprise. We all get inspired by Brenda’s
unabashed enthusiasm and intellectual courage. We have prepared our
Report in close collaboration with UNDP, though I would like to make
it clear that UNDP bears no responsibility for the views expressed
in our Report. The Report is a totally independent exercise of the
Human Development Centre, a regional policy think-tank based in Islamabad.
Our first Report on Human Development in South Asia 1997 was released
almost a year ago here in New Delhi. The central message of our 1997
Report was simple but powerful. The key challenge for South Asia was
to travel the vast distance between its performance and its promise.
On the one hand, South Asia had emerged as the poorest region in the
world. One the other, it had all the potential to become the most
dynamic region in the twenty-first century, if there was massive investment
in human development. We therefore, proposed a set of policy strategies
for the countries in the region to implement a human development agenda
– a concrete plan of action that would allow the region to reach
its true development potential by earmarking another 1.6 per cent
of its combined income to this priority task.
The response to our 1997 Repot, both in India as well as in the rest
of South Asia and internationally, far exceeded our expectations.
It came as a rude shock to the South Asia policy-makers and to the
global community that the South Asian region had slipped behind all
other regions of the world, including Sub-Saharan Africa, in its human
development levels. Even more encouraging for us was the response
of the civil society in South Asia, particularly the extensive coverage
in the local media, which did not allow policy-makers to forget the
urgent message of human development.
The 1997 Report made it clear to the world that the real challenge
of human development lay in this, the most populous, region of the
world. And to meet this development challenge, the Report stressed
that the two most critical components would be first, basic education
for all; and second, relevant technical skills. It is these themes
which are now the focus of our 1998 Report. We ask, and then try to
answer, how South Asia can emerge as a dynamic, egalitarian, and prosperous
society in the twenty-first century, and how basic education for all
and relevant technical skills can be at the forefront of such a development
Our exploration of South Asia’s bleak educational wasteland
in this year’s Report turns up some extremely disturbing facts.
One in two adults is illiterate. One in three primary-school age children
is not attending school. Two in five children drop out of primary
school before completing their studies. Only one in fifty secondary-school
age children enrolls in technical or vocational programmes.
But the basic objective of our report is not merely to rattle the
skeletons in South Asia’s educational closet. Our purpose is
to convince people that universal primary education for all in the
next five years is an achievable reality, not a utopian vision. And
to ensure that politicians and policy makers realize that they not
only can, but they must act immediately to end the region’s
shameful neglect of basic education.
Let me start with a brief outline of the bleak education scenario
in much of South Asia, except in Sri Lanka and the Maldives. South
Asia has now emerged as the most illiterate region in the world, with
about 400 million illiterate adults, nearly one-half of the world
total. Over three out of every five illiterate adults have a woman’s
face. And, despite some progress made over the last few decades, the
current generation of students does not have a bright future either.
There are 50 million children not attending primary school, over two-fifths
of the world total. Another 60 million children drop out of primary
school each year. If all children have to be placed in primary schools
in the next five years, it involves an additional number exceeding
the total population of the United Kingdom today.
There is yet another cause for alarm. The schools in South Asia have
failed to teach the basic skills needed for a productive and useful
life to even those children who do enroll. The evidence assembled
in the Report indicates that many of South Asia’s multi-lingual,
multi-age, multi-grade classrooms are nothing short of a multiple
disaster zone. A survey in Pakistan found that over 80 per cent of
primary school completers could not write a simple letter. Nine out
of ten girls taking the School Leaving Certificate examination in
Nepal failed the test. In fact, the time available for learning in
South Asia is sometimes a quarter of the level in the educational
high-achievers of East Asia: a recent UNICEF study in Dhaka revealed
that the annual classroom contact time in Bangladesh in grade one
was only 384 hours compared to about three times that much in China
The Report clearly shows that the burden of educational deprivation
falls most heavily on girls and women. With an adult female literacy
rate of only 36 per cent, the lowest in the world, South Asia is entering
the 21st century with 243 million illiterate women, who represent
two-third of its total adult female population. The gender gap in
primary enrolment is 19 percentage points in South Asia compared to
only 5 percentage points in developing countries. Girls spend, on
average, only one-third as much time in school as boys. Less than
one-third of the teachers at primary level are females in South Asia
compared to an average of one-half in the developing world.
The findings in the Report also suggest the need for drastic reform
in South Asia’s technical and vocational education policies.
Present vocational and technical education programmes in South Asia
are often inadequate, irrelevant, and qualitatively poor. Less than
5 per cent of the total educational budgets in South Asia are devoted
to technical education. Consequently, only 1.6 per cent of children
at the secondary level are enrolling for technical education, compared
to over six times that percentage in East Asia and fifteen times in
Latin America. Not only is enrolment low, but about half of the students
drop out before completing their studies. Even the fortunate few who
complete their education are often not rewarded when they enter the
labour market: over half fail to get a job at the end of their training.
As a result, South Asia is a technical wasteland, often stuck with
technologies of the past, instead of focusing on new technologies
of computer software, electronics, and informatics, for which there
is an expanding global demand.
The many shocking statistics and disturbing graphs in the 1998 Report
are sufficient to shatter the complacency of policy-makers in South
Asia and the relatively detached attitude of the international community.
But the report is not pessimistic about the future of South Asia.
In fact, it offers a new vision of hope. The real wealth of this region
are its people. If sufficient investment is made in these people,
they can radically change the development prospects of South Asia
in the twenty-first century. The Report analyses the three great development
waves in Asia, starting from Japan in the 1940s and 1950s, spreading
to the East Asian industrializing tigers in the 1960s and 1970s, and
emerging in China in the 1980s and 1990s. Each time, the development
model was based on basic education for all, modern technical skills,
open economies, fast growth accompanied by good distribution, and
strong, accountable institutions of good governance. South Asia can
emerge as the next economic frontier but only if it builds up its
human capital and adopts sound policies for accelerating its economic
growth, treating globalization as an opportunity not a threat.
The Report presents a concrete five-year plan for ensuring universal
primary education in South Asia. This will require providing school
facilities for an additional 65 million children and training 2 million
additional teachers over the next five years. More importantly, the
Report shows that such an ambitious educational agenda can be implemented
by assigning only one billion dollars each year in recurrent expenditure
– less than 0.3 per cent of the region’s annual combined
GNP. Even if capital expenditure is included, the total additional
cost will be less than one per cent of GNP – a real bargain
for South Asia, considering the huge pay-off.
The Report points out several realistic financial strategies that
can finance this education package. Almost all the required resources
can be provided simply by restructuring existing budgetary priorities
in South Asia. First, even a freeze on current military spending (at
current prices) will release more than enough resources to attain
the target of universal primary education. Current military spending
levels are extremely high, particularly in India and Pakistan. If
military spending levels are cut by 5 per cent a year over the next
five years, it cold release about $22 billion as peace dividend –
over four times what is required for the goal of universal primary
Second, South Asian countries can free themselves from crippling domestic
debt burdens by privatizing their public assets quickly and efficiently.
These domestic debts consume 5 to 6 per cent of their GNP, which can
be spent instead on balancing budgets. The slowest, the most hesitant,
the most bureaucratic privatization in the world is presently taking
place in South Asia. It is time to speed it up.
Third, there must be a major restructuring of existing allocation
priorities in the education budgets of South Asia, with the bulk of
resources devoted to providing basic education, closing gender gaps
in primary education, and imparting technical training. The current
bias in favour of higher education must be reversed: private initiatives
to provide high-quality university education should be encouraged,
with liberal state scholarships and student loans, and fiscal incentives
to business community to create tax-free education endowments. At
least 70 per cent of education budget allocations should be earmarked
for primary education compared to less than 50 per cent now. South
Asia has excelled in building inverted pyramids of education in the
past, concentrating state resources on higher education for a few
rather than basic education for all. It is time to correct the architecture
of these pyramids.
Fourth, foreign donors should be requested to allocate a higher percentage
of their funds to basic education and technical training: at present,
only 9 per cent of external assistance to South Asia is allocated
for human priority needs. This is less than half of what needs to
be done in the spirit of the 20:20 compact endorsed at the 1995 World
Summit for Social Development. If South Asian governments are willing
to devote more resources to the goal of basic education for all, the
international community must also be willing to support these efforts.
Community participation is an integral part of the Report’s
five-year plan for universalizing primary education. New and innovative
partnerships between central and local government, non-governmental
organizations, and local communities are vital. The Report stresses
that any plan to extend universal primary education by the year 2003
will not succeed unless major reliance is placed on non-formal education.
With flexible school hours, local teachers, and active parental involvement,
non-formal schools succeed in meeting the needs of local communities
rather than distant central planners. Non-formal education is also
extremely cost-effective. For example, a non-formal school in Pakistan
costs less than 2 per cent of the capital costs of a formal school,
and can be built in less than a month compared to an average start-up
time of two years for a formal school in a new building. The unit
cost per student of running a non-formal school is generally less
than one-half that of a formal school. Non-formal education is not
the second-best option; often, it is the only realistic option available.
The Report also suggests a revolutionary new strategy for mainstreaming
vocational training in the formal educational system. The key elements
in a comprehensive programme of reform are measures to ensure the
equivalency of degrees from technical stream at the secondary level;
comprehensive surveys to link technical training to the requirements
of the job market; the extension of technical education to neglected
groups, particularly women and children in rural areas; special tax
incentives to encourage the business community to provide technical
skills; and the creation of tripartite councils between governments,
private sector firms, and labour unions to identify technical skills
and design relevant training programmes. The Report indicates that
South Asia faces the promising opportunity of combining its cheap
labour with modern technological skills taking over the global markets
in the export of low-and medium-tech consumer goods to the expanding
middle class in the world.
The Report stresses that, ultimately, the key ingredient for educational
success is always political commitment. When governments have shown
the political will to make an investment in basic education, the results
have been spectacular. The experiences of Sri Lanka, the Maldives,
Bangladesh in recent years, and the Indian Sate of Kerala clearly
show how solid political resolve can lead to rapid education revolutions.
The Report suggests several key steps that South Asia’s political
leaders can take to express their commitment to the goal of basic
education for all. These include: enacting and strictly enforcing
compulsory education legislation; decentralizing the administrative
structure for managing primary education; and making constitutional
provision that funds for attaining the goal of universal primary education
will be treated as the ‘first claim’ on budgetary resources.
However, the Report points out that political commitment is not merely
a matter of a few concrete steps; it is a matter of deep convictions.
When such convictions are missing, brilliant technocratic blueprints
may not produce tangible results. The evidence amassed in the Report
clearly indicates that the time has come for South Asian leaders to
make a concerted effort to provide universal primary education. South
Asia’s children cannot – and must not – be forced
to wait any longer.
I have presented here only the regional picture of South Asia in the
global context. In a little while, Khadija Haq will briefly summarize
the conclusions of the Report about India.
Let me conclude by saying that while we intend to take the messages
in our Report to all South Asian nations and all South Asian people
– to the public, to NGOs and community organizations, to international
donors and the national media, to teachers and students – the
real challenge outlined in this report is for the politicians and
policy makers of South Asia. And the challenge for policy makers is
this: to devise and implement strategies that unleash the creative
potential of one-quarter of humanity. Extending basic education for
all and creating relevant technical skills are the keys to meeting
this challenge. South Asia is fast approaching a historic watershed.
It can realize the promise of a new dawn in the twenty-first century.
Or it can disintegrate into anarchy and confusion, ‘Human history’,
as H. G. Wells remarked a few decades ago, 'becomes more and more
a race between education and catastrophe’. Our hope is that
this Report forces the policy makers of South Asia to analyze this
choice as objectively and honestly as possible.