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Monday April 22, 2024

Give poor a chance to move up

By Mansoor Ahmad
March 19, 2023

LAHORE: Experts wonder whether Pakistan gets its due share in the ever expanding middle class in Asia that has already touched 2.0 billion from 500 million a decade back. The middle class in Pakistan has actually shrunk in the last 10 years.

Optimism of numerous Pakistanis has turned into despair as its growth did not pick up to the level that could facilitate its poverty stricken population to move to the middle class. There is a reason we missed the growth enhancing factors exhibited by many Asian countries.

All these economies including socialist China understood the importance of reforms and their implementation; they were aware of the importance of a free market economy; meritocracy; rule of law; culture of tolerance; education particularly unlocking mysteries of science and technology.

Successive governments in Pakistan instituted many reforms in the last three decades and each government of the day claims that we operate in a free market economy. They ignore the fact that a free market economy becomes savage if operated without rules and regulation.

Most of the reforms remained on paper as we failed to implement them in letter and spirit. We have provided protection to many sectors that do not provide a level playing field to all.

Basic ingredients necessary for growth are present in Pakistan, but the main issue is that of implementing the reforms agenda in letter and spirit.

It is the middle class that boosts the economy because it is the highest consumer of goods and services anywhere in the world. When people move from poverty to the middle class, their consumption of processed foods, home appliances and other gadgets increase as they try to improve their quality of life.

Another factor worth noting is that the middle class is quality conscious.

They reject domestic products if they are inferior to the imported ones. The private sector could not produce quality products due to informality that resulted in higher imports of even daily use consumables.

Most of Asia, including China, India and Bangladesh are seeing substantial rise in living standards. Momentum has been set for further affluence as the middle class works hard to further improve the quality of their life.

There has never been such rapid transformation from poverty to affluence in world history as has been witnessed in the last three decades.

Pakistan has lagged behind most of the other Asian countries in this transformation due to periodic periods of low and high growth.

Beside affluence, the other most important contribution of the middle class to the society is that they make hectic efforts to reduce conflict. Conflict in our

society has increased, which shows decline in middle income groups.

There is no risk of war in the European Union member countries, where the middle class is dominant. Earlier, when poverty was higher in the region, the feud between France and England, Germany and France was a constant source of uncertainty in Europe. China and India have buried their border disputes after the emergence of a strong middle class in both countries.

The middle class around the globe comprises mainly of the most educated people of the society. They add a huge amount of brain power to society.

They are the real civil society that acts as the catalyst for change to a better way of life. The planners should embrace the Pakistani middle class to bring prosperity in the country.