Governing the Ungovernable by Ishrat Hussain – Book Review
Numbers don’t lie. Specially, if we are talking about those related to economy. Ishrat Hussain, with the help of convincing and authentic data, brings forward his thesis that institutional reforms are key to economic and social deveoplment of Pakistan.
In the process of proving his thesis, he tears down some very popular myths about Pakistan’s economy. For example, wrongly quoted share of defense budget in governmental expenditure, the myth of businesses run by army, exaggerated role of foreign aid during the prosperious years of Ayub, Zia and Musharaf, exaggerated myth that Pakistan’s economy is heavily dependant on US aid and many others.
According to Ishrat, three phases of rapid economic growth in Pakistan i.e. 1960s, 1980s and early 2000s were supported by a strong commitment for economic growth, focused institutional reforms and a disciplined, independent and well organized bureaucracy whose concerted efforts made Pakistan one of the rapidly growing economies in the world.
Later on, when democratically elected governments took the reigns of the government in their hands, their governance was stained with unnecessary political interferences, allegations of corruption and incompetence. In most of the cases, democratic governments repealed the laws which were necessary for institutional autonomy and efficiency.
For example, Bhutto nationalized the businesses which stalled the economic progress achieved in Ayub era. Police Act of 2001 and Local Governments system of Musharaf were abolished by the successive governments.
He gave the examples of neighbouring India, Bangladesh and Indonesia where institutional reforms kept the economy afloat even when the political stage was undergoing a turmoil, specially in Bangladesh.
He discusses in detail the social, political, judicial and economic elements embedded in the national febric of Pakistan. Supported by undeniable data, his arguments are convincing.
A must read for anyone who wants to understand Pakistan’s flawed institutions, and seeks for their reforms.