|Dr. Ishrat Husain, a former World Bank senior official and an ex governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, wrote an article captioned "India, Pakistan: a comparison" at the end of the first five decades of two nations' existence as independent states. To my knowledge, Dr. Hussain has not done an update of his article since it was first published. Although about three years too late, this post is my attempt to present a comparison of the two South Asian nations after sixty years of independence.
Here is the opening paragraph from Dr. Husain's article from the late 1990s, which I believe still stands true today:
"India and Pakistan are completing five decades of their independence. Since the partition, the relationship between the two countries has been uneasy and characterized by a set of paradoxes. There is a mixture of love and hate, a tinge of envy and admiration, bouts of paranoia and longing for cooperation, and a fierce rivalry but a sense of proximity, too. The heavy emotional overtones have made it difficult to sift the facts from the myths and make an objective assessment. There are in fact only two extreme types of reactions on each side. Either there are those who always find that the grass is greener on the other side of the pasture or those who are totally dismissive of the accomplishments of the other side."
Not much has changed in the last ten years as far as the above paragraph is concerned. The relationship between the two nations remains as emotionally charged as ever.
Then Dr. Husain's essay talked about what he saw as the common successes of the two nations in the first fifty years:
1. Despite the prophets of gloom and doom on both sides of the fence, both India and Pakistan have succeeded in more than doubling their per capita incomes. This is a remarkable feat considering that the population has increased fourfold in case of Pakistan and threefold in India. Leaving aside the countries in East Asia and China, very few large countries have been able to reach this milestone.
2. The incidence of poverty (defined as $1 per day) has also been reduced significantly although the number of absolute poor remains astoundingly high. However, the level of poverty is lower in Pakistan.
3. Food production has not only kept pace with the rise in population but has surpassed it. Both countries, leaving aside annual fluctuations due to weather conditions, are self-sufficient in food. (Pakistan exports its surplus rice but imports small volumes of wheat).
4. Food self-sufficiency has been accompanied by improved nutritional status. Daily caloric and protein intake per capita has risen by almost one-third but malnourishment among children is still high.
5. The cracks in the dualistic nature of the economy -- a well-developed modern sector and a backward traditional sector -- are appearing fast in both the countries. A buoyant middle class is emerging. The use of modern inputs and mechanization of agriculture has been a leveling influence in this direction. But public policies have not always been consistent or supportive.
Here is the update to the above assessment:
1. Per capita incomes in both nations have more than doubled in the last ten years, in spite of significant increases in population. The most recent and detailed real per capita income data was calculated and reported by Asian Development Bank based on a detailed study of a list of around 800 household and nonhousehold products in 2005 and early 2006 to compare real purchasing power for ADB's trans-national income comparison program (ICP). The ABD ICP concluded that Pakistan had the highest per capita income at HK$ 13,528 (US $1,745) among the largest nations in South Asia. ADB reported India’s per capita as HK $12,090 (US $1,560). Nominal per capita GDP estimates for Pakistan range from US $1000 to US $1022, while the range for India is from US $ 1017 to US $ 1100. Purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita GDP estimates for Pakistan from various sources range from $2500 to $2644, while the same sources put the range for India's per capita GDP from $2780 to $2972.
2. The incidence of poverty (defined as $1.25 per day) has also come down in both nations, although the number of poor in South Asia still remains very high. According to the 2009 UN Human and Income Poverty Report, the people living under $1.25 a day in India is 41.6 percent, about twice as much as Pakistan's 22.6 percent. The most recent estimates by UNDP in Pakistan for 2007-2008 indicate poverty level at 17.2%.
3. Food production has barely kept pace with the rise of population, particularly in Pakistan. There have been higher food prices and shortages of various commodities such as wheat and sugar. There is widespread hunger and malnutrition in all parts of India. India ranks 66th on the 2008 Global Hunger Index of 88 countries while Pakistan is slightly better at 61 and Bangladesh slightly worse at 70. The first India State Hunger Index (Ishi)