Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, envisioned a prosperous future for Pakistan, achieved by men and women working together for the well-being of its people, especially the poor.
As Pakistan looks forward to the future, it also reflects on its past. Over the past seven decades, Pakistan has seen two distinct phases of socio-economic development. The first four decades saw strong growth and rapid development, with Pakistan posting the highest growth rates in South Asia in its first 20 years after independence. It was recognized by the international community as an example of rapid economic progress. Post-1980s, progress has slowed amid rising security challenges. The country has suffered from the effects of geopolitical regional tensions following three cross-border wars. Periods of faster growth have soon been superseded by downturns. Despite this mixed growth performance, poverty has continued to decline at a rapid pace, falling from 64 percent to 24 percent in the past two decades.
Pakistan’s economic challenges have been accompanied by a rapid demographic transition since its founding. The population rose six-fold to nearly 210 million people today. Two thirds of Pakistanis are below 30. This young population presents both an opportunity and a challenge. It provides the economy with millions of creative and energetic youth who could boost growth and prosperity. But it also means that there is an abundance of labor in search of jobs. If the economy is not able to generate those jobs it would lead to frustration. Pakistan’s high birthrate, the highest among neighboring countries, also threatens to overwhelm education and health services that are already overstretched.
Pakistan became a World Bank member in 1950 and we have enjoyed a productive partnership that has included significant investments in infrastructure, health and education. We recognize the challenges facing Pakistan, not least from geopolitical tensions, and will continue to be part of Pakistan’s journey to a more prosperous future. We will work with Pakistan to invest more and equitably in its people, build quality institutions, transform its economy, sustain its environment, and leverage its location to connect more with neighbors and the world beyond.
As part of this partnership, the Pakistan@100 report provides evidence-based ideas and global experiences on how Pakistan can provide a better future for its youth. It examines what it would take for more Pakistanis to become prosperous, with better education, higher paying quality jobs, and healthier, smaller families at the nation’s centenary in 2047. It urges the country’s leaders to invest more in Pakistan’s talented and hardworking people. The report also suggests ways in which the country can unleash an economic transformation similar to the structural transformations we saw in East Asia in the 1980s and 1990s. Many countries in the past facing Pakistan’s challenges of today embarked on similar journeys and now they play an important role in the global economy. Pakistan can do the same by taking tough reform decisions early and sustaining them through the next three decades.
Moving toward an upper middle-income future also encompasses structural transformation that moves people from farms and low-value added services to highly productive, innovative and well-managed firms. Conversely, if the current status quo continues, namely that growth remains at current levels and population growth does not slow, in 30 years Pakistan will have income levels very close to what they are today, and yet another generation will have missed the opportunity to benefit from Pakistan’s potential.
Pakistan@100: Shaping the Future is a platform for dialogue on how to fulfill the vision of its founders for a prosperous Pakistan. It is dedicated to the country’s youth in the hope that they will reap the benefits of change outlined in this report and aspire for a better future. I share the report’s conclusion: with decisive action and determination, Pakistan can achieve Jinnah’s vision of becoming prosperous – and the future starts now.
Chief Executive Officer, World Bank