A tale of two Pakistans

Bangladesh to clock highest growth in Asia this year.

Pakistan’s growth to be lowest in South Asia in current fiscal.

8% vs. 3%. From a geopolitical perspective at current rates of relative stagnation India’s Pakistani problem will “solve” itself as the Islamic Republic is turning into a macroeconomic midget. All of the geopolitical posturing will be irrelevant if the Pakistani polity doesn’t get its structural house in order (e.g., shift away from the oligarchy).

28 Replies to “A tale of two Pakistans”

  1. As long as the elephant in the room persists, things aren’t going to change. Pakistan spends over 16% of its annual budget on defence, while for Bangladesh it’s just over 6% for 2019-20.

    https://www.dawn.com/news/1487720

    https://www.thedailystar.net/bangladesh-national-budget-2019-20/bangladesh-budget-2019-20-in-pie-charts-1756573

    These numbers tend to snowball after a couple of years, after which it’s evident how high the opportunity cost is to be in a permanent state of military mobilization.

    Added to this, Pak never had properly implemented land reforms, their problems started all the way back in the 40s when the Muslim League needed zamindar support for partition.

  2. Bangladesh seems to be doing more with less (wrt to India as well), not to mention Pakistan’s really high fertility undercuts whatever modest GDP growth they are experiencing. I’m guessing Bangladesh does a better job getting women into the workforce, hope that doesn’t change. Looking east to the ASEAN region for development paradigms and partnership seems like a good strategy for south asian states, given current levels of development.

  3. Considering Bangladesh is doing well and also has its TFR in control, I think a lot of this NRC non-sense will also solve itself in due course of time.

    Large market for Indian companies + skilled labour force (wrt UP/Bihar) + Not a big demographic threat

    Climate change is a big worry, though.

  4. ” India’s Pakistani problem will “solve” itself as the Islamic Republic is turning into a macroeconomic midget”

    I think we regularly under estimate Pakistan . Pakistan punches above it weight , irrespective of it economic conditions, because the tools it uses to impede India are very cost effective ( militancy etc) . Just like how Taliban need not need billion dollars to impede USA in Afghanistan.

    Coupled with China’s (and sometimes the USA’s ) help , Pakistan will always have its head above water and will not go Iran (sanctions) way. For the limited international posturing Pakistan seeks (Kashmir, India, Afghanistan, Muslim issues of the world) , its economy is and will always be sufficient. Its a different thing altogether if you want the economy to grow for betterment of your people.

  5. These growth numbers put me in mind of IPCC forecast of impact of global warming on global GDP. I’d have to check, but if I recall correctly the baseline global number is around 4% of GDP impact for 4 degree C of warming. That’s a one time impact number. If it takes say 20 years, then over 20 years would lose 4% GDP from net anticipated growth. But impact varies quite widely by country and city. In particular Bangladesh often cited a country highly impacted.

    Point here is if Bangladesh keeps their 8% growth figure, that nets out to roughly 4.66x higher GDP than today over 20 years. Then losing 4% one time hit moves it to 4.66 – .04 = 4.62x higher. Obvious as poster child for global warming, it’ll be higher than 4% (which is global figure, and it has err bars on top). But compounded economic growth crushes other factors.

    So to your original point, 3% compounded by 20 years is just 1.8x original. No doubt it’s a bit silly to assume either of these growth figures stays constant over that long a span. But Bangladesh and Pakistan roughly comparable GDP today $2.5B US versus $3B US. So would be not surprising that in a decade or two Bangladesh is 2x larger.

  6. Bangladesh as a holiday destination seems more attractive by the day. Considering my limited Hindi speaking and reading skills, and the fact that I know no Dravidian language whatsoever, it’s ironic that as an Indian, I will have fewer language problems in Bangladesh than I would in India. On top of that, they use the Bengali script, so I won’t even have any problems reading the signboards. The local dialect and accent variations will be a ‘charming curiosity’ to my ears.

    1. educated ppl would probably switch to more kolkata-normative if they knew you were from west bengal…. (my parents always did this when they socialized with indians)

  7. I’m no linguist, but I can’t make out any huge difference between the Bengali spoken on the Dhaka TV channels that I sometimes see on Youtube, and the standard Kolkata Bengali that I am used to. Sylhetti or Chittagonian is something else altogether though.

    1. Sylhetti or Chittagonian is something else altogether though.

      those are exceptions, and yes, unintelligible to ‘standard bengali.’ you can understand the dialects in other parts of the country.

      i think the TV bengali is a bit kolkottified. there are some sounds that shift in regular spoken bengali. e.g.

      “korechee” to “koresee”

      “jani” sometimes to “zani”

      (some ppl have detected possible tibeto-burman influence east of he padma)

      1. Standard Bengali slightly differs in both side of Bengal. Bangladeshi one has noticeably different accent and of course some turko-persian and Arabic loanwords. Just compare newscasters from both side:
        Bangladesh tv news: https://youtu.be/GmhYc46-QYI
        Kolkata tv news:
        https://youtu.be/xSSdlwPSnkw
        The standard Bengali is not Kolkata rather from Nadia district. Similarly greater Kushtia region of Bangladesh also speaks similar to Nadia dialect.

    2. “I can’t make out any huge difference between the Bengali spoken on the Dhaka TV channels that I sometimes see on Youtube, and the standard Kolkata Bengali”

      Agreed. I suspect but cannot prove with data that Bengali is standardizing across India and Bangladesh. Many Bengalis do not live in either West Bengal or Bangladesh.

      Sheikh Hasina is growing more popular in West Bengal, and among the BJP from across India. Hope this is also true inside Bangladesh 🙂

      My friends have given me a list of places in Bangladesh to visit, including many Sufi masters (most quietly live in villages), and Dharmic masters. The cultural integration of Bangladesh and West Bengal is accelerating.

  8. ‘Chh’ and ‘j’ being pronounced as ‘s’ and ‘z’ in east Bengal is a typical feature. My parents, both of whose families moved to Calcutta from east Bengal in the 1940s, often used these pronunciations when speaking among their own kin. I think there was a great confusion at one point on whether the word ‘Sultan’ should be written in Bengali with a ‘chh’ or ‘s’. Since the Bengali ছ is pronounced as ‘s’ in the east, there was a time when ‘Sultan’ was spelled as ছুলতান . I hope the Bengali fonts are showing in the comment.

  9. “All of the geopolitical posturing will be irrelevant if the Pakistani polity doesn’t get its structural house in order ”

    Pakistan doesn’t have to be an economic success to be a military problem of enormous proportions. What would happen if they sicced the Taliban on to India?

    1. True, even though i dont think history repeats itself in such neat patterns.

      India has far more wherewithal to handle Kashmir this time around.If India didn’t lose Kashmir in the 90s where Pakistan had the upper hand militarily and a favorable intentional audience, i dont think it can happen now.

    2. “What would happen if they sicced the Taliban on to India?”

      This is under active discussion in GHQ. In anticipation of this India has scrapped article 370.

      The cost of a Taliban offensive in Kashmir would be in the tens of billions of dollars over many years. GHQ needs heavy Gulf backing to operationalize this. Will they get it?

      The Taliban operations in Afghanistan already costs Pakistan and the Gulf over $2 billion a year. {My conservative estimate. The exact number is classified and could be much higher.}

      Will Pakistan deploy tens of thousands of Taliban fighters to Kashmir?

      So far the Pakistani Army wants to further damage the Afghan Government and the Afghan National Army before redeploying to fight India.

      After 9/11/2001, Pakistan redeployed the Taliban from Kashmir to fight in the West. As a result violence in Kashmir fell about 95%. Will this long relative peace now end?

  10. Bangladesh ought to name itself Best Pakistan. As for the current Pakistan, it is as Ardeshir Cowasjee said. The people are incapable of learning from their mistakes and deciding what would actually be good for them. His advice to young Pakistanis was to get out if they could, there was no prospect of things getting better.

    https://www.dawn.com/news/766548

    1. “His advice to young Pakistanis was to get out if they could”

      I started reading Cowasjee ever since I got on to Internet. He used to be my favorite columnist, especially because of his wit. He was a great asset to Dawn, though admittedly Dawn still has a battery of great columnists.

      As to his advice to young Pakistanis, it is useless now. Get out and go where? After 9/11 and Trump’s presidency, attitudes against Muslims have hardened in America, and in the West generally. If they come to America, they will be silently discriminated against in jobs (the hiring manager will simply delete the resumes with muslim names silently – i have seen it personally). Their kids will get bullied and name-called in school play yards.

      My advice to young pakistanis will be to stay put wherever they are, and tough it out in their own country.

      1. How do they know what a Muslim name is?

        In medical school, I was advised against getting a LOR from a brown physician because it may look like nepotism.

        The physician’s surname? Qureshi.

      2. this is dumb advice. my last name is khan so ppl often assume i’m pakistani. i have no problems. there is discrimination, but it’s not that bad, especially if you don’t dress in an exotic manner (so that ppl think about your identity constantly).

        then again, one thing i’ve realized on indian twitter is that FOBs from non-muslim backgrounds apparently know a lot better than me what it’s like to be muslim or perceived as muslim in american society than i do…so go ahead.

        1. then again, one thing i’ve realized on indian twitter is that FOBs from non-muslim backgrounds apparently know a lot better than me what it’s like to be muslim

          It’s a gift since the childhood…also, it runs in the family. my kid daughter thinks she knows better what’s good for me than i do. in a couple of years she will start commenting on this blog.

  11. “The Warrior State,” by Prof. TV Paul, is the book to read on this. It delineates Pakistan’s “geostrategic curse,” (analogous to the “resource curse”) as the cause of many of its woes.

  12. India too can learn some stuff from Bangaldesh. Very happy to see it progressing. I hope no radicalism takes hold and turns it back, as has been seen in recent history in other parts of the Ummah.

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