By Lal Khan
The potential growth of Pakistan’s economy highlighted by the World Bank and the IMF has been seized by the PML (N) regime as international recognition and proof of its economic success. A recent article in the Washington Post said that “Looking beyond the headlines Pakistan today boasts the best stock market in Asia in 2016 and its economy is forecast for a healthy 5.2% growth rate in 2017… Pakistan’s middle class may have reached a tipping point at more than half the population and is attracting foreign investment…” Earlier the Prime minister Nawaz Sharif had acclaimed that, “Pakistan will join top 25 economies by 2025.”
The Washington Post article attributed relative political stability and a growing middle class for Pakistan’s economic improvement. Another imperialist think-tank, The Brookings Institution’s scholar Homi Kharas argues that, “Pakistan’s consumer middle-class market could hit $1 trillion by 2030.” However, the size of the middle class and the alleviation of poverty figures in Pakistan are grossly exaggerated by the state and imperialist institutions.
Perhaps these creatures of incredulous optimism are a species from another planet. The rising disparity and the economic hardships have escalated for the vast sections of the society. The so-called middle class itself has many layers and a huge difference in its living standards, consumption and economic disparities. Vast sections of the ‘middle classes’ are struggling to meet their daily needs and those on the top circles are spending their obscene wealth lavishly and are aspiring to join the ruling class – a minute minority of the population—the notorious one percent!
Expansion of the middle class is an intended by product of the neo-liberal economic model. The old capitalist model of trickle down economics was reinstated as a worldwide Monetarist model during the 1980’s and aped by Thatcherism and Reaganomics with wholesale privatisations including the basic services such as health and education to extract maximum profits for the ruling classes. This resulted in the destruction of large swathes of productive capacity and a permanent army of the unemployed.
However, the crumbs from the capitalist profits that trickled down did expand the middle classes to some extent particularly in the so-called developing world. This led to a certain expansion of the markets and created a room for consumption. But all that happened at the cost of a harrowing increase in the poverty, deprivation and misery for the large swathes of the population. However, this strategy was also short lived as the elite’s mad rush for more profitability led to the ballooning of the banking and state debts that exploded into the crash of 2007-2008. Most world economies since have failed to recover.
According to the progressive and Marxist economists, Pakistan’s middle classes are at the most 50 million – about twenty-five percent of the population. This leaves over 150 million people even in greater destitution. But the methods of analysing poverty levels are flawed and deceptive by design. The largest segments of the middle class have a daily income of three dollars a day (PKR 9,000 per month) which is still six thousand less than the official minimum wage. This exposes the deceptiveness of imperialist institutions much cherished by capitalist economic experts and given a divine status for solving our economic woes. In reality, these sacred institutions are more vicious and crooked extortionists than notorious gangsters of Karachi and other cities and towns in Pakistan.
This middle class acts as a buffer to a sudden economic meltdown but it is also extremely insecure and frantically in a rush to get rich by any means necessary. Their erratic character and socio-psychological instability swing their political leanings from one extreme to another. With the worsening financial crisis their frustration leads them into the abyss of religious, ethnic and racial fanaticisms providing the certain basis to the forces of black reaction. The poverty of soul of this economically unstable petit bourgeois leads them into criminal lumpenism, male chauvinism, religious obscurantism and semi-fascist mind-sets. In a period of social inertia, these elements are raw fodder of the violent reaction that the bourgeois promotes to create fissions in the class unity of the toilers.
It’s true that the economy will grow by about five percent in 2017-18 due to growth in real estate and speculative nature of business within Pakistan but this does not reflect any development of society or improvement in the living conditions of the masses. The cases of Brazil, China and particularly India are explicit of this phenomenon. In Pakistan these growth patterns are no different. However, under this comprador capitalist ruling class, this growth exacerbates the combined and uneven nature of development.
The economy and the country are sprinkled with modern infrastructure projects and advanced technology scattered in a vast ocean of primitiveness and destitution. Instead of evolving a harmonious socio-economic growth and development these patterns of growth and development end up in sharpening the contradictions that can lead to anarchy or more likely revolutionary mass upheavals that could overthrow the system itself and transform society with a Marxist leadership and a Leninist party. We saw a similar mass revolt erupting during the 1968-69 revolution, with a socialist character, in this very Islamic republic. This year Pakistan had one of its highest economic growth rates in its history.
A similar prospect looms large in the stormy period ahead where the relatively higher economic growth rates could explode the sharpening contradictions in the womb of society. The present era reflects the deep political indifference of the present period and the reactionary nature of the ruling political edifice corrupt to the core. This contradictory nature of the socioeconomic growth has created an unprecedented deprivation while its uneven modernity has sparsely introduced the working classes to the most advanced gadgets radicalising their consciousness in the process. The main mission of those who want to put an end to this ongoing orgy of drudgery, suffering and calamities in the country is to arouse that advanced part of this social consciousness and not just churn out stale analysis. Karl Marx put it appropriately, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world; point is to change it.”