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Think tank report Exposes Pakistan’s Economic Stagnation


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This research delves into the intricate dynamics of Pakistan’s labor productivity growth over the past three decades, as explored in the recent work titled “Stick-in-the-Mud” by the Economic Advisory Group (EAG), an independent think tank.

Dr. Ahmed Pirzada and his collaborators from Bristol University meticulously analyze the factors contributing to Pakistan’s sluggish productivity growth compared to its South Asian counterparts and other rapidly transforming Asian economies.


The research sheds light on the stark reality of Pakistan’s labor productivity, emphasizing its lag behind peer countries and the profound impact on economic transformation. The study covers the period from 1990 to 2018, unraveling the challenges that hindered Pakistan’s progress.


Labor Productivity Growth:

The findings reveal a meager 45% increase in labor productivity during the specified period, translating to an average annual growth rate of a mere 1.33%. This stands in stark contrast to the robust growth experienced by countries like Bangladesh, India, and China, which witnessed more than a doubling and, in China’s case, an eightfold increase in labor productivity.


Workforce Shift:

The higher productivity growth in peer countries has facilitated a substantial shift in the workforce from agriculture to manufacturing and services. However, Pakistan has not witnessed a comparable transition, raising questions about the country’s economic structure.


Capital-Output Ratio:

One of the key contributors to Pakistan’s productivity challenge is the low and declining capital-output ratio. The ratio has decreased from 3 in the 1970s to 1.61 in 2018, indicating inadequate investment in productive capacity. Insufficient investment in human capital further exacerbates this challenge, evident in Pakistan’s lower human capital index compared to regional economies.


Structural Transformation:

The research highlights the absence of meaningful structural transformation in Pakistan’s economy. Despite a decrease in the agricultural sector’s share of employment, the country lags in comparison to peer nations. The stagnant composition of Pakistan’s trade basket further emphasizes the limited transformation the economy has undergone.


Implications and Policy Considerations:

The research underscores the critical need for policies that incentivize reallocation of economic resources from less productive to more productive activities. However, prevailing policies in Pakistan seem to perpetuate the status quo, hindering the emergence of innovative and globally competitive businesses.


Power Dynamics in Policymaking:

Drawing on academic research, the study suggests that counterproductive policies may stem from the influence of individuals or groups associated with the ruling elite. Power dynamics within the policymaking process, influenced by the governing classes, appear to favor policies that protect elite interests.



The research concludes that overcoming Pakistan’s productivity challenges requires a multifaceted approach, addressing issues related to capital investment, human capital development, and transformative policy frameworks. The study advocates for a deeper understanding of power dynamics in policymaking, emphasizing the need for policies that benefit the broader populace and foster economic growth.

Zain Saleem
Zain Saleem
Zain Saleem is an Islamabad-based Senior Journalist

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