‘We want prosperity and development for the people but the opposition is always stopping us’. This is the mantra of all the ruling parties when they assume power, particularly PML-N. The unique selling point of the present government on which it tries to counter the narrative of the opposition and legitimise its rule is the development rhetoric, claiming that it is fast pacing the development process and opposition is creating hurdles in fulfilling its ‘sacred’ ambitions. The question to be pondered upon here is ‘are we really developing’? Development and growth are two different phenomena in an economy. Growth means an overall increase in the size of GDP and the total number of goods and services produced in a country. On the other hand, development means an all-inclusive growth which leads to the increase in living standards of the people in a country. Increase or progress in living standards not only means an increase in income, it is a comprehensive approach which encompasses improvement in access to education, better health indicators, and facilities, improved social inclusion, improved holding of assets and other social indicators. In a capitalist economy, unfortunately, growth does not automatically translate into development. If action is not taken by the government, growth only leads to more income inequality at the national and regional level and benefits only a small section of the society. The globally accepted indicator of human development is HDI (Human Development Index) developed by UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). It is a comprehensive criterion which takes into account various factors e.g. per capita income, life expectancy, mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling to gauge the overall development level of a country compared to other countries. The score is measured between zero and one and the closer it is to one, the better the living conditions in that country. If we compare the regional HDI data, Pakistan is far behind its counterparts. Pakistan’s HDI index for the year 2015 is 0.538 and is at a position of 147 which means that 146 out of 188 countries in the world were better than Pakistan in human development. India was on 130th position with an HDI index of 0.609 while Bangladesh was also better than us in terms of HDI score. It stands at a position of 142 with a HDI score of 0.57. If we look at the time series improvement in HDI score from 2010-14, still India and Bangladesh were better than us. The HDI score of India in 2010 was 0.586 which means an improvement of 3.78pc by 2014. Bangladesh performed even better gaining an increase of 4.21pc points in its HDI score which was 0.546 in 2010. Pakistan has had the least improvement in its HDI score from 2010, showing just an improvement of 2.97pc which was 0.522 at that time. Bangladesh, our former east wing, was much behind Pakistan in HDI score in the 1980s. By 1995, it equalled and then it outperformed Pakistan every year. This should ring the alarm bells for our policymakers as we can now see the outcomes of this focus on human capital development/ Bangladesh is not only consistently growing at a higher rate than us it has now surpassed us in textile exports as well. Spending more on education and health is not expenditure. The government should think of it as a long-term investment Coming to education indicators, the basic education indicator is literacy rate which is dependent upon improving primary and secondary dropout rates and gross enrolment rates. It is defined as “the number of people who can read or write a letter”. According to the World Bank’s latest development update report for Pakistan, the literacy rate in Pakistan is somewhere between 58-60pc. In comparison, the literacy rate in India is now 75pc and Bangladesh has also managed to achieve a 70pc literacy rate. According to the same report, which was released in November 2016, (it also stated that Pakistan is having a high growth rate), Pakistan’s gross primary and secondary gross enrolment has remained stagnant since 2010 at 62pc and 58pc respectively. At the regional level, the report claims that KP is a clear winner which has improved 3pc in gross primary enrolment rate while in Punjab it remained stagnant. This report breaks the rhetoric and the pro-development image created by the Punjab government for its electorate. It testifies that the present Punjab government is more focused on short term and cosmetic measures like Danish Schools and suspending government officials rather than long term visionary thinking and introducing structural reforms in the development paradigm of the province. This report also states that Pakistan has the third highest number of children in the world with stunted growths at a staggering 43pc which is primarily not due to malnutrition but due to lack of access to proper sanitation and safe drinking water. If we look at the health indicators, a basic one is the average life expectancy. Here also, Pakistan falls below almost every South Asian country except Afghanistan at 66.2 years. Sri Lanka has an average life expectancy of 74.9 years while India has a life expectancy of 68 years. Bangladesh has even made a better stride by achieving a life expectancy of 71.6 years. In the 1980s both Bangladesh and India were far behind Pakistan in terms of life expectancy as Pakistan’s life expectancy was 57 years while for India and Bangladesh it was 53.9 and 53.5 years respectively. Since 2010, Bangladesh improved its life expectancy by 1.5 years, India was also able to improve by 1.5 years, while Pakistan was only able to improve by 1.1 years. The other two important indicators of health are infant mortality rate and the maternal mortality rate. The situation is more alarming for these indicators. In the infant mortality rate, Pakistan lags behind every South Asian country except Afghanistan. 69 out of 1000 kids born in Pakistan die within one year due to lack of adequate health resources. While in India, this ratio is 41 to 1000 births, Bangladesh has managed to reduce it to 33 mortalities per 1000, which is even less than half of Pakistan’s figure. In the maternal mortality rate, Pakistan’s progress is also slow compared to other South Asian countries. Data by World Bank shows that Pakistan made an improvement of 15pc in MMR (Maternal Mortality Rate) from 211 deaths/100,000 women at the time of delivery in 2010 to 178 deaths in 2015. In contrast, for the same time period, Bangladesh made a remarkable progress of 27pc, almost double than that of Pakistan, reducing its maternal death rate from 242 to 176. India was also able to manage a 19pc reduction in its MMR from 215 to 174 within the same time period. All this data shows that contrary to the gigantic claims of the federal and provincial governments, Pakistan has made little progress in development since 2010. The present ruling party cannot put the blame on former governments as it has been in power in Punjab since 2008 and in the federal since 2013. It shares equal responsibility for the stalled development. The present government should understand the fact that CPEC, spending on roads and other infrastructure projects may lead to growth but not development unless its economic gains are not equally distributed across all the regions of Pakistan and the extra income gained from it is not spent on improving the living standards of people. In the words of the World Bank’s report, ‘The country’s long-term growth depends on its investment in the people — this is what will make growth matter for Pakistan’. Building infrastructure is not more important than building human capital. Spending more on education and health is not expenditure. The government should think of it as a long-term investment with significant gains in the productivity of the labour force. High investments in education and health have the potential of bringing a skilled labour force revolution in Pakistan turning our country from an exporter of basic commodities to high tech products which will bring much higher returns than our current export portfolio. It will also lay the foundations of a pro-democratic stronger middle class which is the backbone of modern consumption based economies. Furthermore, it will also lead to the strengthening of national security, as in the past we have seen that we lost half our country because of unequal distribution of resources. Similarly, in the present times, we are facing an existential threat to our national security in the form of terrorism which has its roots in illiteracy and an eschewed development model. Spending more on butter than guns will definitely strengthen our national security and will help Pakistan transition from a security state to a modern welfare state. The writer is an entrepreneur and a social activist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, May 8th 2018.