Punjab’s profile of regional backwardness

Published: May 21, 2012

The writer is a former vice-president of the World Bank and a former caretaker finance minister of Pakistan

It is inevitable that an economy of the size of Punjab will have regional differences. These differences are profound in the case of the country’s largest provincial economy. From the perspective of making of public policy, the important thing is not only to recognise these differences but to reduce them. By narrowing them, Pakistan will be able to address the problem of regional disparities that has become acute and is posing serious economic and social tensions in the country.

How large are the regional differences in Punjab in terms of social and economic development, how have they come about and what could be done to narrow them are some of the subjects covered in what the Institute of Public Policy (IPP) called the “Punjab story” in its recently released report for 2012. The report focuses on regional disparities since “there has been talk of about creating a new province (Seraiki, Bahawalpur) within Punjab“.

Drilling down the analysis of the forces responsible for economic development and social change to the district level provides several important insights. While reading the situation at one particular point in time is useful, what would be even more rewarding is to view the change that has occurred over time. This can be done if the administrative units that are the focus of analysis do not change. This has not happened in the case of Punjab. The number of districts in the province has increased from 19 in the late 1960s to 35 half a century later. One of the major contributions made by the IPP is the reconstruction of past data so that comparisons can be made with the situation at the present.

In order to understand the geographic profile of regional backwardness, the IPP used a variety of indicators to rank the provinces 35 districts according to their level of development. In all, 13 indicators were used in three categories: income and wealth (example: cash value of major crops per capita, value added in manufacturing per head of the population), social development (examples: literacy rate, hospital beds per 1,000 people) and economic infrastructure (example: proportion of households with electricity). A composite development index, ranging from one at the top and zero at the bottom, was constructed. Not surprisingly, Lahore is at the top of the districts with a reading of 0.712 and Rajanpur with a reading of 0.102 is at the bottom. The ratio between the top and the bottom is close to seven suggesting a very wide development disparity. Eight districts with scores of more than 0.525 were classified as developed; 15 were put in the intermediate range and 12 were in the least developed category. In addition to Lahore, Sheikhupura, Rawalpindi, Hafizbad and Sialkot were among the five most developed districts; among the least developed five were Lodharan, Muzaffargarh, Bahawalpur, D.G.Khan and Rajanpur in descending order.

Aggregating the data to the divisional level brings into stark relief the regional disparities in the level of development. There are now nine divisions in Punjab (there were only three in the late 1960s). Among them, Lahore is the most developed largely because of better infrastructure and services. Rawalpindi, Gujranwala and Faisalabad come next. Sargodah and Sahiwal are in the centre of the scale with Multan, Bahawalpur and DG Khan making the bottom of the scale.

One thing is clear from this grading: the southern part of the province is much less developed than the parts in the centre and north of the province. However, there are pockets of poverty in the north and centre and relative prosperity in the southern parts. Relatively poor Attock and Narowal districts are located in the more developed parts of the province while the relatively better-off Multan is surrounded by the province’s poor districts. About a third of the provincial population was in each of these three categories.

There has been a significant movement in the relative positions of the districts over time in relation to their relative position on the scale of development. The districts in the centre have gained while those in the south have lost.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2012.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Max
    May 21, 2012 - 7:26AM

    Question about the data: Were the urban centers separated from rest of the district? If we do that the story narrates a very different picture of the Punjab.
    How sad that the southern part is so underdeveloped on all indicators. I have lived in Bahwalpur city as a young-boy just few years after the One-Unit. What a magnificent city it was and what a marvelous picture its schools and colleges, and central library were presenting. Education was free and schools were of a very high quality.
    It would be appropriate to look at rural-urban difference in the next study by IPP.

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  • usman
    May 21, 2012 - 9:19AM

    Right Analysis. Because Lahore, Faisalabad and Gujranwala Divisio are punjabi maority

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  • Falcon
    May 21, 2012 - 11:01AM

    Hailing from Southern Punjab myself, I find it interesting that first the region is not given enough funds to develop itself and subsequently, people of the region are considered rustic and ‘unsophisticated’ by the rest of the province. It is quite obvious based on this analysis that people in Southern Punjab will certainly benefit from formation of a separate province that will hopefully bring in more equitable distribution of resources.

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  • Knotty
    May 21, 2012 - 4:46PM

    I don’t mind if our Province (Punjab) is further divided.
    .
    Southern Punjab provinces will focus more on agriculture and can focus on this specialty.
    .
    While the upper punjab (Lahore/Sialkot/Faisalabad etc) will be focus on Technology/export/textile and add value through innovation.
    .
    Current Punjab is confused where to focus, IT or Agriculture (both are important but I am talking about a strategy to focus on the strengths to gain worldwide advantage).

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  • mateensaeed
    May 21, 2012 - 7:27PM

    While making such calculations the role of expatriates is ignored. With opportunities created by Petro-dollar in middle east, those who benefitted most were residents of Central Punjab especially those from Districts like Gujrat, Gujranwala, Sialkot etc. Skilled or Semi-skilled workers of these districts who were traditionally taken as “Kamis”, earned with best of their skills and eventually established medium scale industries with their hard earned income from middle east. So if apparantly seems little prosperity in central Punjab, it was never due to any effort on the part of federal or Provincial Govt or neither it is fruit of Pakistan.

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  • gangly khan
    May 21, 2012 - 7:36PM

    I belong to rural area of Mandi Bahauddin district. Land of this district is very fertile. Farmers contribute at large scale to make the country self sufficient in agriculture produce. Government always claim that it has executed several development projects in rural area like construction of farm to market roads, basic health units, schools etc. A few days back I visited a village Guddo Sultan where brother of one of my fried passed away.I travelled from my village to Mandi Bahauddin. The road was completely dismantalled. What to talk of driving vehicle on it, even it is difficult to walk on this road. Yes from Mandi Bahauddin to Pahrianwali road was better but it is highway connecting district headquarters. From Paherianwali to Guddo Sultan was again the road upto Gakhra was broken. Beyond that I have to drive on Katcha Raod for several miles. I offered Fateh there and met people. They told me that despite their repeated request to local MNAs and MPAs, no road has been constructed in their area. I could see wheat grain stored outside awaiting transport. The farmers told that it was very difficult for them to transport their produce to market. Perforce they have to sell it at much cheaper rates as compared to fixed rates by government. This was just to tell the readers about poor state of the development done in rural area of Punjab. On the other hand loot major projects of development in major cities. There is great difference and disparity. Major institutions like universities and colleges are concentrated in major cities. Why they are not scattered over the area to benefit the villagers. I may say our rulers are anti villagers. They keep them ignarent so that they can exploit them Every leader know it fully well. They are requested to to change their approach.

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  • Knotty
    May 21, 2012 - 10:38PM

    @ Mateensaeed

    As you mentioned, I appreciate your ‘kami’ background but it is not due to those ‘kamis’ going out. Had it been due to expatriates, mirpur & mandi bahauddin would have been the most developed areas.
    .
    Expatriates mostly built banglows to show off and left them empty.

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