Pakistan is a nascent state in terms of economic development

Muhammad Wajahat Sultan June 04, 2024
The writer is a UET graduate and holds Master’s degrees from Sargodha University and Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad. He can be contacted at


Human societies evolve differently in different phases. The scale and intent of social evolution are defined by industrialisation, technology, and economies. In the last few decades, the Happiness Index has been a new indicator that is more important than economies in gauging the overall collective growth of society. Happiness is not restricted in the literal sense, but it is dimensional. Happiness comes with freedom, enabling functionalities for the people and providing them with avenues to advance. The singular and monolithic concept of the economic rise in the terms of GDP is an incomplete and incompatible indicator to underline the state’s progress. Precisely, a country’s progress shouldn’t be evaluated only in GDP but also in the people’s peace, happiness, and functional power. Here, functional powers mean the ability to express, create, and play a vital role through different platforms and forums.

Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index classifies different states based on people’s happiness. Material wealth is considered the sole criterion for developing individuals and states in the contemporary world. Many economists and social theorists stress the importance of developing economies, gross national product, and the total value of goods and services for the proper development of the nations. In the 21st Century, with the rise of consumerist culture, people’s happiness has become a significant criterion for measuring the state’s progress. Amartya Sen, an economist and Noble Laureate, developed a capability model that categorised freedom and happiness as the fundamental factors for development. Development is not unilateral with material progress, it is subject to several factors, such as happiness, functional abilities, and people’s capability development.

Pakistan is a nascent state in terms of economic development. If we map out our development with happiness factors, the development will be sustainable in the 21st Century. The development of the 21st Century differs from that of the 20th Century. Pakistani policymakers are designing the economic policy of the 21st Century with the intellectual scope of the 20th Century. It is the root cause of not sustaining and creating inclusive economic growth. For example, more than half of the contribution of our economic taxation comes from the service sector. Do economic policymakers consider happiness, safe working hours, social security benefits, and decent working conditions for workers in the service economy? Without considering the cause of happiness, material progress is a sham concept. The increase in happiness for the workers boosts creativity, productivity, and sustainability of the people for the future cause.

Income is the sole factor we discuss as a criterion for our progress and growth at a societal level. However, this narrow focus on income overlooks other important aspects of human life, such as freedom of expression, leisure time, and good health. Due to the factor of income, people’s lives have become robotic and commercialised. It’s time we recognised the limitations of GDP and considered a more holistic measure like GNH, which takes into account the overall well-being and happiness of the people.

To develop happiness for citizens, the state should provide different avenues where at least a person can perform their roles per their qualifications and expertise. For example, engineers from any public university need help to perform what they learned during four years of vigorous practice. Most engineers are doing those jobs that are not meant for them. The state should develop mechanisms that can utilise potential per the standards and protocols of person capacity. Likewise, happiness comes when someone’s capacity building is designed. For instance, giving opportunities for a layman to learn and expand his new skills to be relevant for coming years in the age of disruptive technologies. In short, capacity building and enabling functionalities go hand in hand. These mechanisms help develop happiness and, in response, productivity for an economic and social cause of the state. We can draw inspiration from Bhutan, a nation that has successfully integrated GNH into its development strategy.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2024.

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