East Asian experience has some important lessons for Pakistan as the country embraces the western prescriptions of democracy and free trade. It's particularly important to recall these lessons now in view Pakistan's decision to open unrestricted trade with India whose major industrialists like Tata and Birla have greatly benefited from protectionist policies to scale up and gain experience.
The East Asian nation of South Korea has become a great model of economic success for the developing world. Back in 1960s, its annual per capita income was around $80, less than half of Ghana's at the time. Today, it stands at $30,000, comparable to that of some wealthy European nations. For most of this period, the people of South Korea have ignored the Washington consensus, the western prescription on economy and politics, to achieve this miraculous progress.
In 1960s and 1970s, Korea was led by military ruler General Park Chung-Hee who put in place the policies which helped Koreans realize their great potential. President Park made huge investment in infrastructure, health and education. In addition, South Korean analyst Ha-Joon Chang says that the Korean government "practiced many policies that are now supposed to be bad for economic development: extensive use of selective industrial policy, combining protectionism with export subsidies; tough regulations on foreign direct investment; active, if not particularly extensive, use of state-owned enterprises; lax protection of patents and other intellectual property rights; heavy regulation of both domestic and international finance."
Pakistan, too, was ruled by a military dictator General Ayub Khan in a period labeled by Pakistani economist Dr. Ishrat Husain as "the Golden Sixties". General Ayub Khan pushed central planning with a state-driven national industrial policy. In fact, South Korea sought to emulate Pakistan's development strategy and copied Pakistan's second "Five-Year Plan".
Here's how Dr. Husain recalls Pakistan of 1960s:
"The manufacturing sector expanded by 9 percent annually and various new industries were set up. Agriculture grew at a respectable rate of 4 percent with the introduction of Green Revolution technology. Governance improved with a major expansion in the government’s capacity for policy analysis, design and implementation, as well as the far-reaching process of institution building. The Pakistani polity evolved from what political scientists called a “soft state” to a “developmental” one that had acquired the semblance of political legitimacy. By 1969, Pakistan’s manufactured exports were higher than the exports of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia combined. Though speculative, it is possible that, had the economic policies and programs of the Ayub regime continued over the next two decades, Pakistan would have emerged as another miracle economy."
South Korea's Chang has exposed the hypocrisy of the West by explaining that the "G7 was always remarkably reluctant to recommend these (South Korea's) "heterodox" policies and insisted that the "Washington consensus" package of opening up, deregulation and privatization was the right recipe for everyone. When confronted with the Korean case, Washington consensus supporters tried to brush it off as an exception. However, the history of take-offs in most of the G7 countries – especially Britain, the US, Germany, France and Japan – is far closer to the Korean model than is commonly thought. The "unorthodox" policies used by Korea and almost all of today's rich countries need to be seriously considered in any discussion on development options."
Since the great success achieved by South Korea and other Asian Tigers in the latter part of the 20th century, China has become the latest example to have followed the East Asian development model with great results for what is now being dubbed the Asian century. Each of these nations has done it by ignoring the Washington Consensus about democracy, free markets and free trade.
As Pakistan embarks on a new course in trade, it's important for its leadership to recognize the wide gap between the theory and practice of the "Washington Consensus" to effectively safeguard its economy, domestic industries and jobs for Pakistanis to develop and prosper in the 21st century.
Haq's Musings: Should Pakistan Ignore "Washington Consensus"?