Pakistan: Political despondency linked to economic despair – survey


WASHINGTON: Only 16 per cent of Pakistanis believe that their local economy is getting better, which is the lowest in the region except for Afghanistan, says a Gallup survey report released this week.

The survey by Gallup World Poll shows how the unrest in the country is rooted in its economic woes, as the national economy gets from bad to worse.

Underlining the causes of this nationwide despondency, the survey notes that perceptions of corruption in Pakistan have hit record highs, living standards have plummeted and millions are struggling to meet their basic needs. Sindh is hit the hardest by this economic slump.

“Except for Afghanistan, where the economy has crumbled since the Taliban’s takeover, Pakistan ranks lower than all other countries in the Asia-Pacific region in perceptions of improving economic conditions,” the report’s authors Hashim Pasha and Benedict Vigers point out. “It’s (also) one of the lowest points on record.”

Economic downturn is being felt hardest in Sindh


A record 86pc Pakistanis perceive corruption to be widespread in the country’s government and 80pc believe that corruption in businesses has also reached record highs.

Highlighting the link between the recent political turmoil and a long-running economic crisis, the authors point out that in recent years, Pakistan’s economy has seen record inflation, soaring commodity prices, and significant declines in foreign investment and remittances.

Catastrophic floods in the latter half of 2022, partly overlapping the timing of Gallup’s fieldwork in Pakistan, also caused an estimated $15 billion in economic losses. “Imran Khan’s arrest — and the subsequent civil unrest it sparked — have added to the economic misery, as the rupee’s valuation against the dollar dropped to a historic low,” the report argues.

“Recent mass protests coupled with an ongoing constitutional crisis have compounded the already chronic sense of instability in the South Asian nation and have made its efforts to avoid a sovereign default more precarious.”

Referring to previous surveys, the authors argue that at the start of Imran Khan’s term in 2018, Pakistanis were far more likely to think their living standards were getting better (49pc) than getting worse (20pc).

Pakistanis’ outlook has worsened every year since; fast forward to the most recent measure, and the tables have flipped. In 2022, 19pc Pakistanis said their living standards were improving, and 48pc said they were getting worse. Over the same period, Pakistan has seen one of the largest drops worldwide (30 percentage points) in the percentage of adults saying their living standards are improving.

The report notes that the spiralling economy has left millions struggling to meet their basic needs. More than four in 10 (44pc) of those surveyed said they found it difficult to afford food at times in the past year.

The survey also shows that Pakistani women (51pc) are more likely to be affected by the economic slump than men (36pc). The proportion of Pakistanis who struggled to afford shelter also shot up in 2022 to 32pc, one of its highest points on record.

According to the survey, the economic downturn is being felt hardest in Sindh, where a mix of high vulnerability to climate change and decades-long rule by the feudal lords has contributed to its lagging behind Pakistan’s other provinces. In a comment on the current political crisis, the report notes that “the country is on the brink of default, and its future is deeply uncertain.”

“Imran Khan’s arrest has created the most widespread public anger since the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007 and has widened the gulf between civil society and state institutions.”

The report argues that the quality of life in Pakistan is unlikely to improve “as long as a sustainable political solution remains elusive.” And unless it happens, people of Pakistan will continue to believe that they live in a corrupt system,“ the report