Dr. Mahbub ul Haq’s Selected Work
This book tried to communicate themes of poverty and economic development in Pakistan, with a focus on potential roadblocks such as the profoundly unequal pattern of landholding, widespread illiteracy, and “warped development” that favored a privileged minority.
The Poverty Curtain: Choices for the Third World (1976)
Mahbub ul Haq wrote The Poverty Curtain: Choices for the Third World (1976), based on his experience with the Bank, highlighted the neglect of human resources in development planning. It was a seminal study that served as a precursor to the Bank’s later development of basic needs and human development approaches in the 1980s (Ul Haq and Burki 1980; HDC 1998). The ‘seven sins’ of the ‘priesthood of development planners’ are highlighted in the book. Playing ‘numbers of games,’ erecting excessive economic restrictions, being preoccupied with ‘investment illusions,’ the addiction to ‘development fads,’ the separation of planning and implementation, and the growing ‘memorization’ of planners with high GNP growth rates were among them.
Dr. Mahbub ul Haq once said as a keynote speaker, “Before I get to the markets and what I term “the myth of the friendly markets,” let me back up a little and explain why many developing countries overcommitted to the public sector.” Were we so ill-informed that we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into? I believe that as we grew up in our formative years, we were all confronted with the challenge of immense poverty in our society. We realized that there was a wide gap between different income levels and that, in order to lift our society out of poverty, we needed to pursue a variety of social goals, not only faster economic growth. Many developing countries have lost their course in their pursuit of social goals. There was a harmless flirtation with socialism, but there was a misalignment of objectives and means.
The means adopted played a significant role for the public sector, and instead of pursuing genuine social goals, it frequently devolved into bureaucratic capitalism. Civil servants, who were frequently undertrained and underpaid, were given the economy on a silver platter. Controls and restrictions were frequently exploited to enrich individuals rather than the economy. But, having said all of that, I must confess to you today that I am quite concerned about the new market ideology that is gaining traction around the world.
Markets are neither free, efficient, nor egalitarian in many of these countries. Many of these countries may face significant upheavals unless the government plays a strong regulatory role and free markets are mixed with social compassion. Let me now concentrate on one significant point. Markets, whether domestically or internationally, are not friendly to the poor, the weak, or the vulnerable. We frequently act as if markets are unrestricted. No, they aren’t. That is something I have witnessed in my own nation. Markets are frequently the handmaidens of powerful interest groups, and they are heavily influenced by the current income distribution.
What is any human society’s ultimate goal? This question has elicited a variety of responses. However, economist Mahbub ul Haq’s Reflections on Human Development persuaded readers that the objective should be stated simply as the necessity that each society enhances the lives of its members by presenting a succession of exceptionally well-structured arguments. If this is the agreed-upon goal, then economic development should be tailored to assist human development, according to Haq. His well-structured thinking assisted development economists in recalibrating much of what had previously been taken for granted, such as the notion that economic production was the most important indicator of social well-being.
The work had a significant impact, and Haq’s ideas contributed to a new understanding of what “progress” meant. Haq meticulously sketched out reasons and counterarguments to persuade readers that development meant more than just an increase in output; it also meant an improvement in human development – people’s ability to live the lives they desire. Haq reevaluated neoliberal theory that claimed economic expansion benefited everyone by bringing the abstract back to the physical. And, thanks to his logical prowess, Haq demonstrated how economic progress did not guarantee that wealthy people would spend money on improving the poor’s health, education, or other human development outcomes.
The U.N. and the Bretton Woods Institutions: New Challenges For The Twenty-First Century (1995)
The founders of the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had a vision that contrasted strongly with the often weak and constrained functioning of the institutions they formed fifty years ago. The 15 papers in this volume critically evaluate this record in order to propose ways to improve and restructure institutions in order to address the new challenges of the twenty-first century. The proposed adjustments prioritize human security over military security, poverty alleviation, gender fairness, and new international instruments to counteract rising global inequality.
The Vision and the Reality (1995)
For the Bretton Woods institutions, the Keynesian vision has failed. First, the vision was substantially weakened in its practical implementation, since the IMF, World Bank, and GAIT were formed through a series of concessions with the realities of the period. Second, the Bretton Woods institutions’ original mission has shifted dramatically during the last five decades. The contrast between the image and reality is enlightening. First and foremost, Keynes’ goal was full employment in a global context. He believed in the government’s responsibility in regulating market excesses. Unfortunately, particularly in the 1980s, the employment goal lost a lot of its policy importance, and a new market theology, rather than a social purpose, driving economic systems, took over – with terrible results, as we can see now. Full employment has only lately risen to the top of national and international policy agendas as industrial countries grapple with the ‘joys’ of jobless growth. While total output has doubled since 1975, total employment has fallen. The nation state’s regulatory as well as humane role (as well as that of global institutions) is likewise experiencing a hesitant resurgence.
The Third World and the international economic order (1976)
He cites the key areas where the disparity is most visible: international structure; global monetary system, which creates imbalances in credit distribution; commodity trading, where developing countries are not given a fair price for their products; and free trade, where free movement of labor is restricted. He calls on developing countries to band together to demand that international institutions be restructured in order for the Third World to achieve economic and intellectual liberty and independence.
‘A poverty curtain has descended right across the face of the world, dividing it materially and philosophically into two different worlds, two separate planets, two unequal humanities – one embarrassingly rich and the other desperately poor,’ says Mahbub ul Haq, who claims that the Third World is not only united by its legacy of poverty and its ‘heritage of common suffering.’ He also says that overcoming the poverty barrier and unequal relationships is “the most formidable challenge of our time,” because Third World countries argue that under the current international order, all benefits, credits, services, and decision-making are stacked in favor of a privileged minority and that this international imbalance cannot be changed. ‘The search for a new economic system is a natural stage in the liberation [fight] of emerging countries,’ Dr. Haq concludes correctly.
A New Framework for Development Cooperation (1995)
The work of Mahbub ul Haq to coordinate, implement and propagate the Human Growth Approach exemplifies
successful leadership in achieving more ethical socio-economic development. Project to look at Haq’s contributions in terms of four aspects of leadership: articulating and applying values that are both deep and broad in appeal; providing a fruitful and vivid way of seeing, or a “vision,” that reflects the values; encapsulating the values and vision in workable practical proposals; and supporting and communicating the previous aspects through broad and relevant networks. If the human development approach wants to retain the
leadership role it gained owing to Haq, it may need to modernize its principles and vision, notably through better incorporation of human security thinking.