The Effect of the Two Most Recent IMF Programs in Pakistan on the Standard of Living and the Political Stability of the Country.
This research analysis will attempt to make greater sense of the two most recent IMF (International Monetary Fund) Programs in Pakistan and their consequent effects on the standard of living and political stability of the nation. This topic is an extremely important theme in the realm of international relations since the IMF is becoming an increasingly prevalent economic institution in the sense of aiding developing countries. Furthermore, since Pakistan is a regional power situated in an extremely strategic location which allows it to act as a trade link between Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East (Kumar 2007), an analysis into whether an IMF program is beneficial or detrimental to the country is vital not just for the region, but for the entire world since it pertains to global trade and stability. Moreover, Pakistan is constantly viewed through the security lens as well due to its unique position of being the only Islamic country with a declared nuclear weapons program thus causing the entire world to constantly have one eye on the country since the paranoia of a nuclear catastrophe is also ever-present (Ali 1984). Hence as a result of these various factors, an analysis regarding the stabilisation process of Pakistan is extremely important in terms of the overall global economic and security environment. My research query is centered on the question of whether an IMF program is an overall positive or negative factor that influences economic development in this particular country. My hypothesis states that overall, an IMF program is a more detrimental rather than a positive force with regards to Pakistan. For my hypothesis to be proven wrong, both economic and political indicators would have to show an improvement as a consequence of the IMF programs.
The research framework is based around the independent variable which is the IMF program and the two most important dependant variables in my view which are standard of living and political stability. My research analysis is undertaken through a statistical comparative analysis of several macro-economic indicators which depict the change in Pakistan’s standard of living and political stability year to year. The macro-economic indicators that most accurately reflect the change in Pakistan’s standard of living are governmental fiscal and monetary policy changes, balance of payments, level of unemployment, consumer price indices, GDP changes and the level of inequality reflected through the Gini co-efficient.
These macro-economic indicators will be analysed through two different IMF programs due to the fact that the external environment in 2008, when the first of the two IMF programs was initiated, was extremely volatile in terms of both the security and economic situations of Pakistan thus heavily influencing the end results of the programs. The second and latest program is being under-taken in a far more stable atmosphere thus potentially providing different results. Hence, the analysis of two IMF programs instead of one is paramount in explaining their particular role in the changes in Pakistani society since the confounding variables of the 2008 recession as well as the heavily volatile security situation of Pakistan at the time would be taken into account.
Alongside these macro-economic indicators, the second dependant variable, political stability, will also be gauged through analysing the security levels of Pakistan after the programs were introduced as compared to before they were introduced as well as analysing the effects of privatisation on the general population, since privatisation is an integral part of the IMF program. Through these two indicators, the level of political stability in Pakistan can be easily identified and consequently, so too can the effects of the IMF programs.
Furthermore, alongside these macro-economic indicators and political stability indicators, I will utilise the help of several theoretical frameworks to support my argument such as the dependency theory, the communal aspect of Pakistani society, the independence of the central bank theory and the moral hazard theory. The dependency theory is the cornerstone of my hypothesis that the IMF programs are an overall negative force with regards to Pakistan since it describes how periphery countries such as Pakistan transfer resources to the more developed core countries at their own expense. This idea of the periphery working for the core countries is central to the idea that the IMF takes advantage of the less well-off countries for the gain of the developed countries since the IMF’s initial coffer was primarily supplemented by the US thus giving them more power with regards to the institution (Biglaiser, DeRouen Jr 2010).
Before delving into the inner workings of this research paper, it is imperative to gain a solid grasp of the International Monetary Fund as an institution and its relationship with Pakistan in historic terms. This is vital as it provides the background from where the IMF’s goals and processes can be better understood. Pakistan and the IMF have had a difficult relationship beginning in the late 80’s when the IMF continuously imposed contractionary macro-economic policies on Pakistani governments that became increasingly crippled by debt servicing (Rana 2012). From the period of 1988 to 2002, Pakistan had entered into nine different IMF agreements, most of which were not seen to their logical ends due to the inability of successive Pakistani governments to fulfill the conditions that the IMF had imposed on them. During this period, the 90’s were seen as the “lost decade” for Pakistan as the improvements made during the past 4 decades had been undone to a certain extent due to the tendency for the governments in power to undergo mere cosmetic changes and implement short-term cash injections rather than intensive structural reforms that would have placed the country on a more stable path (Hussain 2002). Hence, it can be argued that while the IMF and Pakistan have had a long relationship, the inability of Pakistan to properly undertake the structural adjustment policies required by the IMF (owing to deep-seated issues that restricted the government) is what resulted in the failure of the programs, not the programs themselves. This perspective goes against the grain of the argument and clashes with my original hypothesis.
It is vital to gain a clear understanding of the different theoretical tools that this research paper will utilise in order to support the original hypothesis. The first and arguably most important model that relates to this research project is the dependency theory model. The dependency theory model states that “resources flow from a “periphery” of poor and underdeveloped states to a “core” of wealthy states, enriching the latter at the expense of the former.” (Newschool 2009) Furthermore, this theory espouses the idea that poorer nations are in dire situations and rich nations are prospering mainly due to how the integration process of the poor states into the world system is undertaken (Newschool 2009). Two main components of this theory are that firstly, ‘poor nations provide natural resources, cheap labour, a destination for obsolete technology and markets for developed nations, without which the latter could not have the standard of living they enjoy.’ and secondly, ‘wealthy nations actively perpetuate a state of dependence by various means. This influence may be multifaceted, involving economics, media control, politics, banking and finance, education, culture and sport” (Deji 2012). This runs concurrently with the idea that historically, the IMF programs in Pakistan have imposed their own ideas of what route Pakistani development should take without properly analysing the domestic forces at work. As a result, the previous governments have been unable to successfully undergo a proper structural adjustment project along the lines of what the IMF had desired partly due to this state of dependence perpetuated by the developed countries.
A second model that ties in directly with the IMF programs in Pakistan is the independence of the central bank theory. The independence of the central bank from the government is a key condition of an IMF program since the central bank is in charge of critical areas of the economy such as the interaction between the money supply, the interest rates and the gold reserves. Furthermore, the independence of the central bank is paramount in acting as a check and balance towards the ruling government since the central bank can control the amount of spending that a government undertakes if the latter seems to be out of control. For example. If a government seems to be spending more money than it generates, then the central bank could potentially raise interest rates on government bonds thus making it more expensive for the government to sell their bonds, thereby restricting expenditure (Fortune 2015).
A third model which supplements this research question is the moral hazard theory which describes situations where one party gets involved in a risky event knowing that it is protected against the risk and the other party will incur the cost (TheEconomicTimes). This theory perfectly aligns itself with the IMF programs in Pakistan due to the fact that historically, even though Pakistan has not been able to successfully implement previous IMF conditions, the IMF has had no difficulty re-negotiating new deals with whichever government is in power at the time. This perpetuates an atmosphere of complacency since the Pakistani rulers do not feel hard-pressed to carry out the IMF’s conditions since they know that the consequences of not carrying out these conditions can be offset by new re-negotiated deals (Hussain 2002). This environment of non-accountability within the Pakistani government ends up being extremely detrimental to the nation since the state machinery falls into a pattern of looking to external parties for aid. This once again accentuates the dependency theory which is critical in reflecting the negative effects of the IMF programs.
Asides from these economic models, there is a sociological theory that supports the idea that some of the IMF conditions may in fact be tearing apart the fabric of Pakistani society. The communal aspect of Pakistani society is one that is extremely influential with regards to the economy since an atmosphere of pure individualistic capitalism is one that Pakistani society cannot seem to acclimatise themselves to in a short span of time. For example, the imposition of privatisation conditions by the IMF in the 2012 IMF program may have lead the country to a more economically viable path, however it was also behind many of the civil unrest movements that took place due to the general population’s opposition to shutting down national corporations since many jobs would be lost (Dawn 2014).
2008 IMF Program
The first IMF program that will be analysed was undertaken in 2008 under the Pakistan People’s Party led government. This program was undertaken due to several urgent issues that the Pakistani government needed to address. In 2007/2008, Pakistan’s macro-economic situation deteriorated significantly due to several domestic and external factors. These include a deteriorating security situation in the country which drove away international investors as well as created an atmosphere of fear that was not conducive for commercial enterprise. Moreover the ineptitude exhibited by the PPP-led government further exacerbated the dire situation in the country. Furthermore, environmental factors such as the price shocks of oil and food as well as the global financial downturn resulted in higher inflation, slower growth and a decline in the external position of the country (IMF 2010). Consequently, the 2008 IMF program attempted to offset these issues in two ways.
Firstly, a significant tightening of fiscal policy which meant that the government would tighten their grip on spending thus reducing the external account deficit was undertaken (IMF 2010). In this regard, energy subsidies would be phased out, development spending would be better prioritized and strong tax and administration policies would be implemented (IMF 2010). Along with fiscal policy, the government would have to constrain their monetary policies to reduce the level of inflation in the country and to strengthen the external reserves. In this case, the central bank would stop financing the government thus causing it to be independent which is a hallmark of an efficient economy as discussed earlier. Furthermore, the central bank would implement a flexible exchange rate policy which would go in line with the independence of the central bank theory since there is much less central bank intervention in such a scenario (Evrensal, Dummies). However, these policies did not have the desired effect, and in particular, the phasing out of energy subsidies and stopping of government financing by the central bank both caused further hardships for an already downtrodden society since there were less resources available in the society.
Secondly, the program espoused a better support structure to aid the poor and downtrodden of Pakistani society by increasing spending towards the social safety net of the country (IMF 2010). While this would allow for a better situation for the country’s poor, it would further widen the account deficit thus inadvertently being detrimental to the country.
2013 IMF Program
The second IMF Program that will be analysed is the program of 2013 which was undertaken under the PML-N led government which is known for its business-friendly values. As a result, this IMF program added the condition of privatising some key Pakistani institutions such as the national airline, PIA. This added another facet to the complex realm of the IMF and Pakistan since privatisation in Pakistan is a delicate matter owing to the plethora of jobs in the public sector that would be erased if such a policy were to take place.
This second program can be described as having five key components. Firstly, it aimed to maintain the price stability that Pakistan had managed to achieve over the recent past. Moreover, the central bank comes into play since the program would push for the central bank to rebuild its foreign exchange reserves through the use of the IMF fund disbursements, support from external donors, foreign exchange interventions and exchange rate flexibility. Through an analysis using the independence of the central bank theory, if the central bank, or the State Bank of Pakistan was more autonomous, the aforementioned tactics to bolster Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves would be far more effective since an independent central bank would force the government to curb spending through manoeuvers such as raising the interest rate on government bonds (IMF 2015).
The second component to the program dealt with the Pakistani government continuing with their prudent fiscal policies so as to make sure that medium-term fiscal sustainability. In previous years, Pakistan had been successful in reducing their headline deficit from 8.8% of GDP in 2013 to 4.9% of GDP in 2015 thus indicating that the constraining fiscal policies of the IMF program did indeed narrow the headline deficit (IMF 2015). However while these miserly policies may have resulted in a lower deficit, they may have inadvertently affected other domestic factors such as spending on public institutions. Therefore, this second aspect of the IMF program needs to be undertaken with an eye on both sides of the field since prudent fiscal policies cannot be kept up forever without angering the domestic populace somewhat (IMF 2015). Another manner by with the government could reduce the deficit is by implementing more stringent tax policies to garner more revenue from the general populace. While this may also narrow the headline deficit, it would further anger the domestic populace as higher tax policies are usually treated with disdain no matter which political party is in power.
Thirdly, the IMF program required Pakistan to encourage an environment that promoted higher investment. While the previous years reflected some successes in achieving economic stability, investment as a share of GDP has been insufficient in developing the desirable high rates of sustainable economic growth (IMF 2015). Furthermore, while the government has to undergo prudent fiscal policies in the form of stemming government spending, the PML-N government would eventually have to undertake significant public spending to offset the ill-will generated within the populace through the lack of overall government spending. Higher foreign investment is vital for a country to develop since it is paramount in strengthening the country’s exchange rate thus allowing it to do business more freely in the global market.
The program also calls for improving tax collection policies which in turn would improve the tax to GDP ratio which is vital in attracting foreign investors since a domestic populace that regularly pays taxes and gives back to the government would create an atmosphere of trust wherein investors would feel most comfortable (IMF 2015). While this may reflect a more attractive environment for investors, it further fuels discontent within the country since the other conditions of the IMF program call for prudent government spending. Coupled with higher taxes, these two factors can cause immense negative feelings to develop towards the government by the population.
The fourth objective by the IMF with regards to this program is to implement structural reforms that would lead to more inclusive growth (IMF 2015). These reforms would focus primarily on the historic problems in the Pakistani energy sector, the issue of privatising inefficient or failing public institutions such as Pakistan International Airlines and allowing business transactions to be undertaken with far more ease by creating an environment more conducive for business through less bureaucracy and red-tape involved.
Finally, this program espouses the condition that the most vulnerable must be protected from the fiscal policies undertaken as part of the program itself. The IMF wants to ensure that those in the lowest strata of society are not the ones facing the full brunt of the negative consequences from prudent fiscal policies and price adjustments (IMF 2015). This can be done by increasing the number of people targeted by the income support program which is a tool utilised to supplement those who are most likely to be unable to deal the fallout of some of the conditions of this IMF program.
2008 IMF Program- Analysis of macro-economic indicators
Dependant variable: Standard of living
As a means to empirically analyse the impact of the 2008 IMF program on Pakistan, it is imperative to take into consideration several vital macro-economic indicators. The indicators that will be analysed in this research paper are governmental fiscal and monetary policy changes, balance of payments, level of unemployment, consumer price indices, GDP changes and the level of inequality reflected through the Gini co-efficient.
The first indicator, which is governmental fiscal and monetary policy changes, is one of the oldest method by which to ascertain if a government is headed towards a brighter economic future or if such policies would inadvertently cause a major backlash from the general population. According to the IMF program’s 2008 conditions, the Pakistani government was to undergo a significant tightening of fiscal policy which included phasing out energy subsidies. This was proven to be a disaster since the reduced energy subsidies resulted in wide-spread power outages across the nation during the tenure of the PPP government from 2008 to 2013. These power outages not only affected personal homes, they greatly hindered the level of business activity taking place in the country since many factories and outlets could not function without power (Soloman 2009). Hence, it can be said that these fiscal policies were not successful by any means. Along with fiscal policy, the government would have to constrain their monetary policies to reduce the level of inflation in the country and to strengthen the external reserves. The central bank would play a major role in this situation as it could stem the supply of money in the country through not funding the government. While this may make the central bank more independent thus causing it to be a more efficient and transparent institution, it greatly reduces the ability of the government to indulge in public spending. Appendix 2, which is a graph pertaining to Pakistan’s public sector spending corroborates with my hypothesis that the IMF program is detrimental to Pakistan since the change from 2008 to 2009 was minimal as compared to the public spending in 2013 when the PML-N government came to power. Overall these policies resulted in a lower standard of living in Pakistan.
The second macro-economic indicator is the balance of payments statistics. This is a good indicator of the health of a nation’s economy due to the fact that it quite simply explains the total difference of value between payments coming in and out of the country, thus reflecting how much money a country spends versus how much it receives. The BOP indicator monitors all international monetary transactions at a specific period of time (Investopedia). According to Appendix 3, the credit figure stands at 38,126 while the debit figure stands at 42,072. This is clearly reflective of a severe balance of payments issue since the money being spent is more than the money being received by the government. This reflects the idea that the 2008 IMF program was not helpful in addressing Pakistan’s balance of payments issue.
The third indicator to show the stand of living in a country is the total level of unemployment in a country. This is again a good indicator of how well a country’s economy is faring because a high unemployment rate reflects an economy that is unable to cater to the demands of the populace. Appendix 5 clearly represents the idea that my hypothesis was correct since the period from 2008 to 2010 reflected an increase in the level of unemployment from 5.1 in 2008 to 5.6 in 2010 thereby indicating that the IMF program of 2008 caused Pakistan’s unemployment rate to rise. This could be attributed to the PPP government’s inability to foster the growth of new jobs in the market while they underwent their prudent fiscal and monetary policies.
The fourth indicator is the Consumer Price Index or CPI which is used to express the current prices of a basket of goods and services in terms of the prices during the same period in a previous year (Business Dictionar). This is an extremely vital macro-economic indicator as it reflects the effect of inflation on the purchasing power of the common person thus being instrumental in reflecting the standard of living in a country. Appendix 1 signifies that from 2008 to 2010, Pakistan’s CPI rose from about 100 to 130 thereby indicating a significant increase in the level of inflation in the country. As a result, it can be understood that the 2008 IMF program created a lower standard of living in Pakistan with regards to a higher inflation rate thus making it harder for consumers to purchase the same amount of goods as they had been previously.
The fifth macro-economic indicator which reflects whether the IMF program of 2008 increased or decreased Pakistan’s standard of living is the total GDP changes from year to year. Gross Domestic Product is a tried and tested method of analysing the standard of living and has been used globally as one of the standard methods to ascertain the quality of life in a particular country. Appendix 6 shows that Pakistan’s GDP level increased from 170.08 in 2008 to 177.41 in 2010. This suggests a 7 point increase during the two years that the 2008 IMF program ran which suggests an increase in the standard of living owing to an increased inflow of money due to the Fund disbursements. However even though the GDP levels increased slightly, the other macro-economic indicators would drown out this relatively miniscule improvement.
Finally, the sixth macro-economic indicator that is paramount in reflecting whether the standard of living in a country has increased or decreased is the Gini co-efficient which reflects the level of inequality in a particular country. This number ranges between 0 and 100 with 0 reflecting perfect equality and 100 reflecting perfect inequality between the rich and the poor. The Gini-coefficient in Appendix 7 shows that from 2008 to 2010, the Gini co-efficient value decreased from 32 to 29.7 thereby showing that levels of inequality actually decreased thereby indicating a rise in the standard of living. However it is important to note that while the lower Gini-coefficient reflects a lower level of inequality, it could also merely mean that the rich are becoming poorer thereby narrowing the gap between the rich and poor, thus influencing the Gini coefficient.
Hence overall, after taking into consideration all six macro-economic indicators, it is suffice to say that the 2008 IMF program caused the overall standard of living to decline as is reflected in the appendices.
Dependant Variable: Political Stability
The other major dependant variable that is being studied in this research paper is the level of political stability in Pakistan. In this case, the clearest manner by which to ascertain whether the IMF program negatively or positively affected the political stability of Pakistan can be seen through the privatisation policies that were espoused by the IMF. In the case of the PPP led government in 2009, the protests by the Pakistan Railways workers against the privatisation of the state-run organisation severely hampered the government’s ability to take decisions as the opposition had gathered in seven major cities of the country thus reflecting a significant rejection of the government’s plans of privatisation which had stemmed from the IMF (Dawn 2009). Hence, it can be understood that the IMF’s plans of decreasing the number of state-run institutions to make them more efficient back-fired as can be seen through the 2009 protests by the Pakistan Railways workers. This resulted in a significant upheaval of political stability since the government was made to appear extremely weak and apologetic for the aggressive IMF policies.
Hence it can be concluded that the 2008 IMF program was detrimental to both the standard of living in Pakistan as well as its level of political stability.
2013 IMF Program- Analysis of macro-economic indicators
Dependant variable: Standard of living
For the first macro-economic indicator of fiscal and monetary policies, the result is similar to that of the IMF program in 2008. In the 2013 IMF program, the Pakistani government was encouraged to continue their prudent fiscal policies. As discussed earlier, Pakistan had been successful in reducing their headline deficit from 8.8% of GDP in 2013 to 4.9% of GDP in 2015 thus indicating that the constraining fiscal policies of the IMF program did indeed narrow the headline deficit (IMF 2015). Through Appendix 2, it is clear to see that in 2013, the PML-N government heavily increased their spending thus being reflective of the fact that the IMF disbursements during this time period were significantly helpful in allowing the government to spend far more than they had been during the previous years. Therefore, while the constrained monetary and fiscal policies may have resulted in a backlash from the populace, the increased level of spending by the government may have offset some of those worries.
The second macro-economic indicator is the balance of payments statistics. According to Appendix 4, the credit figure stands at 52,977 while the debit figure stands at 55,604. This is clearly reflective of a severe balance of payments issue since the money being spent is more than the money being received by the government. This reflects the idea that the 2013 IMF program was not helpful in addressing Pakistan’s balance of payments issue.
The third indicator that reflects the standard of living in a country is the total level of unemployment in a country. Appendix 5 represents the idea that my hypothesis was incorrect since the period from 2013 to 2014, when the 2nd IMF program was initiated reflected a decrease in the level of unemployment from 6.5 in 2013 to 6 in 2014 thereby indicating that the IMF program of 2013 caused Pakistan’s unemployment rate to fall. This goes against my hypothesis as the IMF program of 2013 actually improved the standard of living with regards to the unemployment level.
The fourth indicator is the Consumer Price Index. Appendix 1 signifies that Pakistan’s CPI rose from about 175 in 2013 to 195 in 2015 thereby indicating a significant increase in the level of inflation in the country. As a result, it can be understood that the 2013 IMF program created a lower standard of living in Pakistan with regards to a higher inflation rate thus making it harder for consumers to purchase the same amount of goods as they had been previously.
The fifth macro-economic indicator which reflects whether the IMF program of 2013 increased or decreased Pakistan’s standard of living is the total GDP changes year to year. Appendix 6 shows that Pakistan’s GDP level increased from 231.08 in 2013 to 243.63 in 2014. This suggests an increase of about 12 points one year after the program was initiated. This suggests an increase in the standard of living owing to an increased inflow of money due to the Fund disbursements.
Finally, the sixth macro-economic indicator that is paramount in reflecting whether the standard of living in a country has increased or decreased is the Gini co-efficient which reflects the level of inequality in a particular country. The Gini-coefficient in Appendix 7 shows that in 2013 it was at a stable 29.7 thereby indicating that the level of inequality in the country was not being affected severely due to the IMF’s 2013 program. While this does not reflect much on the standard of living, it can represent a positive aspect of the IMF program since Gini coefficient would imply that inequalities are being kept under control in the country. This may also point to the fact that everyone in the country is rising at the same pace thus not shifting the Gini co-efficient.
Hence overall, after taking into consideration all six macro-economic indicators, the 2013 IMF program seemed far more positive than the one undertaken in 2008, since four out of the six macro-economic indicators reflected a far better standard of living. In this vein, these four macro-economic indicators that espouse a positive outlook towards Pakistan’s economy contradicts and disagrees with my initial hypothesis. However, while the indicators may signify a more positive outlook than in 2008, the fact that the country still has to tackle a balance of payments issue can potentially be extremely detrimental to the country in the future.
Dependant Variable: Political Stability
The other major dependant variable that is being studied in this research paper is the level of political stability in Pakistan. With regards to political stability, the PML-N government has been blessed with a far more secure atmosphere in the country as compared to the PPP-led government in 2008. However, this has not translated into a more politically stable rule of law as can be seen through the various different protests that have come about as a result of the IMF’s insistence on carrying out privatisation policies. Two main examples of this can be seen in the protests regarding the privatisation of the country’s flagship airline, PIA as well as the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) which resulted in massive protests in the country directly challenging the PML-N rule (Dawn 2014). Due to the IMF’s insistence, the government was forced to consider plans that would have rendered countless of people jobless. Hence as a result, this privatisation aspect of the 2013 IMF program resulted in a far less politically stable Pakistan.
Therefore, after taking into consideration the two different atmospheres that the IMF programs of 2008 and 2013 took place in, my original hypothesis was proven, for the most part, correct. My 6 macro-economic indicators with regards to the standard of living in Pakistan provided a great insight into how countries reflect their economic growth due to specific policies. Furthermore, the variable of privatisation, stemming from the IMF program, was another paramount factor which played into the declining political stability of the country during both PPP and PML-N’s time in power. It can be said that due to the effects of the global economic recession and the terrible security situation in Pakistan in 2008, the IMF’s policies negatively exacerbated an already sensitive national economy thus agreeing with my original hypothesis that the IMF program is a more detrimental rather than a positive force with regards to Pakistan. However there is more to the case since four of the six macro-economic indicators reflected a better standard of living after the imposition of the 2013 IMF program thus indicating that in an environment where there is no threat of an economic recession and where security is widespread, the IMF’s policies are far more effective. While these four indicators reflect that the 2013 program may have been a success, they do not explain the critical balance of payments issue as well as the increased political instability. Furthermore, these four positive macro-economic indicators could be a result of falling oil and commodity prices worldwide. Therefore, it would be appropriate to agree with my original hypothesis that the IMF economic programs are a more detrimental rather than a positive force with regards to Pakistan.
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