Structural Context of a Social Disaster

October 1, 2010 § 1 Comment

Below I’ve posted (a slightly edited) version of the transcript I read from at a recent teach-in on the floods, which attempts to give an accounting of one structural aspect of the disaster: namely, the gutting of State capacity over the course of Pakistan’s recent history. For my money, the link between this fact and the scale of the catastrophe is unmistakable, and not foregrounded nearly enough in everyday discussions of the crisis.

I don’t, in this talk, address other ways of capturing the structural roots of the immense damage wrought by the flooding (e.g. flaws in the planning/design of the irrigation infrastructure, the degradation of ecological defenses (forests, wetlands, etc.), the pattern of breaching embankments to safeguard landlords but inundate the landless, etc.), but instead attempt only to give a basic sense of the context in which events have unfolded. A section at the end discusses the IMF plan, and the farce of the tax reform. Hopefully it is of some use.

Some of the numbers have changed in recent weeks, and a few of the debt/expenditure figures are estimates based on my own calculations. When putting the graphs together, I had to pick between rival figures–this said, all data is taken from one of only a few sources: various Pakistan Economic Surveys, Akbar Zaidi’s Issues in Pakistan’s Economy (2005), or Parvez Hasan’s Pakistan’s Economy at the Crossroads (1998).



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