Agriculture, Caste, Religion and Happiness in South Asia

Pakistan's agriculture sector GDP grew at a rate of 5.2% in the October-December 2023 quarter, according to the government figures. This is a rare bright spot in the overall national economy that showed just 1% growth during the quarter. Strong performance of the farm sector gives the much needed boost for about 37% of Pakistan's workforce engaged in agriculture. It helps the country's rural economy improve their living standards. In the same period, India's agriculture sector that employs 43% of the workforce slowed to 1.2% growth. This could be one possible contributing factor for Pakistan (rank108) significantly outperforming India (rank 126) on the World Happiness Index once again. 

World Happiness Map 2023. Source: Gallup

Pakistan has seen bumper crops of rice, corn, wheat, sugar and cotton this fiscal year after the devastation caused by massive floods in the prior year. During the first six months of the current fiscal year 2023-24, exports of agro and food products from Pakistan have soared by 64% as compared to the same period during 2022-2023. In the month of December alone, there was a growth of 118%, as $882 million of food was exported as compared  to $404 million in the same month in 2022-23. Pakistan's gains in the food export market have come at a time when India has had to limit or ban exports of rice, corn, sugar and other commodities due to crop failures.  

The World Happiness Report attributes India's poor ranking in the Index to widespread caste discrimination in the country. Older Indians belonging to upper castes, and “never experience[d] discrimination or ill-treatment” were “more satisfied with their lives”, according to the report.

Caste discrimination contributed “significantly to the caste-based discrepancies in life satisfaction”, the research showed. Caste backgrounds determined access to education, social services, health care or financial security in India.  Individuals with secondary or higher education, and those of higher social castes reported higher life satisfaction than those without access to formal education and those from Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST).

Another factor contributing to India's unhappiness is the ruling party's targeting of its minorities, including Christians, Muslims and Sikhs. Here's an excerpts from Rohit Khanna's piece in The Quint describing this issue:

"In recent years, 20 percent of India, our minorities, have been targeted – economically, socially, and physically. We have all seen multiple viral videos calling for the economic boycott of Muslims, of them being mob-lynched on the roads, of their homes being bulldozed, of inter-faith marriages being targeted as ‘love-jihad’ and more. We have seen videos of Christian pastors and congregations being roughed up, and of church buildings being vandalised. We have seen protesting Sikh farmers being vilified on communal lines as ‘Khalistanis’". 

Average MPCE (Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure) for Indian Muslims is only Rs. 2,170.  Average MPCE for upper caste Hindus is Rs. 3,321, the highest of all groups. Lower caste Hindus fare much worse than upper caste Hindus, according to Indian government data

Average Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure by Caste in Indi...

India is almost totally dominated by the upper caste Hindus. It is not just the 220 million Dalits (untouchables), or the 190 million Muslims, or the 110 million from “scheduled tribes” (Adivasis)  who are under-represented in positions of power and privilege, but also the 40-50% of Hindus who come from the widest tier of the pyramid, the shudras or laboring castes, known as Other Backwards Classes (OBCs), according to a report in The Economist Magazine.
Some Indians claim without evidence that the Indian Muslims are richer than Pakistani Muslims. The fact is that the average monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) in Pakistan was PKR 5,959 in 2019-20, the year closest to the 2021-22 for which the Indian MPCE data is available. Using the 2019 average exchange rate of 2.136 PKR to INR, this works out to MPCE of INR 2,789 in Pakistan, higher than for Indian Hindus (INR 2,470) and Muslims (INR 2,170).  As to the cost of living in the two countries, Pakistan is 15.8% cheaper than India without rent and 20.1% cheaper with rent, according to Numbeo
While it is true the Pakistani currency has suffered significant devaluation in the last couple of years, there have been large increases in wages. Pakistan's minimum wage has increased 14 times since 2001, from 14% to 67%. The minimum wage for unskilled workers in 2023 is 32,000 Pakistani rupees per month, up from 25,000 rupees in 2022. The cost of living has been a key factor in determining the new rate. 
Income Poverty in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Source: Our World...

Over 75% of the world's poor deprived of basic living standards (nutrition, cooking fuel, sanitation and housing) live in India compared to 4.6% in Bangladesh and 4.1% in Pakistan, according to a recently released OPHI/UNDP report on multidimensional poverty.  Here's what the report says: "More than 45.5 million poor people are deprived in only these four indicators (nutrition, cooking fuel, sanitation and housing). Of those people, 34.4 million live in India, 2.1 million in Bangladesh and 1.9 million in Pakistan—making this a predominantly South Asian profile". 
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Comment by Riaz Haq on Tuesday

Pakistan's GDP grows 2.09% in Q3 supported by higher growth in agriculture | World News - Business Standard

https://www.business-standard.com/world-news/pakistan-s-gdp-grows-2...

Pakistan's economy grew 2.09 per cent in the third quarter of the financial year 2023-2024, supported by higher growth in agriculture, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics said in a press release on Tuesday.
The estimated provisional growth rate of gross domestic product (GDP) for the financial year ending June 2024 is 2.38 per cent, the bureau said in a statement. That compares with a revised 0.21 per cent economic contraction in the 2023 year when political unrest, a combination of tax and gas tariff hikes, controlled imports, and a steep fall in the rupee currency rapidly pushed up inflation.

Last week in its half yearly report, Pakistan's central bank projected real GDP growth of 2-3 per cent for the fiscal year 2024.

There was no comparable year-ago third quarter GDP data as Pakistan only began releasing quarterly growth numbers from November. That was done in compliance with the structural benchmarks of the current $3 billion bailout programme agreed with the International Monetary Fund and completed last month.

The bureau revised the first and second quarter GDP estimates for financial year 2023-2024 to 2.71 per cent and 1.79 per cent respectively, compared to earlier estimates of 2.5 per cent and 1 per cent.

The provisional 2024 financial year growth in agriculture was estimated at 6.25 per cent, and 1.21 per cent for both industry as well as services, it added.

"The healthy growth of agriculture is mainly due to double-digit growth in important crops", the bureau said, adding that bumper crop of wheat, cotton, and rice contributed to the positive result.

Comment by Riaz Haq on Tuesday

In contrast to 12.4% growth in government spending in the July to September period, growth in farm output, which contributes about 15% of GDP and employs more than 40% of the workforce, slowed to 1.2% in the second quarter of this fiscal year, the weakest since fiscal 2018/19.

https://www.reuters.com/world/india/indias-growth-likely-slowed-66-....


Asia's third-largest economy grew 7.8% and 7.6% on an annual basis in the first two quarters of the current fiscal year that ends in March.
But momentum likely slowed last quarter, as none of the 63 economists surveyed from Feb. 16-26 expected similar growth rates in the October to December quarter. Forecasts ranged from 5.6% to 7.4%.
Official GDP growth releases for the preceding three quarters have broadly surpassed economists' predictions.

"The slowing is predicated both on softer agricultural production and government spending," said Sajjid Chinoy, chief India economist at JPMorgan.
"Government spending was heavily front-loaded this year and is slowing to meet budgeted targets... It remains to be seen how agricultural GDP is impacted by the patchy and uneven monsoon."
The monsoon accounts for about 75% of India's annual rainfall and is the lifeblood of its agriculture-dependent economy.
In contrast to 12.4% growth in government spending in the July to September period, growth in farm output, which contributes about 15% of GDP and employs more than 40% of the workforce, slowed to 1.2% in the second quarter of this fiscal year, the weakest since fiscal 2018/19.
Although the latest government survey estimated rural consumer spending to have more than doubled since 2011-12, large parts of the population living in rural areas face stagnant incomes and high inflation.

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