COVID-19 Lessons for Pakistan from American Industrial Revolution-III

Ismail Suttar
However, the growing and unmonitored size of businesses, housing construction, rapid public-private
ventures and largescale manufacturing had reached its toll and exacerbated demand for consumer
credit to such an unescapable level that it enforced the stock market to crash in 1930. The
uncontrollable consumerism and reinvestments, economy dipped from 6 percent to -13.2 percent. A
record that still stands and is known as the Great Depression in history books and this is where it gets
more interesting for Pakistan during COVID-19 period. When millions of Americans found themselves
unemployed, the 32 nd President of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, rallied to rescue the hungry
and homeless on top priority just like done by current Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan. He
launched a US$3 billion Federal Emergency Relief Act to directly compensate the jobless. Of course, the
monetary value of this relief fund was perhaps, 20 times more than the US$1.2 promulgated by
Pakistani Government, and even though it lasted for two-years, what is more important is government’s
creative employment generation programs. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was one of the first
that paid unmarried and unemployed men in mid 20s to participate in nationwide uilding of bridges and
reservoirs. The Civil Works Administration (CWA), soon followed and generated 2.5 million jobs in just
one month. As part of the CWA, participating workers were paid to construct community-engaging
amenities like swimming pools, football fields, and parks and even to repair schools, hospitals, etc. The
keen government even hired several thousand writers and artists to write articles and advertisements –
jobs were matched with skills and talents. The largest relief program during the Great Depression of 30s
was Works Progress Administration (WPA) that employed almost 9 million citizens and used the same
model of the CWA to divert the temporarily unemployed labor force into constructive economic
activities. Later when Federal Theater Project was launched, actors and artists were boarded to beautify
the country and to educate the illiterate in rural areas by means of traveling libraries. People needed
cash desperately and with these initiatives the economy slowly retracted to record 7.6 percent growth

at the end 4 years’ time period. COVID-19, just like the Spanish Flu and the Great Depression has caused
an economic debacle in Pakistan and forced the government to choose between saving lives an
livelihoods but we must draw a page rom American history. Pakistan is very fortunate to have the
largest irrigation system in the world and a sea rich in fish species. We have arable lands, breath-taking
landscapes for tourism and a hotpot central location for investment and easy trade with central Asia,
Gulf and Africa. It does not need to depend on international aid at all. The curre government and
central bank have jointly done remarkably well to contain the spread of virus and supported employers,
SMEs and daily- wagers quite generously. The pandemic of today has come at a time of digital revolution
with greater urgency than ever to depend on Artificial Intelligence. Countries with 3D-printing machines
are manufacturing ventilators and ones with advanced healthcare systems are getting increasingly closer
to a Corona Vaccine, in record time. These countries are advancing aggressively just like the time of
Roaring 20s, when innovations were prioritized. For industries in Pakistan to survive through this war
the government must focus on developing R&D, capacity building, IT sector and upgrade
infrastructure. With sixty percent population being young, civil engagement models of the 1930s can
prove to be a highly effective, so why not use it. The Government now has the case of the American
Industrial Revolution and success stories of post-pandemic time including that of Roaring 20s and the
Great Depression. It must learn from them.

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