Mahbub ul Haq


Born February 22, 1934
Jammu, Jammu and Kashmir (princely state)
Died July 16, 1998(1998-07-16) (aged 64)
New York, USA
Nationality Flag of Pakistan.svg Pakistan
Fields Economics
Institutions Ministry of Finance, Pakistan (1982 - 1988)
World Bank (1970-1982)
UNDP (1989-1995)
Alma mater Kings College, Cambridge (B.A.); Yale University, USA (Ph.D.)
Known for Human development theory

Mahbub ul Haq (Urdu: محبوب الحق ) (February 22, 1934 - July 16, 1998) was an Pakistani economist who is known to be the pioneer of Human development theory and the founder of the Human Development Report. His works also opened new avenues to policy proposals for human development paradigms, such as the 20:20 Global Compact and the setting up of the UN Economic Security Council that became the inspirations for the establishment of United Nations Economic and Social Council.[1]



Haq attended Government College, Lahore for his first degree. He later enrolled in Kings College, Cambridge, where he gained a degree in Economics, studying alongside Amartya Sen, an Indian with whom he would form a close, lifelong friendship. Afterwards he attended Yale University for post-graduate studies, earning a PhD in Economics.

Professional career

Haq also served as the World Bank's Director of Policy Planning (1970-1982) and headed Pakistan's Finance Ministry as its minister of finance and planning (1982-1988). In 1989, he was appointed as Special Advisor to the UNDP Administrator when he led a team of international scholars to produce the first Human Development Report.[2]

World Bank (1970-1982)

During his tenure at the World Bank (1970-82), Dr. Haq is credited with making a major contribution to the Bank’s development philosophy and lending policies, steering more attention towards poverty alleviation programmes and increased allocations for small farm production, nutrition, education, water supply and other social sectors. Drawing on this reform process, Dr. Haq wrote a seminal study[3] that served as a precursor to the basic needs and human development approaches of the 1980s. Along with his talented team, Dr. Haq did much to transform the World Bank into a development institution that places people, instead of rigid economic indicators, at centre-stage.

Minister of Finance, Pakistan (1982-1988)

Serving as Pakistan’s Minister of Finance, Planning and Commerce (1982-88), Dr. Haq is credited with significant tax reforms, deregulation of the economy, increased emphasis on human development and several initiatives for poverty alleviation. According to Parvez Hasan 'Under Mahbub’s direction, the Planning Commission became once again a lively place and began to exert powerful influence on social sector issues, including education and family planning, much neglected in earlier Zia years – as Finance Minister, Mahbub piloted a major acceleration in social spending’.[4]

Advisor to UNDP (1989-1995)

In his capacity as Special Advisor to UNDP Administrator, Dr. Haq initiated the concept of Human Development and the Human Development Report as its Project Director. He gathered the likes of Paul Streeten, Frances Stewart, Amartya Sen, and Richard Jolly to prepare annual Human Development Reports.

Establishment of Human Development Center (1996)

In 1996, Dr Haq founded the Human Development Center in Islamabad, Pakistan- a policy research institute committed to organizing professional research, policy studies and seminars in the area of human development, with a special focus on the South Asian region. He devoted his later years in working towards greater unity in South Asia for social and economic development.


Dr Haq is the originator of the Human Development Index, which has become one of the most influential and widely used indices to measure human development across countries. The HDI has been used since 1990 by the United Nations Development Programme for its annual Human Development Reports. He also gave 5 year plan to South Korea which helped South Korea to progress rapidly.


Dr. Haq died on July 16, 1998 in New York, leaving behind his wife Khadija Haq, son Farhan, and daughter Toneema. In acknowledgement of his contributions, the Human Development Centre, Islamabad was officially renamed the Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Centre on December 13, 1998 with Mrs. Khadija Haq as president of the Centre.

Tributes from UN

  • ‘Mahbub ul Haq’s untimely death is a loss to the world ...’, Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General.
  • ‘... probably more than anyone else, (Mahbub) provided the intellectual impetus for the Bank’s commitment to poverty reduction in the early 1970’s.[...]His unique contributions were trend setters for the world and focused attention on the South Asian social realities, urging all of us to look at the dark corners of our social milieus’. James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank.

The Mahbub ul Haq Award for Outstanding Contribution to Human Development

In honour of Dr Haq, UNDP established this Award that alternates between recognizing political and civil society leaders. Recipients of the Award include:[5]

Selected works

  • The Strategy of Economic Planning (1963)
  • The Poverty Curtain: Choices for the Third World (1976). Columbia University Press. 247 pages. ISBN 0-231-04062-8
  • The Myth of the Friendly Markets (1992)
  • Reflections on Human Development (1996) Oxford University Press. 1st edition (1996): 288 pages, ISBN 0-19-510193-6. 2nd edition (1999): 324 pages, ISBN 0-19-564598-7
  • The UN And The Bretton Woods Institutions : New Challenges For The Twenty-First Century / Edited By Mahbub Ul Haq ... [Et Al.] (1995)
  • The Vision and the Reality (1995)
  • The Third World and the international economic order (1976)
  • New Imperatives of Human Security (1995)
  • A New Framework for Development Cooperation (1995)
  • Humanizing Global Institutions (1998)


  1. ^ Mahbub ul Haq (1996) Reflections on Human Development. Oxford University Press. 288 pages. ISBN 0-19-510193-6
  2. ^ UNDP (1990) Human Development Report 1990: Concept and Measurement of Human Development. Oxford University press. ISBN 0-19-506480-1
  3. ^ Mahbub ul Haq (1976) The Poverty Curtain: Choices for the Third World. Columbia University Press. 247 pages. ISBN 0-231-04062-8
  4. ^ A Tribute to Dr Haq at Human Development Centre website
  5. ^ The Human Development Awards

The page "A Tribute to Dr Haq at Human Development Centre website" move to the following address: A Tribute to Dr Haq

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Ghulam Ishaq Khan
Finance Minister of Pakistan
1985 – 1986
Succeeded by
Mian Yasin Khan Wattoo
Preceded by
Mian Yasin Khan Wattoo
Finance Minister of Pakistan (caretaker)
Succeeded by
Benazir Bhutto

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