Thursday, 15 October 2009

AID or Investment: Kerry – Lugar Bill and Pak – US Relationship

Kerry Lugar Bill is nothing but another aid package from USA to Pakistan. However, this should not spend a penny out of it. This time it is different because of the relative independent media and better awareness of the nation on security issues of Pakistan. I would vote for democracy as well as media (hats off to both) who made this possible. Credit goes to Musharraf as well because the media got independence in his era, even though he was a dictator but quite a liberal person.

People are literally talking about the sovereignty of the country. Why? Because USA tried to make sure that none of the aid will be spend on army and other security forces. Interestingly, even then they are expecting that the army will continue their operations against the Talibans and Al-Qaeda and Pakistan Government will continue their support against war on terror with the help of Army and other security agencies. Remember this war was not ours and it was asked by USA is 2001 to support them and we’ve spent $35B+ (America claims that they gave $15B to Pakistan which includes the resnt for the barracks they used in Pakistan) on this war (according to the Government of Pakistan) and now it becomes the war of our existence. Now we are becoming target of those who were targeting Americans in the start. No doubt when the bill was made by Biden and Lugar initially and called it the Aid for civilians only, it sounds great but why do we need such clauses in the bill which shows that they do not trust Pakistani government and Pakistani army that it will be spend on what it is given for. More importantly why there is a need for “c(1) The government of Pakistan is continuing to cooperate with the united states in efforts to dismantle supplier relating to the acquisition of nuclear weapons – related materials, such as providing relevant information form or direct access to Pakistani nationals associated with such networks”.

Moreover, it is a clear cut open dictation to the Government of Pakistan when they say that they can waive the limitations applied on the army if there is a need but it has to go through from secretary of state under the orders of President of USA. What is this crap? This implies that Obama (US President) is a deciding that, money they are giving to us, how should be the money spend one each thing. So, he is a budget maker for the aid they are giving it to us.

I can think of only one thing right now. Do we need $1.5B per year with a huge balance of payments deficit? Do we need $1.5B only as an aid with so much clauses and restrictions? My answer is NO. I have two reasons;

1. If America is very very very interested in developing the better social sector of Pakistan such as schools and health, then why doesn’t she invest in the education and health sector in Pakistan? Even after giving aid they would send their consultants to study the appropriate areas of investing who will take away 20 percent of the aid. Why don’t they conduct that study on their own and then investment for the civilians? In that way they’ll have transparency and accountability. Greg Mortensson is one of those examples who build several schools in Pakistan.

2. Does aid is better than investment and the answer is again NO. When Mansha said that I’ll bring more investment in Pakistan than you are getting aid from this Kerry – Lugar Bill. Why don’t we want to give a chance to local person who is trying to do something? Though as an researcher I know that as an industrialists he’ll ask for several incentives but those would be better than the clauses of Kerry – Lugar Bill. May be after twenty years these industrialists will be counted among Gates, Ambani and Tata.

Everything above may or may not be very correct but after writing all this I am thinking that the congress of US has made something with “great sincerity” after consulting the administration of Pakistan and Lobbyists of Pakistan in the US and now Pakistani people are rejecting the bill. This will might hinders the relationship of Pakistan with US. However, as Kerry said we can amend it no problem so let’s do it.

It’s time now we should think first and then deliver, rather than deliver and then think. Thought at least we’ve started thinking.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Promoting Peace with Schools, Books: Greg Mortenson

Monday 31 august 2009 was a fortunate day for me because I met a living legend Greg Motensson whose worked marked a sign of peace in Pakistan with a different angle. Q&A session from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm organised by SLiCE was the kick off and contrary to my belief he was so humble after doing all the remarkable work in Pakistan and Afghanistan, at least I am surprised (pleasantly). Those who are still thinking who is this guy; he is the author of “Three Cups of Tea”. If you still do not know who he is, just go and do the Wikipedia.
Before going to my point which is a question to me here are the main points of what he said at the Montfort lecture.

  • He is a very shy guy and grew up in a mixed culture in East Africa.
  • In Islam education is necessary for both males and females.
  • The first word revealed on the Prophet (SAW) was “Iqra”, which means Read.
  • Whenever you go and meet with a person from different culture, always have a smile on your face, meet with humility.
  • Listen more than speak.
  • Educate females especially because if you educate one male you are education one individual but if you are educating one female then you are educating one community (African Proverb)
  • In Kunar Province in Afghanistan, people told him while pointing towards stones in the mountains that each stone represents those martyrs who fought against Russians, Talibans and other invaders but it’s now time to get rewards of those sacrifices by changing these stones into schools. His next book titles “Stones into Schools”.
  • Another interesting story he told us that when the book was first published the publisher insisted on the bottom statement that it should be “One man’s mission to fight terrorism one school at a time”. After discussing with others when he got the answer that publisher is right he told the publisher that if hard copy did not do well we’ll change it to “One Man’s mission to promote peace . . . One school at a time”. Hard copy did not do well and as promised the soft cover came out with the change title and it became number one seller. The next book’s title is “Stones into Schools: Promotes Peace with books not bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan”.
  • Last but not the least he told the audience then he asked me and I endorsed him that in the Pashutns area which NWFP women takes whole burqa from head to toe when they are out of the house which in the western median consider to be suppression but in their homes they have good decision power, which means that they are not suppressed. I am glad he talked about it.

I agreed with him 99 percent but I have one issue which I asked him as well but his answer was female education and I did not agree with him. May be I’ll agree with him after some years. He told us that in Bangladesh female literacy has been three fold since 1971 and this is one of the main factors in reducing population growth rate. I asked him why it is not true then in Sri Lanka where the literacy rate in close to 100 percent. Moreover, in a male dominating society like Pakistan where males ask problems from a local “Moulvi” who is not a learned man and do not want females to go to schools. In this kind of society how do we promote female education? For example Talibans were so much against female education that they demolish 650 schools and 90 percent among those were female schools. My Question is how can we change the mindset; Greg Mortensson insisted that the answer lies in the female education but how…?

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Do we have some duties

We are a nation of 170+ million people. Out of 170+ million 50 percent (still an underestimate figure) are those who cannot eat properly three times a day, 54 percent are so called literacy rate. We are under immense pressure of eliminating terrorism from our country. Smuggling, shirking on the job and corruption are the core issues since independence. Market forces do not work properly because of insufficient implementation of regulation and lack of property rights.
We have same things each year to cry on. For Example bachat bazaars and Ramzan bazaars established by the government to provide relief to the common person have completely failed to provide relief to the masses. What does this mean that under high corrupt society and lack of proper governance we can’t think that intervention of government would be fruitful. What is missing here; Our role as a person in the society. What are we doing in the society. If seller is selling sugar for Rs.55/KG and we know the original rate is Rs. 45/KG then we are not doing our duty if we take sugar for Rs.55/KG and go home and abuse the government. We have certain duties as a nation to restrict that person to sell at a proper price. We need to tell the authorities about that person or at least do the “Chittar Parade” of that person who is doing black marketing.
We generally give an example of developed countries and the people of developed countries. For Example USA but we do not behave like the people of USA. Rather we do behave like them on the streets, while dancing and dressing and listening to English music or trying to speak English language or trying to be cool. But we do not take responsibilities as an individual in USA takes his responsibilities. IF we know our own responsibilities and we do our work properly then we can have a good collective society. But who cares…!

Monday, 3 August 2009

Free trade with open eyes

Free trade is not beneficial for everyone. Some will be gainers and some will be losers. The gainers will compensate the losers. Under WTO safety nets program is just for this reason but who will take out from the pockets from gainers and who’ll give to the losers. Are we looking towards the government who is very inefficient due to high transaction cost including corruption and high maintained status quo and hierarchy? In the corruption index we are at number 10, though improved from number 9 last year but still among the most corrupt countries.
This is one problem which we might face under free trade. Another problem is that the losers will lose the job as well as money. If they get do not get required amount of money to live their standard life they’ll be deprived off what they were getting without free trade. Moreover, we are ignoring the component of satisfaction here. A person who was previously working is either unemployed or working at some place where he does not want to work. In other words his job satisfaction is zero compare to his/her previous job, hence the overall satisfaction. If the person remains unemployed for a longer period of time he thinks of many different thing including shake hands with the extremist element, become a thief or a dacoit. Thus unemployment is definitely a social evil which is very high right now in our country.
From the above can we conclude that unemployment or dissatisfaction from employment could be a big cause of terrorism? After all this do we need blind eye free trade or we need to see pros and cons of free trade for our own country, first solve those issues and then pursue for free trade.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

BUDGET 2009-10 Brief Review: Desperate Voice of a Patriotic Pakistani

BUDGET 2009-10 Brief Review: Desperate Voice of a Patriotic Pakistani

Though it’s very late to comment on the budget when the books are already written on it. I was surprised to see the budget figures and more surprised when I listen to the budget speech that there’s nothing in the budget except for some general figures and salary increase. Though our ranking have been improved from No. 9 to No. 10 in the Failed State Index but it is one of the biggest issue we need to address.
With a negative per capita growth (Dr Nadeem stated in his article in the Daily Times) we might have announced some policies for the manufacturers which help them investing in the country for the long run. There was no as such significant electricity policy was announced which can boost the confidence of investors. Instead after every weak a minister come on TV and said that the load shedding will be finished by the end of this year and there will be cut down on the load shedding in this month etc.
I was surprised not to see any inflation cut policy in the budget, unless IMF asked them to restrict their money supply at 10 percent for the next ten years. However, it would be a stabilization policy but we also need higher growth rate in the long run with lower inflation.
Money for the development projects mainly go into the projects of big cities. It was surprising to see that out of 150 billion PSDP budget for Punjab Assembly, 30 Billion will be spent on Lahore ring road only.
Industrial Clusters which is one of the important things to do was again neglected in the budget. Sahiwal and Sargodha are two examples of Dairy Clusters which we can build and people of that area will get employment in their own area. Moreover, it’s time to build more cities than having only five major cities. If we develop Sahiwal and Sargodha (for example) as the major cities of Pakistan the urbanization will grow. Urbanization will lead to more investment through development of infrastructure and communication systems. This will attract businesses to procure land in the developing area and set-up factories and offices. Employment will be increased when more businesses are established, which increase the quality of living standard.
Tax reforms are being done for the past several years. Due to those reforms direct tax share has increased and custom and excise duties are replaced by sales tax. But overall tax to GDP ratio has declined in the last decade. However, nothing was mentioned about the reforms in the budget. Now we really need to do four things at least; (1) try to increase the base (I know it’s a very general term), (2) Reduce corruption which affects our overall revenues (3) Introduce new taxes which do not harm middle class people and economic growth in the long run and (4) some reforms are also needed for the transparency of income tax returns.
The industrial policy should not be supply driven but we need to look into the demand side as well. Though investors and industrialists always ask for relief (tax cuts, subsidy etc) but there will be some other measures as well which they will ask. For Example, industrialists always complain the policy of exports such as lack of information sharing at every stage. Even the established industrialists complain about the non-availability of freight charges. In this era of IT it is very easy to put all these things online and update daily in the morning.
Terrorism is one the biggest issue Pakistan is facing. Army operation and having 2.5 million IDPs and then spending Rs. 50 billion is not the solution. There are few people who likes Taliban because if they have some issue to resolve they go to Taliban and get it resolved in days, thus they do not have to wait for years in courts. The unemployed people who do not have education praise/like Taliban who give them protection, employment, money and education. Patriotism is secondary thing if the country is not doing significant for the people of the country.
Now I would write something about the five major issues of Pakistan and I guess if we address them parallel to the other issues and try to solve it ASAP that would be the greatest thing for the people of Pakistan.
1. Property rights: It is such a big issue for the last 62 years and it is neglected as it is not present. Benami transactions, file transfers, not recording/registering the title of the land are the problem which should be addressed to reduce the transaction cost, corruption and fights on the properties.
2. Judicial System: We’ve such a great corrupt legal system that even a Stamp Paper vendor asked for bribe is someone goes to him for a stamp paper. For getting a stamp paper worth Rs. 10 sometimes we need to give him Rs.50 and even more depending on the worth of the person. Oath Commissioner sitting in the “Kutchery” of Islamabad asked for at least Rs.100 if someone needs him to sign a simple paper. Reader asks for money to put the file in line. Moreover, most of the people do not know when their case will be listened by the judge and they daily come to the courts in the morning and leave without anything in the evening. It is the worst place for poor people who come from the villages to those courts. It is very easy to send a letter at least two weeks earlier (so that there is no problem of delayed post) that your case will heard by the judge on this date at this time. Moreover, give a specific time for each case.
3. Clean drinking water: The 2nd necessity for life after air is not available in most of the rural areas of Pakistan. Even in Islamabad people use filter to filter the water before drinking it. The feasibility study was conducted in the Planning and development Division on the Filtration plants in each district and they setup in Islamabad as an experimental basis but no idea what happened after that. MNA, MPA and 13 Union Council representatives in each union council who were voted by the people of their area can do this simple task for their own people.
4. Health: Health sector needs special attention. Corruption is everywhere but this sector needs attention beyond corruption thing. As far as my little knowledge is concerned, we need more BHUs and District hospitals. Moreover, before that we need more doctors there, more nurses, more ambulances plus these should be present at all the times. It would be good if Doctors should get more pay than any ordinary government servant, which will be a good incentive to work. There is a special pay scale for the Atomic Energy people and we can introduce very special scale for the doctors as well. The more important thing is to give subsidy for health expenditures who cannot afford. To do this we need to adopt strict documentation procedure which can be done through either issuing social security number which has all the information of taxes, income from different sources, phone bill, electricity bill, credit cards, etc. Through this card it would be easier to identify the needy person.
5. Education: I guess we cannot do anything about this sector. The problem is very chronic. Teachers in the middle and high schools are in habit of giving sample test papers so that their students can pass. “Rattalization” policy is very efficient and effective in the middle and high schools. Free education for everyone till 10th grade or intermediate along with better facilities in school, low teacher student ratio, better pay to the teachers is one way to improve education system. Examination system should be changed from “rattalisation” to conceptualize the issue.
I guess it is a time to invest in these social issues and it is time that investors, intellectuals, policymakers, think tanks sit together and make a sound policy. I wish everyone best of Luck
Pakistan Zindabad

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The ECO award of excellence

The ECO award of excellence was conferred posthumously on Dr. A R Kemal of Pakistan in recognition of outstanding research and achievements and meritorious services in the field of development economics. Pakistan’s Ambassador in Iran, M. B. Abbasi received the award from President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan here at an ECO award ceremony, which was attended by heads of state and government of ECO member states including President Asif Ali Zardari. Late Dr. A. R. Kemal was an eminent development economist. He held Masters Degrees in Economics from the Universities of Punjab and Stanford, and Doctorate from the University of Manchester. He served as Director of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, Quaid‑e‑Azam University. He held key positions in various important organizations including Chief Economist, Planning Commission of Pakistan. He also remained editor of the Pakistan Development Review and consultant to a number of UN and international agencies. A profile writer, Dr, Kemal authored 12 books and over 200 research articles on the issues of economic and social development of Pakistan and the region.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Swat operation and IDPs

Hey Folks
Some of you are aware of the situation of Malakand Dvision army operation in Pakistan against Talibans. This operation is carrying out in Swat, Buner and Dir Districts. The people of these areas have migrated to different parts of the country. The guess count according to UNHCR of these people are 2.2 million. Currently some of the places have been freed from Talibans and people started moving back to their own places, e.g., bajaur agency. These internally displaced people (IDPs) need our help. Pakistani government recently announce a Rs. 7 billion ($87 million) project for these IDPs. Moreover, people of Paksitan are also doing whatever they can do for our brothers in this difficult time.
As Overseas Pakistanis we have some responsibilities to collect or donate money for IDPs. Some of us gave to one of our friend "Ataullah" who went to Pakistan last week and now One of our other friend "Nasir" is leaving for Pakistan on June 1, 2009. If you want to donate money for IDPs there are few possibilities.1. Give it to me or Nasir and he'll give it to the people in the camps.
2. Give it to us and we'll ask our families to give it to affected people.
3. You can donate at the following organisations

“Prime Minister's Special Fund for Victims of Terrorism” has been changed to the following account number:
Account #: 1001003942
Routing/ABA #: 026004721
Swift: NBPAUS33
Checks made payable to the above account may be sent to the National Bank of Pakistan, 1875 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC 20009 or to the Embassy of Pakistan, 3517 International Court, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20008.

Islamic Relief USA
6131 Orangethorpe Ave Ste 450
Buena Park, CA 90620(888) 479-4968 ID#: 95-4453134

Minhaj Welfare Foundation (MWF) UK Swat and Buner Appeal: Rehabilitation Programme for Internally Displaced People
To view our poster click: Read our English letter (includes donation form): english.pdf Read our Urdu Letter: FOR DONATIONS- By credit card please ring: 01282 723456- Please make cheques payable: MWF, 12 Carr Road, Nelson, Lancs, BB9 7JS
- Direct payment into bank account: Any branch of HSBC Sort Code 40-15-17 Account 21 65 18 03 Swift Code: MIDLGB22Iban No. GB95 MIDL 4015 1721 6518 03
- Please ring MWF Donation Hotline on [UK] (0)1282 723456

Prime Minister Fund for IDPs at Los Angeles
Name of Account: Consulate General of Pakistan, Los Angeles
Bank: Bank of America, N.A., P.O. Box 27025, Richmond, VA 23261-7025
Account #: 2260 0025 1361
For wire transfers: Routing No. 026-009593
Phone (LA) # 310.446.6695, 310.441.5145

Malakand Relief Society
Account Title: Muhammad AshrafAccount No: 0120018853 Branch Code: 0757Branch: Allied Bank Limited Chaklala Scheme III Rawalpindi
Phone (Pakistan) #: Muhammad Ashraf +92 333-9139708

M. Ali Kemal
PhD Student,
Department of Economics,
Colorado State University
Res: 970-492-9227
Cell: 970-690-2815