Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

Pakistanis are no strangers to the oft-repeated apocalyptic forecasts of imminent collapse of their nation that have been regularly dished out by many western leaders, leading analysts and mainstream media over the years. The 2009 Swat valley insurgency and 2010 summer floods sent these pessimist pundits in overdrive yet again as the images of the victims of these crises were widely distributed and discussed at length.

Let's briefly review the hysteric predictions about Pakistan's imminent fall made in the last two years:

Swat Valley Taliban Insurgency 2009:

It was early 2009 when the Taliban appeared to be in control of Pakistan's Swat valley, and the US politicians and media were deeply concerned about the insurgents closing in on Islamabad.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Pakistan was “abdicating to the Taliban”. Various western commentators and pundits went further by predicting Pakistan's "imminent collapse", and the usual foreign policy rags chimed in with their shrill talk of Pakistan as a "failed state".

"We're now reaching the point where within one to six months we could see the collapse of the Pakistani state, also because of the global financial crisis, which just exacerbates all these problems. . . . The collapse of Pakistan, al-Qaeda acquiring nuclear weapons, an extremist takeover -- that would dwarf everything we've seen in the war on terror today", said David Kilcullen, George W. Bush's Iraq adviser, on the eve of Pakistan Day in 2009.

Others, such as Shahan Mufti of the Global Post, argued that Pakistan was dying a slow death with each act of terrorism on its soil.

Devastating Summer Floods of 2010:

As the massive floods inundated large swathes of Pakistan's rural landscape in summer of 2010, the western media fretted yet again that the natural disaster "could spark political unrest that could destabilize the government".

Experts cautioned that "the state itself could collapse, as hunger and destitution trigger explosions of popular anger". As the water began to recede, there was more doom and gloom about spread of epidemics like cholera and dysentery.

Pakistanis' Response to Swat Violence and Nationwide Floods:

We are now in 2011, and Pakistani have demonstrated their extraordinary resilience in defying dire predictions of "imminent collapse" in 2009 and 2010.

Pakistani military has cleared Swat region of the Taliban. Millions of refugees have returned home to resume normal life.



Businesses and schools are open and the hills are alive with the sound of music and entertainment. Swat's Malam Jabba ski resort is open for business, and visitors to the beautiful valley are struck by the extraordinary resilience of the people who were forced by Taliban insurgents to flee by the millions amid dire predictions of the imminent collapse of Pakistani state in early 2009.

In 2010, Pakistani military led the rescue and relief operations in the flood zones, followed by civilian officials of Pakistan's National Disaster Management Agency(NDMA) and many local and foreign NGOs. And seven months after the onset of the floods, only 160,000 of the original 3 million refugees remain in camps, mostly in Sindh province which was the last to be hit by flood waters. The worst fears expressed in summer of 2010 have not materialized. Pakistani state has not collapse, nor have the predicted second wave of deaths in the camps for the millions of internally displaced persons. None of the predicted epidemics (such as cholera and diarrhea) took place. While some of the affectees have had to deal with malnutrition which is chronic in some rural areas, Pakistan has managed to stave off the worst of the expected food insecurity.



Life is returning to normal in the rural areas of Pakistan, and the rural economy is showing signs of strength. The transfer of additional Rs. 300 billion to Pakistan's agriculture sector during the current fiscal year 2010-2011 by higher prices of agriculture produce and direct flood compensation is boosting economic confidence in the countryside. It is already generating rural demand tractors and for consumer items including consumer durables such as fans, TVs, motorcycles, cars, refrigerators, etc.

Technology to The Rescue:

In an unprecedented branchless banking operation mobilized for the flood victims by EasyPaisa and UBL-Omni, the Pakistani state has given away Rs. 28.6 billion to 1.483 million affected families using one of the the world's largest biometric databases maintained by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). Each family received a cash card (called Watan card) through NADRA loaded with Rs.20,000 to help with the recovery. With over 83 million registered citizens so far, the NADRA tech network is now used for everything from getting a passport to paying utility bills.



Several organizations used mobile phones in innovative ways unrelated to branchless banking during the floods. Ushahidi, an open source project that allows users to crowdsource crisis information via mobile, set up pakreport.org a mapping service that enabled anyone in the country to text information about the flood. Information was collated and made available to the emergency services and disaster response organizations and NGOs via a web-based interface.

Summary:

Pakistan continues to face major problems as it deals with the violent Taliban insurgency and multiple crises of stagnant economy, scarcity of energy and the lack of sense of security. The recent assassinations of the ruling PPP party leaders Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti are a reminder of the daunting challenge posed by the violent religious fanatics. The bumbling political leadership of Pakistan is incompetent and corrupt. However, what the prophets of doom and gloom often discount are key factors that keep the nation going, including the resilience of Pakistan's people, the extraordinary capabilities of its large and growing urban middle class, and the stabilizing influence of its powerful military. Pakistan is just too big to fail. I fully expect Pakistan to survive the current crises, and then begin to thrive again in the near future.

Here's a video titled "I Am Pakistan":



Here's a CNBC Pakistan video on January 2011 events:




Related Links:

Haq's Musings

What Pakistan Did Right

Branchless Banking Responds to Pakistan Floods

Pakistan's Rural Economy Recovering

Pakistan's Growing Middle Class

Pakistan is Too Big to Fail

75 comments:

DM said...

I agree that Pakistan is not about to fail. In an extreme case, it may be taken over by taleban but not fail. The taleban want to takeover the state, not break it and they can do so only if a substantial section of the armed forces supports them.

Anonymous said...

these are not "doomsayers" but propagandist. One of the objective of RAW is
"Secondly, molding international public opinion with the help of the strong and vibrant Indian diaspora"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_and_Analysis_Wing

Pakistan does not have any strategy to counter it.

Riaz Haq said...

DM: "In an extreme case, it may be taken over by taleban but not fail."

The Taliban are a rural tribal movement that managed to take contro1 of war ravaged Afghanistan in 1990s with Pakistan's help to keep India out.

Pakistan is too big and too diverse with a fairly strong middle class civil society and powerful media to allow a Taliban takeover.

Ahmad Faruqui said...

"I fully expect Pakistan to survive the current crises, and then begin to thrive again in the near future."

How many times have we heard that before? When was the last time it was thriving? And why does it continue to lurch from crisis to crisis?

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: "How many times have we heard that before? When was the last time it was thriving? And why does it continue to lurch from crisis to crisis?"

Instead of being swept away by the current wave of unwarranted pessimism, we need to see in historical perspective.

Pakistani economy grew at a fairly impressive rate of 6 percent per year through the first four decades of the nation's existence. In spite of rapid population growth during this period, per capita incomes doubled, inflation remained low and poverty declined from 46% down to 18% by late 1980s, according to eminent Pakistani economist Dr. Ishrat Husain. This healthy economic performance was maintained through several wars and successive civilian and military governments in 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s until the decade of 1990s, now appropriately remembered as the lost decade.

In the 1990s, economic growth plummeted to between 3% and 4%, poverty rose to 33%, inflation was in double digits and the foreign debt mounted to nearly the entire GDP of Pakistan as the governments of Benazir Bhutto (PPP) and Nawaz Sharif (PML) played musical chairs. Before Sharif was ousted in 1999, the two parties had presided over a decade of corruption and mismanagement. In 1999 Pakistan’s total public debt as percentage of GDP was the highest in South Asia – 99.3 percent of its GDP and 629 percent of its revenue receipts, compared to Sri Lanka (91.1% & 528.3% respectively in 1998) and India (47.2% & 384.9% respectively in 1998). Internal Debt of Pakistan in 1999 was 45.6 per cent of GDP and 289.1 per cent of its revenue receipts, as compared to Sri Lanka (45.7% & 264.8% respectively in 1998) and India (44.0% & 358.4% respectively in 1998).
After a relatively peaceful but economically stagnant decade of the 1990s, the year 1999 brought a bloodless coup led by General Pervez Musharraf, ushering in an era of accelerated economic growth that led to more than doubling of the national GDP, and dramatic expansion in Pakistan's urban middle class.

Pakistan became one of the four fastest growing economies in the Asian region during 2000-07 with its growth averaging 7.0 per cent per year for most of this period. As a result of strong economic growth, Pakistan succeeded in reducing poverty by one-half, creating almost 13 million jobs, halving the country's debt burden, raising foreign exchange reserves to a comfortable position and propping the country's exchange rate, restoring investors' confidence and most importantly, taking Pakistan out of the IMF Program.

The above facts were acknowledged by the current PPP government in a Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies (MEFP) for 2008/09-2009/10, while signing agreement with the IMF on November 20, 2008. The document clearly (but grudgingly) acknowledged that "Pakistan's economy witnessed a major economic transformation in the last decade. The country's real GDP increased from $60 billion to $170 billion, with per capita income rising from under $500 to over $1000 during 2000-07". It further acknowledged that "the volume of international trade increased from $20 billion to nearly $60 billion. The improved macroeconomic performance enabled Pakistan to re-enter the international capital markets in the mid-2000s. Large capital inflows financed the current account deficit and contributed to an increase in gross official reserves to $14.3 billion at end-June 2007. Buoyant output growth, low inflation, and the government's social policies contributed to a reduction in poverty and improvement in many social indicators". (see MEFP, November 20, 2008, Para 1)

Read more at: http://www.riazhaq.com/2010/09/brief-history-of-pakistani-economy-1947.html

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan is not alone in being targeted by the doomsayers, many othrers, including India's cheerleader Fareed Zakaria, have also been betting against the United States for decades. Here's an excerpt from a Time Magazine Op Ed by David Von Drehle:

Poor U.S. of A., forever in decline. the arrival of public theaters in Boston circa 1790 caused Samuel Adams to despair for the cause of liberty in the face of such debauchery. "Alas!" he wrote. "Will men never be free!" Charles Lindbergh fretted, "It seems improbable that we could win a war in Europe." Long before baseball, hand-wringing was the national pastime. We've never been virtuous enough, civilized enough, smart enough or resolute enough.

I was born into a country reeling from Sputnik, which revealed to the whole world that Americans are as dumb as rocks. John F. Kennedy had just been elected President, in part by bemoaning the "missile gap" between the mighty Soviet arsenal and our paltry few bottle rockets. "The United States no longer carries the same image of a vital society on the move with its brightest days ahead," Kennedy said in his final debate with Richard M. Nixon. That's the same Nixon who declared eight years later, "We are worse off in every area of the world tonight than we were when President Eisenhower left office." Hard to believe we could sink further, but we did, as the nightmare of Vietnam segued into the nightmare of Watergate, while the Japanese exposed the insufficiency of American enterprise. As I stumbled off to college, President Jimmy Carter was warning us about "a crisis of confidence ... that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will." Thanks to our horrible schools, we were — according to the title of a major 1983 report — "A Nation at Risk." Then our family values went down the toilet.

You'd think America would be as washed up by now as the Captain and Tennille. So how come we're so much stronger than we were 50 years ago? Somehow, in the 235 years since we got started, Americans have weathered Boston theaters and Soviet science prodigies, violent lyrics and sex out of wedlock. We've survived a Civil War, two world wars and a Great Depression, not to mention immigrant hordes, alcohol, Freemasons and the "vast wasteland" of network television. We've dodged the population bomb, the coming ice age, acid rain and the domino effect. America is to nations what Roberto Clemente was to right fielders. The Pirates legend fretted endlessly about how poorly he felt and how sick he was — while vigorously spraying hits and vacuuming fly balls.

So don't reach for the defibrillator paddles or the rosary beads quite yet.


Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2056582,00.html#ixzz1Fk9nsZR9

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the Express Tribune on small increase in overall literacy led by rural female literacy:

ISLAMABAD: The quest for knowledge in rural areas, particularly in females, compensated for the declining trend of getting an education in cities, according to the Pakistan Labour Force survey.

In 2009-10 the literacy rate in Pakistan marginally increased to 57.7 per cent due to an increase in the literacy ratio of females in rural areas. During the preceding year the literacy rate was 57.4 per cent. The male literacy rate stood at 69.5 per cent while it was 45.2 per cent for females.

According to the official definition, the literacy rate is that percentage of the population ten years and above which is able to read and write in any language.

Though more than half of the rural population is illiterate, the ratio improved by over half a percentage point to 49.2 per cent by June 30, 2010 due to an increasing number of women and girls who can read and write. The female literacy ratio improved to 34.2 per cent, a progress of 0.8 per cent in a year. In rural areas, the 63.6 per cent male literacy rate improved by only 0.4 per cent in comparison. The literacy rate in urban areas marginally declined due to a dip in the number of men who qualify as literate. The urban literacy ratio decreased 0.1 per cent to 73.2 per cent, due to a fractional reduction in the male literacy rate. At present more than eight out of ten urban males are educated but the ratio is below that of 2008-09.

The provincial literacy rates also depict interesting trends. In Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the number of educated people increased, while it decreased in Sindh. The figure remained stagnant in Balochistan at 51.5 per cent. Punjab turned out to be the most educated province, followed by Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber -Pakhtunkhwa.

In Sindh the percentage of educated people dropped by one per cent to 58.2 per cent in 2009-10. The declining ratios were witnessed across the divide, rural, urban, females and males. Contrary to that in Punjab the literacy rate increased to 59.6 per cent. Over half of the rural population is literate and the urban literacy ratio stood at almost three-fourth in the province.

In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa the literacy rate increased to 50.9 per cent, a progress of almost one per cent. The rural literacy rate increased to 48.4 per cent but the urban literacy dipped by 0.4 per cent. The urban literacy rate increased while the rural literacy rate declined.

In terms of level of education, near four out of ten literate people are not even matriculates. Another one out of ten is below intermediate, the survey reveals. Only 4.7 per cent of the total literate population has cleared intermediate but not bachelor’s and just 4.3 per cent have a bachelor’s or above. Even today over four out of ten Pakistanis are illiterate according to official figures.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan has been ranked 10th among the countries in term of human development improvement by the United Nations Development Programme’s 20th Human Development Report 2010, according to Dawn News:

Those among the 135 countries that improved most in Human Development Index (HDI) terms over the past 30 years were led by Oman, which invested energy earnings over the decades in education and public health.

The other nine “Top Movers” are China, Nepal, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Laos, Tunisia, South Korea, Algeria and Morocco. Remarkably, China was the only country that made the “Top 10” list due solely to income performance; the main drivers of HDI achievement were in health and education.

The UNDP report said that in Pakistan, between 1980 and 2010, the HDI value increased by 58 per cent (average annual increase of about 1.5 per cent).

“With such an increase Pakistan is ranked 10 in terms of HDI improvement, which measures progress in comparison to the average progress of countries with a similar initial HDI level”, it added.

Pakistan’s life expectancy at birth increased by more than nine years, mean years of schooling increased by about nine years and expected years of schooling increased by almost 4 years.

Pakistan’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita increased by 92 per cent during the same period. The relative to other countries in the region, in 1980, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh had close HDI values for countries in South Asia.

However, during the period between 1980 and 2010 the three countries experienced different degrees of progress toward increasing their HDIs states the Report.

The Report introduces the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which identifies multiple deprivations in the same households in education, health and standard of living.

The average percentage of deprivation experienced by people in multidimensional poverty is 54 per cent.

The MPI, which is the share of the population that is multi-dimensionally poor, adjusted by the intensity of the deprivations, is 0.275. Pakistan’s “HDI neighbors”, India and Bangladesh, have MPIs of 0.296 and 0.291, respectively.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a summary of Pakistan Planning Commission report Part 1 on economy:

Real Sector

In the post flood scenario, Pakistan economy is likely to manage a growth between 2.5 to 3% this year. Agriculture sector received major blow from the flood and two major Rabi crops, cotton and rice missed the production target by 17.5% and 42%, respectively. Sugarcane and Maize managed to achieve the target while Wheat, the major Kharif crop has achieved 97.34% of the sowing target by the end of January 2011.
Large scale manufacturing (LSM) sector posted a negative growth of 1.77% during July-December 2010 compared to the same period last year. Growth of Textile, Food, Petroleum products, and fertilizers was negative during the period, while production of Pharmaceuticals, Chemicals, Automobiles, Electronics and Engineering items grew positively. The decline in LSM can be attributed to the loss of production due to high oil prices and energy shortages. In the coming months, there is optimism that with the start of crushing season of sugarcane and better supply of gas, production activity will be revived.

Inflation

Inflation rate based on Consumer Price Index (CPI), Sensitive Price Index (SPI) & Wholesale Price Index (WPI) for July to January 2010-11 have increased over the same period of 2009-10 by 14.55%, 19.20% and 22.37%, respectively. Food inflation has increased to 18.8% for July - Jan. 2011, which was 10.9% in the corresponding period last year, while Non-Food inflation has increased from 10.7% to 11.0% in July-Jan. 2011. The current inflationary trend in the food group is the continuation of the domestic and international surge in prices of agricultural products and losses suffered due to floods. Other factors contributing to rising inflationary trend are higher government borrowings through monetization to meet expenditures on security and flood affectees, currency depreciation, high mark-up rates, and higher adjustments in utility prices.

Monetary Developments

The broad money aggregate (M2) increased by 8.18% during July-mid February 2011. Overall Credit to government sector for July to January 2011 increased by 12.5%, while State Bank of Pakistan's credit to government sector grew by 9.53% for the same period.
Credit extended to the private sector also showed a positive growth of 7.37% for the period of July-3m. 2011, which was a positive development for the revival of the economy.

Fiscal Position

Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has collected tax revenue of Rs. 770 billion during July-Jan. of current financial year (2010-11) showing an increase of 10.8% as compared with the same period last year. Government has set the target of Rs. 1667 billion for the fiscal year 2010-11. First seven months tax collection accounts for about 46.2% of the target, which is an alarming signal for the tax authorities. In this scenario, prudent tax collection policy and Reformed General Sales Tax (RGST) is of utmost importance. According to the World Bank estimates, implementation of the RGST is likely to increase Pakistan's tax-to-GDP ratio to around 11 percent by fiscal year 2013. The Tax to GDP ratio is currently around 9% which calls for immediate measures, like the reformed GST, to broaden the tax base.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a summary of Pakistan Planning Commission report Part 2 on economy:

Balance of Payments

Country's current account deficit has declined by 97.3% during July-January, 2011 over the corresponding period last year. The current account deficit during this period stood at $81 million as compared to $3,052 million during the same period last year. The ease in the current account deficit is owed largely to the relatively high export growth and workers remittances during th's period. The export of goods showed impressive improvement of 20.3% while the imports also grew by 10.4% during the period under review.
Workers' remittances surged by 17.7% during July-Jan. 2011 over the same period last year and reached $6117.97 million. In the same period last year, $5,197 million were sent home by the overseas Pakistanis. The growth in remittances can be attributed to the joint initiative of the SBP, Finance and Overseas Pakistanis Ministries launching "Pakistan Remittance Initiative (PRI)". The initiative has started materializing and hence remittances through formal channels have been
consistently showing considerable growth.
The net inflow of foreign investment in Pakistan fell by 14.2% during July-Jan. 2011 over the corresponding period last year. The economy also witnessed a downward slide in foreign direct investment (FDI) by 16% but certain sectors witnessed significant improvement in inflow of FDI
like; Sugar, Pharmaceuticals, Cement, Cosmetics, Ceramics and Information Technology. The deteriorated law and order situation, fragile political climate and the prolonged war on terror have been deterrents to new investment ventures in the country

New Developments and Reforms

According the recently released labor force survey, the overall labor force participation rate has increased from 32.8% in 2008-09 to 32.98% in 2009-10, while female participation rate has increased from 14.9% to 15.45%, which is an encouraging sign for the Pakistan economy. Unemployment rate has been increased marginally from 5.46% in 2008-09 to 5.55% in 2009-10.
The federal government has imposed income tax (withholding tax) at the rate of 3.5 per cent on farm produce dealers from January 1, 2011. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has issued a notification in this regard, directing the local and provincial governments to collect the tax.
The amended Bill for the autonomy of State Bank of Pakistan is in the process of approval. The amendment aims to weaken the power of the federal government to borrow from the SBP through specific statutory measures that will make borrowing extremely complex. According to the new legislation government borrowings from the central bank will be limited to the 10% of the previous year's revenue.

Riaz Haq said...

One of the measures of the goodness of a nation, particularly its middle class, is its level of civic engagement.

By this measure, advanced western nations lead the pack with the United States in #1 position, followed by Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Holland, Canada, and lo and behold! Sri Lanka.

In South Asia, Pakistan is a distant second to Sri Lanka's 51% participation rate. Pakistan's participation rate of 42% ranks it at 27, the same as Israel.

India lags far behind with the participation rate of only 28% ranking it at 48 among 130 nations, according to a recent Gallup poll on civic engagement that included 130 nations.

While 53% of Sri Lankans gave money to charity and 53% volunteered time, 51% of Pakistanis contributed money and 27% volunteered time. In India, 28% donated money and 18% volunteered time. Comparable figures for the top-ranking United States are 65% and 43%.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/145589/civic-engagement-highest-developed-countries.aspx#2

Riaz Haq said...

Haseeb,

There is no question that Pakistan is facing multiple serious crises right now. Zardari has only made things worse by his corrupt and incompetent governance.

However, I would not look to the likes of Stephen Cohen for any objective and sincere analyes and recommendations or forecasts.

Cohen is part of what is known as the Washington Consensus...a set of principles and recipes for the world that are designed to advance the US interests regardless of the costs to others who accept and implement such consensus. China has rejected the Washington consensus and it's promoting its own Beijing Consensus instead.

For example, Cohen was very pro-Musharraf until Musharraf decided to not accept all of US demands. He then supported a change to BB in because she promised total cooperation in WOT with US, meaning doing 100% of US bidding.

And now that he sees Zardari unable to deliver as promised (take Rayomd Davis case, for instance), he has now turned against the current govt and started making making apocalyptic forecasts for Pakistan.

Among the US analysts who analyze South Asia, I find that Prof Juan Cole of Uinv of Michigan is more on the mark than Stephen Cohen. Cole is much more sanguine about Pakistan's future. For example Cole says in one of his posts that the "the hype about Pakistan is very sinister and mysterious and makes no sense to someone who actually knows the country."

But Cole is not popular with Washington or with Pakistani liberals.

http://www.juancole.com/2011/01/death-of-pakistani-secularism-much-exaggerated.html

http://www.juancole.com/2009/04/readers-have-written-me-asking-what-i.html

Voyager Press said...

I Strongly reject the statement of Mr.Riaz Haq quote of "...ravaged Afghanistan in 1990's with Pakistan's help to keep India out' as its not india its Soviet union and you could check the reasons why pak launched attacks later on kabul in afghan point of view http://www.afghanland.com/history/civilwar.html

rather than dismantling the islamic extremists , it isnt better for either india or pakistan to throw a paint rather to engage on a diplomatic platform could only resolve which wont happen since pakistan dont have a stable govt, as either ruled by a dictator/controlled by a pro-islamic leader prime minister.

in the between ISI controls the whole situation leveraged due to the political instability.

the main issue on why there hasnt been pak failed is taliban openly roaming in the crowds with weapons freely available.

its isnt easy in secured countries on controlling this groups but since taliban has the local people support due to anti-govt sentiment
all this unstability and failure is stamped.

which cant be defended / cleared in one day talk hav to see in future on what pak is standing on t talk.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Business Recorder report on threats from inflation and capital inflows in Asia:

ISLAMABAD: Inflation has become or continues to be an important risk to macroeconomic and social stability in a number of countries in Asia Pacific, including Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Cambodia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

This was revealed in a report titled "Asia-Pacific Sovereigns In 2011: Generally Stable Credit Quality; Inflation, Capital Flows Make Policy Environment Tricky.

Issued by the Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, the report said the challenges of strong capital inflows and rising inflationary pressures bring in important credit risks. Domestic politics and increasing geopolitical risks further complicate policy decisions, it said.

The ability of Asia-Pacific governments to navigate external and domestic challenges adroitly while pushing ahead with economic reforms will determine the pace of ascent in their credit ratings.

"In our base-case scenario, strong growth will support credit quality in Asia-Pacific," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Elena Okorotchenko Asia continues to outperform other regions in terms of growth and sovereign credit trends.

The report said, despite generally stable credit quality, various factors have combined to make the policy environment tricky for sovereigns in the region, said in a report available here Monday.

Economic growth will enable the public sector of high-income economies to reduce fiscal deficits and resume fiscal consolidation and allow emerging market governments to speed up structural reforms.

But the downside risks to this scenario are growing beyond just a slower U.S. economy or the eurozone debt woes.

Food and energy price increases, the familiar bugbears, are providing a strong inflationary impetus across the board, and present low-income sovereigns in particular with difficult political and fiscal choices.

In addition to inflation, a number of sovereigns, such as Indonesia, Thailand, and Korea, could be facing problems with capital flows, either as a result of large inflows/outflows complicating exchange rate management or because of potential policy mistakes in trying to control such flows.

Recent developments in several Middle Eastern countries have raised questions about contagion effects.

Such popular uprisings are highly unpredictable, although the risks appear to be more pronounced where high unemployment among the young, inflation, poverty or wide income gaps are combined with growing political disillusionment in an autocratic and often corrupt regime.

In Asia, there are countries with ongoing political/social tensions and risks independent of recent events in the Middle East: Fiji, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Thailand.

"We have factored these risks into current ratings on these sovereigns," said Ms. Okorotchenko.

In a number of other countries, the risk of social unrest is present but mitigating factors are currently strong. These are China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Cambodia.

"The risks in these countries are mitigated by some combination of strong growth, low unemployment, and a degree of popular support for the government," she added.

Of the 22 sovereigns that Standard & Poor's rates in the region, 17 have stable outlooks on their ratings. Indonesia and Fiji have a positive outlook, and only three sovereign ratings are on negative outlooks: New Zealand, Vietnam, and the Cook Islands.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's piece by Michael O'Hanlon of Brookings recommending closer US ties with Pakistan, including free trade deal and nuclear cooperation similar to US-India nuclear deal:

Under these circumstances, part of the right policy is to keep doing more of what the Obama administration has been doing with Pakistan -- building trust, as with last month's strategic dialogue in Washington; increasing aid incrementally, as with the new five-year $2 billion aid package announced during that dialogue; and coordinating militarily across the border region. But Obama also needs to think bigger.

First, he needs to make clear America's commitment to South Asia, to wean Pakistan away from its current hedging strategy. Obama has frequently used general language to try to reassure listeners in the region that there will be no precipitous U.S. withdrawal next summer. But few fully believe him. Hearing stories like Bob Woodward's accounts of how the vice president and White House advisors have generally opposed a robust counterinsurgency strategy in favor of a counterterrorism-oriented operation with far fewer U.S. troops, they worry that next summer's withdrawal will be fast. Obama needs to explain that he will not revert to such a minimalist "Plan B" approach under any imaginable circumstances. More appropriate would be a "Plan A-minus" that involves a gradual NATO troop drawdown as Afghan forces grow in number and capability, without necessarily first stabilizing the entire south and east, should the current strategy not turn around the violence by next summer or so. This would represent a modification to the current plan rather than a radical departure. The president can find a way to signal that this is in fact his own thinking, sooner rather than later -- ideally before the year is out.

Second, Obama should offer Islamabad a much more expansive U.S.-Pakistani relationship if it helps win this war. Two major incentives would have particular appeal to Pakistan. One is a civilian nuclear energy deal like that being provided to India; Pakistan's progress on export controls in the wake of the A.Q. Khan debacle has been good enough so far to allow a provisional approval of such a deal if other things fall into place as well. Second is a free trade accord. Struggling economically, Pakistan needs such a shot in the arm, and a trade deal could arguably do even more than aid at this point.

But the key point is this: Pakistan should be told that these deals will only be possible if the United States and its allies prevail in Afghanistan. Small gestures of greater helpfulness are not adequate; bottom-line results are what count and what are needed. If Afghanistan turns around in a year or two, the deals can be set in motion and implemented over a longer period that will allow the United States to continually monitor subsequent Pakistani cooperation in the war.

It may seem harsh to Pakistan that America would put things in such stark terms -- but in fact, it is not realistic that any U.S. president or Congress would carry out such deals if the United States loses the war in Afghanistan partly due to Pakistani perfidy. As such, these terms are really just common sense, and they are based on political realism about America's domestic politics as well as its strategic interests.

America's current strategy for the war in Afghanistan is much improved. But it is not yet sound enough to point clearly toward victory. The most crucial problem is the role of Pakistan in the war, and so far, the Obama administration is not thinking creatively enough about how to fix it.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from an Op Ed in Newsweek Pakistan by Meekal Ahmed, a former IMF official:

The government hopes to generate Rs. 53 billion during the last quarter of the current financial year, which concludes on June 30. It hopes to achieve this by imposing a 15 percent surcharge on income tax paid by Pakistan’s paltry 1.7 million registered, individual taxpayers. Given the small tax base and modest yield, the surcharge seems unfair and not worth it. In a move that is regressive and potentially inflationary, depending on the market, excise duty on certain import items has been increased from 1 percent to 2.5 percent until end-June. While these measures are better than doing nothing at all—which is what happened during the first three quarters—they are far from ideal, and don’t go far enough to address the big problems with the economy.

But it’s not all bad. The elimination of tax exemptions for agricultural inputs (including tractors, fertilizers, and pesticides) was long overdue. With a strong agro-lobby preventing taxation on their handsome incomes in a sector that contributes 21 percent of GDP, the government might as well tax the inputs. Tax exemptions for export quality textiles sold within Pakistan have also been nixed despite resistance from the fierce textile lobby. The freeze on additional hiring in the public sector, and the 50 percent cut in several spending categories should also be welcomed.

Then there is the profusion of what many Pakistani media outlets call “petrol bombs”—highly unpopular oil price adjustments at the start of each month. The government announces the adjustments, and then rolls them back under popular and political pressure. The fuel price adjustments are unavoidable. Pakistan is a net oil importer and can’t insulate itself from global price shocks. Oil prices have risen steeply in the last three months, and have now crossed the psychologically important 100-dollar mark. Pakistan’s fuel subsidies—at an estimated Rs. 5 billion per month that could have been spent on development—are unaffordable and unsustainable. Oil prices will remain high for a while. Pakistanis must adjust to this reality. .....
...
Despite the new measures, doubts remain about the revised tax-revenue targets and the state’s capacity to achieve them. The Federal Board of Revenue is notorious for its chronic underperformance. The justification that there is a tax revenue shortfall because the economy is in recession holds no water. An economy expected to grow at around 3 percent is not, technically speaking, in recession, but is growing below its potential. There is no cycle for fiscal revenues in Pakistan: whether the economy grows at 3 percent or 7 percent, whether inflation is 2 percent or 25 percent, tax revenues fail to keep up. If they did not, there would be a constant tax-to-GDP ratio, which is actually falling. This trend points to the existence of deep-rooted structural deficiencies in the tax system, which is regressive, anti-poor and plagued by too many exemptions and concessions. Then there’s also corruption, abuse of the system, and evasion. Even taxes withheld at source are not deposited in the government’s account because of alleged connivance between withholding agents and tax officials.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) assessment of the effect of Arab revolt and Japan quake-tsunami on Pakistan's economy:

KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) said on Saturday that the global trade shock due to the conflict in Arab world and earthquake and tsunami in Japan remained beneficial for the country’s economy.

In its Monetary Policy Statement for the next two months, SBP said that the scenario helped the country to fetch better export price in international markets.

SBP said that there remains growing uncertainty in the global economic environment. The popular uprising in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and unprecedented damage to the Japanese economy because of an historic earthquake and tsunami have shaken the global economy, which has yet to fully recover from the repercussions of the financial and economic crisis of advanced economies, it said.

One consequence of these developments has been high international commodity prices, especially of oil, it added.

“So far, the terms of trade shock have been favorable for Pakistan’s economy. More than 90 percent of the incremental increase in export earnings during July ñ February, FY11 over the corresponding period of last year has been due to high international prices of Pakistan’s exports.”

SBP said that the contribution of high import prices, particularly of oil, to the import bill has been relatively low, but is substantial and rising.

SBP further said that the turmoil in the Arab region may also influence the flow of remittances to Pakistan. “However, assuming that the inflow of remittances continue its current trend for the remaining months of FY11, there are no immediate risks to the external current account balance,” SBP added.

The financial account inflows such as foreign direct investment and portfolio investments have remained fairly modest during July ñ February FY11, almost half the level of inflows seen in the corresponding period of the last year, which was also small compared to historical levels.

SBP said that the overall balance of payment position appears to be strong at the moment with a gradual build-up of foreign exchange reserves and a stable foreign exchange market. “However, given the uncertainty with respect to foreign inflows, the developments in the external sector will need to be monitored closely in the coming months.”

Riaz Haq said...

UN Human Development Report 2010 shows that Pakistan ranks among the top 10 movers in HDI in the decade of 2000-2010.

See table 3 in Let's Talk Human Development.

Riaz Haq said...

The World Bank has approved a US$125 million credit for the Flood Emergency Cash Transfer Project, designed to support the Government of Pakistan’s Citizen’s Damage Compensation Program (CDCP) in providing cash transfers to more than 1 million flood-affected households, according to pkeconomist.com:

The project will also strengthen the management of the CDPC through effective grievance redressal mechanisms and establishing control and accountability measures to ensure efficient and transparent delivery of the support.

“The 2010 floods were a disaster of historic proportions that affected over 20 million people and created a massive recovery need,” said Rachid Benmessaoud, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan. “Households faced with income shocks often adopt coping strategies that are not beneficial over time, including reducing assets and consumption, increasing borrowing, and taking children out of school to work. Therefore, cash assistance to flood-affected households is essential to mitigate the adverse effects of income shocks besides addressing the issue of poverty and vulnerability. Importantly, the project will also assist in developing necessary capacities and systems to effectively handle the similar disasters in the future.”

Launched in September 2010, the CDCP provided around 1.4 million families with cash grants of PRs. 20,000 (approximately US$230) to cover their immediate needs. The next phase, supported by this project, will provide an additional payment of PRs. 40,000 (approximately US$460) to around 1.1 million most affected households, thereby reaching between 7.5 and 8.3 million people to rebuild their lives. To meet the total financing requirements for the CDCP, the World Bank has worked closely with other development partners, some of which (USAID and Italy) have already committed funds.

“International evidence suggests that cash grants allow the recipients the flexibility of choosing where to put their resources based on their specific conditions and priorities.” said Iftikhar Malik, Co-Project Team Leader. “Beneficiaries are expected to use these additional grants to not only cover basic consumption but to also recapitalize assets as well as recover their livelihoods.”

The World Bank is well placed to support the Government of Pakistan in extending and strengthening the CDCP due to its substantial international and regional experience in protecting the affected and vulnerable through post-disaster cash transfer programs. In addition to this operation, the Bank has assisted the Government in its flood response through financing the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment and making available US$300 million for fast-disbursing financing of critical flood-related imports and US$20 million for highway reconstruction.

The credit is from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm. US$81 million of the credit carries a 0.75% service charge, 10 years of grace period and a maturity of 35 years. The remaining US$44 million has the same terms plus a fixed interest charge of 3.2%.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story of Pakistan's 100,000 ladies health workers reaching out to rural communities:

KARACHI, Mar 16, 2011 (IPS) - At eight in the morning 30-year-old Sultana Solangi steps out of her house ready for her day’s work. Wearing a black gown that shows only her eyes, she is shod in comfortable slippers and lugs a large black bag.

She will walk through this city’s poorest communities, visiting as many as 10 homes everyday, helping to raise awareness and improve maternal and child health.

In her bag is an assortment of medical supplies: Paracetamol tablets and oral rehydration salts, bandages, condoms, contraceptive pills, iron and folic acid tablets, eye ointments, and antiseptic lotion.

Solangi, the sole breadwinner in her family of four, works as a lady health worker (LHW), employed by the government’s National Programme for Family Planning and Primary Health Care.

Launched in 1994, the programme now has a veritable army of 100,000 LHWs covering 60 percent of the population - the biggest outreach intervention in South Asia.

These women venture where few doctors dare to go, from congested cities to far-flung and underdeveloped rural areas, acting as the link between communities and the public health system.

Over the years, their work has expanded to include health campaigns like administering polio drops to children under five, plus neonatal tetanus, measles, tuberculosis, and malaria control.

LHWs are particularly important in the rural areas where three-quarters of Pakistan’s population live, and where a trip to a health centre may require a hike of a couple of hours to as much as a day. Illiteracy is widespread in these areas and often customs prevent women from seeking health services without being chaperoned by a male family member.

Solangi cited the case of Zahida Sanghi, a woman Solangi’s age but already a mother of seven. Sanghi lives in People’s Colony, a community in Larkana city in Sindh province, some 322 kilometres from the southern port city of Karachi, which is part of Solangi’s coverage area.

"Zahida Sanghi was very weak and would not have survived another pregnancy. The husband is jobless. It took close to two months to convince her mother-in-law that it was all right for her to get a tubal ligation done since her family was complete. This is all part of my job," she said.

Every day, Solangi and her colleagues cover between five to 10 houses and talk to women like Sanghi about the importance of antenatal check-ups, vaccinations, safe delivery, the use and making of oral rehydration salts, and modern methods of family planning.

They also hold about eight group sessions each month where they discuss with local women issues related to mother and child health.

Yet despite the LHW programme, Pakistan remains a maternal and infant health hotspot.

The Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS), conducted from 2006 to 2007, shows an infant mortality rate of 78 deaths per 1,000 live births. It also shows a mortality rate of children under five years old of 94 deaths per 1,000 live births. This means one in every 11 children born in Pakistan dies before reaching his or her fifth birthday.

The maternal mortality rate of 276 per 100,000 live births is also far too high, and has remained virtually unchanged since 1991.

Sadiqa Jaffery, president of the National Committee on Maternal and Neonatal Health, said the statistics would be much worse without the LHWs on the ground.

"It’s been established that where LHWs are present family planning services and routine immunisation is better. The problem is that the coverage is not blanket," Jaffery said.

But Farid Midhet, founder of the Safe Motherhood Pakistan Alliance, remains unconvinced of the impact of LHWs. "Family planning is the cornerstone of women’s health services and it still eludes millions," he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Christian Science Monitor report about inexpensive health insurance for the poor in Pakistan:

Karachi, Pakistan

Wilayat Shah, a security guard at the luxury Avari Towers Hotel in Karachi, Pakistan, was rushed to a hospital last December after experiencing headaches and losing consciousness at work.

Unlike the wealthy patrons of the hotel he guarded, the father of four wouldn't ordinarily have had access to top-notch medical treatment.

But thanks to a health-care program run by the nonprofit Naya Jeevan (New Life), Mr. Shah, who earns just $150 a month, paid nothing for the MRI scans and treatment he received, worth some $1,400. He now has returned to work.

Shah is one of some 13,000 low-income workers in Pakistan signed on to the Naya Jeevan program. It was founded in 2007 by surgeon-turned-social entrepreneur Asher Hasan and began operating in Pakistan last summer.

"In Pakistan, privileged people can afford their care," Dr. Hasan explains. "The poor, who work alongside the rich, were just excluded from the system."

Hasan left a successful career in the United States to return to Pakistan, where he had spent his formative years, on a mission to provide affordable health care to low-income workers.

He lived a "clichéd life," he says, with a résumé that includes an MBA from New York University, research work at Harvard Medical School, and a stint as a senior executive at a California-based pharmaceutical company.

"I knew there was much more I could be doing in Pakistan," Hasan says.

By working with insurance companies to spread risk across clusters of low-income workers, who typically earn less than $200 a month, Naya Jeevan opens up high-quality health care to a segment of the population that couldn't afford it before.

Each participant pays in about $1.80 per month. The maximum catastrophic payout is $1,800 per year – the average cost of heart bypass surgery at a good private hospital in Pakistan, Hasan says.

That low monthly premium, which he calculates as roughly 2.1 percent of the monthly income of the working poor, as well as the absence of deductibles and copayments, is "commendable," says Farasat Bokhari, a Pakistani-American health economist at King's College in London.

"More impressive is the fact that they have contracts with a large number of private hospitals, which are presumably of higher quality compared with the public hospitals, which are severely underfunded," Mr. Bokhari says.

Last year, the Pakistani government spent an average of $18 per person for health care, one of the consequences of its struggle to deal with an ongoing battle against Islamist insurgents on its western border and the aftermath of last year's catastrophic floods.
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Hasan has first-hand experience. Born in London into a middle-class family, his mother moved him and his three sisters to Karachi following the death of their father in 1983. On a trip back to Britain, Hasan's mother suffered a nervous breakdown. She had no contact with her children for the next three years.

During this time, Hasan grew close to the children of his maid. While his education was provided for by the colleagues and friends of his late father, his maid was unable to tap any wealthy connections when her father fell seriously ill, forcing her to withdraw her children from school.

"I realized that a single catastrophic event can lead to the perpetuation of the cycle of poverty," he says. "We had to create a system which could break that cycle."
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The next step after that, he says, will be to work with other major institutions to sign up 2.5 million Pakistanis and lobby the federal government to set up a similar program of private health-care insurance nationwide.

Riaz Haq said...

British Prime Minister David Cameron, now on a visit to Pakistan, has offered about $1 billion in aid for education, according to Financial Times:

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David Cameron offered Pakistan’s leaders up to £650m ($1,055m) of aid for schools and heaped praise on their “huge fight” against terrorism in a diplomatic gamble to end years of mutual mistrust with a gesture of goodwill.

During a confidence-building visit to Islamabad with an entourage of his most senior security advisers, Mr Cameron jettisoned the usual list of UK demands and instead gave Pakistan the benefit of the doubt over Afghanistan and its support for militant groups.

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Such optimism over Islamabad’s intentions marks a big break in British diplomacy, making a stark contrast with Mr Cameron’s description of Pakistan “looking both ways” on terrorism, a remark that triggered a serious diplomatic incident last year.

Rather than regarding Pakistan as a country that “can do more”, particularly on curbing Taliban activities, the British assumption is now that Islamabad’s security agencies have limited control over militant groups they once helped to create.

The big test for Mr Cameron is whether his expression of trust can generate better results than the more transactional approach adopted in the past. British officials say they are already seeing tangible improvements in intelligence co-operation and a greater willingness to discuss a political peace deal in Afghanistan.

Mr Cameron sought to demonstrate the breadth of the new partnership by offering funds for up to 4m school places by 2015. “I struggle to find a country that’s more in our interest to progress and succeed than Pakistan,” Mr Cameron said after a meeting with Yusuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s prime minister.

“If Pakistan succeeds then we will have a good story ... if it fails we will have all the problems of migration and extremism, all the problems.”

The package of up to £650m, which more than doubles previous education funding, forms part of an aid programme that is set to become Britain’s biggest.
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The centrepiece of Mr Cameron’s visit was a security round-table with Pakistan’s civilian leadership and General Ashfaq Kayani, its military chief. Sir John Sawers, head of the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, and General Sir David Richards, chief of the defence staff, also attended, in their second visit to Islamabad in less than a month.

Mr Gilani later brushed aside questions over Pakistan’s willingness to combat terrorism. “We’ve the ability and we have the resolve and we are fighting and we’ve paid a very heavy price for that,” he said, citing the 30,000 casualties in Pakistan’s effort to quell an internal insurgency.

One senior Pakistani government official speaking after Mr Cameron’s meetings said closer security ties would take some more time to develop. “Clearly, the UK wants Pakistan to extend help to combat militant plots on British soil,” he said. “But the UK will also need to be much more forthcoming on helping Pakistan to go after members of its own militant groups from places like Baluchistan who have taken refuge in Britain.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wall Street Journal report on Tour De Pakistan described as "That French Bike Race Might Seem Easy Compared to This One":

This year's edition of the Tour de Pakistan took riders from the southern metropolis of Karachi to the northern city of Abbottabad after 11 stages and more than 1,000 miles. Money is too tight to organize mountain stages so in a country that is home to the world's second-highest peak, the course is mostly flat.

Lack of funding has been a chronic issue for the event, and during its 28-year existence it has been held only 16 times. With a budget from the government of less than $60,000 and virtually no sponsorship, organizers have to be creative: Accommodation for cyclists ranges from courthouse buildings to a sugar mill. In early March, days before the start of this year's race, Idris Haider Khawaja, the race director, considered halving the $10,000 prize money—which is split among the top 10 finishers—to help cover expenses, but decided against it.

Mr. Khawaja figures that sponsors would line up if only he could attract foreign riders. But that's an uphill task with a raging Islamist insurgency responsible for bombings throughout the country. Mr. Khawaja says no one has ever attacked riders during the competition.

Still, Indians didn't get permission from their government to participate; Sri Lankans and Nepalese couldn't be enticed with free airfare; and Westerners were scared, he says. Ferdinand Bruckner, an Austrian cyclist, competed in Serbia during its war with Kosovo and has ridden through rebel territory in Colombia. But Pakistan was a stage too far. He says he was originally tempted but eventually backpedaled.

"If I win a stage or I'm the leader in this Tour, it could be that certain persons don't like it," he says. "In Pakistan it's possible that we can be a target."

The Tour secured the participation of one foreign team: Afghanistan. With a 10-year-old war at home, the five members of the Afghan team say they feel perfectly safe in Pakistan.

"In Afghanistan the situation is not good, and the security is not good," said 24-year-old Afghan rider Hashmatullah Tookhy. "In Pakistan, the whole time we relax."

All participants start the day with a breakfast of spicy omelets and lentils before riding up to 125 miles in 90-degree heat. Four of the nine Pakistani teams are fielded by government agencies and equipped with good-quality bikes. The remainder is made up of students, laborers and jobless cyclists who often struggle to find functioning bicycles. Taifoor Zareen, 20, said he paid about $23 for his bike.

"It's the cheapest bike in the race, but I'm grateful that I got this bike," he said.

And he should be. On another bike, one of his teammates couldn't shift gears during the entire first stage.

Riaz Haq said...

In flood-stricken Pakistan, a good wheat harvest is expected, reports Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO):

Islamabad/Rome, 30 Mar 2011 -- A large-scale distribution by FAO of wheat seeds to the victims of last year’s floods in Pakistan is now ripe to yield enough food for half a million poor rural households.

With an average family size of eight, this translates into a harvest large enough to feed four million people for the next six months.

FAO spent $54 million of international donor funding buying and distributing quality wheat seeds as part of its emergency intervention that began last August. . Once the harvest is completed, this donation will have produced a crop worth almost $190 million in wheat flour, the main staple, at current local retail prices. “The investment made by donors has been quadrupled,” said Daniele Donati, Chief, FAO Emergency Operations Service. “Moreover, farmers will be able to save the seeds from this year’s harvest to plant again later this year.”

More than 18 million people in Pakistan were affected by last summer’s severe flooding, which caused extensive damage to housing, infrastructure and crops.

Farming nearly fully-funded

In responding to the immediate and critical challenges of the 2010 floods, FAO led the Agriculture Cluster, comprised over 200 organizations, reaching 1.4 million farming families across Pakistan.

FAO received $92 million of its $107 million appeal, which has enabled it to shore up the smallholder agricultural system in the four Pakistan provinces affected by the flooding. The donors were Australia, Belgium, Canada, CERF, the European Commission, IFAD, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

As well as supporting the “Rabi” wheat planting season, it is estimated that FAO saved the lives of almost a million livestock by supplying temporary shelter and enough de-worming tablets and dry animal feed for almost 290,000 families. Green fodder is now becoming available as the harsh Pakistan winter turns to Spring.

“The livestock interventions really paid off,” Donati said. “It costs ten times more to buy a new animal, which often represent a family’s lifetime savings”.

Canals cleared

FAO is overseeing a thousand cash-for-work schemes by which workers are paid to clear irrigation canals blocked with silt and flood debris.

One severely affected province not to have received much help is Sindh. This was because the fields remained waterlogged until well after the end of the Rabi planting season, and in some cases are still inundated. The UN Agency will shortly distribute quality rice seeds to almost 25 000 families in Sindh for the upcoming planning season, but over 700 000 families will require assistance over the coming months.

Recovery priorities

FAO, in partnership with the Government of Pakistan has identified recovery priorities for the next two years. These are increasing crop, livestock, fishery and agro-forestry production, improving diets and nutrition and boosting agriculture extension services to offer advice to landless and smallholder farmers.

“Pursuit of these core objectives will significantly reduce the vulnerability of the populations in question, improve food production and income generation, and increase affected communities’ resilience to future shocks,” said Donati. FAO expects its recovery programme to cost $94 million, enough to assist 430 000 families in 24 districts.

An Early Recovery Working Group, co-chaired by the Pakistan Government’s National Disaster Management Authority and the United Nations Development Programme, has been set up with eight sectors covered including one on Agriculture and Food Security, co-chaired by FAO, WFP and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from an ADB report on Pakistan as quoted by Daily Times:

Pakistan’s budget deficit may cross 5.5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) due to less than expected revenues, excess expenditure on floods, security and subsidies.
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According to the report, severe floods in July-August 2010 have affected fiscal year (FY) 2011’s prospects. Damage was less severe than initially feared, but agriculture and communications were hit hard.

The report says that Pakistan’s public debt (excluding guarantees) as a share of the GDP continued to climb in FY 2010. Government domestic debt amounted to 37.0 percent of the GDP, including commodity debt and liabilities of State Owned Entities (SOEs). External debt rose to 31.9 percent of the GDP, including 0.6% of the GDP in external liabilities of SOEs. Interest payments due on domestic debt represent a heavy burden, accounting for 3.9 percent of the GDP in FY 2010, or 43 percent of the Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) revenue. External debt amortisation payments, excluding amounts owed to the IMF, are relatively stable for FY 2010 – FY 2013 at about $3.3 billion. Amounts due for FY 2012 and beyond will be raised substantially by repayment obligations to the IMF. The report maintains that the inflation accelerated after the floods, to 15.7 percent in September, reflecting actual and expected shortages. It remained above 15 percent through December, falling to 14.2 percent in January owing to a government-freeze on oil and electricity prices. It is expected to stay high through FY 2011, for an average annual 16.0 percent, and is then expected to recede in FY 2012 to 13.0 percent (moderation in international food prices is likely to be at least partly offset by electricity price rises).

ADB expects Pakistan’s economy to continue to build on the vital signs of recovery. The good news is that Asia is maintaining a strong growth trajectory, and expanding South to South links presents supplementary opportunities for developing Asia, including Pakistan. Pakistan’s recent entry into Central Asian Regional Cooperation (CAREC) opens up new trade and development corridors ... but it all depends on getting back on course in implementing the fiscal reforms and creating an enabling environment for the industry and job creation for the youth in the years ahead, the ADB country director added.

The total disbursements made to Pakistan by ADB during the calendar year 2010 were $799.18 million that were 117 percent more than the projected amount of $683.28 million.
---------

According to the report, Pakistan’s external reserves reached a record-high of $17.4 billion in early February 2011, amounting to more than five months of imports of goods and services. This build-up essentially reflects IMF releases of $7.1 billion under the Stand-by Arrangement programme, an additional $450 million in emergency support in September 2010, and support from the Coalition Support Fund ($633 million).

Riaz Haq said...

Here's blog post from today's Dawn newspaper:

GLORIOUS countryside lies between Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalpur. Travelling across six districts in Punjab, before a blazing summer sets in, I experienced endless fields of wheat waiting to turn golden, of freshly harvested mustard, acres of ripe sugarcane and sprawling mango orchards.

Far from the drudge and gloom of metropolitan Pakistan, economic privation, traffic snarls, extreme religion and the cricket World Cup agony, this is another Pakistan. Over a quarter of a century after the green revolution ended the rural economy is back in boom, this time on the back of rising prices. The feel-good factor is all around.
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Alongside the cash economy, the place is also brimming with ideas, and with an entrepreneurial spirit. A young man I meet at Rahim Yar Khan’s chamber of commerce has an IT degree and owns an ice cream distribution business spawning an elaborate cold chain across three districts. He tells me that sales are surging because rural society is transitioning to modern desserts which are now more affordable than traditional sweets like mithai and khoya.

Meanwhile, he’s toying with the bigger vision of an electronic marketplace for agricultural produce. Live connectivity to grain mandis and markets for fresh produce and milk will empower farmers to obtain prices online and through their cellphones. He wants to materialise this and wants tips. I give him my two cents worth: study similar models, write a concept paper, galvanise partners around it, put in seed money and get the venture to mezzanine level.

For now the agricultural economy is growing more in value than in volume. As it does, it pulls in a rising demand for inputs. Fertiliser and agrochemical companies, some listed on the stock exchange are making record profits. Still, few find time to complain about rising input prices. With a population of 400,000, Rahim Yar Khan sports showrooms displaying cars, motorcycles and generators, fast food outlets and even private healthcare clinics.

Even then, not all the cash would appear to go into consumption. Pakistan now ranks amongst the world’s top 10 markets for tractors. Alongside, and despite constrained credit to agriculture, farmers are investing in agricultural implements, irrigation channels and farm modernisation.
--------------
“Simple”, he explains, “this year the ginners got together with the local utility company, Mepco. We’ve instituted a system whereby instead of intermittent hours of loadshedding we get it in one block of 12 hours. This way we can run the factory on one shift per day”. With that problem behind him he now wanted to move on; that is, to a pasteurised milk business.

As the green revolution tapered off, a poultry revolution began; in the late 1970s. Ever since, Pakistan has been gnawing away
at broiler chicken and there’s no turning back. Today a dairy revolution is sweeping Pakistan. As the world’s fifth largest milk producer, the country can only process three per cent of its milk production. Sitting in his factory office in Khanpur — one could have been in any plush office in a metropolis — we open his wireless notebook and download a pre-feasibility study for a milk pasteurising business from Smeda’s website. We glean through it, and at a Rs160m capital outlay it looks doable for him.
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In 2009, an NGO distributed young cattle on micro-credit to 1,000 small farmers and built an apex organisation to collect and market milk from these grass-roots. The Dutch consultant for the NGO informs me that a modern farmers’ cooperative model is now evolving. Such models have long been in vogue in Europe and indeed in several developing countries. Usually the extended supply chain ends at farmer-owned retail outlets — co-ops. Why hasn’t this concept gained traction in Pakistan?
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And so Pakistan prepares to harvest another bumper wheat crop in 2011.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wall St Journal report on World Well-being Gallup survey that puts Pakistanis ahead of Indians:

The results of the 2010 global wellbeing survey of 124 nations conducted by Gallup reveals that only about 21% of people consider themselves “thriving,” the highest level of wellbeing.

Around 1000 people over the age of 15 were asked whether in their lives they felt they were “thriving,” “struggling,” or “suffering,” measured on a scale from zero to 10. Anything seven or above was considered as thriving, according to the methodology used in the study.

India fared worse than average. Based on the findings, it ranked 71st in the list, with only 17% of respondents reported as thriving. (This was in line with the broader Asian average).

India’s neighbor Pakistan, despite its more volatile political and economic situation, ranked 40th, with 32% of the people describing themselves as thriving.

This category means more than just general wellbeing, and includes better overall health, measured in terms of fewer sick days, less stress or sadness, and more happiness and respect.

Alarmingly, in India 64% of people saw themselves as struggling. The survey describes people who fall into this category as being more stressed, more concerned about their economic wellbeing and less healthy, in terms of their lifestyle and eating habits.

The Danish lead the wellbeing list with 72% falling into the thriving category, while Chad ranked lowest, with only 1% describing themselves as such. Americans ranked average, with 59% of them thriving and only 3% suffering.

China, despite its impressive GDP figures, didn’t do that well, with only 12% of people describing themselves as thriving.

While there were gaps between developed and developing countries, a lot also depended on a country’s political situation and natural disasters, the survey shows. For instance, Haiti, where the 2010 earthquake claimed the lives of up to 250,000 people, those in the thriving range are only 2%.

Overall, the survey findings reveal how GDP figures alone are not sufficient to measure a country’s wellbeing. (This comes close to Gross National Happiness, which the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan famously adopted in the 1970s.)

“As the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt showed earlier this year, leaders should not rely on GDP alone as an indicator of how well their countries and their citizens are doing. Monitoring and improving behavioral economic measures of wellbeing are important to helping leaders better the lives of all their residents,” the survey reveals.

Consultant of psychiatry at New Delhi’s Moolchand Medcity, Dr. Jitendra Nagpal held a similar view. In an emailed response to India Real Time, Dr. Nagpal also agreed that nations whose people claim to be happy may or may not be economically sound. Dr. Nagpal added that happiness is more about the ability to do what you want to do, rather than fulfilling life’s basic needs.

Riaz Haq said...

South Korea's LOTTE is planning to invest $500m in Pakistan, according to The News:

KARACHI: Lotte, the parent company of Lotte Pakistan PTA Limited, has hinted at expanding its operations in Pakistan, besides entering into other businesses such as confectioneries and constructions, officials said on Tuesday.

“If government of Pakistan offers us some concessions in taxation then we are keen to expend operations of Lotte Pakistan with a fresh investment of $500 million,” said Jung Neon Kim, Executive Director of Lotte Pakistan.

The PTA plant was acquired by Lotte in September 2009 and renamed as Lotte PTA Pakistan Limited.

Kim said Lotte is also in the process of acquiring Kolson. Therefore, it is about to enter the confectionary and food businesses in the country, as well.

The parent company also wanted to concentrate on the beverage industry, as well as expand into the chemicals and construction sectors, he said.

To attract more foreign investment and foreigners to the country, he said, Lotte wanted to develop and build residential projects exclusively for foreigners where they could live and enjoy sports and cultural facilities along with full security.

“Pakistan is a big market and the government could help encourage foreign investment if it supports persistency in tariff rates and offers lower taxes and tax breaks.”

He said that his company was the tenth largest taxpayer in Pakistan, contributing around Rs20 billion to the national exchequer in the form of taxes.

In his opinion, the tax rates in Pakistan were among the highest in the region and should be reduced to attract more investment.

Lotte Pakistan took CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) very seriously and spent Rs400 million on CSR activities last year, besides contributing to the relief efforts for flood victims. He said Lotte is intensely involved in education and around Port Qasim where Lotte Pakistan PTA plant is located. Lotte, he said, is committed to spending Rs60 million annually on education in the area.

Riaz Haq said...

Australian wheat exports are set to face stiffer competition as Pakistan, which resumed exports after three years, pours grain from its new crop into the market and offers competitive prices to millers in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, according The Express Tribune:

Overseas shipments by Australia, the grain’s fourth largest exporter, have already suffered from the country’s strengthening currency, while a return of Black Sea cargoes, after last year’s drought, promises to worsen the situation.

“There is around $80 spread between the two origins, which makes it attractive for millers to take Pakistani wheat, even though Australian is of better quality,” said a Singapore-based grains trader.

Australian wheat sales have slowed in the past few weeks as a strengthening currency has lifted prices for overseas buyers, while Pakistan has sold some one-and-a-half million tons into the global market since it resumed overseas sales.

Pakistan is making inroads into Australia’s traditional strongholds of Indonesia and Malaysia, while striking deals with millers in Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates and Tanzania at prices between $300 and $310 a ton, free on board. This compares to Australian prime wheat (APW) being offered around $380 a ton.



http://tribune.com.pk/story/165997/pakistani-wheat-to-dent-australias-exports/

Riaz Haq said...

Here are summary and salient points of Anatol Lieven's Pakistan: A Hard Country:

In the past decade Pakistan has emerged as a country of immense importance. Large, heavily populated, strategically placed between Iran, Afghanistan and India, Pakistan has since its creation just over sixty years ago been pulled in several different, irreconcilable directions.

In the wake of Pakistan's development of nuclear weapons, Osama Bin Laden's presence in its unpoliceable border areas, its shelter of the Afghan Taleban, and the spread of terrorist attacks by groups based in Pakistan to London, Bombay and New York, there is a clear need to understand this remarkable and highly contradictory place.

Far from seeing Pakistan as the failed state often portrayed in the media, Lieven's extraordinary new book instead treats it as a viable and coherent state that, within limits and by the standards of its own region rather than the West, does work. Lieven argues strongly against US actions that would risk destroying that state in the illusory search for victory in Afghanistan.

This work is based on a profound and sophisticated analysis of Pakistan's history and its social, religious and political structures. Lieven has interviewed hundreds of Pakistanis at every level of society, from leading politicians and soldiers to village mullahs and rickshaw drivers. In particular, his examination of the roots of popular sympathy for the Taleban in Pakistan draws on the testimony of people whose views are rarely consulted by Western analysts.

1. For most of the years since 1947, Pakistan has had higher economic growth rates than did India. Pakistan does not have the same pockets of extreme poverty, or for that matter the extreme wealth. The level of economic equality in Pakistan is relatively high.

2. Charitable donations run almost five percent of gdp, one of the highest percentages in the world and this reflects the emphasis on alms-giving in Islam.

3. A good quotation from a businessmen: “One of the main problems for Pakistan is that our democrats have tried to be dictators and our dictators have tried to be democrats.”

4. Agriculture pays virtually no tax and the government lends lots of money to businesses and doesn’t seriously ask for it back. As a result Pakistan collects far less revenue than does India, even comparing areas of comparable per capita income. If Pakistan were a state of India, it still would be considerably richer per capita than India’s poorest regions, such as Bihar.

5. The Pakistani state is nonetheless a lot more stable than most people think. In part this is because of the conservative structure of kinship and landholder power in the country.

6. The main threats to the future of Pakistan have to do with ecology and water, not politics.

7. The end of the book has a very interesting discussion about how U.S. actions in Pakistan affect different coalitions, feelings of humiliation, relative status relationships, etc.

Definitely recommended, as are Lieven’s books on the Baltics and Ukraine.


Sources:

http://www.penguin.co.uk/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9781846141607,00.html

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2011/05/pakistan-a-hard-country.html

Riaz Haq said...

Express Tribune report on recent Port Grand Food Street opening in Karachi:

The whiff of putrid sea air that hits you as you near the entrance of the highly anticipated Port Grand Food and Entertainment Complex is forgotten once you step inside the metal gate. The newest addition to Karachi’s nightlife promises to offer visitors a world of its own in an enclosed area cut off from the craziness of city life.

“A lot of people thought this was going to be another Burns Road, but this is a different cup of tea all together,” said Managing Director Shahid Firoz of Grand Leisure Corporation. “We hope this project will lend a bit of positivism to this city and country.”

Port Grand formally opened on Saturday in a festive mood with Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad as the chief guest.

Port Grand expects to attract 4,000 to 5,000 people daily. Currently, 40 outlets are up and running and more are expected to open soon. The first thing you notice once inside is the shopping mall that houses a number of brands, including shops for gifts, clothes and accessories and books.

Towards the left of the mall was the much-talked about Napier’s Tavern. With its historic architecture and fine dining, the lodge is expected to serve as a setting for the city’s corporate crowd. The lodge was built right under a one-hundred-year-old banyan tree where Charles Napier is believed to have built a tavern. The builders used the same stones and wood extracted from the demolished bridge to salvage the heritage.

Further left, stretches the food enclave for a kilometre. Men, women and children were strolling about the concrete path along the 19th century Native Jetty bridge that connects the Karachi Port Trust to Keamari. Live cartoon characters were waiting to start their act to entertain the young visitors and loud music blared across the food street as organisers, waiters and construction workers added some of the finishing touches to the outlets and stalls — that offered a wide array from fast food and desi food to Thai cusine. Unfortunately, many of them were still being set up. The organisers announced that the complex would open for the public from Sunday evening.

The food enclave runs along the port where you can view the sea while sitting on green benches lined across the fresh green turf. The three spaced-apart metal barriers from the water could, however, be tempting for adventurous children. You can even see the cargo being loaded and unloaded from the ships that arrive from all over the world. The food street ends close to a point where you can see ships harboured at the KPT Boat Wharf. The land for the project was leased by the KPT for 30 years on a Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) agreement. Work on the billion-rupee project started in 2005 and it was expected that it would be completed by 2009. However, Grand Leisure Corporation claimed that the delay was caused by the need to completely revamp the Native Jetty bridge which was in bad shape. This caused expenses to shoot up. “Better late than never,” said Firoz. “If we wish to do things the right way there might be a delay but the end product will be something positive.”

KPT has provided double fencing around the complex for security and privacy and KPT guards also patrol the bridge. Entry has been made secure and security personnel have been put in place from the PNC building. KPT Acting Chairman Iqbal Umer said that the corporation was providing for most of the security itself.

“We have provided state of the art security,” said Nazneed Shahid, Firoz’s daughter, who has been involved in the project. “The area is no more unsafe than any other place like Boat Basin, for instance.”

Phase two includes a food court with more traditional foods like paani puri, bhel puri, shawarma, etc. “We hope to ..

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's per capita income in 2011 increased to $1207 in nominal terms (not PPP) according to a report in Dawn:

ISLAMABAD, May 5: The per capita income in Pakistan rose by 9.5 per cent to $1,207 in fiscal 2010-11, the highest growth in recent past reflecting an improved well-being despite a slowdown in the economy.

As calculated by the federal bureau of statistics here on Thursday this could mean a jump of $105 per capita for 175.31 million population in 2010-11.

The per capita income is the average of the income between the very rich and the very poor and those in the middle. The economists define per capita income as Gross National Product at current market price in dollar terms divided by the country’s population.
---
The per capita income was $586 in 2002-03, which rose to $926 in 2006-07 and $1,085 in 2007-08 but now jumped to $1,207.

The size of the economy also peaked to Rs18.8 trillion for the financial year 2010-11, up by 22 per cent from Rs15.4 trillion in the corresponding period last year. But economic growth is projected to fall to 2.4 per cent by end June 2011 from a revised target of three per cent.

As a result of stagnation in economic growth in the past three years, the per capita income also did not witness any substantial growth in dollar term. But the real purchasing power of the people also eroded rapidly as inflation entered into double-digit making essential goods dearer for the poor people.

The per capita income in Pakistan has increased due to large inflow of home remittances from the overseas Pakistanis. This year the remittances were expected to cross the $10 billion mark, which would be the highest ever in the country’s history.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Per capita income rises to $1254, according to Daily Times:

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s per capita income rose to $1,254 in 2010-11 from $1,073 during last year, showing tremendous increase of 16.9 percent, according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan. Enhancement in per capita income is mainly because of stable exchange rate as well as higher growth in nominal gross national product (GNP). Per capita real income has risen by 0.7 percent in 2010-11 against last year’s 2.9 percent. Real private consumption rose by 7 percent as against 4 percent attained last year, it added. However, gross fixed capital formation lost its strong growth momentum and real fixed investment growth contracted by 0.4 percent as against the contraction of 6.1 percent last year. Total investment has declined from 22.5 percent of GDP in 2006-07 to 13.4 percent of GDP in 2010-11. National savings rate has decreased to 13.8 percent of GDP in 2010-11 against last year’s 15.4 percent of GDP. Domestic savings also declined substantially from 16.3 percent of GDP in 2005-06 to 9.5 percent of GDP in 2010-11. The national budget for the fiscal year 2011-12 would be unveiled today (Friday). app

Riaz Haq said...

Spirit of Swat festival gets underway in Pakistan, reports The News:

Khyber Pakhtun-khwa Governor Masood Kausar on Saturday formally inaugurated the Spirit of Swat festival at the Grassy Ground.

Music programmes and sports competitions would be held during the festival, which had been started with the car rally from Khairabad, Attock, to Saidu Sharif in Swat.

In his speech, the governor said peace returned to the Swat valley owing to the unprecedented sacrifices of the people and security forces. Now, no one will be allowed to disturb peace of the valley, he told the gathering.

The festival started with the firework followed by musical show, which was attended by around 10,000 people including women and children. Prominent singers Rahim Shah and Zek Afridi and others mesmerised the audience. A large number of people had made it to the Grassy Ground and appreciated the forces for strict security arrangements. The purpose of the Spirit of Swat festival, which would continue till June 20, is to restore people s confidence and promote tourism in Swat.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan harvests bumper crop of wheat in spite of floods, reports Dawn:

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is expected to produce at least 25 million tonnes of wheat in its 2010/11 crop, Finance Minister Hafiz Shaikh said on Friday, higher than the initial estimate.

“We are expecting that our wheat crop this year will cross 25 million tonnes,” he told reporters.

Industry officials had earlier feared the output would fall to 23.5 million tonnes against a target 25 million tonnes, after a decline in the area under wheat cultivation because of massive floods in 2010 and fertiliser shortages.

A food ministry official said good output was expected because of increased fertility in wheat-growing areas after the floods.

Pakistan produced a bumper crop of 23.8 million tonnes of wheat last year. The country consumes about 22 million tonnes a year. Harvesting of the 2010/11 crop is underway.

Asia’s third-largest wheat producer, Pakistan resumed wheat exports in January for the first time in three years after the government lifted a ban in December.

The three-year ban was lifted when the 2009/10 crop and carryover from the previous stocks led to market surplus.

Traders earlier hoped to export up to three million tones of wheat this year, but the quantity may now exceed that following new wheat output estimates.

The country had already exported or contracted to sell about 1.5 million tonnes of wheat so far.


http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/08/pakistan-sees-at-least-25-mln-t-wheat-from-201011-crop.html

Riaz Haq said...

Agriculturists expect substantial crop growth in financial year 2011/12 because of timely availability of water, according to The News:

General Secretary Sindh Abadgar Board, Syed Mehmood Nawaz Shah, told The News on Thursday that contrary to outgoing financial year, all crops are likely to record bumper output in 2011-2012 thanks to timely and sufficient availability of water.

He said that the problem is management of the upcoming bumper crops and they fear decline in prices as prices of cotton have gone down in the international market.

Pakistan Central Cotton Committee has set a target of 15 million bales this year. Cotton has a share of 6.9 percent in agriculture and 1.4 percent in GDP.

In 2010/11, major crops declined by four percent and farm sector recorded a modest growth of 1.2 percent.

Cotton and rice production remained low because of floods and rain, but wheat and sugarcane recorded growth, which saved the agriculture sector from negative growth.

Economic Survey of Pakistan 2010-11 said cotton was cultivated on an area of 2,689 thousand hectares, 13.4 percent less than last year (3,106 thousand hectares). The production is estimated at 11.5 million bales, lower by 11.3 percent over the last year’s production of 12.9 million bales and 17.9 percent less than the target of 14 million bales.

The reasons for decrease in production is loss in area under cultivation due to floods, rains, widespread attack of Cotton Leaf Curl Virus (CLCV) and sucking pest in core and non-core area, shortage of water due to canal closure during flood.

Shah said that CLCV attacked cotton in Punjab in the end of June, so this year they have sown early crop, whose results are still not known.

Sugarcane was cultivated on an area of 988,000 hectares, 4.8 percent higher than last year’s level of 943,000 hectares.

Sugarcane production for the year 2010-11 is estimated at 55.3 million tons as against production of 49.3 million tons last year, a rise of 12 percent.

Sugarcane is a major raw material for the production of white sugar and gur and is also a cash crop. Its share in value-added sector of agriculture and GDP is 3.6 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.

Sources say that better market prices and timely payments by sugar mills encouraged farmers to grow more crop.

Area sown for rice is estimated at 2,365,000 hectares, 17.9 percent less than last year (2,883,000 hectares).

Rice has a share of 4.4 percent in agriculture and 0.9 percent in GDP. Pakistan grows high quality rice to meet both domestic demand and exports.

Rice production is likely to decline by 26 percent to 5 million tons in 2010-11 from 6.8 million tons last year, said a market source.

Rice export from Pakistan would be 2.6 million tons in FY2010-11 as compared with 3.8 million tons in 2009-10.

Rice productivity in Pakistan increased from the 1960s to the 1990s. Since then, it has seen a fall of about one percent per year. Therefore, it could not keep up the pace with growing demand, Ahmad Jawad, CEO of Harvest Trading told The News.

Major reasons for fall in rice production were floods and low market prices last year. Floods attacked mostly paddy growing areas in Sindh.

Area and production target of wheat for 2010-11 had been set at 9,045,000 hectares and 25 million tons, respectively. Wheat was cultivated on 8,805,000 hectares, showing a decrease of 3.6 percent over last year’s area of 9,132,000 hectares. However, a bumper wheat crop of 24.2 million tons has been estimated with 3.9 percent increase over the last year’s crop of 23.3 million tons.

Production of wheat increased due to timely fertiliser use and rainfall during pre-harvesting period.

Wheat is the main staple food for most of the population and largest grain source of the country. It contributes 13.1 percent to the value-added sector of agriculture and 2.7 percent to GDP.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some interesting excerpts from Anatol Lieven's "Pakistan-A Hard Country" on the role of religion and a description of Edhi Foundation as the essence of Pakistan's real civil society:

"Charities with a religious character tend to more favored and more trusted. It is also true of Pakistan's most famous charitable institution by far, Edhi Foundation, which is nonreligious; however, Abdus Sattar Edhi is himself a deeply religious man, known by the public at large as Maulana (a Muslim distinguished by his piety and learning)even though he is not a Muslim scholar and in fact greatly dislikes being called this.

There is no sight in Pakistan more moving than to visit some dusty, impoverished small town in arid wasteland, apparently abandoned by God and all sensible men and certainly abandoned by the Pakistani state and its own elected representatives- to see the flag of the Edhi Foundation flying over a concrete shack with a telephone, and the only ambulance in town standing in front. Here, if anywhere in Pakistan, lies the truth of human religion and human morality".

Another excerpt from Lieven's book:

"Levels of trust in Pakistani state institutions are extremely low, and for good reason. Partly in consequence, Pakistan has one of the lowest levels of tax collection outside Africa. On the other hand, charitable donations, at almost 5% of GDP, is one of the highest rates in the world".

Lieven quotes the following commandment (2:172) from the Quran:

"Righteousness is not that ye turn your faces towards the east or the west, but righteousness is, one who believes in God, and the last day, and the angels, and the Book, and the prophets, and who gives wealth for His love to kindred, and orphans, and the poor, and the son of the road, beggars, and those in captivity; and who is steadfast in prayers, and gives alms."

Riaz Haq said...

Pak Suzuki Motors (PSMC) to gain from Punjab govt's yellow cab scheme, according to The News:

KARACHI: Pak Suzuki Motor Company (PSMC) stands to gain from the Yellow Cab Scheme announced by the government of Punjab in its budget for 2011/12, analysts said.

The provincial government has announced that a grant of Rs4.50 billion has been allocated for the scheme, which will partly finance 20,000 vehicles.

Contrary to the yellow cab scheme, the Nawaz Sharif government introduced in 1992/93, this scheme relies on locally-made vehicles.

‘Mehran’ and ‘Bolan’, the two most popular makes of Pak Suzuki, have been short-listed for the scheme.

The analysts said the ultimate beneficiary will be the PSMC, which has been suffering from appreciating yen, relaxation in import policy and production constraints since a tsunami-hit Japan.

Gross profit margin of the company has squeezed to mere two percent in 2010, which was around four percent a year back, they added.

Details of the scheme are yet to be unveiled, but it is expected that the vehicles would be 50 percent financed by the government of Punjab, while the buyer would have to pay the rest.

There are concerns of possible lack of transparency in financing.

Besides, there is a lack of clarity about the time period over which the scheme would be spread.

Furqan Punjani, an analyst at the Topline Research, said that there are possibilities that out of 20,000 only 12,000 to 15,000 units will go in the said scheme and the rest might fall victim to corruption.

An analyst at Arif Habib Research said that it is believed that PSMC’s car volumes would spike by nine percent and 16 percent in CY11E and CY12F.

Consequently, the earning pershare (EPS) of the company would improve by 75 percent and 116 percent in CY11E and CY12F, respectively, he said.


http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=53955&Cat=3&dt=6/23/2011

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune report on Pakistan's Census 2011 currently underway:

The Statistics Division has requested some 0.2 million Pakistan Army officials to assist in providing security to the staff conducting the census and to help in collecting data, in case they are required.

“Army personnel will only respond to distress calls of enumerators in case they face resistance in sensitive areas of the state,” Secretary Statistic Division, Asif Bajwa, said on Thursday. Addressing a press conference, Bajwa said, “The Pakistan Army, Rangers, Frontier Constabulary, Levies and other paramilitary forces have offered to support the survey teams.” He however ruled out any resistance from miscreants in volatile areas of the country especially in Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal belt. The census will cost Rs5 billion. After the 1998 census, Pakistan’s population was estimated to be 132 million while according to recent data the population has risen above 175 million. Apart from Pakistan, 73 countries have started the process.

Bajwa said that the first phase of the census, which is now underway, includes house listing. In this phase three forms will be distributed among the population and summary sheets of house materials will be compiled by 19th April. The main operation will begin on October 6 during which form 2A – a questionnaire related to demographic and social characteristics, literacy, geographical area, economic characteristics and fertility – will be circulated. The division has stated that no details will be made public till the completion of whole process.

“For the process, 146,270 enumerators – 90 per cent of which are teachers – have been appointed,” Bajwa said adding, “The final census report will be released in December.”

The staff conducting the census will be supervised by 3,626 district officers and tehsildars. Some 22,408 circle supervisors will also collect details of houses to conduct a detailed survey of urban and rural areas, Bajwa said.

He said that teams will conduct surveys in 25 divisions, 139 districts, 424 census districts, 533 tehsils, 62 towns, 1,470 urban union councils, 50,612 villages, 6,055 rural union councils, 62 towns of city districts, 174 municipal committees, 286 town committees and 43 cantonments.

Data will also be conducted in 14 tehsils of volatile Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa which include Chitral, Dir, Malakand and Kohistan. House listing in various villages of Fata and Gilgit-Baltistan will also be undertaken. Bajwa said that the flood affected population will also be included. “We will go into every tent of the IDPs to ensure their count,” he said.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/145470/census-2011-army-to-respond-to-distress-calls-of-census-takers/

Riaz Haq said...

US funding of huge dam project in Pakistan angers India, according to Miami Herald:

ISLAMABAD -- Even as U.S.-Pakistani cooperation on anti-terrorism programs is withering, the United States is considering backing the construction of a giant, $12 billion dam in Pakistan that would be the largest civilian aid project the U.S. has undertaken here in decades.

Supporters of a U.S. role in the project say American participation would mend the United States' tattered image, going a long way toward quieting widespread anti-Americanism amid criticism that the U.S. lavishes money on Pakistan's military while doing little for the country's civilian population.

Approval of the project still faces many hurdles. India objects to the dam because it would be in Kashmir, an area that India also claims. The project also is likely to face opposition from Pakistan's critics in the U.S. Congress, who've called for all aid to be cut off after Osama bin Laden was found hiding in northern Pakistan earlier this year. Recent Pakistani actions, including allegations this week that Pakistan had allowed Chinese military experts to inspect the wreckage of an American stealth helicopter that crashed in the bin Laden compound, are likely to inflame such criticism.

Still, proponents of U.S. aid for the project recall that the United States was popular in Pakistan in the 1960s and '70s, when Washington backed the construction of two enormous dams, Tarbela and Mangla.

"Getting involved in a long-term project like this is very compelling for us," said a senior U.S. official who asked not to be identified because no final decision on the project has been made. "This would be a huge demonstration of our commitment to Pakistan and our faith in the country's future."

The Diamer Basha dam would provide enough power to overcome Pakistan's crippling electricity shortage. Proponents of the project also claim that its water storage capacity, in a 50-mile-long lake that would be created behind the dam, would be so great that it would have averted last's years devastating floods, which deluged a fifth of the country, pushed 20 million people out of their homes and caused an estimated $10 billion in damage.

The U.S.-Pakistani alliance since 2001 has been plagued by accusations in Washington that Islamabad is playing a "double game" by secretly supporting Afghan insurgents, while Pakistan thinks it's been bullied into acting against its own interests and that it's been unfairly blamed for American failures in Afghanistan. The unilateral American raid that killed bin Laden in May humiliated Pakistan's powerful military, causing anti-terrorism cooperation to be all but halted.


Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/08/16/2361801/us-considers-funding-pakistani.html#ixzz1W4Cr14es

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a UKPA story of a Pakistani innovators harnessing the Internet for the poor:

One of the world's top young technology innovators is working to bring internet-style networking to millions of Pakistanis who don't have access to the web.

Umar Saif's efforts, which centre around giving ordinary citizens new ways to use a basic mobile phone, recently earned him recognition by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The trigger for his research was a 2005 earthquake in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir that killed 80,000 people and caused widespread destruction. The disaster coincided with his return to Pakistan after getting a PhD in computer science from the University of Cambridge.

Realising that rescue workers were having trouble co-ordinating, Saif, 32, devised a computer program that allowed people to send a text message - or SMS - to thousands of people at once. Users send a text to a specific phone number to sign up for the program, and then can message all the subscribers, allowing users to engage in the kind of social networking possible on the internet.

It has since blossomed into a commercial enterprise called SMS-all that is used by at least 2.5 million people who have sent nearly four billion text messages.

"You can do the sorts of things that we do on Facebook and Twitter," said Saif, now an associate professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

The company generates revenue by charging a small amount for each message. Saif has expanded the service to Iraq and Nigeria by working with telecommunication companies there.

Roughly 20 million Pakistanis use the internet, about 11% of the country's total population of 187 million. But there are more than 108 million Pakistani mobile phone subscribers.

"The thing to do is to bring whatever you have on the internet on the phone lines, because that is what gets used the most," said Saif.


http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5gGB71MuxyPPnNQBdZ4xMfvksHuxA?docId=N0201411315222132958A

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an inspiring story of a brave woman beekeeper in Pakistan:

SWAT: Shahi Bakhta has single-handedly steered her life and those of her children out from the depths of poverty and managed to economically stabilise her family.

Bakhta, 38, lives with her five children in Nehrabad village in Swat’s Kabal town. She was widowed in May 2009 at the peak of the Swat insurgency when her husband, Mohammad Rashid, was hit by a stray bullet in crossfire between the security forces and militants.

In that one moment, Bakhta’s life changed and she was left to provide for her three sons and two daughters alone. “I have seen some tough and very bitter days in life. My children would ask for bread and I had nothing to offer to them. Sorely disappointed, I made many suicide attempts. But my children’s innocent faces stopped me.”

Rashid worked as a labourer but also operated a business on the side, where he bred honeybees. After his death, desperate for financial assistance, Bakhta decided to take over the business.

“I had to sell all the equipment of honeybee keeping to arrange for money for my children. I also sold poultry and other things one by one for survival,” she told The Express Tribune, adding that she would do odd jobs from dawn till dusk but not earn enough money to make ends meet.

Almost disillusioned with life, Bakhta was on the verge of giving up when the Sarhad Rural Support Programme, under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), reached out to her.

“I got detailed training of honeybee keeping for productive and sustainable use of it and learnt basic tools and techniques of honeybee keeping with proper nourishment of boxes,” she said. She was also paid Rs33,000 to start her own business.

The UNDP, with support from the Japanese government, has implemented a Peace and Development Programme in conflict-hit areas, such as Swat, in which cash grants are given to entrepreneurs for small businesses.

With this training, Bakhta now runs her business with scientific methods. “I have better knowledge of how to extract honey from the bees and my business seems to be improving day by day,” she says, happily. “My children’s future will now be bright.”


http://tribune.com.pk/story/260475/how-beekeeping-pulled-a-woman-from-the-edge-national/

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excerpts from Wall Street Journal story titled Fashion Weeks Gone Wild, From Aruba to Karachi:

If it's Thursday, it's fashion week somewhere.

This month alone includes fashion weeks in Moscow, Karachi, Houston, Tokyo and Portland, Oregon. Dubai fashion week begins today.

There have long been just four fashion weeks that matter in the industry: New York, Milan, Paris and London. At these events, designers parade their collections for retailers and try to make a splash in the fashion press.

But in the past five to 10 years, the numbers of cities and nations holding fashion weeks has burgeoned. There are more than 100 fashion weeks around the globe, from Islamabad to Rochester, N.Y. Event producer IMG is known for running New York fashion week, but it also produces fashion weeks in Aruba, Berlin, Zurich, Moscow, Toronto, Sydney and Miami, among others. Other locations have launched their own shows, hoping to boost their garment and retail trades.
------------
Overseas, fashion weeks often highlight regional talent and build the local economy. In Karachi this month, organizers tried to focus on business-building rather than thrilling local socialites. "Fashion in Pakistan for a long time has been an entertainment sport; at [Karachi Fashion Week], we are trying to really make it about the business of fashion," says spokesman Zurain Imam. Invitees were largely press and stores, with some Pakistani celebrities in the front rows. ...


http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204479504576639481685568742.html

Riaz Haq said...

NADRA has issued over half a million cards for Rs. 20,000 cash to each flood affected family in Sindh so far, according to The News:

The National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has said 47 centres of its total 62 centres are operational in six districts, while the other centres have completed their task and are entertaining complaints from genuine applicants who

were unable to get themselves registered for the Pakistan Card.

Nadra Deputy Chairman Tariq Malik pointed out on Friday that Nadra’s centres were working in Badin, Tando Mohammad Khan, Shaheed Benazirabad Mirpurkhas, Tando Allahyar and Sanghar, while 15 other centres were addressing complaints from those people who did not get themselves registered for Pakistan Cards.

He stated that throughout the process, Nadra ensured strong checks so that only deserving families belonging to the provincially notified calamity-hit areas could obtain the Pakistan Card.

Malik informed that Nadra had so far issued 592,651 Pakistan Cards to heads of rain-affected families in Sindh, 105,455 in Mirpurkhas, 240,227 in Badin, 79,946 in Tando Mohammad Khan and 156,324 in Shaheed Benazirabad (Nawabshah), 8,011 in Tando Allahyar and 2,684 in Sanghar.

He said that Nadra had launched a mobile SMS service in collaboration with the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) and all operating telecom companies to determine a person’s existence in the beneficiary list for the Pakistan Card project to facilitate the rain-affected people in checking the status of their requests.

The eligibility of the applicant for the Pakistan Card can be checked by simply sending his/her CNIC number to the designated short code (i.e. 9777). In response, a text message will be sent from Nadra’s central server confirming CNIC existence in the beneficiary list. The intent to use this service is to assist the provincial and local governments in curtailing the rush at the centres and helping the flood victims by using the technology while this service was for free, he added.

Nadra, in addition to setting up centres, has also mobilised its mobile resources MRVs (Mobile Registration Vans) to process the CNIC for free in all the affected areas in coordination with the public representatives and district administrators, he added. He said that Nadra had also issued 77,833 CNICs for free to flood/rain-hit victims so far.


http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=77118&Cat=4

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wall Street Journal story on the resilience of Pak cricketers:

The Pakistan cricket team must be the most resilient entity in the world. Exiled from playing at home, repeatedly riven by internecine bickering and factionalism, and with three of their top players, including their two best bowlers, recently imprisoned for spot-fixing – and still last week they completed a Test series victory against Sri Lanka.

They did so in the UAE, because the last time Pakistan tried to play a home series against Sri Lanka, gunmen attacked the away team's bus on the way to Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium, killing six policemen and two civilians and injuring several players and officials, and now no international team will play there. Never playing in front of home crowds doesn't seem to have too detrimental an effect on the team (much like their neighbours Afghanistan, one of cricket's great success stories of recent years, who also can't play at home), but it certainly does on the Pakistan Cricket Board's coffers. They experimented with England as a home away from home, playing two Tests there against Australia last year, but crowds were smaller than expected. They were even smaller in the UAE, where at times the stands were roughly as densely populated as the surrounding desert, but at least the costs of hosting a Test there are lower.

Then there's the 800-pound gorilla hanging over the series, a distraction that would have bought many a team to their knees: the conviction in London for corruption and cheating of former captain Salman Butt and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir. Quite apart from the distraction to the players of knowing that their former teammates were on trial, that people they'd played alongside might not always have been trying their hardest, and that the honesty of the culture of the team they represent was being called into question, the loss of players of that quality would be hard for any team to absorb.
------------
In other words, the endless production line of freakishly talented Pakistani players continues to draw the sting of everything that happens to the team. That production line is driven by the deep love for the game in the country – a love that appears as resistant to the repeated abuse it receives as the team does. Against the backdrop of the London trial, their win in the UAE, against a side ranked above them, represented a heartening refusal to be steamrollered by events beyond their control. It's a quality every Pakistani cricketer needs in abundance.


http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204358004577029463786217648.html?mod=googlenews_wsj#articleTabs%3Darticle

Riaz Haq said...

NADRA offers SMS verification service to check flood affectees, according to APP:

Islamabad—National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has initiated a mobile SMS service determine and check existence of flood-affected persons in the beneficiary list for Pakistan Card.

This service has been launched in collaboration with Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and all mobile phone operators with the objective to assist provincial and local governments to curtail down rush at the centers and help the flood victims by using technology.

A senior official at NADRA on Monday told APP that the eligibility of the applicant for Pakistan Card can be checked by simply sending his/her Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) number to the designated short code i.e. 9777.

In response, a text message will be sent from NADRA central server confirming CNIC existence in the beneficiary list, the official said and added the Authority ensures strong checks in the software so that only deserving families belonging to provincially notified calamity hit areas could obtain Pakistan Cards. He said the process of issuing Pakistan Cards is in progress as around 598,600 such Cards have been issued to flood affected families in Sindh.

Giving further details, he said around 105,455 Pakistan Cards in Mirpurkhas, 240,227 in Badin, 79,946 in Tando Muhammad Khan and 156,324 in Shaheed Benazirabad (Nawabshah), 8011 in Tando Allahyar and 2684 in Sanghar have been issued.

http://pakobserver.net/detailnews.asp?id=125035

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from an interesting Op Ed in Foreign Policy Mag by Mosharraf Zaidi on Memogate:

...On both ends of the political spectrum in Pakistan, memogate will inspire high-strung, virtuoso performances, dripping with both the intellect and emotion that are signs of a people fully alive to the state of their country and the challenges it faces. Some will be appalled that someone (allegedly) sought an improved civil-military balance through cloak-and-dagger means. Some will be appalled that an attempt to fix this balance may force an elected government to toe the line of unelected soldiers and spies.

But ultimately, the vibrancy of Pakistani discourse is a good sign: Despite the menacing insecurity and instability that so many Pakistanis have endured in recent years, we can still have a robust, frank discussion about our problems.

Yet, as memogate consumes the national attention, three other robust debates are taking place across the country -- and they are just as important. In Sindh, the spiritual and political epicenter of the ruling PPP, a debate rages over what model of local government should be applied to the Pakistani megacity of Karachi. In Punjab, a province with a population of 90 million, the surging popularity of retired cricket star Imran Khan and his nationalist Tehrik-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice) party have captivated the national imagination with a message of hope for the future. Perhaps most heartening of all, in the Pakistani capital Islamabad this week, the much-maligned parliament, the most formal and most supreme of national institutions, just approved the Anti-Women Practices Bill of 2011, which bans and criminalizes many of the medieval customs that have so often enabled a systemic violation of women's rights. This is how politics is supposed to work, in a country where for decades it has not. ...
------------
Luckily, Pakistan is a big, and surprisingly resilient country. It can absorb mistakes. The accumulated mistakes of recent years have conspired to create some valuable points of national consensus. Pakistan's independent judiciary is not the only accessible example. Even when it comes to memogate, there is a rough consensus out there. Among even the most extreme partisans, no one has argued against the need to address and resolve the civil-military imbalance.

No one has argued that our institutions are particularly strong. No one will dare advocate that individuals should again be allowed to run government on a whim. In the deafening cacophony of dissent generated by the cutthroat, 24-hour news media in Pakistan, it is vital to remember just how much Pakistanis agree on.


http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/11/18/the_silver_lining_in_memogate

Riaz Haq said...

Rising per capita income and a growing, young population spending more time online and at Western movies are helping build a mass market in Pakistan, according to Businessweek:

One way to take a city’s economic pulse is to check out where locals shop. In Karachi, Pakistan, shoppers are flocking to Port Grand, which opened in May. Built as a promenade by the historic harbor for almost $23 million, the center caters to Pakistanis eager to indulge themselves. This city of 20 million has seen more than 1,500 deaths from political and sectarian violence from January to August. At Port Grand the only hint of the turmoil is the presence of security details and surveillance cameras. “The whole world is going through a new security environment,” says Shahid Firoz, 61, Port Grand’s developer. “We have to be very conscious of security just as any other significant facility anywhere in the world needs to be.”

Young people stroll the promenade eating burgers and fries and browsing through 60 stores and stalls that sell everything from high fashion to silver bracelets to ice cream. Ornate benches dot a landscaped area around a 150-year-old banyan tree. “Port Grand is something fresh for the city, very aesthetically pleasing and unique,” says Yasmine Ibrahim, a 25-year-old Lebanese American who is helping set up a student affairs office at a new university in Karachi.

One-third of Pakistan’s 170 million people are under the age of 15, which means the leisure business will continue to grow, says Naveed Vakil, head of research at AKD Securities. Per capita income has grown to $1,254 a year in June from $1,073 three years ago.

The appetite for things American is strong despite the rise in tensions between the two allies. Hardee’s opened its first Karachi outlet in September: In the first few days customers waited for hours. It plans to open 10 more restaurants in Pakistan in the next two and a half years, says franchisee Imran Ahmed Khan. U.S. movies are attracting crowds to the recently opened Atrium Cinemas, which would not be out of place in suburban Chicago. Current features include The Adventures of Tintin and the latest Twilight Saga installment. Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol is coming soon. Operator Nadeem Mandviwalla says the cinema industry in Pakistan is growing 30 percent a year.

Exposure to Western lifestyles through cable television and the Internet is raising demand for these goods and services. Pakistan has 20 million Internet users, compared with 133,900 a decade ago, while 25 foreign channels, such as CNN (TWX) and BBC World News, are now available. And for many Pakistanis, reruns of the U.S. sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond are a regular treat.

The bottom line: With per capita income rising quickly, Pakistan is developing a mass market eager for Western goods.


http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/pakistans-consumers-flex-their-newfound-muscle-12012011.html

Riaz Haq said...

Companies like Pakistan Cables continue to increase profits in spite of all the crises. Here's a Business Recorder report:

Profitability Despite economic slowdown due to a host of reasons including political uncertainty, high inflation, acute energy shortage, currency depreciation and high interest rates, the Company achieved sales of Rs 3.4 billion in FY09, which is 12 percent lower than FY08 sales of Rs 3.8 billion.

The decline in sale compared to last year was due to lower prices of the Company's products, a sharp decline in copper prices during the first half of the financial year, and reduction in demand as a result of the overall economic situation in Pakistan.

The sales increased by 13 percent in the FY10, reaching Rs 3.8 billion.

This was possible due to increase in the price of the product as well as better sales volume.

During FY11, in addition to the economic slowdown and poor law-and-order situation, the year had to face the floods.

Despite this, Pakistan Cables was able to increase its sales by 7.8 percent from last year's figures and touched Rs 4.1 billion.

Even with lower sales in the FY09, gross profit increased by 43.7 percent from FY08 values, reaching Rs 532 million.

Better sales' mix, reduction in copper prices, productivity improvement and cost savings initiatives are the main reasons for this outcome.

In FY10, the gross profit figure fell to Rs 412.3 million, due to the expenses that could not be passed on to the customers.

These include devaluation of rupee against the dollar (which increased the cost of inputs and copper prices) and taking orders at lower margins due to market competition.

Improvement in productivity, better sales' mix, improved margins and operational efficiencies contributed to the rise in the gross profit for the FY11, which amounted to Rs 519.6 million.

The dedication of the Company's management in improving the efficiencies, controlling costs and making decisions for the optimum product mix resulted in the Company's Profit before Income Tax soaring to Rs 101.8 million in FY09 as compared to Rs 53.6 million in the previous year.

This amount stood at Rs 146.7 million in FY11.

In FY09, normalisation of the tax expenses in the year affected the profit after tax figure, which fell from Rs 65.4 million in FY08 to Rs 63.9 million in FY09.

The net profit value continued to fall despite lower interest expenses, and in FY10, the figure touched Rs 45.5 million.

At the end of FY11, the profit after tax amounted to Rs 85.7 million, an increase of 88 percent from last year.


http://www.brecorder.com/company-news/single/601/235/1258774/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Dawn reporting on Ski competitions returning to Malam Jabba in Swat:

The spectacular week-long skiing competition held at the picturesque Malam Jabba Ski resort marked the revival of tourism in the scenic valley of Swat that was once termed the ‘Switzerland of Pakistan’ but fell into the hands of militants, thus damaging its trade and travel activity for a couple of years.

Swat’s Pioneer Skiing School, Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) and the Provincial Relief, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority (Parrsa) jointly organized the Peace Ski Gala 2011, which concluded today.

Eight teams, including Swat Red Club, Swat Green Club, Swat Tiger Club, Malakand Division Club, Hazara Division Club, Swat Blue Club, and Swat Shaheen Club participated in the event which was attended by hundreds of skiing enthusiasts.

The event organizers hoped the successful completion of the gala would once again bring the focus back on Swat as it dusts its self off and looks ahead to a future without the bombings and the threat of militancy.

“We have organised this event to let the world know that the situation has come back to normal with peace prevailing in Swat. Swat is no longer off-limits,” said president of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Ski Association Mateeullah Khan.

The Malam Jabba resort, which was captured by militants in 2006 and later destroyed, has now been rebuilt by the Pakistan army and is fully operational. But the damaged chairlifts, installed by the Austrian government in 1988, are yet to be fixed and caused some discomfort to participants.

“I feel very good but it is very hard this time. There is no chairlift to take up the players or hotel to accommodate participants,” Zafar Ali Shah, who won a gold medal in Piece Downhill Senior, told Central Asia Online.

But all in all, it seemed locals and foreigners alike were pleased to see the steady stream of activity that the gala brought to the tourism hub of Pakistan.

Tourism constitutes a significant source of income for Swat and its residents. Prior to activities being interrupted by militancy, Swat and its environs attracted a good number of visitors from across the world as well as other parts of Pakistan. The area was in particular favoured by trekkers and mountaineers.


http://www.dawn.com/2011/01/30/ski-competition-brings-normalcy-back-to-beautiful-swat.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times story on L'Oreal bridal fashion show in Lahore:

LAHORE: A four-day long bridal fashion week started at the Royal Palm Country Club on Sunday. The organiser of the week, L’Oreal Paris, a world-leading beauty brand, announced a team of fashion designers, jewellery designers and make-up artists on the opening day.

The brand is also a pioneer of the Pakistan Fashion Design Council (PFDC) and aims at defining traditional Pakistani bridal fashion, jewellery and make-up trends, fusing different trends to create a unique look for the 2012bridal season.

On each day of the four days of the PFDC L’Oreal Paris Bridal Week, different teams will present their interpretations of bridal make-up trends for the season, using the same brand products on their respective days.

Every day of the week, three designers each will introduce their exclusive bridal collections. Designers’ showcasing in the week include both those traditionally inspired and others more contemporary, including Ali Zeshan, Asifa and Nabeel, Imran Rajput, Fahad Hussain, Hassan Sheheryar Yasin, Karma, Maria B, Nida Azwar, Rouge, Sara Rohail Asghar, Sonia Azhar and Umar Saeed.

The four make-up teams will be represented by Ather Shahzad, Depilex, Nabila and Toni & Guy with male model styling by Khawar Riaz for all four days of the bridal week. The week will also be showcasing the work of three jewellery designers in addition to presenting fashion and make-up trends. Jewelers Damas, GOLD by Reama Malik and Kiran Fine Jewellery will each be presenting their bridal jewellery collections.

In the inauguration ceremony of the event, PFDC Chairperson Sehyr Saigo told the media that there was no fashion without make-up and no style without make-up, adding that it was a love affair with fashion and style that had encouraged L’Oreal Paris to partner with the PFDC to define the Pakistani bride.

He said that four solo shows featuring three bridal fashion designers and one jewellery designer would be hosted each day of the week and that each day would be styled by a different make-up team.

The Black Carpet for PFDC L’Oreal Paris Bridal Week is sponsored by Damas with show production by the Catwalk, event coordination by R-Team, set design by Hamza Tarrar and public relations by Lotus.


http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\12\19\story_19-12-2011_pg13_9

Riaz Haq said...

The State Bank said on Wednesday that the value of e-banking transactions aggregated to Rs12 trillion during the second half of 2010-11, showing an increase of 19 per cent as compared to the first half of the year, according to a Dawn report:

The Payment Systems Half Yearly Review released by the State Bank here noted speedy rise in e-banking transactions in the country.

The volume of such transactions during the period under review reached 125.9 million depicting an increase of 15.5 per cent as compared to the first half of FY11, the review said, adding that the payment system infrastructure has maintained an overall growth trend for the second half of FY11.

However, the review also said that the volume and value of paper-based retail payments during the second half of FY11 were recorded as 177.3 million and Rs84.6 trillion respectively, indicating an increase of 3.5 per cent in the volume of transactions.

“The value of transactions has increased by 13.3 per cent as compared to the first half of FY11. The contribution of paper-based payments in total retail payment transactions was 58.5 per cent in terms of volume and 87.5 per cent in terms of value,” it added.

The review said the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), which are the largest channel of e-banking transactions, showed 16.5 per cent increase in number of transactions and 19 per cent increase in value raising the share of ATM transactions in total e-banking transactions to 58.8 per cent and 5.4 per cent respectively, the review said.

It said the number of Real-Time Online Branches (RTOB) transactions grew by 14.7 per cent and the value of transactions increased by 18.8 per cent as compared to first half of FY11. “These transactions contributed 31.6 per cent in total volume of e-banking and 93.2 per cent in the value of such transactions respectively,” the review observed.

According to the review, as many as 466 more Automated Teller Machines were added bringing the total number of ATMs to 5,200 while 380 more bank branches were converted into Real Time Online Branches (RTOBs).

“A total of 7,416 bank branches (78 per cent) are now offering real time online banking out of a total of 9,541 branches in the country. The number of plastic cards at 14 million also registered an increase of 6.2 per cent during the period under review as compared to the numbers during the preceding half year,” the Review added.

The overall increasing trend in payment system infrastructure was also witnessed in the large value payments settled through Pakistan Real-time Inter-bank Settlement Mechanism (PRISM), which increased by 14.8 per cent in volume and 21.9 per cent in terms of value as compared to the first half of FY11.

http://www.dawn.com/2011/12/29/electronic-payments-reach-rs12tr.html

Riaz Haq said...

Solar energy lights up rural schools in Pakistan, according to Earth Techling:

Pakistan starts 2012 on a slightly brighter note after a year of recovering from the worst floods in the country’s history in 2010 (while continuing to endure high levels of terrorism-related violence). As part of the effort to rebuild, sunny days and solar panels and multipurpose lights are providing reliable and much needed electricity for schools and rural areas of Pakistan that have been without electricity since the floods.

Plan International Pakistan and the Punjab education department have rehabilitated nearly 400 schools destroyed by floods, and implemented solar power in 250 schools that did not have electricity. Funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the project piloted the first use of solar technology in the UK’s disaster response. In addition to the solar panel installation, the project also provided water and sanitation, school furniture, school paper, schoolbags and uniforms, sports equipment and health education for 54,000 primary school children.

In addition to powering up the schools, aid from the U.K.’s DFID also provided multipurpose solar light units to people across rural southern Pakistan who have been without power since the floods and were relying on candles, kerosene oil and rechargeable flashlights for light. The solar unites provide free and sustainable light for up to 10 hours after charged and last up to five years. But beyond providing light, the units can also be used to recharge mobile phones, which play a critical role in helping displaced families and communities stay connected in areas where landline phones are rare.

Marvi, a woman living in southern Pakistan with her seven children, explained to aid officials how the solar units were benefiting her family: “I use the solar light for cooking at night,” she explains. “We save money because we had to buy candles and kerosene before. We also use it to charge our mobile phones.”


http://www.earthtechling.com/2012/01/pakistan-lights-up-new-year-with-solar/

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan is a resilient country, says Anatol Lieven according to Dawn:

In Pakistan’s diversity lies a measure of its resilience. This was argued by distinguished journalist and author Anatol Lieven during his talk at the Oxford University Head Office on Saturday.

Mr Lieven’s talk basically gave a sketch of his book ‘Pakistan: A Hard Country.’ He began by asserting that Pakistan was not a failed state and said the people who had gathered to listen to him were proof of it. Pakistan was not Afghanistan, Chechnya or Somalia. He maintained that his book was about the sources of resilience in Pakistan, which could be sources of stagnation as well (in terms of development). To explain his point, he said he had used the expression ‘Janus-faced’ many a time in the book, and that the editors had made 18 deletions of the phrase, leaving just half a dozen. The book was an attempt at discussing power in the country, how it is exercised and what are its roots – religious, cultural etc. This central theme was set against the background of the war in Afghanistan and the rise of militancy in Pakistan. He told the gathering that when an American publisher read it he was taken aback because he had thought that it would be about the Taliban and an impending Islamic revolution in Pakistan. He added that it also discussed the role of the military and the four provinces and the difference within those provinces.

Mr Lieven said he had spent a lot of time talking about the diversity in Pakistan. For example, how Karachi was different from the rest of Sindh and how Punjab was an immensely varied region. Also, the important role that kinship played in the country’s politics and power struggles. In his view, a measure of its resilience lay in the country’s diversity, because of which, however, it was sometimes difficult to get things done. He argued that Pakistan couldn’t have an Iran-style revolution because it didn’t have a monolithic culture.

Mr Lieven said that as he was a journalist he got quotes from the Pakistani people in their own words. The problem with the West was that it didn’t listen to people directly and therefore had a flawed understanding of things. If you were to know about the tribal justice system in Balochistan, you had to talk to a Baloch sardar, he pointed out.

With respect to militancy in Pakistan Mr Lieven said that although the fear of terrorism was pervasive, and that it had claimed numerous victims, the insurgency was limited, particularly after the 2009 Swat operation in which militants were driven back. However, he added that insurgency was common in the region and, except for Bangladesh, every country had faced it.

Mr Lieven said sympathy for the Afghan Taliban in areas like Peshawar was similar to the support for the mujahideen in the ‘80s. It did not necessarily mean an Islamic revolution. He argued that up to a certain point the situation did appear perilous but the post-Musharraf scenario proved that if the state and the army made a concerted attempt things could be done. He said his book also took issue with the US foreign policy. The US should realise that Pakistan is a much more important country than Afghanistan and that it needs to tread lightly here. He said however that the Osama bin Laden operation had impacted public opinion in the US, and if there was a terrorist attack in the US or India in future, US retaliation could be severe. It was important for Pakistan to continue visible cooperation against international terrorism, he remarked.

Replying to a question, Mr Lieven said one of the reasons he used the word ‘hard’ in the title of the book was that he would often hear the phrase ‘Pakistan is a hard country’ from the locals. He gave the example of a Chaudhry in Punjab who, explaining the killing of his detractors, commented that Pakistan was a hard country....


http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/05/pakistan-is-a-resilient-country.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Express Tribune on Anatol Lieven's recent speech in Lahore:

“Drama sells beautifully,” said Anatol Lieven, “You see a headline, ‘Pakistan on the edge of destruction’ it does wonders for selling the news. Lieven, a British journalist, was speaking with The Express Tribune at a talk organised by the Oxford University Press regarding his latest book, Pakistan: A Hard Country. Lieven admitted that the ‘West’ is not that well informed about Pakistan and those journalists who were relied on for information also liked their drama.

“No matter how angry the Pakistani government is with the US,” he said, “it is imperative for both to continue real and public cooperation.” Lieven does believe that the government had no clue about Osama Bin Laden’s presence in the country but said he was not sure about the military or intelligence. Conspiracy theories, he said, were rife in Pakistan and could be infuriating. “No one knows who killed General Ziaul Haq. But we all do know that he was killed.”

Calling the US’s decision to send troops during the May 2 raid in Abbottabad last year a ‘bad idea’, Lieven said there was some awareness in the UK and in ‘sensible’ quarters of the Washington establishment about the intrusive nature of that raid. However, he said after the Bin Laden discovery, it was difficult to maintain much of a stance against raids.

Lieven is more concerned about how the US would respond in case a terrorist act carried out in the US is traced back to Pakistan. “The reaction by the US government would be disastrous.” With the mood in the US Congress and on the street turning highly sceptical over the years, Lieven said post 9/11 even the most moderate quarters had lost their reasonableness. “The US congress is not a very sophisticated force. They are very easily provoked,” he said.

Explaining title of his book, Lieven said Pakistan was a resilient country that had over the years faced hard challenges. Lieven believes that though Pakistan was facing its toughest crisis yet, it had always survived. He said the country had bounced back from the ‘increasingly dangerous’ situation in Swat as well as from the aftermath of the recent floods.

Lieven also warned against blaming the West alone. “We cannot deny that there are certain elements in Pakistan that hold a sympathetic view of the Afghan Taliban,” he said, “and resist US policies.”

The author, who has worked for The Financial Times and is currently a professor of international relations and war studies at King’s College in London, has written six books. Lieven said an Islamic revolution in Pakistan could disintegration of the country. “People talk of the Arab Spring in Pakistan,” he said, “Though with its democratic character – no matter how flawed- Pakistan is very different from the Middle East.”

“I have received criticism for being too soft on the military,” he said during the talk later, “but it is unfair to say that the military or the government are doing absolutely nothing,” he said.

Lieven said that in his opinion the military was the only institution in Pakistan that ‘works’, but that did not imply that the military could take over the state. “I hope one thing is clear from my book,” Lieven said, “as far as civil rights, education and boosting the economy is concerned, I am with the liberals – how one gets there is another thing.”


http://tribune.com.pk/story/332633/a-hard-country-an-islamic-revolution-will-break-up-pakistan

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report on Pakistan's fast growing entrepreneurial companies:

In the midst of challenging political and economic circumstances, the Pakistan100 broke many AllWorld records in relation to 15 other country rankings in the region, coming in only second to Turkey in terms of entrepreneurial growth and transparency. Many of the companies have been founded in the last ten years, and have already grown to be industry leaders. An average of only 42 years old, most Pakistan100 entrepreneurs plan to establish another company in the next two years.
----------------
The Pakistan100 was an unprecedented partnership between AllWorld Network, Cyan Limited, and partners Mishal, P@SHA, LadiesFund, CIOPakistan, TiE, Abacus Consulting and Rozee.PK. Thousands of emails were sent to companies around the country inviting them to compete for a spot on the Pakistan100. Companies had to be rapidly growing private non-listed companies, and they could come from any industry and any part of the country. Each company had to provide audited statements to confirm their revenues and each applicant’s business practices and ethics were strenuously vetted. The fastest growing of these became the inaugural Pakistan100.

Leading the Pakistan100 is number 1 company e2e Supply Chain Management, which grew 1,918 percent between 2008 and 2010, with 2010 revenues above $50 million and 297 employees. Launched in 2005, e2e has risen to become one of the most successful end-to-end logistics companies covering Pakistan and Afghanistan. Taking the second spot for Pakistan was Exceed Private Limited, with a growth rate of 1,320 percent and 90 employees. Founded by the youngest entrepreneur on the Pakistan100, Exceed rose to prominence for its historic restoration of Saidpur Model Village, redeveloped as an 18th Century city-museum with 5,000 residents.

Pakistan also had the most number of women entrepreneurs of any AllWorld list at 8 percent, and 7thranked Luscious Cosmetics of Pakistan topped the list of the fastest growing women entrepreneurs with growth of 392 percent and 82 employees. The Pakistan100 entrepreneurs have built globally competitive businesses with one quarter of their revenues coming from international markets and companies such as ROZEE.PK (#12) having secured VC investment from Silicon Valley.

Commenting on the success of Pakistan100 at the Awards Ceremony, AllWorld co-founders Deirdre Coyle and Anne Habiby urged the Pakistan100 to go further “When no one expected much, the Pakistan100 broke records for growth, transparency and competitiveness. They are the personification of what every country dreams of having. Now raise the bar higher and build Pakistan as a leading entrepreneurial nation.” Added Pakistan100 Founding Director Malik Ahmad Jalal, “As the Pakistan100, you send a signal to everyone in Pakistan and around the world that Pakistan is open for business. There is no more important message to secure peace and prosperity.”

The Pakistan winners are in Lahore for the two-day Pakistan100 Awards & Summit from March 9-10. The Summit will be an action packed two days featuring the Pakistan100 along with prominent speakers, panel discussions, networking sessions, and Pakistan100 Awards Dinner. Over 160 representatives from the winning companies will be in attendance and close to 150 VIPs and influencers.


http://www.newspakistan.pk/2012/03/10/pakistan-fast-growth-100-break-entrepreneurial-records/

http://www.allworldlive.com/feed/press/pakistan-2-arabia-fast-growth-500-pakistan-breaks-records-hub-entrepreneurs

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story of what drives Pakistani entrepreneurs:

When I ask entrepreneurs in most countries what drives them to innovate and succeed, they give similar answers: Inspiration. Passion. Vision.

During a recent trip to Pakistan, I heard those same responses. But after spending a week talking to Pakistani entrepreneurs, I realized that for them these qualities are mere afterthoughts. What really drives them is their country. Above all they are propelled by the desire to pull Pakistan out of its political and economic abyss and back to some semblance of normalcy. Their patriotism, combined with their entrepreneurial drive, makes me bullish on Pakistan.
-------------
Pakistan is in crisis. Serious and sobering crisis, not the rhetorical and idealistic “there is opportunity in crisis.” Security is a real threat. Corruption is a crippling problem. There is no confidence in the country’s laws, courts, or leadership. The Council on Foreign Relations recently issued a report on Pakistan that lists state collapse and authoritarianism as two possible future scenarios for the country. That is why I was surprised to hear from every entrepreneur I met with that not only did he or she believe in the country, but that his or her business was “about Pakistan.”

That was the response Shamoon Sultan gave when I asked him to describe the company he founded in 1998, Khaadi. The country’s leading design textile retailer, Khaadi produces high-quality fabrics and ready-to-wear his and hers loose shirts known as kurtas. They are products made out of locally sourced material and woven by local artisans. Most interestingly, they are products for locals who are not deterred, as I witnessed in one of 14 nationwide shops, by Khaadi’s high prices.

“For a country, it is important to create brands,” the soft-spoken and immaculately groomed Sultan said over breakfast at the garishly lit Marriott Karachi.

For him, a graduate of the prestigious Indus design school, Khaadi is a brand that reflects Pakistan’s rich tradition of handloom crafts and textiles. (Textiles account for 11 percent of Pakistan’s GDP.)

He isn’t necessarily selling something. “It’s not about the profits,” he said. He is the son of a successful businessman with options to leave the country, so that much was clear.

Much like Ralph Lauren tying his brand to America, Khaadi is the trim, bearded Sultan’s effort at providing an experience for his fellow countrymen to display pride. More importantly, he has created an enterprise where outsiders see another side of his country.

“Pakistan has a huge perception challenge,” said Monis Rahman, CEO of the Lahore-based Naseeb Networks. “That is interfering with investment that is badly needed to fuel growth.”

It has not interfered, however, with Rahman’s individual ability to raise capital for his several startups—capital raised not in Pakistan, but in Silicon Valley.
----------
Naseeb launched that September with 10,000 users. Six months in, the number rose to 80,000. That Pakistan has, according to Morgan Stanley, the third-fastest-growing number of Internet users made Naseeb.com’s prospects even brighter. And it firmly proved Rahman to be a worthy entrepreneur.

True to that identity, a few years later, in 2005, he launched another Web platform, this time through his own funding. It was a job-search site, Rozee.pk, which today is Pakistan’s No. 1 online employment site. Over 30,000 employers, including U.S.-based firms such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, advertise on Rozee.pk.


Read more: http://www.portfolio.com/companies-executives/2010/10/26/pakistani-entrepreneurs-are-in-it-for-country-and-profit/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from Express Tribune on rapid growth of mobile banking in Pakistan:

Sharing statistics of SBP, Anwar said value of branchless banking transactions reached Rs79,410 million during the last quarter. Total number of branchless banking accounts have increased to 929,184, he said, while branchless banking deposits have grown to Rs503 million.

SBP introduced branchless banking regulations in 2008. He further said around 80 million branchless banking transactions of Rs300 billion have been executed in Pakistan. “I am expecting a surge in the number of access points to over 50,000 very soon,” he said. Total volume (number) of transactions has jumped to 20.6 million during the October to December 2011, Anwar said. The average number daily transactions has increased to 228,855, he added.

The average size of branchless banking transactions, Anwar said, is Rs3,855 which shows that mobile phone technology and agent-based banking are providing financial services to unbanked poor.

While talking about the benefits of branchless banking, he said, rural customers will no longer be required to travel long distances. He further said a large proportion of population – which is unbanked – has been heavily reliant on cash-based transactions, thus causing a negative impact on documentation of the economy, the tax-base, efficiency of economic transactions, etc.

Representatives of the world’s leading software providers gave detailed presentations and discussed case studies on how mobile banking has succeeded in other emerging as well as developed markets.

Mobile banking is the only way forward, said Mathew Talbot, Senior Vice President, Mobile Commerce Sybase 365 – which was recently acquired by SAP. Pakistan is one of the fastest developing markets for branchless banking in the world, he said, which is why Sybase is here.

Sybase provides technologies to banks, which enable the latter to have full control of their bank accounts and make transactions through mobile device regardless of their location. It creates opportunities for bringing the unbanked and under-banked segments of the society into the financial network.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/350701/pakistan-rated-among-fastest-growing-markets-in-mobile-banking/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times report on Pakistani presentation at a World Bank forum in Washington:

Pakistanis continue to defy economic and security odds with unprecedented democratic reforms, economic recovery and vitality of civil society and march forward in key areas of development.

This was stated by top Pakistani officials at a World Bank forum, where international experts acknowledged that this wide-ranging resilience - which is ignored in the global media - is a major cause of hope and optimism for future of key South Asian nations, according to a message received here on Tuesday.

Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman, speaking at the panel discussion on ‘Pakistan: The Untold Story’ highlighted the fact that the Pakistanis are determinedly grappling with challenges as the people and their elected representatives strengthen democratic institutions, vital to development of the country. Ambassador Robin Rahpeh, US Coordinator for Non-Military Assistance to Pakistan, Nancy Birdsall, President of Washington think tank Center for Global Development, Mohsin Khan, a leading Pakistani economist at the International Monetary Fund and Professor Anatol Leieven, writer of Pakistan: A Hard Country, also spoke about Pakistan’s inspiring performance in various fields of endeavour and reforms that the country needs to step up its development. World Bank Vice President Isabell Guerrero moderated the discussion. The finance minister, who led a team of economic managers to the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-World Bank meetings, said he draws inspiration from the strong character of the founder Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and ordinary Pakistanis who face off daily pressures of life and continue to contribute to the development of their country. He said it would take Pakistan a combination of measures - including focus on human development, steps towards sustained high levels of exports and an appropriate mix between the roles of government and the private sector - would help Pakistan tide over difficulties and move forward as a stable economy.

“Underlying all this will be the role of institutions and most remarkable feature in Pakistan right now is the strengthening of the democratic and civil society institutions including the parliament, court, media, the State Bank of Pakistan, Securities Exchange Commission are free and working autonomously.”

He pointed out that overseas Pakistanis have great confidence in their country and are remitting unprecedented amounts back home.

Ms Rehman, spotlighting some of the Pakistani achievements that are not reported in the global media, told the gathering of experts that Pakistan offers a great deal of resilience and hope.

“A historic shift is taking place, institutions are being built in Pakistan, there is movement towards a democratic accountable structure of the government, among the untold stories in the last four-and-a-half-year is that for the first time Pakistan’s democracy is witnessing a peaceful transfer of power, we finished Senate elections recently and the parliament has been empowered.” Pakistan, she said, wishes to live not just as a responsible country but wants to see its people live as global citizens. Pakistan is renegotiating its social contract with its own people. She also cited enactment of a series of laws and constitutional amendments that empower the provinces, ensure protection of women’s rights. She said martyred prime minister Benazir Bhutto remains an inspiration for women’s rights.


http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\04\25\story_25-4-2012_pg5_9

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Reuters' report Pakistani efforts to de-radicalize the Tliban:

Hazrat Gul spent two years in detention for allegedly aiding the Pakistani Taliban when they publicly flogged and beheaded people during a reign of terror in the scenic Swat Valley.

Now he wiles away his time in pristine classrooms, a Pakistani flag pin on his crisp uniform, learning about word processing, carpentry and car repairs at the Mashal de-radicalisation centre run by the army.

Part of a carrot and stick approach to battling militancy in the strategic U.S. ally, the aim is to cleanse minds of extremist thoughts through vocational training, and turn men like Gul into productive citizens who support the state.

The success of the programme will ultimately hinge, however, on the the ability of the government, widely seen as incompetent and corrupt, to help the de-radicalisation graduates find jobs.

“If a sincere leadership comes to this country, that will solve the problems,” said Gul, 42, one of the Mashal students. “Today the leadership is not sincere. The same problems will be there.”

Pakistan’s military drove militants out of Swat in 2009. Mashal is in the building which used to be the headquarters of the militants from where they imposed there austere version of Islam.

Eventually, the army realised it couldn’t secure long-term peace with bullets alone.

So military officers, trainers, moderate clerics and psychologists were chosen to run three-month courses designed to erase “radical thoughts” of those accused of aiding the Taliban.

Students like Mohammad Inam, 28, a former assistant engineer, give the school a good report card.

“The environment is very good. Our teachers work very hard with us. They talk to us about peace, about terrorism and how that is not right,” said Inam, in the presence of a military officer. “God willing, we will go out and serve our country and our nation.”

School officials say about 1,000 people have graduated since the initiative began two years ago, and that only 10 percent were not cleared for release.

Officials concede that their “students” are not hardened militants who killed. Mostly, they provided the Taliban with water, food or shelter, or beat people.
-------
Outside Mashal’s classroom, there are signs that not everyone is embracing the new approach.

Soldiers led a hooded man into a truck while three others looked on through the barred windows of what appeared to be a cell at the compound.

Conditions still seem ripe for Fazlulah and his lieutenants, who have vowed to make a comeback, to recruit people.

Pakistani officials estimated after the army operation expelled the Taliban that over $1 billion would be needed to revive the local economy and rebuild infrastructure.

Residents like Ajab Noor, 61, who sent two of his sons abroad to work, doubt the population of about 1.3 million will ever benefit from those funds.

“People have no options. They either go outside the country to work, or they join militants who promise them many things,” he said at a street market in Swat’s capital, Mingora.

A member of a state-backed anti-Taliban militia believes two boys in his village had graduated from a de-radicalisation centre and ran away to rejoin the Taliban.

“I told the military, ‘you are nurturing the offspring of snakes’. But they did not listen,” he said.


http://www.vancouversun.com/Pakistan+army+uses+bullets+classrooms+fight+militancy/6524314/story.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET story about a German journalists' impressions of Pakistan:

After being in the country for more than two weeks, German journalist Joachim Holtz is of the view that reality is far better than perception.

“This is my second week in Karachi and before coming, I thought I would not survive even a day,” said the senior journalist and foreign correspondent of the German channel, ZDF. He was speaking to the journalist community on ‘Pakistan’s image abroad- a German view’ at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday.

Back home, the journalist feels that Pakistan has no image at all. “Pakistan is simply the name of an Islamic country in South Asia. There is mostly fear and some respect amongst Germans for the country and mostly, they have a blurry image of strange people living in a far away land.”

While some Germans were aware that Pakistan has delicious mangoes and the people love cricket, Holtz said that there are many who believe that Pakistan is an extremist, nuclear-armed country. “But they know very little or nothing about the country itself.”

Changing perceptions

Citing Pakistani and German newspapers, Holtz said that he only found news about bombings, Raymond Davis, the assassinations of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, floods and their destruction. He said a few German papers have covered events such as the Karachi Literature Festival, while one newspaper wrote a feature on sufism in the country.

Contrary to what he had read, Holtz seemed to be thoroughly enjoying his trip. Apart from visiting the Empress Market in Karachi and the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, he also took a dip in the ocean last week. He went to Murree, Lahore and several cities in Sindh, including Sukkur, Hyderabad and Thatta. “I have never met any unfriendly person while travelling. There is so much hospitality, even the poorest have welcomed me with a cup of tea. I love it here!” exclaimed a delighted Holtz.

The Sindh information minister, Shazia Marri, took the opportunity to declare the day as “a difficult and sad day”, referring to the Supreme Court’s verdict in the prime minister’s contempt case. She went on to talk about how the media needs to highlight the positive image of the country to curb all the negative sentiments abroad. The German Consul General, Dr Til


http://tribune.com.pk/story/370562/german-journalist-speaks-there-is-more-to-pakistan-than-violence-and-floods/

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan plans disaster insurance, reports Reuters:

Pakistan plans to roll out a national insurance scheme, making it mandatory for every citizen to be covered against risks from natural hazards, the head of the country's disaster management authority said on Wednesday.

Pakistan is highly vulnerable to earthquakes, cyclones, droughts, floods, landslides and avalanches. Devastating floods in 2010 disrupted the lives of 20 million people – many more than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami – and cost $10 billion.

"Pakistan is making it mandatory for the entire population to be covered against disaster risks. The idea, at the end of the day, is to cover the lives and livelihoods of the population of the entire country," said Zafar Iqbal Qadir, chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority.

"Most parts of our country are vulnerable … either to disasters, or to poverty, or to both."

Qadir, who was speaking at a regional conference on "managing the risks of climate extremes and disasters in Asia", said Pakistan's cabinet has approved the plan and his agency was working on a comprehensive risk insurance plan that would hopefully be rolled out by the end of the year.

The country had already received a $500-million World Bank loan to set up a fund to pay for the plan, he said.

Authorities also intend to tap private sector money through their corporate social responsibility schemes as well as local philanthropists, he added.

And he said a meeting held with international insurance companies to discuss the issue in Karachi last month was positive.

Last month, a major report by the United Nations said the world needed to prepare better to deal with extreme weather and rising seas caused by climate change, in order to save lives and limit deepening economic losses.

SUBSIDISED PREMIUMS

The U.N. climate panel report forecast that all countries will be vulnerable to an expected increase in heat waves, more intense rains and floods and a probable rise in the intensity of droughts.

It suggested possible strategies to help countries adapt and prepare better such early warning systems, improving building standards and preserving ecosystems such as mangroves.

Financing disaster recovery and rebuilding through micro-insurance was another tool, the report said, which would help limit the already-strained cash reserves of poor nations.

"We are considering subsidising premiums for those who can't afford and paying full premium for those who are living below the poverty line," Qadir said, adding that it was essential that those most vulnerable, who are often the poorest, were covered.

Pakistan plans to pre-negotiate payments with insurance companies and also discard the need to file claims, said Qadir, as disaster insurance would need to reach people quickly.

"The best part is that communities which are prone to disasters are currently dependent on someone to come to respond to their needs, someone to feed them and give them shelter. We would remove the dependency syndrome of communities," he said.

"We would like them to be getting (a) response, within a few hours of the disaster occurring, from the insurance world."


http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/pakistan-plans-hazard-risk-insurance

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an LA Times story on gated communities in Pakistan:

Reporting from Rawalpindi, Pakistan — The houses and manicured lawns slope up the artificial hill edged by unbroken sidewalks and white picket fences, as children play and residents exchange pleasantries.

This sprawling subdivision called Bahria Town — "Come home to exclusivity," it boasts — operates its own garbage trucks, schools, firehouse, mosques, water supply and rapid-response force — a kind of functioning state within a nonfunctioning one. And all supplied without the bribes you'd pay on the outside, residents say.

"I like living here," said Abdul Rashid, a sixtysomething retired government worker. "It's like you're in a little protected country — tidy, utilities work, the family can relax. If there's any problem, you just ring up security."

The jarring presence of a middle- and upper-class retreat in this increasingly violent nation has been paved, in part, by the involvement of the country's powerful military. Benefiting from laws put in place during British Empire days to reward friendly armies and militias with land grants, the military now controls about 12% of Pakistani state land, by some accounts. And its privileged position allows it to partner with and otherwise route valuable tracts to favored developers.

Bahria Town and its partner, the military-run developer Defense Housing Authority, occupy twice as much land as Rawalpindi, the garrison city 30 minutes from the capital, Islamabad.

In the posh Safari Villas subdivision, past Sunset Avenue and College Road, Mohammad Javed, 69, surveys his pocket garden before heading into his three-bedroom corner house with a beige sofa ensemble and Samsung flat-screen TV. Houses in the neighborhood run from $25,000 to $60,000, well out of reach of most Pakistanis.

Bahria Town has been a hit not only with moneyed Pakistanis but also with returnees. Javed, who owned a gas station in Canada before retiring, hopes to replicate his North American lifestyle. Bahria's protective walls bring security, he said, although he still won't let his grown children visit lest something bad happen beyond its confines. "We meet in Thailand or Canada," he said.
-------
"No one besides the military has such access," she said. Bahria Town advertised on a recent Sunday for retired major generals and lieutenant generals to fill positions at the company, Siddiqa said: "These are his keys" to greater access.

But for resident and food industry entrepreneur Shaheryar Eqbal, these are minor issues relative to what Bahria Town delivers.

"The government should take these communities as a model and replicate them," he said. "The army already has a joint venture with Bahria Town. Things work. Pakistan must get through this terrorism phase, but this could really be the future."


http://articles.latimes.com/2011/oct/06/world/la-fg-pakistan-gated-communities-20111007

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an IBM press release in Sacramento Bee on its contract for mobile banking technology in Pakistan:

KARACHI, Pakistan, Nov. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that Monet, one of Pakistan's leading mobile-commerce providers, has selected a customized IBM cloud-based solution that will enable the company to enhance service efficiency and expand its presence across the country.

Launched in 2012, Monet provides banks, mobile network operators and branchless banking agents in Pakistan with a technology platform that offers end-users a simple interface through which they can access a wide range of financial services on their mobile phones.

Mobile banking and financial services are expected to grow significantly in Pakistan in the coming years. Increased demand for affordable banking, a lack of traditional banking infrastructure and an aggressive branchless banking mandate from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has driven quick uptake of mobile banking in the country.

With a population of 180 million, a mobile phone penetration of more than 70% and a banked ratio of only 22%, Pakistan offers a large potential market for Mobile Financial Services (MFS). According to an SBP recent branchless banking newsletter, the number of mobile banking accounts was at 1.45 million, showing a growth of 37% during the second quarter of 2012, with new level zero account openings registering a jump of 370%. The existing accounts activity level also improved substantially during the quarter as the number of active accounts increased by 66%.1

To capture this opportunity, Monet chose IBM to develop a unique IT environment allowing the company to offer reliable and efficient services to a growing customer base throughout the country.

"Mobile financial services have reached an inflection point where they have moved from niche to mainstream," said Ali Abbas Sikander, CEO, Monet. "We believe mobile can potentially become the strongest channel for the delivery of financial services. IBM's cloud solution will allow us to reach our clients easily, giving us access to a wider base of customers and ultimately extending the reach of financial services in the country."

IBM will develop a specialized solution based on IBM SmartCloud technology, to deploy Monet's mobile banking applications from Fundamo, a leading mobile financial services platform provider and an IBM partner. The private cloud will allow Monet to save on initial investments in IT and help the company offer more efficient services at a reduced cost.

IBM SmartCloud infrastructure is based on IBM servers, storage and software optimized to meet growing mobile demand. In addition, Monet has outsourced the entire networking, security, cryptographic solutions, and disaster recovery to IBM, in order to focus on its core business.

"Mobile and Cloud are a powerful combination to provide sustainable and affordable banking services to millions of people in Pakistan," said Adnan Siddiqui, CGM, IBM Pakistan and Afghanistan. "IBM has global experience in the financial services sector and a thorough understanding of the local market, and our engagement with Monet is expected to benefit banking customers across the country."..


Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/11/01/4953392/leading-pakistan-mobile-banking.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Financial Times Op Ed on Pakistan:


Pity the people of Pakistan, trapped between self-serving, complacent elites who preside over a crumbling state, and a rich array of violent extremists who seem determined to tear the same state apart....

The military, the country’s most meritocratic and efficient institution, is widely regarded as the only force that can break this grim cycle. Yet there are other, largely hidden forces at work in Pakistan that hold it together and offer it a better future:

adaptability and resilience, entrepreneurship and shared coping.

These forces can be found in the very new – widespread mobile banking services – and the very old – Islam’s traditions of charity, justice and learning. When government and donors work creatively with these forces, amazing things can happen.

Pakistan has one of the best regulatory environments in the world for microfinance and one of the fastest-growing microfinance sectors, with 3m borrowers. It is also one of the most innovative places in the world for mobile banking services, partly due to the State Bank of Pakistan’s moves to encourage the market. About 1.5m customers make about 30m transactions a quarter through their mobiles, using a network of 20,000 agents, mainly local shops, to collect their cash.

A wave of charitable giving by individuals has helped to ensure that the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by floods in 2010 are not still living in tents. A guerrilla army of more than 100,000 Lady Health Workers, funded by government, has helped to reduce markedly the number of women and babies who die in child birth, according to studies by the World Bank.

Too many children are still out of school and many government schools are woeful. Yet Pakistani parents go to enormous lengths to give their children, girls and boys, a chance at an education.

Low-cost private sector schools, charging perhaps $2 a week, are booming in slums and villages. Wherever girls receive a secondary level education, small private schools run in the homes of their owners start popping up, as they put their education to use to improve their standing in society. Even the government’s conservative figures suggest that a third of children in Pakistan and half in Karachi, many of them from poor households, attend such schools.

Indeed, Pakistan has a record in picking up new approaches to learning. The Allama Iqbal university in Islamabad, the first open university outside the UK, is the second largest in the world with 1.8m students. Start-ups such as Tele Taleem, tucked away on a dusty industrial estate on the outskirts of Islamabad, are pioneering ways to take learning to schools in the remoter regions, through satellite links and cheap tablet computers.

Donors are playing a vital role in promoting social innovation. The UK’s Department for International Development has pioneered a new road map for school improvement in Punjab, which Sir Michael Barber, the education reform expert, says is delivering one of the world’s fastest improvements in school performance. In Karachi, tens of thousands of poorer families will next year receive vouchers to send their children to low-cost private schools.

In agriculture, social venture capitalists such as Indus Basin Holdings are leading efforts to link groups of small-scale rice farmers to multinational companies.

Pakistan’s institutions may seem frozen, its elites worried that taking on the extremists will provoke even more violence in the run-up to next year’s elections. Yet, at the grassroots, Pakistan is in perpetual motion, with ceaseless creativity as people find affordable solutions to their basic needs. These largely hidden forces of resilience offer the best hope for the country’s future. In Pakistan, the state may be fragile but society is far stronger than many think.


http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/986153d4-2804-11e2-afd2-00144feabdc0.html


Riaz Haq said...

Here's Bloomberg on outsize returns of KSE-100:

The KSE 100 Index, the benchmark for Pakistan’s $43 billion equity market, rose 7.3 percent in the past three years when adjusted for price swings, the top gain among 72 markets worldwide, according to the BLOOMBERG RISKLESS RETURN RANKING. Pakistan had lower stock volatility than 82 percent of the nations including the U.S. (SPX) Over five years, Pakistan’s risk- adjusted returns ranked eighth.

The country’s 190 million people are boosting purchases three times faster than Asian peers as higher rural incomes and record remittances outweigh fighting on the Afghan border, violence in Karachi that led to at least 2,100 deaths this year and power outages that sparked rioting. The region’s fastest earnings growth may increase economic stability, according to Karachi-based Atlas Asset Management Ltd. Foreign investors added to holdings for five straight months, lured by Asia’s lowest valuations and biggest dividend yields.

“Stocks are very cheap and there are some very good businesses in Pakistan,” said Andrew Brudenell, whose HSBC Frontier Markets Fund has returned 18 percent this year, beating 92 percent of peers tracked by Bloomberg, and holds more shares in the country than are represented in benchmark indexes. “We still think there’s some positive growth to come from the markets.”

Earnings in the KSE 100 index advanced 45 percent during the past year, the largest gain among 17 Asian equity indexes, and this month hit the highest level since Bloomberg began tracking the data in 2005.

Consumer spending in Pakistan has increased at a 26 percent average pace the past three years, compared with 7.7 percent for Asia, according to data compiled by Euromonitor International, a consumer research firm. While the growth in Pakistan may slow to 6.6 percent in 2012, it will still exceed the 5.3 percent pace in Asia, according to Euromonitor estimates.

Engro Foods Ltd. (EFOODS), a Karachi-based seller of dairy products, reported a 214 percent jump in net income for the third quarter, while Unilever Pakistan Ltd. (ULEVER), a unit of the world’s second- biggest consumer-goods company, had a 36 percent gain, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Dividends in Pakistan have also climbed at the fastest pace in the region. Payouts increased 49 percent in the past 12 months, giving the KSE 100 index a dividend yield of 6.6 percent, double the 3.3 percent average in Asia, Bloomberg data show.
-----------
Foreign investors have purchased a net $153 million of Pakistan shares since the beginning of July, according to data from the Karachi Stock Exchange. Overseas holdings amount to about 20 percent of the bourse’s free float, or shares available for trading, according to Adnan Katchi, the head of international equity sales at Arif Habib Ltd.

Bond investors are also growing more confident. Pakistan’s international debt, rated Caa1 at Moody’s Investors Service, or seven levels below investment grade, has returned 32 percent this year, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Next Generation Markets Index. Yields hit a two-year low of 8.5 percent on Oct. 26.

----

The country is luring more of the world’s biggest consumer brands as spending increases. Debenhams Plc (DEB), the U.K.’s second- largest department-store chain, and Nine West Group Inc., a seller of women’s shoes and handbags owned by New York-based Jones Group Inc. (JNY), opened their first Pakistan outlets this year.....


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-20/pakistan-stocks-best-as-violence-ignored-riskless-return.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Reuters' story on benefits of Pak biometric ID cards:

Elderly men wait patiently, carefully combing their hennaed beards, while a guitar-playing student entertains the long queue of Pakistanis lined-up to be photographed, fingerprinted and questioned inside a crowded office in the capital Islamabad.
--
...bureaucrats say the successful ID registration has dramatically cut the number of ghost voters and is assisting in the distribution of cash payments for the poor and displaced.

"The database has brought a lot of transparency. We signed up so many people," said Tariq Malik, the 44-year-old chairman of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA).

During elections five years ago, less than half of Pakistani adults had a government-issued ID. Now 91 percent have the plastic green cards, said Malik, who previously worked as a county technology officer in Michigan in the United States.

It is hard to verify such a high rate of registration as Pakistan's census data is many years out of date.

Malik said registration spiked after the cards were required for poor Pakistanis to qualify for cash payments from the government.

However, some families, while grateful for the cash, say the flow of aid is sporadic.

"One year ago when I received a card, I got 2,000 rupees. They come after every two to three months and give a little bit of money. Now they come only after six to seven months and only give 3,000 rupees," said Hanifa Meer Beher, 6o, who lives in Karachi's coastal belt Kaka-pir village.

"This money is not enough and it has not made my life any better. I am a poor woman. Whenever I receive this money, I buy a little bit of flour, rice...I am grateful that I am getting something."

International donors like the World Bank, who are using the ID database for cash distributions, say they are happy with the system.

The bank helps fund a program where around 5.5 million poor families who have registered with NADRA get $10 a month.

"More countries are using cash transfers because poor families can choose what to buy and are more likely to get the money on time than aid given in other ways," said a World Bank spokesman.

Neighbouring India helps its poor via subsidized food or fuel, but much of its aid is stolen and ends up on the black market. Recent efforts to link benefits to identity cards there have been chaotic.

GHOST VOTERS, TAX CHEATS

Pakistan's new ID registrations helped eliminate 37 million ghost voters and add around 44 million real people to electoral roles, said Malik, adding voters can now use their ID number to check their registration by text message. A date has not yet been set for the next election, due in the first half 2013.

In future, the ID database may also help in the fight against tax evasion, fraud and crime, but only if the government uses the information, say sceptics like tax expert Ikramul Haq.

In a country where less than one percent of citizens pay income tax, NADRA has identified more than 2 million rich tax cheats, Malik said.

The federal board of revenue estimates tax evasion means as much as US$50 billion is missing from the treasury, money that could be used to upgrade crumbling schools and hospitals.

But so far, Pakistan's wealthy tax cheats remain untouched, yet authorities, mindful of pressure from the International Monetary Fund, are making noises about cracking down.

"We have so many enemies. The rich, who are not accustomed to pay taxes, pension cartels, politicians who want their voters to get benefits they are not entitled to," said Malik.

Registering Pakistan's 180 million population, spread from the Indian Ocean to the Himalayas, meant sending mobile registration vans and skiers laden with bulky equipment to far-flung villages and setting up booths at fairs....


http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/22/us-pakistan-identity-idUSBRE8AL0Y620121122

Riaz Haq said...

In a recent piece tiled "Pakistan Staring into the Abyss", Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi captures the highly pessimistic mood of the press coverage and books about Pakistan.

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/the-pakistani-state-is-staring-at-a-dark-abyss/1/185216.html

Historically, purveyors of books and magazines predicting doom and gloom have mostly been wrong but sold lots of copies.

Matt Ridley, the author of "The Rational Optimist", says that the prophets of doom and gloom from Robert Malthus to Paul Ehrlich(both predicted catastrophe of mass starvation) have always found great acceptance as "sages" in their time but proved to be completely wrong because they discount human resilience and ingenuity.

http://books.google.com/books?id=YoVpW0zJIgYC&printsec=frontcover&dq=rational+optimist+sage&hl=en&sa=X&ei=B6a6UKb4BebgigLV84DoAQ&ved=0CDUQ6AEwAA#v=snippet&q=ehrlich&f=false

The reasons for wide acceptance of pessimists have to do with how the human brain has evolved through the millennia.

It's been established that once the amygdala starts hunting for bad news, it'll mostly find bad news.

Peter Diamandis explains this phenomenon well in his book "Abundance-Why Future is Better Than You Think".

Here's a excerpt from Diamandis's book:

"These are turbulent times. A quick glance at the headlines is enough to set anybody on edge-with endless media stream that has lately become our lives-it's hard to get away from those headlines. Worse, evolution shaped human brain to be acutely aware of all potential dangers...this dire combination has a profound impact on human perception: It literally shuts off our ability to take in good news."

http://books.google.com/books?id=lCifxlN8ZIoC&printsec=frontcover&dq=abundance&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Iqe6UNqeM4zmiwKs5YDYAg&ved=0CDsQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=bad%20news&f=false

In Pakistan's case, the good news continues to be the emergence of a large and growing middle class population and a vibrant mass media and civil society which underpin the country's extraordinary resilience.

Pakistan needs such resilience to complete its difficult ongoing transition to democracy which, the history tells us, has never been easy for any nation.

I believe Pakistan is making good progress toward becoming a prosperous urban middle class democracy.

Riaz Haq said...

The "peace of the dead" is ending with the "eclipse of feudalism" in Pakistan. What we are seeing now is an "unplanned revolution" in the words of a Pakistani sociologist, a revolution that is transforming Pakistan for the better in the long run.

http://books.google.com/books?id=EKHZAAAAMAAJ&q=feudalism#search_anchor

http://himalmag.com/component/content/article/5126-the-eclipse-of-feudalism-in-pakistan.html

http://himalmag.com/component/content/article/5126-the-eclipse-of-feudalism-in-pakistan.html

http://sai.columbia.edu/outreach_files/Social%20&%20Structural%20Transformations%20in%20Pakistan.pdf

HopeWins Junior said...

RH: ^^^"China has rejected the Washington consensus and it's promoting its own Beijing Consensus instead."
----

The theoretical basis Washington Consensus, for better or for worse, is well known:
1) Free Individuals
2) Free Press
3) Free Elections
4) Free Enterprise
5) Free Trade

What is the theoretical basis of the "Beijing Consensus", do you know?

Do you think it could be:
1) Power of the Collective
2) State-owned Media
3) One-party State
4) State-managed Economy
5) State-directed Trade

What are your views?

Please comment.

Thank you.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET report on Pakistani youngsters winning a ski competition in Korea:

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani skiers clinched two top positions at a skiing competition called Dream Programme – 2013 held in Gangwon Province, the Republic of Korea, said a press release on Monday.

President Ski Federation of Pakistan (SFP) Air Marshal Farhat Hussain Khan congratulated Noor Muhammad and Shah Hussain of Naltar Ski School who won the gold and silver medals respectively at the event. He hoped that the success would significantly boost the SFP’s ventures in national and international ski events.

The winning skiers also met with the Korean Ambassador to Pakistan Choong-joo Choi who appreciated the performances of the budding players.

The Dream Programme was initiated by Gangwon Province in 2004 to promote winter sports in countries where winter sports facilities were not fully developed. Pakistan joined the programme in 2011.

This year, around 150 participants from 40 countries took part in the training after which athletes were divided into groups and competitions were held among them.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/496979/pakistan-sweep-skiing-competition-in-korea/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Fox New report on booming tourism in Azad Kashmir:

Success stories can be rare in Pakistan, but business is booming in one Kashmir tourist spot as the region rebuilds after a devastating earthquake and shrugs off associations with violence.
Hundreds of thousands of Pakistani tourists drawn to the lakes and glaciers of the Neelum valley are injecting desperately needed money into one of the poorest parts of the country.
Westerners stopped coming to the Himalayas of Pakistani-Kashmir years ago, put off by its reputation as a training ground for Islamist militant groups and the risk of sporadic conflict with India.
But with a new road built by the Chinese after the 2005 earthquake killed 73,000 people and a ceasefire holding with India, Pakistanis are discovering the snow-capped peaks, glaciers, lakes and lush-green meadows of the Neelum valley.
Known locally as "Paradise on Earth," the valley is 114 kilometres (70 miles) east of the base camp where gunmen shot dead American, Chinese, Lithuanian, Slovakian and Ukranian climbers in June.
It was the worst attack on foreigners in Pakistan for a decade, but in neighbouring Kashmir, few Pakistanis are worried.
"There is a bit of fear there, but overall we are enjoying ourselves and we will stay according to our plan," said Mohammad Amir, a lawyer on holiday with his family from southern Punjab.
Munazza Tariq, a university student from Karachi, agrees.
"This was carried out by enemies of Pakistan. After it happened, we received a lot of calls from our relatives from Karachi, but we are safe and enjoying ourselves," said Munazza.
Local tourism ministry official Shehla Waqar says 600,000 people visited Neelum last year compared to 130,000 in 2010, before the Chinese built a road linking the area to Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir.
"There is an influx of tourists in the area because we have a very beautiful road from Muzaffarabad to the Neelum Valley," she said
The nearby Line of Control slices apart the Indian and Pakistani-held zones of the Himalayan region where a ceasefire has held since November 2003.
"This area is very peaceful and there is no fear of terrorism," said Waqar.
India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region claimed in full by both sides....



http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/07/16/tourists-flock-to-pakistan-kashmir-valley-in-rare-boom/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET story of a Pakistani tech entrepreneur recognized at MIT:

Farhan Masood, who has been recognised among the world’s brilliant minds by Massachusetts Institute of Technology Enterprise Forum earlier this year for his product – world’s fastest retina and face scanner algorithm called SmartXS.
Masood’s dream – to build a Pakistani product and turn it into a global one – came true this year after he won the MITEFP Business Acceleration Plan contest, a highly competitive annual event that lasts for 4 months to handpick and select one among hundreds and there is one such brilliant mind produced every year by BAP from Pakistan. The objective of BAP is to help Pakistani IT, ITES, telecom and new media companies improve their business.
Of the 165 participants that compete in this contest, some members of top teams also get a chance to attend an entrepreneurship development programme at MIT in Cambridge, USA.

After a winning performance in the contest, Masood joined the list of MIT alumni. He has just returned after attending a course at MIT, one of the world’s best educational institutes. Those who attended this programme previously had benefited a great deal.
According to Pakistan Software Export Board’s website, some of the companies that participated in this programme saw their revenues grow by 5 to 10 times and valuation increase by 15 times. Giving the example of Sofizar, the PSEB’s website stated that the company’s revenue increased from less than $1 million to $30 million in two and a half years.
Masood, too, seem to benefit from the programme as his product has been well received by both MITEFP and the industries worldwide. “MIT Enterprise Forum has done tech evaluation of SmartXS, which is a big achievement,” Masood told The Express Tribune. “When your product is recognised by MIT, there is not much you can ask for.”
Interestingly, the man behind this technology is a college dropout who hated math for he was weak in the subject. “I have got all of this achievement because of my passion,” the 36-year-old Lahorite said.
Masood is the CEO of Solo Smart that’s based in Lahore and has offices in the UK and USA, represented by its subsidiaries namely Solo Tech and Solo Metrics respectively. It also has an office in Australia.
“We are trying to bring all these companies under one name – Solo Metrics. It is a high-tech company that deals in Mechatronics – a combination of software, electrical and mechanical engineering,” he said.
SmartXS is a biometric verification system that uses human face and eye to verify his identity, Masood said, and works mainly in two spaces – workforce management and security access control.
“Our algorithm is very fast,” he said while claiming it is the world’s fastest retina and face scanner algorithm.
The product was first brought to life in 2005 and its hardware was as big as a refrigerator, but now it’s smaller than a PC, Masood said. It has started to get worldwide recognition.
He said his product is currently used by the National Database and Registration Authority, the Pakistan Army and many multinational groups including Pepsico, Nestle and Tetra Pak. These companies are in talks with Masood for the implementation of the technology in their global operations....


http://tribune.com.pk/story/576597/mit-recognises-pakistani-as-one-of-worlds-brilliant-minds/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune piece on how the Punjab govt in Pakistan is using smartphones ad mobile apps:

As our anti-dengue campaign progressed, we bought 1,500 Android phones and kept refining our applications. The system was used by 17 different government departments and hundreds of field workers, and we have received over 200,000 pictures from all over Punjab. We developed more applications that enabled field entomologists to report Aedes Larvae clusters, as well as health workers to GPS tag the houses of the confirmed patients. With this data flowing in, we built a state-of-the-art epidemic early warning system, which statistically analysed the larvae reports and patient locations, and raised red flags wherever it detected a potential outbreak. This information was promptly shared with the local government to help it target its activities in the most vulnerable areas.
This system has led to a full-blown real-time disease surveillance system in Punjab, tracking all 26 WHO notifiable infectious diseases. Cross-verification of data from our dashboard has become a common practice in the government. The system has been featured by the MIT Technology Review, The Economist, NPR and BBC.
Encouraged by the success of our system for tracking disease outbreaks, the PITB has been working on numerous applications to help the government monitor its own work. Drug inspectors now carry our smartphones to report their visits to pharmacy outlets; visits of livestock EDOs are tracked using our smartphone applications; Lahore police uses our smartphone applications to analyse crime hotspots; agriculture extension workers report their activities using our smartphone applications; the Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) uses smartphone applications to report its cleaning activities after Eidul Azha; this year, monitoring of Hajj facilities for pilgrims was done using our smartphone-based applications. Such is the adoption of our systems that over 25,000 geo-tagged activities were uploaded by the LWMC during the three-day Eid campaign a few days ago. And the chief minister Punjab personally reviewed this data, after every hour!
Going forward, we are developing a platform, in collaboration with the World Bank, which would enable people without an IT background to generate a monitoring application by simply dragging-and-dropping components. We are experimenting with increasingly advanced features. For example, our application for the irrigation department is designed such that the picture of a depth-metre is automatically processed to extract the level of water in a canal — making it difficult to hide the theft of irrigation water in tail canals.
Our model of mobile governance, or m-governance, is quickly taking root in Punjab. The rapid adoption, level of innovation and sophistication of our evolving systems is unprecedented in public sector organisations, especially in developing countries. In the coming year, seven major government departments will heavily start using our smartphone-based monitoring systems — employing over 30,000 smartphones. If we manage to keep our momentum, Pakistan may become one of the leading examples of innovations in m-governance.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/631041/punjabs-model-of-m-governance/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on life returning to normal in South Waziristan after 2009 military operation:

Since the Pakistani military's 2009 offensive in South Waziristan largely drove out the Taliban, the region has seen development and trade. But peace talks in neighbouring North Waziristan is creating uncertainty over its future stability, as BBC Urdu's Shumaila Jaffrey reports after visiting the region with the army.

Irfan Khan is 18. He left his home in the Chagmalai area of tribal South Waziristan and migrated to Karachi to escape the war when he was only eight.

One of the lucky few who have made it back home, he is now thriving.

Irfan works in a football stitching unit built by the military in his village, earning around $150 (£90) every month.

"During the war it was hard to live here, so we went to Karachi," he says.

"I started my school there but couldn't continue it; then the military called us back to Chagmalai and put me in this football unit. It has given me a decent living, I am very happy now."

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

The road has made our life easier”

Hazrat Ali
Truck driver
Avenues of trade
A few years ago the concept of a peaceful and settled life was completely alien to the people in South Waziristan. They had never thought of getting roads, schools, hospitals and employment schemes.

Since the Pakistani military recaptured the territory from the Taliban, it has brought a lot of development in the area.

But the development didn't come easily. More than 640 soldiers have lost their lives during and after the operation; 31 of them were killed during the construction of roads.

Aklas Khan, known as Baba South Waziristan, was once a staunch supporter and facilitator of the Taliban, but when he saw the bloodshed and misery inflicted by them on the local people, he disassociated himself from the militants.

"Earlier all the men used to carry guns in our area, but now it's banned. People cannot keep and display weapons [without a license].

"There are hardly any incidents of murders, kidnappings and robberies in our area, we want to live peacefully now".

The military has constructed 800km (500 miles) of road that connects South Waziristan to Afghanistan. The road has opened new avenues of trade between the two countries.

Hazrat Ali is a truck driver. He takes vegetables, fruits and other day-to-day items from Pakistan to Afghanistan. He used to make one trip a month, but since the road has been constructed, he takes two trips in a week.

"The road has made our life easier," he says.

"There are dozens of check posts on the road, the military is patrolling round the clock, trade through Angoor Adda border has increased manifold."

Threat to peace
The military has created a strong defensive shield around the area.

Every person who wants to enter South Waziristan has to register at a military checkpoint.

There is a long list of people displayed at the checkpoint; these are the people that the military consider to be a potential threat to the peace of the area.

The list includes the names of members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Many believe that peace in South Waziristan is linked to the future developments in North Waziristan.

During the army action, the Taliban were forced to retreat to North Waziristan, and over the years it has become a safe haven for militants from the Taliban and al-Qaeda as well as other jihadist organisations.

Their presence in the north is a constant threat to the peace and stability in South Waziristan....


http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-27026641