Friday, May 29, 2020

Are Lockdowns Absolutely Necessary to Contain the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Many countries have imposed strict lockdowns to control the spread of coronavirus.  Marko Kolanovic of JP Morgan claims that numbers had declined because the virus "likely has its own dynamics" that are "unrelated to and often inconsistent lockdown measures".  He cites as evidence a number of places whose infection rates, or "R" values, have continued to fall despite restrictions being lifted.

Coronavirus Transmission Rates Before & After Lockdown. Source: JP Morgan


Are these absolutely necessary? What are its costs and benefits in terms of lives and livelihoods, particularly in developing countries like Pakistan with young populations?  Over 40% of all coronavirus deaths in Europe and America have occurred among the elderly living in nursing homes. Pakistanis age 60+ account for 19% of cases but 58% of deaths. Like US and Europe, older people are much more likely to die from coronavirus in Pakistan.  But average life expectancy in Pakistan is just 67 years and the median age in the country is only 22 years. The explanations offered for low death rates in South Asia include younger populations, more sunshinehigher temperature and humidity, universal BCG vaccinations etc. Yale researchers have argued in a recently published paper to consider universal mask adoption and increased hygiene measures as an alternative to complete lockdown.

Coronavirus Infections and Death Demographics. Source: Pakistan Health Ministry


Are there other tools such as compulsory face masks which can preserve both lives and livelihoods? In a recently published paper tiled "The Benefits and Costs of Social Distancing in Rich and PoorCountries", Yale researchers support universal mask adoption and increased hygiene measures as a alternatives to social distancing and complete lockdown.

What will be the impact of coronavirus lockdown on global economy?  European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borell has said "Analysts have long talked about the end of an American-led system and the arrival of an Asian century. This is now happening in front of our eyes," he said. "If the 21st century turns out to be an Asian century, as the 20th was an American one, the pandemic may well be remembered as the turning point of this process."

Does it impinge on civil liberties of the people? Could such lockdowns cause various physical and mental illnesses leading to deaths and high rates of suicides?

Despardes with Faraz Darvesh host discusses these questions with Ali Hasan Cemendtaur, Misbah Azam and Riaz Haq.

https://youtu.be/3HtPH8cnEPM




Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Vast Majority of Pakistanis Support Imran Khan's Handling of Covid19 Crisis

Pakistani-American Woman Featured in Netflix Documentary "Pandemic"

Can Pakistan Respond Effectively to Coronavirus Pandemic?

Can Pakistan Effectively Respond to Coronavirus Outbreak? 

How Grim is Pakistan's Social Sector Progress?

Pakistan Fares Marginally Better Than India On Disease Burdens

Can Imran Khan Lead Pakistan to the Next Level?

Democracy vs Dictatorship in Pakistan

Pakistan Child Health Indicators

Pakistan's Balance of Payments Crisis

Panama Leaks in Pakistan

Conspiracy Theories About Pakistan Elections"

PTI Triumphs Over Corrupt Dynastic Political Parties

Strikingly Similar Narratives of Donald Trump and Nawaz Sharif

Nawaz Sharif's Report Card

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Yom-e-Takbeer: US Efforts to Stop Pakistan Nuclear Tests in May, 1998

"Believe me when I tell you that my heart is with you. I appreciate and would even privately agree with what you're advising us to do (abandon nuclear tests)", said Pakistan's Ex Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott on May 16, 1998

The order to conduct Pakistan's nuclear tests came from Mr. Nawaz Sharif who was Pakistan's prime minister in 1998. It came on May 28, just over two weeks after India's nuclear tests conducted May 11 to May 13, 1998. Pakistan went ahead with the tests in spite of the US pressure to abstain from testing.  US President Bill Clinton called Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif immediately after the Indian tests to urge restraint.  It was followed up by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott's visit to Islamabad on May 16, 1998.

In his 2010 book titled "Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy, and the Bomb", Secretary Talbott has described US diplomatic efforts to dissuade Pakistan in the two weeks period between the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests. Here are a few excerpts of the book divided into four sections covering Clinton's call to Sharif, Talbott's visits to the Foreign Office (FO), general headquarters (GHQ) and Prime Minister's House:

Clinton's Call to Sharif: 

Clinton telephoned Sharif, the Pakistani PM, to whet his appetite for the planes, huge amounts of financial aid, and a prize certain to appeal to Sharif—an invitation for him to make an official visit to Washington.

“You can almost hear the guy wringing his hands and sweating,” Clinton said after hanging up.

Still, we had to keep trying. Our best chance was an emergency dose of face-to-face diplomacy. It was decided that I would fly to Pakistan and make the case to Nawaz Sharif.

Meeting at Foreign Office in Islamabad:

On arrival in Islamabad, we had about an hour to freshen up at a hotel before our first official meeting, which was with the foreign minister, Gohar Ayub Khan, and the foreign secretary (the senior civil servant in the ministry), Shamshad Ahmad.

When we got to the foreign ministry, we found that the Pakistani civilian leaders had finally figured out how to handle our visit, and the result was a bracing experience. My two hosts rolled their eyes, mumbled imprecations under their breath, and constantly interrupted.

They accused the United States of having turned a blind eye to the BJP’s preparations for the test.

As for the carrots I had brought, the Pakistanis gave me a version of the reaction I had gotten from General Wahid five years earlier. Offers of Pressler relief and delivery of “those rotting and virtually obsolete air- planes,” said Gohar Ayub, were “shoddy rugs you’ve tried to sell us before.” The Pakistani people, he added, “would mock us if we accepted your offer. They will take to the streets in protest.”

I replied that Pakistanis were more likely to protest if they didn’t have jobs. Gohar Ayub and Shamshad Ahmad waved the point aside. The two Pakistani officials were dismissive. The current burst of international outrage against India would dissipate rapidly, they predicted.

Visit to General Headquarter (GHQ) in Rawalpindi:

We set off with police escort, sirens blaring, to (Chief of Army Staff) General Karamat’s headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Karamat, who was soft-spoken and self-confident, did not waste time on polemics. He heard us out and acknowledged the validity of at least some of our arguments, especially those concerning the danger that, by testing, Pakistan would land itself, as he put it, “in the doghouse alongside India.”

His government was still “wrestling” with the question of what to do he said, which sounded like a euphemism for civilian dithering. There was more in the way Karamat talked about his political leadership, a subtle but discernible undertone of long-suffering patience bordering on scorn.   For example, he noted pointedly “speculation” that Pakistan was looking for some sort of American security guarantee, presumably a promise that the US would come to Pakistan’s defense if it was attacked by India, in exchange for not testing. “You may hear such a suggestion later,” Karamat added, perhaps referring to our upcoming meeting with Nawaz Sharif. I should not take such hints seri- ously, he said, since they reflected the panic of the politicians. Pakistan would look out for its own defense.

What Pakistan needed from the United States was a new, more solid relationship in which there was no “arm- twisting” or “forcing us into corners.” By stressing this point, Karamat made clear that our arguments against testing did not impress him.

Meeting at Prime Minister's House:

I shared a car back to Islamabad with Bruce Riedel and Tom Simons to meet Nawaz Sharif.

What we got from the Prime Minister was a Hamlet act, convincing in its own way—that is, I think he was genuinely feeling torn—but rather pathetic.

On this occasion Nawaz Sharif seemed nearly paralyzed with exhaustion, anguish, and fear. He was—literally, just as Clinton had sensed during their phone call—wringing his hands. He had yet to make up his mind, he kept telling us. Left to his own judgment, he would not test.

His position was “awkward.” His government didn’t want to engage in “tit-for-tat exchanges” or “act irresponsibly.” The Indian leaders who had set off the explosion were “madmen” and he didn’t want “madly to follow suit.”

But pressure was “mounting by the hour” from all sides, including from the opposition led by his predecessor and would-be successor, Benazir Bhutto. “I am an elected official, and I cannot ignore popular sentiment.” Sharif was worried that India would not only get away with what it had done but profit from it as well. When international anger receded, the sanctions would melt away, and the BJP would parlay India’s new status as a declared nuclear weapons state into a permanent seat on UN SC. I laid out all that we could do for Pakistan, although this time I tried to personalize the list a bit more.

Clinton told me two days before that he would use Sharif’s visit to Washington and Clinton’s own to Pakistan to “dramatize” the world’s gratitude if Sharif refrains from testing. This point aroused the first flicker of interest I’d seen. Nawaz Sharif asked if Clinton would promise to skip India on his trip and come only to Pakistan. There was no way I could promise that. All I could tell Nawaz Sharif was that Clinton would “recalibrate the length and character” of the stops he made in New Delhi and Islamabad to reflect that Pakistan was in favor with the United States while India was not. Sharif looked more miserable than ever.

Toward the end of the meeting, Sharif asked everyone but me to wait outside. (Foreign Secretary) Shamshad (Ahmad) seemed miffed. He glanced nervously over his shoulder as he left. When we were alone I gave the prime minister a written note from Secretary Albright urging him to hold firm against those clamoring to test.  The note warned about the economic damage, to say nothing of the military danger, Pakistan faced from an escalating competition with India. Sharif read the note intently, folded the paper, put his head in his hands for a moment, then looked at me with desperation in his eyes.

At issue, he said, was his own survival. “How can I take your advice if I’m out of office?” If he did as we wanted, the next time I came to Islamabad, I'd find myself dealing not with a clean-shaven moderate like himself but with an Islamic fundamentalist “who has a long beard.” He concluded by reiterating he had not made up his mind about testing. “If a final decision had been reached I'd be in a much calmer state of mind. Believe me when I tell you that my heart is with you. I appreciate and would even privately agree with what you're advising us to do.”

Summary:

It is clear from Secretary Talbot's description that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not want to go forward with the nuclear tests but he had no choice.  Fearing that he would be removed from office if he decided not to conduct atomic test, he told Talbott, “How can I take your advice if I’m out of office?”  Summing up the failure of the US efforts to stop Pakistan's nuclear tests, US Ambassador to Pakistan Ann Patterson said the following in a cable to Washington in 2009 :  "The Pakistani establishment, as we saw in 1998 with the nuclear test, does not view assistance -- even sizable assistance to their own entities -- as a trade-off for national security vis-a-vis India".

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

US-Pakistan Civilian Nuclear Deal?

India's Indigenous Copies of Nukes and Missiles 

Modi's India: A Paper Elephant?

Debunking Haqqani's Op Ed: "Pakistan's Elusive Quest For Parity

Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb

Cyberwars Across India, Pakistan and China

Pakistan's Defense Industry Going High-Tech

Pakistan's Space Capabilities

India-Pakistan Military Balance

Scientist Reveals Indian Nuke Test Fizzled

The Wisconsin Project

The Non-Proliferation Review Fall 1997

India, Pakistan Comparison 2010

Can India "Do a Lebanon" in Pakistan?

Global Firepower Comparison

Evaluation of Military Strengths--India vs. Pakistan

Only the Paranoid Survive

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21st Century High-Tech Warfare'

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Pakistan's Computer Services Exports Jump 26% Amid COVID19 Lockdown

Pakistan's computer services exports soared 26% in March, 2020 over the same month last year. This growth occurred in spite of the coronavirus lockdown that began on March 23, 2020. The nation's total services exports fell 17% in the same month.

The ICT services exports bucked the overall down trend in Pakistan's exports. The country exported computer service worth $102.26 million in March, 2020, up 25.77% from $81.31 million in March, 2019.  Overall telecommunications, computer and information services increased 19.44% to $134.95 million in March 2020, up from $112.99 million in March 2019.  Prior to the current coronavirus lockdown, PBS reported that Pakistan's technology exports increased 26.24% in the first 8 months  (July-February) of the current financial year.

Pakistan ICT Exports. Source: PBS

The data released by the PBS showed that Pakistan earned a total amount of $887.47 million during the first eight months (July-February) of the fiscal year 2020, up from $702.99 million during the corresponding period of the fiscal year 2018-19. Computer services exports grew 31.57% to $677.23 million from July 2019 to February 2020 as compared to $514.74 million.

 It is generally believed that Pakistan's PBS and central bank underestimate the country's technology exports. Some have argued that the actual IT exports were closer to $5 billion in fiscal 2018. Some of the differences can be attributed to the fact that the State Bank IT exports data does not include various non-IT sectors such as financial services, automobiles, and health care.

Pakistan has a thriving  community of freelancers. Its digital gig economy growth is the fastest in Asia and fourth fastest in the world, according to digital payments platform Payoneer.

Gig Economy Growth in Q2/2019. Source: Payoneer
United States leads gig economy growth of 78% followed by the United Kingdom 59%, Brazil 48%, Pakistan 47% and Ukraine 36%. Asia growth was led by Pakistan followed by Philippines (35%) , India  (29%) and Bangladesh (27%).

The rapid gig economy expansion of 47% in Pakistan  was fueled by several factors including the country's very young population 70% of which is under 30 years of age coupled with improvements in science and technical education and expansion of high-speed broadband access.  Pakistani freelancers under the age of 35 generated 77% of the revenue in second quarter of 2019.

Growth in Freelance Work. Source: Payoneer

Mohsin Muzaffar, head of business development at Payoneer in Pakistan, has said as follows: "Government investment in enhancing digital skills has helped create a skilled freelancer workforce while blanket 4G coverage across Pakistan has given freelancers unprecedented access to
international jobs".

Global Freelance Revenue By Age. Source: Payoneer. 


In Q2/2019, Asia cemented its status as a freelancer hub.  Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, Philippines made it to the  top 10 list, collectively recording 238% increase from Q2/2018.


Online Labor Index. Source: Oxford Internet Institute

As of 2017, Pakistan freelancers ranked fourth in the world and accounted for 8.5% of the global online workforce, according to Online Labor Index compiled by Oxford Internet Institute. India led with 24% share followed by Bangladesh 16%, US 12%, Pakistan 8.5% and Philippines 6.5%.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

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Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel


Saturday, May 16, 2020

Trump Picks Muslim American Expert to Lead Covid-19 Vaccine Effort

President Donald Trump has picked renowned Moroccan-born Muslim American immunologist Dr. Moncef Mohamed Slaoui to  lead  Operation Warp Speed, America's COVID-19 vaccine program. Trump has compared this vaccine effort with the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb in the 1940s.

Dr. Moncef Slaoui
Dr. Slaoui is a highly recognized scientist and a successful leader who has delivered as GSK's head of vaccines. He appears to have more of a can-do entrepreneurial approach to solving problems. He has recently been running a life-sciences VC fund in Philadelphia.

Announcing the appointment, Trump described Slaoui as “one of the most respected men in the world in the production and, really, on the formulation of vaccines.” “Operation Warp Speed’s chief scientist will be Dr Moncef Slaoui, a world-renowned immunologist who helped create 14 new vaccines,” Trump said at a White House news briefing. “That’s a lot of our new vaccines — in 10 years, during his time in the private sector,” he added.

Dr. Slaoui is an ethnic berber born in the Moroccan coastal city of Agadir which is famous for its beaches, according to Dr. Juan Cole of University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Dr. Cole has hailed Dr. Slaoui's appointment in his blog post titled "I guess “Islam” doesn’t Hate us After All: Trump pins hopes for Vaccine on Muslim-American Slaoui".

Dr. Slaoui is listed as an author on over 100 scientific papers. He worked for 30 years at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and for a decade he headed up its worldwide Research and Development department. He also served for two years as chair of GSK Vaccines, notes Yahia Hatim at Morocco World News.  Slaoui, a former professor of immunology at the University of Mons, Belgium, said that Operation Warp Speed will make available a few hundred million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year.

There are a large number of Muslim Americans on the frontlines of war against the novel coronavirus. Among them is Dr. Syra MadadPakistani-American head of New York City’s Health and Hospitals System-wide Special Pathogens Program, who is featured in a 6-part Netflix documentary series "Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak".

Pakistani-American doctors are the 3rd largest among foreign-educated doctors in America. Among the notable names of Pakistani-American doctors engaged in the fight against Covid-19 are: Dr. Saud Anwar in Connecticut, Dr. Gul Zaidi in New York and Dr. Umair Shah in Texas. Their work has received positive media coverage in recent weeks.

Dr. Saud Anwar, a Connecticut pulmonologist and state senator, came up with a ventilator splitter to deal with the shortages of life-saving equipment. Dr. Gul Zaidi, an acute-care pulmonologist in Long Island, was featured in a CBS 60 Minutes segment on how the doctors are dealing with unprecedented demands to save lives. Dr. Umair Shah was interviewed about his work by ABC TV affiliate in Houston, Texas.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Pakistani-American Health Expert Featured in Netflix Documentary "Pandemic"

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Van Jones on "Geniuses from Pakistan"

Obama Honors Pakistani-American Doctor With Top Technology Medal

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The Trump Phenomenon

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Friday, May 15, 2020

Pakistan: Coronavirus, Lives and Livelihoods

Coronavirus infection rates and deaths in Pakistan are among the lowest in the world while the continuing lockdown is causing enormous damage to the nation's economy and livelihoods, according to government data. Health ministry data shows that fewer than a thousand lives have been lost to the disease in the country since the start of COVID19 infections more than two months ago. Meanwhile, millions of people in manufacturing, retail and the unorganized sectors are unemployed or underemployed. All of this is happening during Ramzan and Eid periods that account for bulk of retail sales in the majority Muslim country of 220 million. Pakistanis do not necessarily face the same level of risk from coronavirus as people living in America and Europe do.


Age Distribution of Covid Cases/Deaths in Pakistan. Source: covid.gov.pk


Age Factor in Covid19 Mortality:


Over 40% of all coronavirus deaths in Europe and America have occurred among the elderly living in nursing homes. Pakistanis age 60+ account for 19% of cases but 58% of deaths. Like US and Europe, older people are much more likely to die from coronavirus in Pakistan.  But average life expectancy in Pakistan is just 67 years and the median age in the country is only 22 years. The explanations offered for low death rates in South Asia include younger populations, more sunshinehigher temperature and humidity, universal BCG vaccinations etc. Yale researchers have argued in a recently published paper to consider universal mask adoption and increased hygiene measures as an alternative to complete lockdown.


March 2020 Manufacturing Data. Source: Pakistan Bureau of Statistics

Pakistan Manufacturing Data:

The March figures released by Pakistan Bureau Statistics confirm a precipitous drop of 22.95% in large scale manufacturing. This reflects halt in production in just the last one week of March 2020. April 2020 figures are almost certain to be a lot worse due to complete halt in production amid lockdown. It's spelling disaster for millions of employees and households linked to these industries. Government handouts can not replace household incomes generated from these industries.

While food production held up well in March, manufacturing of durables like air-conditioners, refrigerators, and deep freezers have plummeted. For example, production of refrigerators fell 34% from 86,107 in March 2019 to 56,449 in March 2020.  Number of television sets produced in March 2020 declined 34% to 19,790 from 30,788 in the same month last year.

Comparison of Confirmed Cases in Selected Countries. Source: Our World in Data

Coronavirus Infections and Deaths:

As of May 16, Pakistan has 38,755 cases and 834 deaths. These figures are among the lowest in the world. There are many theories explaining why Pakistan and the rest of South Asia have fared much better than America and Europe. To put it in perspective, there were 31 coronavirus related deaths in Pakistan where 4,000 people die on a regular day.  Any major change in daily death rates in recent weeks would not go unnoticed. While it is true that the testing rates in South Asia are low compared to America and Europe, the percentages of people testing positive and fatality rates in South Asia are also low. The explanations offered for low coronavirus infection and death rates in South Asia include more sunshinehigher temperature and humidity, younger demographics, universal BCG vaccinations etc.

Comparison of Coronavirus Deaths in Selected Countries. Source: Our World in Data

Pakistan COVID19 Death Rate Among World's Lowest 


Social Distancing Cost-Benefit Analysis:

In a recently published paper tiled "The Benefits and Costs of Social Distancing in Rich and PoorCountries", Yale researchers support universal mask adoption and increased hygiene measures as a alternatives to social distancing and complete lockdown.

Zachary Barnett-Howell and Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak of Yale University argue that "social distancing policies are estimated to be less effective in poor countries with younger populations less susceptible to COVID-19, and more limited healthcare systems, which were overwhelmed before the pandemic". Here's an excerpt of the Yale paper:

"Poorer people are less willing to make...economic sacrifices. They place relatively greater value on their livelihood concerns compared to contracting COVID-19. Not only are the epidemiological and economic benefits of social distancing much smaller in poorer countries, such policies may exact a heavy toll on the poorest and most vulnerable. Workers in the informal sector lack the resources and social protections to isolate themselves and sacrifice economic opportunities until the virus passes. By limiting their ability to earn a living, social distancing can lead to an increase in hunger, deprivation, and related mortality and morbidity. Rather than a blanket adoption of social distancing measures, we advocate for the exploration of alternative harm-reduction strategies, including universal mask adoption and increased hygiene measures."

Summary:

While coronavirus infections and death rates in Pakistan are among the lowest, the nation's economy and livelihoods are in serious jeopardy. With or without coronavirus pandemic, we take risks everyday when we leave our homes to go to work or school, theaters or playground, or shopping. Risks we face range from street crimes and road accidents to lightening strikes. We need to make similar assessments of risks from diseases which vary from place to place. Pakistanis do not necessarily face the same level of risk from coronavirus as people living in America and Europe do. The explanations offered for low coronavirus infection and death rates in South Asia include more sunshinehigher temperature and humidity, younger demographics, universal BCG vaccinations etc. There is a need to weigh the risk of catching coronavirus against the loss of livelihoods in places like Pakistan.  Yale researchers have argued in a recently published paper to consider universal mask adoption and increased hygiene measures as an alternative to complete lockdown.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Vast Majority of Pakistanis Support Imran Khan's Handling of Covid19 Crisis

Pakistani-American Woman Featured in Netflix Documentary "Pandemic"

Can Pakistan Respond Effectively to Coronavirus Pandemic?

Can Pakistan Effectively Respond to Coronavirus Outbreak? 

How Grim is Pakistan's Social Sector Progress?

Pakistan Fares Marginally Better Than India On Disease Burdens

Can Imran Khan Lead Pakistan to the Next Level?

Democracy vs Dictatorship in Pakistan

Pakistan Child Health Indicators

Pakistan's Balance of Payments Crisis

Panama Leaks in Pakistan

Conspiracy Theories About Pakistan Elections"

PTI Triumphs Over Corrupt Dynastic Political Parties

Strikingly Similar Narratives of Donald Trump and Nawaz Sharif

Nawaz Sharif's Report Card

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Renewable Energy in Pakistan: 15.2% of Households Use Solar

Solar panel installations in Pakistani homes are rising rapidly. Pakistan PSLM/HIES 2018-19 survey results reveal that 15.2% of all households are using solar panels as a source of energy for their homes.  Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province leads the nation with 40% of all households using solar energy. Rural Pakistan is embracing solar power at a faster rate than Urban Pakistan. Adoption of solar in rural areas of KP is at 43%, Sindh 33.9%,  Balochistan 20.4% and Punjab 7.9%. Rapid decline in cost of solar panels appears to be driving the adoption of solar in Pakistan's rural areas where grid power is either unavailable or unreliable. Pakistan is starting to join the clean energy revolution with increasing adoption of solar and recent announcement of National Electric Vehicle Policy. Covid19 pandemic may temporarily slow it down but the upward trend will likely continue.
Pakistan Solar Panel Imports in Millions of US Dollars. Source: FBS Via Pakistan Today

Solar Panels in Pakistan: 

Imports of solar panels have increased at 15.9% annually in US dollar terms and 22.6% in Pakistan rupee terms in the last years. Solar panel imports have jumped from just $1 million in 2004 to a peak of $772 million in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017, then declined to  $343 million in 2018 and then rose again to $409 million in 2019.  Covid19 pandemic may temporarily slow it down but the upward trend will likely continue.
Households Using Solar Panels. Source: PSLM/HIES 2018-19 Via Bilal Gilani of Gallup
Solar panel installations in Pakistani homes are rising rapidly. Pakistan PSLM/HIES 2018-19 survey results reveal that 15.2% of all households are using solar panels as source of energy for their homes. 

Government survey data shows that 20% of rural households are  using solar panels, significantly ahead of just 7.7% urban households in the country. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province leads with 40% of households using solar energy, followed by Balochistan 25.7%, Sindh 20.5% and Punjab 6.4%.

Rural Pakistan is leading the nation into wider use of solar power.  Adoption of solar in rural areas of KP is at 43%, Sindh 33.9%,  Balochistan 20.4% and Punjab 7.9%. Rapid decline in cost of solar panels appears to be driving adoption of the solar energy in Pakistan's rural areas where grid power is either unavailable or unreliable.

Pakistan Electric Vehicle Policy:

Pakistan has a low level of motorization with just 9% of the households owning a car. Nearly half of all households own a motorcycle. Motorization rates in the country have tripled over the last decade and a half, resulting in nearly 40% of all emissions coming from vehicles. Concerns about climate change and environmental pollution have forced the government to to take a number of actions ranging from adoption of Euro6 emission standards for new vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE) since 2015 and announcement of a national electric vehicle (EV) policy this year.

Private vehicle ownership in Pakistan has risen sharply over the last 4 years. More than 9% of households now own cars, up from 6% in 2015. Motorcycle ownership has jumped from 41% of households in 2015 to 53% now, according to data released by Federal Bureau of Statistics (FBS) recently. There are 32.2 million households in Pakistan, according to 2017 Census.


Vehicle Ownership in Pakistan. Source: PBS

Pakistan's National EV Policy is a forward looking step needed to deal with climate concerns from growing transport sector emissions with rapidly rising vehicle ownership. It offers tax incentives for buyers and sellers. It also focuses on development of nationwide charging infrastructure to ease adoption of electric vehicles.

Low Carbon Energy Growth:

In recent years,  Pakistan government has introduced a number of supportive policies, including feed-in tariffs and a net metering program to incentivize renewables. These have been fairly successful, and renewables capacity in the country surged substantially over 2018 when 1245 MW was added, of which 826MW was contributed by the solar sector, according to Fitch Solutions.

Non-Hydro Renewables in Pakistan. Source: Fitch Solutions

Pakistan’s Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) recently signed deals for projects that will see the country expand its wind power capacity by 560 MW.  Fitch Solutions forecasts Pakistan's solar capacity to grow by an annual average of 9.4% between 2019-2028, taking total capacity over 3.8GW by the end of our forecast period.

Sindh government has recently signed a deal for 400MW solar park at Manjhand, 20MW rooftop solar systems on public sector buildings in Karachi and Hyderabad, and 200,000 solar home systems for remote areas in 10 districts of the province. The project is estimated to cost USD105million, with the World Bank funding USD100 million.

The biggest and most important source of low-carbon energy in Pakistan is its hydroelectric power plants. Pakistan ranked third in the world by adding nearly 2,500 MW of hydropower in 2018, according to Hydropower Status Report 2019.  China added the most capacity with the installation of 8,540 megawatts, followed by Brazil (3,866 MW), Pakistan (2,487 MW), Turkey (1,085 MW), Angola (668 MW), Tajikistan (605 MW), Ecuador (556 MW), India (535 MW), Norway (419 MW) and Canada (401 MW).

New Installed Hydroelectric Power Capacity in 2018. Source: Hydroworld.com

Hydropower now makes up about 28% of the total installed capacity of 33,836 MW as of February, 2019.   WAPDA reports contributing 25.63 billion units of hydroelectricity to the national grid during the year, “despite the fact that water flows in 2018 remained historically low.” This contribution “greatly helped the country in meeting electricity needs and lowering the electricity tariff for the consumers.”

Chinese BYD in Pakistan:

Multiple media reports suggest that China's BYD is about to enter Pakistan market following the announcement of Pakistan National EV Policy.   These reports indicate that Toyota, one of the largest automakers in Pakistan, has signed a deal with BYD to manufacture electric vehicles.

Other reports indicate that Pakistan's Rahmat Group is in talks with BYD to set up an electric vehicle plant at Nooriabad in Sindh province.

Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry has claimed that in three years Pakistan will become the first country to manufacture electric buses, which will be driven by an electric motor and obtains energy from on-board batteries.

Summary: 

Pakistan is starting to join the clean energy revolution with increasing adoption of solar and recent announcement of National Electric Vehicle Policy.  Solar panel installations in Pakistani homes are rising rapidly. Pakistan PSLM/HIES 2018-19 survey results reveal that 15.2% of all households are using solar panels as source of energy for their homes.  The country has set targets for renewable energy growth and announced National Electric Vehicle Policy.  In recent years,  Pakistan government has introduced a number of supportive policies, including feed-in tariffs and a net metering program to incentivize renewables. These have been fairly successful, and renewables capacity in the country surged substantially over 2018 when 1245 MW was added, of which 826MW was contributed by the solar sector, according to Fitch Solutions.  High-capacity battery pack costs have dropped nearly 40% since 2015, according to Wood Mackenzie data as reported by Wall Street Journal.  Cost reductions are expected to continue to only $8 to $14 per MW-hour by 2020, or about a penny per kW-hour. While production and use of renewable energy are growing, the electric vehicles in Pakistan have yet to find traction. Hopefully, the National EV policy will encourage production and adoption of electric vehicles in the country.  Covid19 pandemic may temporarily slow it down but the upward trend will likely continue.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Clean Energy Revolution in Pakistan

Pakistan Electric Vehicle Policy

Nuclear Power in Pakistan

Recurring Cycles of Drought and Floods in Pakistan

Pakistan's Response to Climate Change

Massive Oil and Gas Discovery in Pakistan: Hype vs Reality

Renewable Energy for Pakistan

Digital BRI: China and Pakistan Building Fiber, 5G Networks

LNG Imports in Pakistan

Growing Water Scarcity in Pakistan

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Ownership of Appliances and Vehicles in Pakistan

CPEC Transforming Pakistan

Pakistan's $20 Billion Tourism Industry Boom

Riaz Haq's YouTube Channel

PakAlumni Social Network

Sunday, May 10, 2020

CAREC: More Landlocked States Look to Pakistan's Gwadar Port

Uzbekistan is the third landlocked state in recent years to request the use of Pakistani ports for trade, according to media reports.  The Central Asian nation has asked to join Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement (QTTA) to make use of Karachi and Gwadar ports for its trade operations. Current members of QTTA are China, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Afghanistan is not a member of QTTA but it currently uses Gwadar and Karachi ports under Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA). Pakistan is making a serious effort to stabilize Afghanistan, a member of CAREC. The recent US-Taliban peace deal is the result of Pakistan's efforts to bring the warring sides to the negotiating table. Afghan instability has prevented Pakistan from connecting with other STANs for commerce and trade. Now the development of CPEC will enable Pakistan to bypass Afghanistan, if necessary, to connect with Central Asia region through Western China.

Pakistan to Bypass Afghan Wakhan Corridor to Trade With Central Asia Via China

Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement (QTTA):

The Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement (QTTA) is a transit trade deal between China, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan for facilitating transit traffic and trade.

In addition to being members of QTTA, China, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are also part of CAREC, the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation. Other CAREC member nations include Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Mongolia, Tajikistan , Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure projects have strengthened Pakistan's connectivity with landlocked Central Asia region in recent years.

CAREC Ministerial Meeting Islamabad, Pakistan

CAREC or SAARC:

Pakistan sits between two economically very dynamic regions: Central Asia (and Western China) and South Asia. Which region is better suited for its economic connectivity and integration? Should Islamabad focus on CAREC (Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation) rather than SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation)?

Ideally, Pakistan should be a major player in both vibrant regions. However, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has adopted a belligerent tone that has been characterized by his boasts of "chhappan inch ki chhati" (56 inch chest) and  talk of  "munh tor jawab" (jaw-breaking response) and "boli nahin goli" (bullets, not talks) to intimidate Pakistan in the last few years.   All of Modi's actions, including his order to bomb Balakot in Pakistan in February 2019, have signaled his outright aggression against Pakistan. His government's actions in Kashmir have extinguished any hope of normal relations between South Asia's two largest economies in the foreseeable future.  These have essentially forced Pakistan to choose between SAARC and CAREC.

CAREC Corridors: 

CAREC region is building six economic corridors to link Central Asian nations. Six multi-national institutions support the CAREC infrastructure development, including the Asian Development Bank (ADB), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank,  Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction & Development, according to Khaleej Times.

Out of the total $27.7 billion CAREC infrastructure investment so for, $9.9 billion or 36 per cent was financed by ADB, a senior officer of the Manila-based multinational bank told Khaleeej Times.

He said other donors had invested $10.9 billion while $6.9 billion was contributed by CAREC governments. Of these investments, transport got the major share with $8 billion or 78 per cent. Asian Development Bank Vice President Wencai Zhang said: "There are huge financing requirements in Carec for transport and trade facilitation, for which 108 projects have been identified at an investment cost of $38.8 billion for the period 2012-2020. Investment for the priority energy sector projects will be $45 billion in this period."

CPEC North-South Corridor:

China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a major part of the north-south corridor that will allow trade to flow among CAREC member countries, many of which are resource-rich but landlocked nations. The corridor will enable the group to access to the Pakistani seaports in Gwadar and Karachi as part of the new maritime silk route (MSR) as envisioned by China and Pakistan.

CPEC consists of transport and communication infrastructure—roads, railways, cable, and oil and gas pipelines—that will stretch 2,700 kilometers from Gwadar on the Arabian Sea to the Khunjerab Pass at the China-Pakistan border in the Karakorams.

China and Pakistan are developing plans for an 1,800 kilometer international rail link from the city of Kashgar in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in Western China to Pakistan's deep-sea Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea, according to Zhang Chunlin, director of Xinjiang's regional development and reform commission.

Rail Network Bypasses Afghanistan

 "The 1,800-kilometer China-Pakistan railway is planned to also pass through Pakistan's capital of Islamabad and Karachi," Zhang Chunlin said at the two-day International Seminar on the Silk Road Economic Belt in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital, according to China Daily.

"Although the cost of constructing the railway is expected to be high due to the hostile environment and complicated geographic conditions, the study of the project has already started," Zhang said. "China and Pakistan will co-fund the railway construction. Building oil and gas pipelines between Gwadar Port and China is also on the agenda," Zhang added.

Afghan Instability:

Pakistan is making a serious effort to stabilize Afghanistan, a member of CAREC. The recent US-Taliban peace deal is the result of Pakistan's efforts to bring the warring sides to the negotiating table. Afghan instability has prevented Pakistan from connecting with other STANs for commerce and trade. Now the development of CPEC will enable Pakistan to bypass Afghanistan, if necessary, to connect with Central Asia region through Western China.

Summary:

A growing list of landlocked Central Asian countries is lining up to use Pakistani ports of Gwadar and Karachi for trade. Uzbekistan is the latest nation to do so. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure projects have strengthened Pakistan's connectivity with landlocked Central Asia region in recent years.  The Quadrilateral Traffic in Transit Agreement (QTTA) is a transit trade deal between China, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan for facilitating transit traffic and trade.

In addition to being members of QTTA, China, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are also part of CAREC, the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation. Other CAREC member nations include Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.  Pakistan is making a serious effort to stabilize Afghanistan, a member of CAREC. The recent US-Taliban peace deal is the result of Pakistan's efforts to bring the warring sides to the negotiating table. Afghan instability has prevented Pakistan from connecting with other STANs for commerce and trade. Now the development of CPEC will enable Pakistan to bypass Afghanistan, if necessary, to connect with Central Asia region through Western China.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC)

Modi's India: A Paper Elephant?

1800 Km Pak-China Rail Link

China Pakistan Economic Corridor

CPEC to Create Over 2 Million Jobs

Modi's Covert War in Pakistan

ADB Raises Pakistan GDP Growth Forecast

Gwadar as Hong Kong West

China-Pakistan Industrial Corridor

Indian Spy Kulbhushan Yadav's Confession

Ex Indian Spy Documents RAW Successes Against Pakistan

Pakistan FDI Soaring with Chinese Money for CPEC


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Survey Finds Overwhelming Majority in Pakistan Satisfied With Imran Khan's Handling of Coronavirus Crisis

An overwhelming 81% majority of Pakistanis are satisfied with Federal Government performance in responding to coronavirus pandemic, way up from 61% who expressed satisfaction in March, according to a recent Gallup Pakistan survey. These numbers reflect Pakistan's much flatter disease curve compared with most other nations, including highly developed ones, that have seen a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases and deaths. The federal government has also launched an $8 billion stimulus program to deal with the economic impact of COVID19 on small businesses and the poor daily wage earners. Meanwhile,  the nation's central bank has significantly cut interest rates from double digits down to single digit.


Bilal Gilani of Gallup Pakistan tweeted his reaction to the poll result in the following words: "These are very unusual numbers ! But not without parallels from around the world. Crisis brings good in govt and ppls expectations set changes!"

The unprecedented crisis has indeed brought out the best in Prime Minister Imran Khan's government. After some initial criticism about the slow response to the pandemic back in March, the government in Islamabad has acted quickly to deal with it. Here are some of the key actions by Prime Minister Imran Khan in March and April:

1. Nation-wide lockdown ordered to slow the spread of the disease in Pakistan. The lockdown was started by the Sindh government where the cases began to spike after the return of hundreds of Pakistani Shia pilgrims from Iran, a known COVID hotspot.  The lockdown has resulted in flattening the curve of the disease and reduced load on the developing nation's weak healthcare system.

Gallup Pakistan Coronavirus Survey
2. Prime Minister Imran Khan launched an $8 billion economic stimulus package, including funds for low-income families to be disbursed through $75 grants.
Comparison of COVID19 Cases in Select Countries. Source: Our World in Data

3. All international flights into and out of the country were stopped and all passengers  who arrived before the ban went into effect were checked and those with symptoms quarantined.  This action stranded thousands of foreigners in Pakistan and several thousand Pakistanis overseas. Some flights have since been allowed to help those stranded.

4. All passenger train service was halted in Pakistan. Pakistan Railways operates 142 trains daily on its 1,885-km-long tracks to ferry some 700 million passengers every year. Coronavirus fears had already reduced ridership.



COVID19 Deaths in Select Countries. Source: Our World in Data

5. The launch of Ehsaas Emergency Cash program at the end of March to hand out Rs. 12,000 each to 12 million families (an estimated 67 million people) whose livelihood has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic or its aftermath. This came after Prime Minister Imran Khan told reporters that  “we don’t want to try and save people from corona but they end up dying due to hunger and poverty".

6. Prime Minister Imran Khan granted exemption from lockdown to a few select activities, the area of forestry among them. These exemptions are subject to safe practices described in Stabdard Operating Procedures (SOPs) described by the government. Many workers idled by the coronavirus lockdown have been hired to plant millions trees as part of the Prime Minister's "10 Billion Tree Tsunami" program to deal with climate change. This is being described as "Green Stimulus".

7. Ramping up of tests and availability of  personal protection equipment (PPE), including masks and protective suits for the healthcare workers. Critics in Pakistan argue that more needs to be done to dramatically increase testing and reduce PPE shortages. This criticism is no different from that seen in other countries, including highly developed nations the United States and the United Kingdom.

Clearly, the results show that Pakistan's actions have slowed down the spread of disease caused by coronavirus in the country. The effect can be seen in Pakistan's much flatter curve compared with most other nations, including highly developed ones, that have seen a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases and deaths. The federal government has launched an $8 billion stimulus program to deal with the economic impact of COVID19 on small businesses and the poor daily wage earners.  Meanwhile,  the nation's central bank has significantly cut interest rates from double digits down to single digit.  It is these results that have produced overwhelming approval of Prime Minister Imran Khan's handling of the coronavirus crisis. Let's hope the government in Pakistan will handle the aftermath of the crisis even better.

Here's a World Economic Forum video of Pakistan's tree-planting campaign during the pandemic:

https://youtu.be/1iwT30Vd88E




Related Links: