Sunday, March 28, 2021

Is "Ever Given" Container Ship's Indian Crew At Fault For Blocking the Suez Canal?

Ever Given container ship that ran aground and blocked all shipping traffic through the Suez Canal, the busiest waterway in the world, has just been re-floated.  The mega cargo ship's captain and the entire crew are Indian, the owners and shipbuilders are Japanese, the operator is German, the insurance company is British, the charterer is Taiwanese and the cargo is Chinese, according to media reports. The ship was reported blown aground by strong winds. 

Ever Given Stuck in Suez Canal. Source: Bloomberg

The 200,000-ton, 1,312 ft-long, 175 ft-wide cargo ship got stuck in the Suez Canal last Tuesday. About 30% of global cargo ship traffic remained blocked with 50 ships added to the jam every day the vessel remained stuck, As of yesterday, there were $10 billion worth of goods with nowhere to go with more than 300 ships carrying products across multiple industries now stuck in the gridlock.

This is a major incident that will undoubtedly be investigated to prevent its recurrence. Early reports, however, indicate that there were significant errors made by the crew which might have contributed to the problem. Moments before the ship ran aground, the Ever Given was apparently traveling faster than the speed limit set by the Suez Canal Authority, Bloomberg reported. The ship's last recorded speed was 13.5 knots, logged 12 minutes before it grounded, according to Bloomberg, which cited its own data. The maximum allowed speed through the canal was between 7.6 knots and 8.6 knots, the report said. The Japan Times also reported the ship was traveling 13.5 knots, adding that two canal pilots were onboard when the ship hit land.  

A Wall Street Journal report said that this is not the first time Ever Given has had problems at sea. On Feb. 9, 2019, the container ship ran into the 75-foot Finkenwerder, a pleasure ferry that was moored alongside a pontoon along the Elbe River in a suburb of Hamburg, Germany. It couldn't be learned if the current Indian captain of the ship was its captain when it hit the ferry.   


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Hindu Rashtra: Will Modi's Hindutva Lead to Multiple Partitions of India?

Sheikh Alam, a Muslim leader of Mamta Banerjee's Trinamool Congress Party, has recently been quoted in the Indian media as saying: "We  (Muslims)  are 30% and they (Hindus) are 70% They will come to power with the support of the 70%, they should be ashamed. If our Muslim population moves to one side then we can create four new Pakistans. Where will 70% of the population go?"  

Quaid-e-Azam's Demand For Pakistan: 

TMC leader Sheikh Alam's words today are a reminder of the demand for Pakistan in 1940s. It arose from the majoritarian tyranny of the Hindu-dominated Indian National Congress after 1937 elections in India. Speaking in Lucknow in October 1937, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah said the following: 

"The present leadership of the Congress, especially during the last ten years, has been responsible for alienating the Musalmans of lndia more and more, by pursuing a policy which is exclusively Hindu; and since they have formed the Governments in six provinces where they are in a majority they have by their words, deeds, and programme shown more and more that the Musalmans cannot expect any justice or fair play at their hands. Whenever they are in majority and wherever it suited them, they refused to co-operate with the Muslim League Parties and demanded unconditional surrender and signing of their pledges."

Ex PM Manmohan Singh's Fears:

Former India Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh's fears of India's disintegration are much more tangible now than ever before. In an interview on BBC's Hard Talk with Indian journalist Karan Thapar in 1999, Mr. Singh: "Great Nations like the Soviet Union have perished. If we continue to mis-manage our economy and continue to divide our country on the basis of religion, caste or other sectarian issues there is a danger of that sort of thing happening".  

Today, the rise of Hindutva forces is tearing India apart along caste and religious lines as the country celebrates its Republic Day.  Hindu mobs are lynching Muslims and Dalits. A  Pew Research report confirms that the level of hostility against religious minorities in India is "very high", giving India a score of 9.5 on a scale from 0 to 10. Pakistan's score on this scale is 7 while Bangladesh's is 7.5.

Chart Courtesy of Bloomberg

Will India Break Up? 

In a book entitled "The Raisina Model",  British-Indian author Lord Meghnad Desai asks: "A country of many nations, will India break up?" The Hindu Nationalists who are blamed for deepening divisions are themselves divided on the key questions of caste, religion and trade.  Professor Walter Anderson, co-author of "The RSS: The View to the Inside" raises the specter of "a battle between Hindutva and Hinduism".



The Raisina Model:

In "The Raisina Model", Lord Meghand Desai says that India's breakup can not be ruled out. Specifically, he points to three issues that could lead to it:

1.  Cow protection squads are killing Muslims and jeopardizing their livelihoods.  The current agitation about beef eating and gau raksha is in the Hindi belt just an excuse for attacking Muslims blatantly. As most slaughterhouses in UP are Muslim-owned, owners and employees of these places are prime targets.

2. India has still not fashioned a narrative about its nationhood which can satisfy all. The two rival narratives—secular and Hindu nation—are both centred in the Hindi belt extending to Gujarat and Maharashtra at the most. This area comprises 51% of the total population and around 45% of the Muslims in India.

3. India has avoided equal treatment of unequal units. Representation in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) is proportional to population size. If anything, it is the smaller states that may complain about being marginalized, though so far none has. The larger states thus dominate both Houses of Parliament. It would be difficult for small states to object, much less initiate reform. In future, small states could unite to present their case for better treatment. Except for Punjab and Nagaland, there has been no attempt to challenge the status quo.


Map of India(s) on the eve of British conquest in 1764



Hindutva vs Hinduism:

In  "The RSS: The View to the Inside", the author Walter Anderson brings out several areas which could lead to a split within the Hindu Nationalists. These disagreements have to do with low caste Hindus, Muslims and  foreign trade and investment policies.

1. The leadership of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is drawn entirely from the upper caste Brahmins. The RSS founder Golwalkar never spoke against the caste system. The RSS opposes affirmative action, called reservations, to benefit low caste Hindus. At the same time, they want to integrate Dalits and OBCs (Other backward classes of which Prime Minister Modi is a member) into the organization to promote Hindu unity.

Anderson believes that it will be extremely difficult to reconcile Hindutva embrace of lower castes with the entrenched Hindu caste system. He says the following:

"..there will eventually be a battle between Hindutva and Hinduism. Hindutva emphasizes the oneness of Hindus, whereas ground realities are very different. Let me give an example. Following the egalitarian ideology, Tarun Vijay, an RSS ideologue and former editor of Panchjanya and Organiser, once led some Dalits into a temple in central India, where they had not been before. He was beaten up, but few in the RSS family vocally supported him. They kept mostly quiet. As one important RSS functionary put it to me, the key question is: how do we keep our organisation intact if we do move towards an egalitarian Hindu society?"

2. When RSS leader MD Deoras invited Indian Muslims to join the RSS, he argued that Muslims were mostly India-born, and therefore Indian. But he made the Muslim entry into the RSS conditional upon accepting India’s “historic culture”.  RSS leaders argue that South Indian Muslims, or Indonesian Muslims are ideal Muslims. South Indian Muslims speak the regional languages; and Indonesia, a primarily Muslim country, has the Ramayana as its national epic.

3. Many RSS ideologues oppose Prime Minister Modi's policies of promoting foreign trade and investment. They view Modi's economic policies with great skepticism.


Summary:

Sheikh Alam's talk of carving "four Pakistans" out of India is a reminder of Quaid-e-Azam's words after 1937 elections during the British Raj. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar's fears of War on Indian Muslims are also becoming reality. Former India PM Manmohan Singh has warned: "Great Nations like the Soviet Union have perished. If we continue to mis-manage our economy and continue to divide our country on the basis of religion, caste or other sectarian issues there is a danger of that sort of thing happening". The rise of RSS and its affiliates in India is deepening divisions in the country along multiple fault lines, the most important being caste and religion. The RSS leadership itself is not unified on how to deal with the divisions they have created and promoted. This situation has raised the social hostilities in India to very high levels. Pew scores social hostilities against minorities in India at 9.5 on a scale from 0 to 10.  Professor Walter Anderson, co-author of "The RSS: The View to the Inside" has raised the specter of "a battle between Hindutva and Hinduism". And it has caused Lord Meghnad Desai, author of The Raisina Model, to ask the question: Will India break up?

Here's ex PM Manmohan Singh on Hard Talk with Karan Thapar: 




Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Pakistan Tech Exports Soar 69% in February 2021

Pakistan's technology exports shot up by 69% in February 2021 from the same month last year. Tech exports soared 41% for the first 8 months (July 2020-February 2021) of the current fiscal year from the same period period last year, according data released by the State Bank of Pakistan. 

Pakistan Tech Exports Trend. Source: Arif Habib Securities


Technology services exports from Pakistan continued their momentum into February 2021, rocketing up 69% to $179 million, up from $106 million in February 2020. ICT exports for the first 8 months of the ongoing fiscal year 2020-2021 rose 41% to $1.3 billion, on track to reach or surpass the $2 billion mark this year. 

In addition to jump in tech services exports, Pakistan is also seeing double-digit growth in exports of engineering goods, up 19.74% for the first 8 months of the current fiscal year.  Export of electric fans posted over 15% growth and other electrical machinery 17.16%.


There is real hope for Pakistan to dramatically increase its higher value-added exports if the current trends in tech services and engineering goods can be sustained. Seizing the opportunity to attract export-oriented investors will help Pakistan become the next Asian Asian Tiger economy. It will help the country avoid recurring balance-of-payments crises that have forced the nation to seek IMF bailouts with all their tough conditions. Focusing on "Plug and Play" Special Economic Zones (SEZs) is going to be essential to achieve this objective.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Pakistan's Happiness Index Score Suffers Steep Decline Amid COVID19 Pandemic

Amid the COVID19 pandemic, Pakistan's World Happiness ranking has dropped from 66 (score 5.693) among 153 nations last year to 105 (score 4.934) among 149 nations ranked this year. Neighboring India is ranked 139 and Afghanistan is last at 149. Nepal is ranked 87, Bangladesh 101, Pakistan 105, Myanmar126 and Sri Lanka129. Finland retained the top spot for happiness and the United States ranks 19th. 

Pakistan Happiness Index Trend 2013-2021


One of the key reasons for decline of happiness in Pakistan is that the country was forced to significantly devalue its currency as part of the IMF bailout it needed to deal with a severe balance-of-payments crisis. The rupee devaluation sparked inflation, particularly food and energy inflation. Global food prices also soared by double digits amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to Bloomberg News. Bloomberg Agriculture Subindex, a measure of key farm goods futures contracts, is up almost 20% since June. It may in part be driven by speculators in the commodities markets. These rapid price rises have hit the people in Pakistan and the rest of the world hard. In spite of these hikes, Pakistan remains among the least expensive places for food, according to recent studies. It is important for Pakistan's federal and provincial governments to rise up to the challenge and relieve the pain inflicted on the average Pakistani consumer.  

The year 2020 has been a tough year for the world as the COVID19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll both in terms of physical and economic health of the people. Jeffrey Sachs, a development economist who contributed to the report, addressed the impact of the pandemic by saying: “We need urgently to learn from COVID-19. The pandemic reminds us of our global environmental threats, the urgent need to cooperate, and the difficulties of achieving cooperation in each country and globally. The World Happiness Report 2021 reminds us that we must aim for wellbeing rather than mere wealth, which will be fleeting indeed if we don’t do a much better job of addressing the challenges of sustainable development.”

Pakistan Happiness Trend 2005-2021. Source: World Happiness Report 2021


The World Happiness Report 2021 uses metrics such as GDP, social support, personal freedom and levels of corruption to give each nation a happiness score, which is an average of the past three years. But unlike in the past years, this year the index included surveys on how countries have dealt with the COVID19 pandemic.



Thursday, March 18, 2021

Biden's Hypocrisy: Putin is a Killer But Modi is a US Ally

"Putin is a killer", declared President Joseph R. Biden in a recent interview with George Stephanopoulos  of ABC News. This stands in sharp contrast to what former President Donald J. Trump said in a 2017 Super Bowl Sunday interview Fox News when host Bill O'Reilly  authoritatively declared Russian President Vladimir “Putin’s a killer.” Trump replied with the question: “What, you think our country’s so innocent?”

President Biden with Prime Minister Modi

Biden is declaring Putin a "killer" while at the same time embracing India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has killed thousands of Muslims. In fact, Modi was shunned by the United States and much of the civilized world for over a decade for his part in the 2002 Gujarat massacre of Indian Muslims. His policies as prime minister indicate that he's not a changed man. 

Biden needs to understand that Modi's Hindutva and America's Christian White Supremacists who attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 have a lot in common. He should listen to Meena Harris, Vice President  Kamala Harris' niece, who recently tweeted: "It’s time to talk about violent Hindu extremism”. Referring to a headline about "violent Christian extremism", Harris said "it's all connected". Hindu trolls have launched hateful misogynistic campaign against Harris and other western female celebrities who have recently tweeted in support of farm protesters. 

In response to a Hindu troll accusing Meena Harris of "Hinduphobia", she tweeted: "I'm a Hindu. Stop using religion as a cover for fascism".  

Rihanna, Greta Thunberg and Meena Harris

It started when singer Rihanna, who has more than 100 million Twitter followers, tweeted “why aren’t we talking about this?!”, with a link to a news story about an internet blackout at the protest camps where tens of thousands of farmers have been protesting for over two months. Teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg also tweeted a story about the internet blackout, saying: “We stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India.” Both drew threats of rape and violence from hordes of Hindu trolls rampaging Twitter.  Some hailed the 2009 violent assault on Rihanna by singer  Chris Brown and said it was well-deserved. 

Meena Harris Tweet. Source: Twitter

"Is Rihanna Muslim" started to trend on Google. Many Hindu trolls talked of links between Rihanna and Muslims, Khalistan and Pakistan and even claimed  Rihanna was paid to tweet in support of farmers. 

India Leads the World in Internet Shutdowns in 2020 Source: Access Now

The phenomenon of Hindu trolls issuing threats of violence and rape is not new.  It has been well documented by Indian journalist Swati Chaturvedi in a book entitled "I am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of BJP's Digital Army" as far as 2017. She found that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi follows hundreds of twitter accounts regularly tweeting abuses and threats of rape and other forms of physical violence against Indian actors, artists, politicians, journalists, minorities in India and individuals of Pakistani origin.

Until recently, the main target of violent Hindu extremists have been primarily Muslims and liberal Hindus. But now the threats of violence and rape against western celebrities are beginning to expose the ugly face of violent Hindu Nationalism. It is  now getting coverage in mainstream western media. 

Meena Harris is absolutely right in her assertion that "it's all connected". It is a historical fact that Hindu Nationalist ideology draws its inspiration from violent European movements like Fascism and Nazism. B.S. Monnje was the first Hindu nationalist who met Mussolini in 1931. 

Hindu nationalists, now led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India, have a long history of admiration for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, including his "Final Solution". In his book "We" (1939), Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the leader of the Hindu Nationalist RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) wrote, "To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races -- the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by."  

It is important to note that the vast majority of Indian-Americans vote for Democrats but most still support India's Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Modi who endorsed former President Trump in 2020 presidential elections. In December 2020, the Carnegie Endowment published a study detailing the political attitudes of Indian Americans: 56 percent of Indian Americans self-identified as Democrats, 22 percent as independents, and 15 percent as Republicans; 72 percent of Indian Americans planned on voting for Biden this election, while 22 percent responded with support for Trump. The same survey found that while Indian American Trump voters and Republicans were much more enthusiastic about Modi, a majority of all Indian Americans supported Modi

Here's a video clip of American historian Dr. Audrey Truschke on the Nazi inspired Hindutva ideology:

https://youtu.be/XbFrxTbxBAw



Here's a video of American journalist Mike Wallace asking Louis Farrakhan about Nigeria, calling the most populous African country "the most corrupt nation in the world": Here's Farrakhan's response: Every nation has its problems. Nigeria has serous problems. But it's only 35 years old. And America have been around for over 200 years and it is in no position to judge others on corruption and democracy. Black people in America got the right to vote only a few decades ago. And America has blood on its hands, the blood of millions of native Americans and the blood of the Japanese who died in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Let's not moralize. Let's help them.
 
https://youtu.be/DfXLC4jQZ2M 


 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Pakistan Starts Producing Denim Jeans From Hemp ( بھنگ) Fiber

Quest for sustainable fiber with antimicrobial properties has created a global market for hemp (بھنگ) that grows wild in Pakistan. The ongoing COVID19 pandemic and increasing climate concerns have given further impetus to this movement. Responding to shifting market preferences, major Pakistani denim makers Artistic Milliners and US Denim have now begun producing new denim fabrics blending cotton with hemp

Hemp Jeans

At last year's Kingpin Show online, Karachi-based Artistic Milliners presented its Bio Vision 2.0 collection that is based on guidelines set by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Jeans Redesign, featuring biodegradable fibers that provide optimal recovery, according to Sourcing Journal. The mill’s circular focus is also displayed in its Circular Blue New collection, which is made of 100 percent recycled cotton and uses post-consumer, pre-consumer and industrial waste. Lahore-based US Denim’s latest collections also focus on sustainability and feature recycled and biodegradable fibers. Its Reborn product is “sustainable from every angle” and uses recycled cotton, elastane and polyester; aniline-free dyestuff; and water-safe dyeing methods. 

Sourcing Journal reported that "the Pakistan-based fabric mill also highlighted its use of cottonized hemp, which checks off multiple boxes for consumers, as the fiber is both sustainable and naturally antimicrobial. Its IntelliJeans collection features hemp sourced from China that is free of pesticides and uses 86 percent less water than conventional products". 

Scientists at Agriculture University in Faisalabad are working on creating the blends needed to satisfy the need for sustainability, softness and antimicrobial properties, according to BBC Urdu.  Dr Asad Farooq of the UAF was quoted by the media as saying: "We have signed an MoU with a US-based company and will soon begin mass production". 

Pakistan government has decided to permit hemp farming for industrial and medicinal use, according to Mr. Fawad Chaudhry, Minister of Science and Technology. Initially, the government will control hemp production, Chaudhry said, but private businesses and farmers will be allowed to enter the market at a later date, according to the French news agency AFP.

Hemp ( بھنگ ) plants grow wild like weeds in many parts of Pakistan, particularly in Potohar region where the nation's capital Islamabad is located. Hemp is one of the oldest plants on record as having been used to benefit humans. Hemp is known to have at least 50,000 different uses.  In South Asia, people have been cultivating hemp to make ropes and bags and to smoke hashish for centuries.

The government has picked International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) to help regulate hemp products in Pakistan, according to HempToday, a publication that covers the hemp industry. Located at the University of Karachi, it has all the equipment and expertise needed for validation and compliance certification of hemp products in the country, according to Dr. Iqbal Chaudhry, the Center’s Director. He said Pakistan can develop value-added products for export using ICCBS’s research facilities.


Hemp (بھنگ) Applications


It is hard to tell hemp and marijuana plants apart. Both look the same. However, unlike marijuana, hemp does not contain large amount of high-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which can be addictive. However, it can still be used to produce CBD (cannabinoid) for medical purposes.  US Law requires that hemp not contain more than 0.3% THC.

In addition to using CBD in food and medicine, there are many different industrial uses of hemp as well. It can be used in textiles, paper, building materials and body care products.

Pakistan can export CBD to European Union and the United States where it has been legalized and being used to fight the side effects of cancer chemotherapy. The estimated global current market opportunity for CBD is about $25 billion."This hemp market could provide Pakistan with some $1 billion (in export earnings) in the next three years and we are in a process of making a full-fledged plan for this purpose," Mr. Chaudhry told the media recently. He also said that with cotton production in Pakistan declining due to various factors, hemp provided farmers with a viable alternative.

Hemp is probably the strongest natural fiber known to man. It has been used to make ropes, bags and textile fabrics for centuries. Rope beds, known as charpais, are still a common sight in rural Pakistan. Using hemp instead of trees in making paper and packaging materials can help save Pakistan's meager forests, and help diversify exports to earn valuable foreign exchange.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Pakistan Pharma Industry Among World's Fastest Growing

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

Pakistani-American Woman Featured in Netflix Documentary "Pandemic"

Coronavirus Lockdown, Lives and Livelihoods

Can Pakistan Effectively Respond to Coronavirus Outbreak? 

Pakistan's Computer Services Exports

Pakistan Mobile Phone Manufacturing

Pakistan's Aircraft Exports

How Grim is Pakistan's Social Sector Progress?

Major Tipping Point: Pakistan Middle Class Grows to 55% Of Population

Pakistan Fares Marginally Better Than India On Disease Burdens

Can Imran Khan Lead Pakistan to the Next Level?

Clean Energy Revolution in Pakistan

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

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Bangladesh: Development Over Democracy

Until 2010, Bangladesh was a laggard in South Asia region. Its per capita income was about half of Pakistan's. Now Bangladesh's per capita gdp is higher than both India's and Pakistan's. What changed? The biggest change is Bangladeshi leader Shaikh Hasina's decision to stifle the unruly Opposition and the media to bring political and economic stability to the South Asian nation of 160 million people. It has eliminated a constant sense of crisis and assured investors and businesses of continuity of government policies. With development taking precedence over democracy, Shaikh Hasina followed the example of Asian Tigers  by focusing on export-led economic growth of her country. She incentivized the export-oriented garment industry and invested in human development. Bangladesh now outperforms India and Pakistan in a whole range of socioeconomic indicators: exports, economic growth, infant mortality rate, primary school enrollment, fertility rate and life expectancy.       

South Asian Countries' Export Growth. Source: Wall Street Journal


Bangladesh's Exports:

Bangladesh's garment exports have helped its economy outshine India's and Pakistan's in the last decade. Impressed by Bangladesh's progress, the United Nations’ Committee for Development Policy has recommended that the country be upgraded from least developed category that it has held the last 50 years. 

Per Capita Income Growth in Pakistan 2002-2019. Source: World Bank


The next challenge for Bangladesh is to move toward higher-value add manufacturing and exports, as Vietnam has done. Its export industry is still overwhelmingly focused on garment manufacturing. The country’s economic complexity, ranked by Harvard University’s Growth Lab, is 108 out of the 133 countries measured. That is actually lower than it was in 1995, according to the Wall Street Journal

Pakistan Growth By Decades. Source: National Trade and Transport Facility


Vietnam's Rise:

Vietnam ruled by autocrats is rapidly becoming an Asian Tiger. With rising manufacturing costs in China and the US-China trade war,  many major manufacturers are relocating to other countries in Asia. This situation has helped Vietnam emerge as a hub of foreign direct investment (FDI). FDI flow into the country has averaged more than 6% of GDP, the highest of any emerging economy. The country’s recent economic data shows a rise of 18% in exports, with a 26% jump in computers/components exports and a 63% jump in machinery/accessories exports.  These figures have earned Vietnam the moniker of the newest "Asian Tiger".

Musharraf Years & History of Pakistan's GDP Growth Rates. Source: PBS 



Pakistan's Lost Decade:

It was in 2007 that Pakistan caught the "democracy" fever led by the lawless lawyers of Lahore. This led to the return of corrupt dynastic rule of Asif Zardari and then Nawaz Sharif. The year 2007 also marked the beginning of yet another lost decade that saw Pakistan's per capita gdp's continuing lag behind South Asia region and other emerging economies. 

Pakistan's per capita income started to lag behind other emerging nations in 2007



Pakistan's Potential: 

Pakistan was the original "Asian Tiger" back in the 1960s when  other developing Asian economies sought to emulate its development model. It became an export powerhouse in the 1960s when the country's manufactured exports exceeded those of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia combined.  The creation of major industrial estates in Karachi under President Ayub Khan's industrial policy incentivized industrial production and exports of value added manufactured products such as textiles. Now the country's industrial output lags its neighbors'. 

History of Pakistan's Manufactured Exports


With Chinese looking to relocate some of their industrial production to low-cost countries, Pakistan has a golden opportunity to grow its industrial output and exports again. Here's Karen Chen explaining why:

“Vietnam is too crowded already and moved into automobiles and electronics. There is no space for investment in Vietnam. Myanmar doesn’t have infrastructure. India is terrible. In Bangladesh you don’t have right conditions for setting up fabric units. So Pakistan is the ideal location for such garment manufacturing because of abundance of cheaper labour. The investment and tax policies for SEZs and new projects are also good. We’ve confidence to be at here.”

Seizing the opportunity to attract export-oriented investors will help Pakistan become the next Asian Asian Tiger economy. It will help the country avoid recurring balance-of-payments crises that have forced the nation to seek IMF bailouts with all their tough conditions. Focusing on "Plug and Play" Special Economic Zones (SEZs) is going to be essential to achieve this objective.

A video of retired General Amjad Shoaib responding to the question: "Is Pakistani military establishment to blame for all of Pakistan's problems?" He answers: "Yes, the Pakistani military produced Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif....Zardari also rose from the NRO (pardon) granted by the Pakistani military". But then he asks: "Who forced the people to vote for them? Shouldn't the people share the blame for the ascent of these politician?" 

https://youtu.be/6GWid1ypa-k

     

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

India's Top Cheerleader Fareed Zakaria Acknowledges the Ugly Truth About His Native Land

In "Post-American World" published in 2011, CNN GPS host Fareed Zakaria described India as a "powerful package" and claimed that his country of birth has been "peaceful, stable, and prosperous". It all changed on March 7, 2021, when Zakaria finally spoke out the ugly truth about his native land. "A central thrust of the government's illiberalism relates to its efforts to promote Hindu nationalism, singling out India's Muslim minority", said Zakaria. In a rare moment of candor, he even came close to acknowledging India's military occupation of Kashmir when he said: "In 2020, Kashmir's (Freedom House)  score plummeted. Currently, it is rated as "not free," on par with dictatorships and police states". 

Freedom House 2021 Democracy Map. Source: Freedom House

While it was the first time that Zakaria used his global platform as CNN GPS host to criticize India, it seems that Prime Minister Modi's rule has been a source of great consternation for him. Speaking with Indian journalist Shekhar Gupta on The Print YouTube channel last year, Fareed Zakaria called the Indian state an “inefficient state”.“Indian government functions very poorly, even in comparison to other developing countries. Coronavirus has highlighted that reality, " he added. He did not clearly speak about the lynchings of Indian Muslims by people affiliated with the ruling BJP and the brutality of Indian military against Kashmiri Muslims, but he did ask: “What I wonder about (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi is, is he really bringing all of India along with him? He noted sadly:”India seems like roadkill for China".


Has New Delhi's abject failure in containing the coronavirus pandemic finally done what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's extreme brutality and open hatred against Zakaria's fellow Indian Muslims could not do? Has he really had it with Hindu Nationalist government? While he has not used his perch on CNN to do it, it appears that he has started expressing his disapproval of the performance on other platforms.

 Here are a few of the key points Fareed Zakaria made while speaking with Shekhar Gupta:

1. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Indian government, and by that I mean the Delhi government, has handled this crisis (COVID19) very poorly.

2. Indian government functions very poorly, even in comparison to other developing countries. Coronavirus has highlighted that reality.

3. In a way, India seems like roadkill for China’s obsession with absolute control over their borders. I do think there is an opportunity here for diplomacy. I don’t think India needs to be confrontational about it (the LAC issue), but of course it should push back.

4. It is now a bipolar world. US and China are way ahead of the rest of the world. For the long term, India needs to decide it’s position with China.

4. Turkey under Erdogan has become more confident and independent. It is culturally proud. It is telling Americans to buzz off.

5. Popularity of political leaders around the  world is linked to their performance on the coronavirus pandemic. In India, however, the issues of religion and caste are still dominating.

6.  What I wonder about (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi is, is he really bringing all of India along with him? How many Muslims in Indian government? Or South Indians in BJP? It is much less diverse than Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's cabinet.

7. I have been very sad to see how Indian democracy has developed over the last few years. It has become an illiberal democracy.

8. The India media is slavishly pro-government. Self-censorship is widespread in India.

9. The Indian courts fold in cases where government takes serious interest.

It has become increasingly clear that India's loudest cheerleaders like Fareed Zakaria are now starting to see the stark reality of Modi's India as a big failure on multiple fronts. Indian state has failed to contain the deadly COVID19 pandemic. India's economy is in serious trouble. The country's democracy is in decline. India seems like a roadkill for China. This turn of events has created serious problems for Pakistani "liberals" who have long seen and often cited India as a successful example of "secular democracy" at work in South Asia.

Here's a video clip of Zakaria's March 7, 2020 show where he criticized India:

https://youtu.be/x_s3oKmvcnY

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

COVID19 in Pakistan: Test Positivity Rate and Deaths Declining

Fareed Zakaria Never Misses Any Opportunity to Bash Pakistan

Retired Justice Markanday Katju on Modi's India

Lynchistan: India is the Lynching Capital of the World

73 Year After Independence, Caste-Ridden India Dominated By Brahmins

Pakistan's Pharma Industry Among World's Fastest Growing

Is Pakistan's Response to COVID19 Flawed?

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

Coronavirus, Lives and Livelihoods in Pakistan

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

Pakistani-American Woman Featured in Netflix Documentary "Pandemic"

Coronavirus Antibodies Testing in Pakistan

Can Pakistan Effectively Respond to Coronavirus Outbreak? 

How Grim is Pakistan's Social Sector Progress?

Pakistan Fares Marginally Better Than India On Disease Burdens

Trump Picks Muslim-American to Lead Vaccine Effort

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

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Asif Zardari: A Corrupt Master Manipulator?

The recent shock defeat of  Dr. Hafeez Shaikh, Prime Minister Imran Khan's nominee for the Senate, has former President Asif Ali Zardari's fingerprints on it. The former president and current co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party orchestrated the buying of votes and arranged the hundreds of millions of rupees used for the purpose to ensure former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani's surprise victory in the recent Senate Elections. Zardari has been widely known to be "in his elements" when it comes to "money transactions". 

L to R: Khurshid Shah, Asif Ali Zaradri, Yusuf Raza Gilani


What Mr. Zardari pulled off is a reminder of what he did for Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, his late wife who faced almost certain defeat in a no-confidence motion against her in November, 1989. In his recent book entitled "The Bhutto Dynasty", veteran British journalist Owen Bennet Jones offers several specific instances of how the Bhuttos used money for political gain. One such instance was when Benazir Bhutto's husband Asif Ali Zardari helped her defeat a no-confidence motion in 1989 that appeared to be all but certain to remove her from power. Here are the relevant excerpts of the book:

"Having seen politics close up when her father was in power, Benazir had long been aware that money played a part in Pakistani politics. But now it could not have been clearer: if one of her National Assembly members was being offered a bribe to switch to the opposition, she needed to be able to match it............As another of her political advisers later recalled, ‘Asif’s role became more prominent when she beat back the motion of no confidence. There was some wheeler dealing in that. Some buying of votes. The moment money transactions came into play, Asif was in his element.’ Asif Zardari has consistently denied any financial malpractice. During her second government, Benazir told an aide that you needed to have $200–300 million to go into an election so that you could fund your candidates and secure their loyalty. While many of her advisers gave her plenty of interesting suggestions about what to do, Zardari actually did things, proving himself to be a man she could rely on" 

Forms of Corruption and Impact. Source: Dr. Yuen Yuen Ang



Owen Bennet Jones has described in some detail how Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir Bhutto saw the role of money in Pakistani politics. Here's an excerpt of Benazir's candid admission that "kickbacks must be taken":

"In a surprisingly unguarded interview with the American Academy of Achievement in 2000 she (Benazir Bhutto) said, while denying personal involvement, that she wished she had done more to tackle corruption: ‘We all knew kickbacks must be taken . . . these things happen.’Politicians everywhere, she argued, made money. The difference was that while Western politicians did so after they left office, their counterparts in the developing world did not have that option".

Owen Bennet Jones has reported another instance in which Zulfikar Ali Bhutto gave away bundles of cash to a religious leader who was the last hold-out against the adoption of the 1973 constitution. Here is the excerpt:

"It was, by any standards, extraordinary that Zulfikar managed to push it through with no one in the National Assembly voting against it. Mubashir Hassan described how the final hold-out – a cleric – was persuaded to vote in favour with a payoff: ‘The amount was settled and Bhutto described the scene to me how when the fellow came to President’s House to collect the money, Bhutto threw a packet of notes on the floor and ordered him to pick it up. There the man was, moving over the carpet on all fours, picking a bundle from here and a bundle from there. Bhutto was mightily amused. By using all his political skills – bribery included – Zulfikar had made a significant contribution to Pakistan’s national story." 

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Political Patronage in Pakistan

Zardari Corruption

Panama Papers

US Aid to Pakistan

1971 Debacle in East Pakistan

Is it 1971 Moment in Pakistan's History?

Mission RAW by RK Yadav: India in East Pakistan

Benazir Bhutto Gave Birth to Taliban

What if Musharraf Had Said No to US After 911?

Riaz Haq Youtube Channel

VPOS Youtube Channel

Friday, March 5, 2021

Can Pakistan Follow Vietnam's Example to Become the Next Asian Tiger?

Vietnam has attracted major manufacturing and export-oriented industries that have relocated from China as the US-China trade war heated up. This process further accelerated during the COVID19 pandemic in the year 2020. As a result, Vietnam is now labeled by many analysts as "The Newest Asian Tiger". Bangladesh, too, has attracted export-oriented garment manufacturing industries.  Can Pakistan follow Vietnam's and Bangladesh's examples? Pakistan was the original Asian Tiger back in the 1960s when other developing Asian nations sought to emulate its development model.  

Vietnam's Rise:

With rising manufacturing costs in China and the US-China trade war,  many major manufacturers are relocating to other countries in Asia. This situation has helped Vietnam emerge as a hub of foreign direct investment (FDI). FDI flow into the country has averaged more than 6% of GDP, the highest of any emerging economy. The country’s recent economic data shows a rise of 18% in exports, with a 26% jump in computers/components exports and a 63% jump in machinery/accessories exports.  These figures have earned Vietnam the moniker of the newest "Asian Tiger". 


South Asian Countries' Export Growth. Source: Wall Street Journal


Bangladesh's Exports:

Bangladesh's garment exports have helped its economy outshine India's and Pakistan's in the last decade. Impressed by Bangladesh's progress, the United Nations’ Committee for Development Policy has recommended that the country be upgraded from least developed category that it has held the last 50 years. 

The next challenge for Bangladesh is to move toward higher-value add manufacturing and exports, as Vietnam has done. Its export industry is still overwhelmingly focused on garment manufacturing. The country’s economic complexity, ranked by Harvard University’s Growth Lab, is 108 out of the 133 countries measured. That is actually lower than it was in 1995, according to the Wall Street Journal


Pakistan's Potential: 

Pakistan was the original "Asian Tiger" back in the 1960s when  other developing Asian economies sought to emulate its development model. It became an export powerhouse in the 1960s when the country's manufactured exports exceeded those of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia combined.  The creation of major industrial estates in Karachi under President Ayub Khan's industrial policy incentivized industrial production and exports of value added manufactured products such as textiles. Now the country's industrial output lags its neighbors'. 

History of Pakistan's Manufactured Exports


With Chinese looking to relocate some of their industrial production to low-cost countries, Pakistan has a golden opportunity to grow its industrial output and exports again. Here's Karen Chen explaining why:

“Vietnam is too crowded already and moved into automobiles and electronics. There is no space for investment in Vietnam. Myanmar doesn’t have infrastructure. India is terrible. In Bangladesh you don’t have right conditions for setting up fabric units. So Pakistan is the ideal location for such garment manufacturing because of abundance of cheaper labour. The investment and tax policies for SEZs and new projects are also good. We’ve confidence to be at here.”

Seizing the opportunity to attract export-oriented investors will help Pakistan become the next Asian Asian Tiger economy. It will help the country avoid recurring balance-of-payments crises that have forced the nation to seek IMF bailouts with all their tough conditions. Focusing on "Plug and Play" Special Economic Zones (SEZs) is going to be essential to achieve this objective.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Indian Engineering Students Perform Poorly on International Assessment Tests

The results of a test called "Supertest", developed by researchers from the US, China, Russia and India,, show that Indian engineering students perform very poorly relative to their  peers in other countries. Supertest is the first study to track the progress of students in computer science and electrical engineering over the course of their studies with regard to their abilities in physics, mathematics and critical thinking and compare the results among four countries.  

Supertest was initiated by Stanford University, HSE University Moscow, the Educational Testing Service (ETS), and partner universities in China and India, according to Phys.org.  Here's an excerpt of the article in journal that explains the test:

"More than 30,000 undergraduate students participated in the study. The researchers collected a sample of students from elite and large universities, roughly equal in number for each country. In Russia, the sample included students from six Project 5-100 universities and 28 other universities. Their skill development was measured three times: upon entering university, at the end of their second year, and at the end of their studies........Russian engineering students outperform Indian students while performing lower than Chinese students. In terms of developing these skills over the course of their studies, students of all three countries perform lower than students in the United States. "We found that, as the students progress in their studies, their critical thinking skills remain approximately the same in Russia and India, but significantly decrease in China. On the contrary, American students show improvement," said Igor Chirikov. This is a serious problem, the researchers note, because technologies change rapidly, and in order to be able to master new ones, you need not only a firm grasp of the subject area, but, above all, skills of the 21st century".


Earlier testing of Indian students on international assessment tests has also shown that they rank near the bottom on PISA, a global test of learning standards conducted in 74 nations in 2011.  TIMSS, another standardized international test, produced similar results earlier in 2003.


The year 2011 was the first time that Indian students participated in PISA. Students from Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu took the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, coordinated by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Prior to this participation, students from Indian states of Orissa and Rajasthan took a similar test called Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2003.

Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh rank high on human development indicators among Indian states. The India Human Development Report 2011, prepared by the Institute of Applied Manpower Research (IAMR), categorized them as “median” states, putting them significantly ahead of the national average. IAMR is an autonomous arm of India's Planning Commission.



Himachal Pradesh ranked 4 and Tamil Nadu 11 in literacy rates on India's National Family Health Survey released in 2007. However, in the PISA study, Tamil Nadu ranked 72 and Himachal Pradesh 73, just ahead of the bottom-ranked Kyrgyzstan in mathematics and overall reading skills. Shanghai, China's biggest city, topped the PISA rankings in all three categories—overall reading skills, mathematical and scientific literacy. The new entrants included Costa Rica, Georgia, India (Himachal Pradesh & Tamil Nadu), Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Venezuela (Miranda), Moldova, United Arab Emirates. PISA 2009+ involved testing just over 46 000 students across these ten economies, representing a total of about 1,377,000 15-year-olds.


In Tamil Nadu, only 17% of students were estimated to possess proficiency in reading that is at or above the baseline needed to be effective and productive in life. In Himachal Pradesh, this level is 11%. “This compares to 81% of students performing at or above the baseline level in reading in the OECD countries, on an average,” said the study.

The average Indian child taking part in PISA2009+ is 40 to 50 points behind the worst students in the economic superstars. Even the best performers in Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh - the top 5 percent who India will need in science and technology to compete globally - were almost 100 points behind the average child in Singapore and 83 points behind the average Korean - and a staggering 250 points behind the best in the best.

The average child in HP & TN is right at the level of the worst OECD or American students (only 1.5 or 7.5 points ahead). Contrary to President Obama's oft-expressed concerns about American students ability to compete with their Indian counterparts, the average 15-year-old Indian placed in an American school would be among the weakest students in the classroom, says Lant Pritchett of Harvard University. Even the best TN/HP students are 24 points behind the average American 15 year old.

The 2003 TIMSS study ranked India at 46 among 51 countries. Indian students' score was 392 versus average of 467 for the group. These results were contained in a Harvard University report titled "India Shining and Bharat Drowning".

These results are not only a wake-up call for the Hindutva brigade, but also raise serious questions about the credibility of India's western cheerleaders like Indian-American journalist Fareed Zakaria and New York Times' columnist Tom Friedman.

A World Bank report on student learning in South Asia is also depressing. Sri Lanka is the sole exception to the overall low levels of achievement for primary and secondary school kids in the region.  The report documents with ample data from various assessments to conclude that "learning outcomes and the average level of skill acquisition in the region are low in both absolute and relative terms". The report covers education from primary through upper secondary schools.

Source: World Bank Report on Education in South Asia 2014

Buried inside the bad news is a glimmer of what could be considered hope for Pakistan's grade 5 and 8 students outperforming their counterparts in India. While 72% of Pakistan's 8th graders can do simple division, the comparable figure for Indian 8th graders is just 57%. Among 5th graders, 63% of Pakistanis and 73% of Indians CAN NOT divide a 3 digit number by a single digit number, according to the World Bank report titled "Student Learning in South Asia: Challenges, Opportunities, and Policy Priorities".  The performance edge of Pakistani kids  over their Indian counterparts is particularly noticeable in rural areas. The report also shows that Pakistani children do better than Indian children in reading ability.

Source: World Bank Report on Education in South Asia 2014


Here are some excepts from the World Bank report:

Unfortunately, although more children are in school, the region still has a major learning challenge in that the children are not acquiring basic skills. For example, only 50 percent of grade 3 students in Punjab, Pakistan, have a complete grasp of grade 1 mathematics (Andrabi et al. 2007). In India, on a test of reading comprehension administered to grade 5 students across the country, only 46 percent were able to correctly identify the cause of an event, and only a third of the students could compute the difference between two decimal numbers (NCERT 2011). Another recent study found that about 43 percent of grade 8 students could not solve a simple division problem. Even recognition of two-digit numbers, supposed to be taught in grade 2, is often not achieved until grade 4 or 5 (Pratham 2011). In Bangladesh, only 25 percent of fifth-grade students have mastered Bangla and 33 percent have mastered the mathematics competencies specified in the national curriculum (World Bank 2013). In the current environment, there is little evidence that learning outcomes will improve by simply increasing school inputs in a business-as-usual manner (Muralidharan and Zieleniak 2012).


Source: The Hindu

In rural Pakistan, the Annual State of Education Report (ASER) 2011 assessment suggests, arithmetic competency is very low in absolute terms. For instance, only 37 percent of grade 5 students can divide three-digit numbers by a single-digit number (and only 27 percent in India); and 28 percent of grade 8 students cannot perform simple division. Unlike in rural India, however, in rural Pakistan recognition of two-digit numbers is widespread by grade 3 (SAFED 2012). The Learning and Educational Achievement in Punjab Schools (LEAPS) survey—a 2003 assessment of 12,000 children in grade 3 in the province—also found that children were performing significantly below curricular standards (Andrabi et al. 2007). Most could not answer simple math questions, and many children finished grade 3 unable to perform mathematical operations covered in the grade 1 curriculum. A 2009 assessment of 40,000 grade 4 students in the province of Sindh similarly found that while 74 percent of students could add two numbers, only 49 percent could subtract two numbers (PEACE 2010).


Source: World Bank Report on Education in South Asia 2014




The report relies upon numerous sources of data, among them key government data (such as Bangladesh’s Directorate of Primary Education; India’s National Sample Survey, District Information System of Education, and National Council of Education Research and Training Assessment; and Pakistan’s National Education Assessment System); data from nongovernmental entities (such as Pakistan’s Annual Status of Education Report, India’s Student Learning Study, and its Annual Status of Education Report); international agencies (such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] Programme for International Student Assessment [PISA] 2009+ for India; the World Bank Secondary Education Quality and Access Enhancement Project in Bangladesh); and qualitative studies undertaken for the report (such as examining decentralization reforms in Sri Lanka and Pakistan). The study also uses the World Bank Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER) framework to examine issues related to ECD, education finance, assessment systems, and teacher policies.

I hope that these reports serve as a wake-up call for political leaders and policymakers in South Asia to redouble their efforts with significant additional resource allocations of nutrition, education and healthcare.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Who's Better for Pakistan Human Development?

History of Literacy in Pakistan

Myths and Facts About Out-of-School Children in Pakistan

PISA, TIMSS Results Confirm Low Quality of Indian Education

India Shining, Bharat Drowning

Learning Levels and Gaps in Pakistan by Jishnu Das and Priyanka Pandey

Pasi Sahlberg on why Finland leads the world in education

CNN's Fixing Education in America-Fareed Zakaria

PISA's Scores 2011

Poor Quality of Education in South Asia

Infections Cause Low IQs in South Asia, Africa?

Peepli Live Destroys Western Myths About India

Learning Levels and Gaps in Pakistan by Jishnu Das and Priyanka Pandey

Pasi Sahlberg on why Finland leads the world in education

CNN's Fixing Education in America-Fareed Zakaria

PISA's Scores 2011

Poor Quality of Education in South Asia

Infections Cause Low IQs in South Asia, Africa?

Peepli Live Destroys Western Myths About India

PISA 2009Plus Results Report