Raza Rumi published by Express-Tribune
Pakistan’s dire fiscal situation has resulted in the reduction of development spending by 40 per cent. This does not bode well for the citizens who have been tormented by an energy crisis, persistent food inflation and rampant unemployment. In these circumstances, the development assistance under the Kerry-Lugar Bill (KLB) is much needed. Pakistan’s civilian government braved a media onslaught and the ire of the security establishment for tacitly supporting the US legislation. Other than the rhetoric around the ‘conditions’ drafted in Washington, there was an unstated agreement that the development assistance was welcome. It was expected that given the urgency of the situation, USAID was going to kick start the delivery of its interventions. Well, the progress so far has been disappointing.
First, there seems to be no public sign of a consensus within the US bureaucratic machine on how the aid under KLB will be delivered. Unconfirmed media reports suggest that the political versus the bureaucratic channels are not on the same page. The ‘political’ administration is ostensibly managing USAID systems and processes. There may be strategic reasons for that but the net result is that things are delayed. Not long ago, the Pakistani government’s procedures were thought to be a problem, but the trajectory of US bureaucracy only proves that public sector ailments are common. Second, USAID is unfamiliar with the methods of working with the governments. In fact, its operations keep the government systems out of the programme design and create parallel structures for big US firms for accountability and results. On the ‘results’ front the experience of USAID has not been flattering to say the least. The case of irregularities in the ongoing Fata programme, highlighted by the media in recent months, is a case in point. Third, there is no clear roadmap for the key priorities that KLB will help address. We read about the energy sector support and other immediate responses to Pakistani government’s needs. But surely, the sizeable pipeline of $7.5 billion needs to be well planned. Needs identification and programme design should be responsive as well as flexible. Bureaucracies are averse to out-of-the-box thinking, and perhaps this is what explains lack of alternatives to lengthy, US firms-centric approach typically employed by USAID. Continue reading
Raza Rumi responds to the new education policy for Pakistan
Yet another educational policy has been announced for Pakistan and its hapless citizens. We should not cast aspersions on the motives of an elected government, for we have been bitten by endless rounds of authoritarian rule which have not only destroyed the institutions of civilian governance, but have also demolished the integrity of our curriculum and mode of instruction. Decade after decade, dictators chose to glorify martial rule and later legitimized the abuse of jihad and violence. Even those who have studied at elite, expensive schools have somehow been doctored by the same curse of malicious textbooks. The surreal curricula have glorified looters and plunderers like Mahmud Ghaznavi only because they happened to be Muslims by a sheer coincidence of birth. Not to mention the Hindus, with whom we have coexisted for nearly a thousand years; they have been painted as treacherous, villainous and vile creatures ready to destroy the Muslims.
One would have expected that a legitimately elected government, representing the aspirations and pluralism of Pakistan’s small provinces would take a strong stance on the revision of pernicious curricula. Alas, this is now a distant, buried dream for all. The policy is silent on that. This is a government that is waging wars on terrorism rather successfully and with clarity of purpose, but the educational policy makes little mention of the madrassa reform which is now an imperative for the very survival of Pakistan as a viable state. Thousands of madrassas scattered all over the place, funded by external powers preach hatred, bigotry and a reversion to the Dark Ages. Who will reform these madrassas if the national education policy does not even bother to lay out a strategy and provide resources? The new policy promises that by 2015, the budgetary allocation for education would increase to seven percent of the GDP from the current 2.1 percent of the GDP. This is surely promising but how can a policy not envision the need or the strategy to mobilize such resources? Have we not heard such sanguine proclamations in the past?
Read the full article here
A looming threat from Al Qaeda & the Taliban militia and an in-flux of Afghan refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) has left Pakistan in a worst refugee crisis since the partition in 1947. US led drone strikes and Pakistan military’s onslaught against the Talibans has crippled a great mass of Afghan and Pakistani civilians. Why do states always carry out post-mortem reports on innocent war causalities, instead of ensuring civilians’ security prior to the Continue reading
Source: Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), Islamabad, Pakistan.
Hunger’s direct victims: Every year in Pakistan, over 420,000 children under the age of five die because of malnutrition that affects their health. In June 2008, the annual food price inflation was running at about 20% and this figure is feared to be looming at 34% by mid December because of widespread unemployment and economic meltdown. Price hike of the sensitive commodities also increased in some cases to 40% during the same period of the year when compared to 2006. In a country that boasts to be a nuclear power and leader of the “Muslim Ummah,” the UNICEF report estimated that 38% of all Pakistani children were underweight, 37% stunted and 13% “wasted or unable” to attain the expected weight in their entire childhood. Pakistan made “insufficient progress” in tackling the hunger and children malnutrition. In addition to these hunger indicators, an appalling 44% of the Pakistani population does not have access to tap-water and only 42% use fixed toilets.
What’s actually happening? Like many developing countries, Pakistan has been facing food shortage as an international phenomenon particularly in 2007. Not that the domestic management was perfect; the government’s Continue reading
By Stephany Griffith-Jones, Jose Antonio Ocampo and Pietro Calice
NEW YORK: A remarkable feature of the international financial system in the last decade has been the rapid and vast accumulation of foreign exchange reserves by developing countries. World foreign reserves tripled from $2.1 trillion in December 2001 to an unprecedented $6.5 trillion in early 2008, according to IMF data.
Developing countries as a whole accounted for more than 80 percent of global reserve accumulation during this period, and their current level of reserves approaches $5 trillion. Half of this volume is concentrated in developing Asia, but Latin America and Africa have also been amassing international assets at a remarkable pace. This pool of reserves surpasses developing countries’ immediate liquidity needs, leading to their increased creation and expansion of sovereign wealth funds, which have an additional level of assets of more than $3 trillion. Continue reading
Raza Rumi’s oped published in the NEWS (Pakistan)
The not-so-inevitable is about to happen. After weeks of groping in the darkness of global financial mess, the Pakistani government is negotiating with the International Monetary Fund. Admittedly, Pakistan’s options are limited, given its intractable dependence on oil imports for survival. The civilian government moving from one crisis to another has elevated indecision to a policy status. This does not imply that we start echoing the unwise cacophony of impatience with an elected and far more legitimate government than the eight-year-long authoritarian regime. But then who cares: if recent history is a guide, PPP governments come with a brand or at least get branded as incompetent comprising coteries of cronies, as if the rest of the country is a fair, rule-based haven.
The plain truth is that the power-wielders of Pakistan have been following a set of disastrous policies for decades that have now put the survival of the state, or as we knew it, in question. From the great hunts for strategic depth and Jihad, and from nurturing domestic oligarchies and pampering a delinquent industrial sector at the expense of land tillers and equitable irrigation, we are now paying the price for policy making by the elites for the sustenance of the elites. Continue reading