Nadeem ul Haque, a senior, respected economist has some insightful remarks to make about the state of policy research institutions in Pakistan
For 5 years the position of the Chief Economist of the Planning Commission has been vacant. The PIDE Director/Vice Chancellor has served in an “acting” capacity! Why “acting?” And how do you keep someone in an “acting” position for years? Is that good governance?
Every few months the government runs expensive ads (the most recent is produced below). They seem to be content with placing the ad! There is no serious effort then made to fill the position.
This is not the only position this has happened with. The SECP position too was left vacant for many months on a number of occasions.
The government seems to find it very hard to find professional economists. Why is this so? I would welcome your views on this subject!
I would like to point out that very few senior positions are filled by the mere placement of an ad! Often this is a matter for a search committee and serious effort by several competent people to seek an ideal candidate and persuade him or her to accept the proposed position. Since the government is unwilling to form such a search committee and seek out serious people, perhaps it should stop wasting tax-payer’s money on such ads! (Even when they form a search committee they will pick on the most well known establishment figures who in turn will find a very well known non-professional or a house-broken professional who will not rock the boat.) No wonder the government seems to have no fresh thinking.
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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?
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By Ali Cheema
THE emphasis on eliminating poverty through the pursuit of social justice in the prime minister’s hundred-day programme is a welcome change from President Musharraf’s policy, which favoured the trickle-down recipe of poverty alleviation.
The previous regime’s erstwhile economic gurus went about the business of calculating the percentage decline in mean poverty in relation to the increased rate of growth, which became its battle cry. The much-advertised official verdict was that poverty in Pakistan had declined by over 10 per cent in the last four years.
The merits and demerits of the official calculations notwithstanding (the veracity of the official calculations is subject to intense debate), by becoming obsessed with average reductions the previous regime’s policy approach to poverty failed to develop an appreciation of the deep structural constraints impacting poverty in Pakistan.
These structural constraints impact poverty in a number of ways. Their primary impact is the tremendous variation in household poverty that is caused at the district and sub-provincial level. These constraints have resulted in the creation of high-poverty districts that are stuck in ‘poverty traps’, where endemic poverty is persistent over the long run. The socio-economic channels through which growth ‘trickle down’ is said to happen remain extremely fragile in these districts. That is, growth alone has not and will not deliver in these districts. Continue reading
“Pakistan, just like the rest of the world, is facing the most severe food price inflation in its history. The January food prices soared to above 18 percent — the highest ever monthly increase — from over 14 percent in October. Higher food price inflation meant that the poor, vulnerable and low-income groups, who make up almost two-thirds of the population, had to either cut their non-food expense to make room for spiking food budgets or consumed lesser calories than required.
The situation demands that the economic managers re-think their strategy to fight food inflation. In the short run, they should take measures to prevent sudden jumps in prices due to artificial or real shortages, subsidize, as in the case of wheat, imported food like raw materials for edible oils, and abolish or scale down taxes on such essential items. In the long run, it must remove supply side constraints to check artificial shortages and support agriculture to boost food output. At the same time, the poor to low-income people should be shielded from the harsh effects of rising food prices now, by expanding the network of utility stores and making the ration card scheme that has been launched recently effective.”