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Showing posts from February, 2010

The Importance of Civil Service Reform

I compliment Sania Nishtar (“Civil Service Reform Revisited” in The News February 27 2010) for writing on a subject of immense importance to Pakistan. Unfortunately this is also a subject that is least discussed by our columnists, intellectuals and academics. Like most policy in Pakistan, interest in this subject is also piqued only at the initiative of international thinking. Those of you who follow this blog will see me comment on this dysfunctionality of the Pakistani intellectual and policy process again and again. Sania Nishtar was inspired by the International Crisis Group’s Report on Civil Service Reform to write a very nice article on the subject. (Needless to say the ICG report was done without reading any of the domestic literatue produced on the subject! So much for valuable research!).
Sania says that “The denotation of civil service reform in the reform jargon is not an isolated or a defined restructuring measure, but a set of locally-suited interv…

Commercial Property Development Not Allowed

Ever wonder why our cities in Pakistan do not have an abundance of commercial, retail, office and dense residential use (flats)? The answer as always lies in poor uninformed governance. For too long now our planning paradigm has favored the kothis.Even now the planner thinks only of elite housing---single family stand alone construction—one floor plus one. While all over the world—even the old Lahore townhouses have 4 stories---in Pakistan the norm is one plus one. Elsewhere—even in old Lahore density is allowed for in the shape of adjoined row houses—here we continue to plan for stand alone houses with setbacks. Should you wish to build any thing different from 1+1 kothi, you need to get your plot “commercialized”?Even if you want to build a block of flats, you still need to commercialize your plot. What is this commercialization? The most important fact that I have been able to learn about commercialization is that it is totally arbitrary varying from locality to locality. It can be…

Begging to preserve “Dead capital”?

Budget time is approaching! The usual demands of the government will hit newspapers!It surprises me that after 64 years of poor economic management, failed policies of bankers and bureaucrats, and failed budgets, we continue to expect wonders from our budget.I say forget the budget! It is only a speech full of promises that are forgotten the day after the speech has been delivered.In our history no budget has been adhered to for more than a few weeks.The budget document has no sanctity.But the economy is in a deep recession—percapita income is by all estimates going to decline. Poverty is on the rise. When per capita incomes go down poverty will increase! There is going to be pain among the dispossessed. What should we do? Well the policymakers--bankers and bureaucrats-- are going to do what they do best---beg some more and follow the master’s (donor) advice. But for the rest of us we should think some more and raise our voices for change. Those who have the privilege (not the skill) …

The folly of development policy thinkers!

Most Pakistani economists following the lead of the BWI have been singing in a chorus asking for increased taxation. This piece written by 2 lawyers outlines how the many tax policy and administration initiatives that have been adopted at the behest of the BWIs and other wise in a bid to increase the tax to GDP ratio, have been poorly implemented or vitiated by the Federal Bureau of Revenue.This reinforces the point that I have been making consistently on this blog: without governance reform which has a strong component of civil service reform, a lot of the so called “dream policies” of the BWI are of no value other than to keep their consultants occupied and voluminous reports to be given to the very people who are not interested in change. Huzaim and Ikram Ul Haq a husband and wife team specialized in tax law make a very good case in this direction. From Huzaima Bukhari and Dr. Ikramul Haq the News Sunday Feb 14 2010“The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is in for criticism for ineffic…

Fountains of paradise – is their investment space?

The following was a keynote address presented at the annual meetings of the Planter’s Association in Sri Lanka—one of the oldest trade associations in Sri Lanka. In order to talk to them I had to learn about and visit the plantations of Sri Lanka. I think there is a worthwhile point to be made on economic policy and our attitudes to entrepreneurship.That is why I share this with you. Plantations fascinate me because they are the product of visions of daring adventurers. I cannot help but imagine the boldness, initiative and organizational capacity that it took to cut down dense forest, ward off wild animals, build roads, plant coffee and when that failed to switch to an alternative - tea.It is mindboggling to drive through the hills on those narrow winding lanes which in themselves are engineering marvels even today.They cleared the forest, planted first coffee, waited 6-7 years to harvest it. After a few successful years, disease killed their coffee plantations. They did not run to t…

Why are Professional appointments not made 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 t…

Oil pricing and Markets in Pakistan

On Sunday, February 07, 2010, Dr. Farrukh Saleem gave us an excellent analysis of oil pricing and markeket structure in Pakistan.

“On March 25, 2008, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani took oath as the 23rd prime minister of Pakistan. That fateful day the maximum ex-depot sales price of premium motor gasoline was Rs62.81 per litre. On Jan 31, 2010, OGRA, in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 6(2)(r) of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Ordinance 2002 and Clauses 4 and 4(A) of Section 2 of the Petroleum Products (Petroleum Levy) Ordinance, 1961, jacked the maximum ex-depot sales price of motor gasoline to Rs71.21.

For the record, on Jan 31, the OPEC Basket Price stood at $71.02 per barrel, having declined from $96.49 per barrel, as of March 25, 2008; a decline of more than 25 percent.

Where is our money really going? On Jan 31, the ex-refinery price was notified to be Rs42.72 per litre, transportation Rs4.42 per litre, dealers' commission Rs2.36 per litre and Oil Marketing Companies' margi…

Monetize Perks NOW

The Daily Times carried the following today
http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\02\05\story_5-2-2010_pg13_4
‘Khusro Pervaiz highest-paid bureaucrat’LAHORE: The commissioner of Punjab’s capital, Khusro Pervaiz, has become the highest-paid bureaucrat in the city, a private TV channel reported on Thursday.

The channel reported that while Khusro Pervaiz drew a monthly salary of Rs 334,000 as the project director of the Lahore Ring Road project, he was also receiving Rs 50,000 a month for holding the additional charge of the Lahore commissioner’s office. daily times monitor*****The civil servant has learnt to game the incentive system that seeks to keep cash salaries low and allows invisible perks to be distributed freely beyond public scrutiny. Recently, they have given themselves all manner of allowances in the name of development and efficiency. Thus the Commissioner Lahore is now Project Director of Ring Road and a development office and hence draws those hefty salaries. Let u…