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Showing posts from March, 2010

“Not in this century!”

Listed below are all the questions that I can think of that can easily be answered by the title of this article---“not in this century!”Sports and achievementWhen will Pakistan host the Olympic games?When will we be the seventh largest winner of Olympic medals given that we are the seventh largest country population-wise?When will we win major tournaments like Wimbledon? When will be counted in the world of sport commensurate to our size? When will have professionalism? In the army? In the civil service? In business? In academia? Anywhere?Learning and innovating!When will we win the Nobel Prize?When will we become innovators? When will Pakistanis start participating in the race for patents? When will we engage in serious research?When will we count in education? When will our universities be a destination of choice for foreign students?When will professors and professionals desire to come to our country?When will Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam be accepted and major landmarks and a univers…

Eminent domain

“Eminent domain” is a legal term referring to the ‘power governments have to confiscate, or take, private property.’Over the years civilization has come to agree that such ‘taking’ of property happen only for legitimate “public use” and property owners receive “just compensation.”Much case law, legal thinking and commentary is available on this subject. It is perhaps a cornerstone concept defining state/citizen relationships and the limits of state power. Kings and rulers have always attempted to usurp all resources for personal use and citizenry has had to fight to establish checks on this greed. One cornerstone of the famous Magna Carta was to check the King’s ability to take over private property. Over the years, the concept has evolved and remains a subject of considerable debate. Unfortunately in Pakistan it receives no attention. We have the famous Land Acquisition Act which has been used to build housing colonies, public sector projects, leisure clubs, and for any purpose that …

Obese Government

Most donor advice to us, which most Pakistani economists slavishly accept is that revenues must increase. To this objective a number of new tax measures have been suggested and implemented without moving revenues as a ratio of GDP much.For years I have argued that we need to look on the expenditure side of the equation if we are to control our deficit. There is little questioning of our expenditures by the media and by our citizens. Most discussion assumes that our expenditures are all for the public good. Consequently the constant refrain to increase development expenditures and expenditures for education. My view is that we must focus on the waste in government and rationalize our expenditures so that they are truly used for public welfare.Last year this discussion led to an article by Dr Farrukh Saleem perhaps the only article that documents a list of useless government agencies that still exist. He says, “The government of Pakistan is fat, so fat that all the excess body fat h…

GOR: Walling off Public land for private gain

Those who develop an expertise in the mess of Pakistan, must understand the abuse of power and its associated rentseeking that prevails in Pakistan. One important example of that is the GOR Estate. Let me explain. (For the perceptive there is much to be learnt about the political economy of Pakistan though this example).Rentseeking Colonial StyleTo house the officials that were shipped out of England, the colonial masters—the British Government—built a housing estate (using about a 100 acres of land) about 10 miles from what was then the City of Lahore and called it the Government Officers Residences Estate (GOR Estate). Understandably, the colonial managers built in some luxury for themselves including some clubs sporting facilities and parks for their exclusive use. And for all this the public exchequer was feely used. The homes could only be retained for the tenure of one’s position. Maintenance rules were clear and simple and could not be flaunted. One would have thought that the …

What are public enterprises doing in Pakistan?

Most of our histroy we have had budgetry problems. Repeated Fund programs have been contracted to address our fiscal situation. The typical economist mantra is increase taxation. No one seems to look at the plethora of public enterprises that seem to hang over from our socialist planning days. Journalists find this to be an unexciting topic compared to the NRO and the usual topics. So today let us review one public enterrpise-NATIONAL BOOK FOUNDATION. More to follow later. National Book Foundation says on its website that in a 25 year period (1972-2007), it has produced 7113 books and revenues of Rs. 1308 million. At today’s xchnge rate that is $15 million. Using an approximate average exchange rate over this period of about 45 to the US dollar, they will have sold books worth about $ 45 million. Let us analyze this situation1.Bascially they have published 284 books in a year backed by state funding and a virtual state monopoly in its early years. This in a country of 180 million is a…

VVIP Culture

Will the court curtail VVIP movements or take down walls that have been built to block off roads For VIP protection? My vote is "no"! Courts too, are beneficiaries of the VVIP culture. They will not stand up for law. The VVIP culture has destroyed the country....but not the will of the VVIPs. They like their privilege and they will not give it up without a fight.Please vote below! This is what Daily times wrote todayVVIP movement challenged in high courtLAHORE: Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed of the Lahore High Court (LHC) will hold preliminary hearing of a petition challenging the blocking of roads and stopping of traffic during VVIP movement, on March 8. Advocate Shafqat Mahmood Chauhan moved the petition, contending that law enforcement officials blocked roads during VVIP movement, causing traffic jams and problems for commuters and the public in general. He said that different government departments had already barricaded the service lanes in front of their offices for secur…

PM at Polo

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PM cultivates his constituency--the elite! Where else should he go? There are no poor youth activities since the two main games that are state susbsidized are polo and golf. Our cities have no land for soccer, volleyball, basket-ball or even gymnastics.Gilani gives away prizes at National Polo ChampionshipLAHORE, Mar 07 (APP): Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani Sunday gave away prizes to the winners of the Quaid-e-Azam Gold Cup Polo Tournament-2010 at the Lahore Polo Club.Earlier, the Premier opened the finals of the two-week long Bank Alfalah National Polo Championship Quaid-e-Azam Gold Cup by throwing the ball in.Colony Sugar polo team won the National Polo Championship by beating HSBC polo team by 9 goals to 8 in the finals.The 3rd position was bagged by Tag Heuer/Army polo team.Colonu Sugar team comprised Naveed M. Sheikh, Atif Yar Tiwana, Fernando Qunito Bordieu and Saqib Khan Khakwani while the HSBC team included Sufi Muhammad Amir, Hissam Ali Hyder, Gaston …

Where are the Libraries?

At a couple of recent conferences in the US, I raised the issue of the government’s lack of sensitivity to developing community goods. My example was the lack of public libraries in Pakistan. I said that there are no public libraries in our cities. In fact provocatively, I often say that “Lahore has 5 polo fields (each 10 acres in size) and 3 Golf courses (an average size of a golf course is about 200 acres), yet there are only 2 public libraries one left by the colonial masters and one in Bagh-I-jinnah resident in a converted colonial building!” With population growing more than tenfold, no libraries or community spaces have been created. I might also add that the government did provide city center land and a subsidy to develop golf and polo--2 games exceedingly important for community and societal development. More on that some other time!When I pointed to the lack of public libraries in Pakistan, said this some very well-known Pakistani intellectuals started saying “not true! Not t…

Conflict of Interest

Mohsin Khan, a well known Pakistani economist, made an interesting observation the other day which deserves thought. He asked me if there is an Urdu translation for the term “conflict of interest!” My Urdu being relatively limited, I called a couple of serious Urdu scholars in Pakistan. After some hesitation and much thought, they came up with multi-syllable Persian and Arabic formulations. So Mohsin’s point is well taken: “it is not surprising that Pakistanis do not know the meaning of conflict of interest!” Consequently we find that ·Industrialists serve on policy committees advising on matters that could affect them.·Industrialists, businessmen and agriculturists are on the board of the central bank setting exchange rate and interest rate policies from which they directly benefit. ·Businessmen as commerce ministers while running their businesses boards ·Bankers serve in many places while running banksThese are only some examples of “conflict of interest” in our government. I am sur…

Policy: Wisdom or Metaphors?

Crisis is in the air!You cannot switch on the TV without hearing “crisis!” Every few days there is a conference on the crisis. I attended one in Dubai recently and enjoyed the discussion but left me a little uneasy. Let me see if I can explain?I guess what really concerned me was that the hall was in a “fix it” mode.They all felt that the crisis needed fixing and the refrain was that “we” should fix it. Of course the list of what was to be fixed was long: the financial crisis, coming water crisis, the food crisis, health issues and not to forget the environment issue (thanks Al gore). Who is “we?” The answer ranged from the government to civil society and everything in between. The collective “we” was difficult to comprehend. How is it that the government, civil society, private sector the market and the international community are allgoing to work together when it has never happened (other than wartime)? But the gathering was in an engineering mode. Suggestions were flying around on …