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Showing posts from August, 2014

On saving democracy and Dharnas

Save Democracy! Save the Constitution!

The 2 Dharnas with all their dramas have generated a deep division in the Pakistan media and perhaps even society. One group (comprising of a strange amalgam of older left liberal activists, NGOs and the old guard politicians) continued to see the invisible hand (which never revealed itself) of the army and a potential coup that has not happened till the time of this writing. Another group (another strange concoction of some youth, TUQ followers, and some media celebrities) chased a confused idealistic vision of Naya Pakistan free of corruption and maladministration.

Unfortunately, the debate really did not get beyond name-calling, conspiracy-searching and crude personalized invective. Dharna crowd could not clearly articulate a vision that grabbed the population at large and overplayed their hand hobbled by incredible ultimatums and outrageous ‘Cromwellian’ demands to wind up parliament.

The ‘save democracy’ crowd on the other hand refused to…

Understanding Growth and Development

Understanding Growth and Development Fundamentally what has preoccupied most of economic thinking over the centuries has been the question “how can living-standards be improved for most of humanity”. Answers have varied but the quest remains the same. In some sense this has been an eternal struggle for mankind. Most religions have been based on giving us order so that human welfare can be maximized. Utopian philosophers have also developed visions on how to organize society so that people can live better. This very human quest also fires up debates and people tend to be vehement in defending their version of utopia or faith without even feeling that they are merely preaching. Everyone seems to know how people’s lot can improve if only their prescription were followed. The development community has also fallen prey to this prescriptive approach.  Experts pretend to have solutions which if followed will lead to riches not only created but well distributed among the citizens of a country. We…

Marching to the Tune of Defunct Economists

Lord Keynes had famously said that “Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist” Pakistan offers the best illustration of Keynes’s statement. Here we are still suffering from S M Akhtar even though most kids don’t even know who he was. If you know this name you are probably old. I remember I could never read that book called Economic of Pakistan by S M Akhtar. It was like memorizing the economic survey and a plan both of which are unreadable documents. The trick was to memorize numbers and throw them back at the examiner. And you also had to kind of compartmentalize your mind. Whatever you learnt of real economics—theory and empirics—you kept separate from the economics of Pakistan.   Pakistan economics is still recovering from the Akhtar. And it is never more apparent than at budget time. People treat the numbers of the economy with the same sanctity that we treated them when taking our BA exam. R…

Dumping on Technocrats!

Pakistan society at all levels has a very uneasy relationship with technocrats. The common refrain is, “we want ‘doers’ and not ‘thinkers’. The implication being that we are a ’doing’ and not a ‘thinking’ people. I confess, I have no idea what this ‘doing’ is that we take pride in? What wonders have we created in our country to allow us to take such pride in our ‘doing’? In the same vein, we keep looking for ‘practical solutions’ not theoretical. Anyone who says something that we do not like is labeled ‘impractical’. And please do review where our ‘practicality’ has got us? Invariably, column-writers, conference participants, TV anchors find some way to point to the flaws of what we call technocrats. There is a deep distrust of them? Who are these technocrats? It is a loose term that we use to lump all semi-well clad, reasonably well-read people who are outside the government. I have often tried to find out what is the difference between a professional, a researcher, a writer, a professo…