Showing posts from March, 2015

Living off Daddy's Wealth

Lack of social mobility is very visible in Pakistan. Political power also seems to be coagulated as the chances of getting elected are tied into traditional wealth, land and family status. Power, privilege and wealth seem to remain in the family in Pakistan.
A few years ago a principal of an elite school told me that the students there were disinterested in serious studies as daddy’s wealth was certain, and their elite status was guaranteed in society through inheritances.
Discussing this with various members of our privileged class, it becomes immediately apparent that hard work is not an aspiration. Power and privilege is a right in our society, not something to be earned through hard work. An entitlement culture prevails not just in agriculture but also in business and politics.
Examine the elite and you find large cohorts who even if educated have never really used that education. Their lives largely have been of leisure made possible through inheritances and sources of rentier inc…

Advocacy—the New Missionaries

Inept leadership, perpetually looking for shortcuts has been begging for aid for most of our history. The result: problems and debt both pile up while donors do all manner of experiment here and leave a mess behind.
Our leaders run to Saudi Arabia on a quarterly basis, begging for oil and aid, seldom getting any. Meanwhile Saudi funds have free rein to ‘advocate’ radical Islam in Pakistan.
Other donors have also learnt to experiment with policy in a country where leadership is asleep and ready to sign anything for a few million dollars. Photographs appear in papers on a daily basis of our leaders sitting in some ceremony with junior aid officials. In a subtle manner the donor establishment says that our officialdom including ministers is at par with junior employees of donors.What do we expect when begging is our only policy?
Used to be a time when money was given for building a Mangla or a Tarbela.Now donors have learnt that their money can buy much more when governments and societie…

Who protects our ‘thought’ Industry?

3 decades ago, Ghari Baqir returned with a PhD from Harvard. Keen to use his newfound skills to contribute to policy and thought he started teaching at university as it allowed him time to research, write books and perhaps at some stage advise the government. He had ideas and was willing to work hard.
Soon he realized that professors were at the bottom of the barrel. In a society where power and wealth is everything, he had neither. His counterparts in the bureaucracy had nuisance value, generous perks and plots whereas all he had was a measly salary, no power, no perks. His tiny filthy office did not even have a phone in that era before cellphones.
Luckily, donors offered paid consulting opportunities. Eventually he made enough money to buy his own house. In the process sadly dreams of independent research, those bright ideas, those books he wanted to write got buried. Donor consulting was working on others’ agenda. He wrote long, lengthy and often meaningless reports on poorly though…