Showing posts from 2016

The Urban Sprawl

With Waqas Younas Cities are often a reflection of their zoning codes. Unfortunately, in Pakistan citizens never have any say in how their cities and towns are designed. The width of our streets, height of our homes, size of building lots, amount of space reserved for pedestrians, even the reason we cannot operate a donut store in our garage are all dictated by zoning regulations. Bad zoning codes result in sprawl – and sprawl make societies worse off. According to urbanist Charles Montgomery, sprawls result in bad health, little trust and low social capital. Moreover, people living in sprawls are less likely to volunteer, vote and even join political parties. Therefore bad zoning codes result in miserable communities and they are affecting our cities too. But how do our zoning codes and misuse of land result in sprawl? First of all, our zoning codes discourage mixed-use and high-rise development. There are no apartment buildings with shops and offices near even within such buildings.…

Why does Pakistan economy not grow at a rate required by our demographics?

Pakistan economy grows in spurts. Pakistan has a young population is that needs employment. 
"Given the youth bulge that Paksitan is going through till 2050, the economy needs to at a sustained rate of 8% per annum for the next 30 years" Framework of Economic Growth of the Planning Commission 2011.
Questions discussed are:
What can we learn from the growth experience of the world? The importance of the software of growth--institutions and what institutions are? what is the the geography of growth The preoccupation fo our rulers with "hardware"--projects and aid.
Anjum and Nadeem Discuss many aspects of growth policy and literature while also discussing why Paksitan does not attained the required sustained growth. 
An important subject to which we will return again and again. 

Why Pakistan economy is not growing at potential

This episode is dedicated to the architects of Planning commission and the early growth model in Paksitan: Zahid Husain and Said Hasan

 We return to the subject of growth with Atif Mian, one of Paksitan's brightest economists. He now holds that Theodore Wells Professorship at Princeton.

Like we argued in our earlier episode (number 4) growth underlies everything and is an important subject that we must understand better. We will keep returning to this subject with Paksitan's key economists to share with you as many informed opinions as we can.

Today it is a pleasure to welcome one of Pakistan's brightest young economists Atif Mian who has achieved a chaired professorship in Princeton and written an excellent book entitled "House of Debt." Everyone must listen to Atif on this important subject. We certainly hope that even policymakers will listen and learn.

Questions addressed are:
How has Paksitan grown in comparison to its peers?
What has kept Pakistan back?

Analyzing economic research in Pakistan

Anjum and Nadeem discuss economic research in Paksitan. Questions examined are:
What is driving research?  How relevant has it been to the larger problems facing Paksitan? Is research affecting policy? Where is the demand for research?  Where is research funding?  Does the funding drive research issues and agenda?
Should the government define a role for itself in research?  Should the government fund more research?

What is corruption?

We discuss with Farooq Suleria a Scholar teaching at SOAS his research on corruption. The discussion focusses on how to define and study corruption. 
Should we really be worried about mere bribe-taking or should the use of money to win government favors and shape government policy also be included?  Is the business of ranking and measuring corruption biased to making poor countries appear more corrupt than they are? Is it mere lack of institutions and poor governance that is being measured as corruption?  Legalized corruption si seldom discussed. Is that why the west appears less corrupt since rentsseking has been legislated? 
Various types of corruption are discussed. This is a topic that affects Pakistan deeply. We urge researchers to listen to this discussion and develop further research in this area. 

Democracy needs checks and balances

Since 1977 the struggle between democracy and martial law has stunted our national political debate to a binary: democracy or martial law. Proponents of democracy talk of not criticizing democracy for fear of another martial law. Those who support military intervention think of the military coming in to clean out the system which, is seen to be taking care of past corruption and then restarting the system with a fresh election to allow the same people in again.
The incumbent government too tames the opposition within the parliament and outside by scaring them with the possibility of return to military rule. Their cry is “leave our misrule alone or the army may take over and return you to dictatorship.”
Proponents further argue that if the system is allowed to run for a long time repeated elections will act as a filter to produce good governance. They have a hard time explaining the 6 election since Zia which have brought back PPP and PMLN despite their many failures. The system see…

Pakistanis pay taxes; Blame tax policy and administration

Pakistanis are paying a lot of tax contrary to the propaganda of donors. 

The mess that is tax policy has been created by decades of poor policymaking and administration that has been supported by bad technical assistance of donors.
Dr. Ikramul Haq and Huzaima Bukhari leading Tax lawyers and tax policy experts talk to us about how badly this area needs implication and clarity. Rather than follow complications of donor consultants, they put forward home-grown reforms for the simplification fo tax policy and administration. They show hue gains in revenue are possible by following simplification and a clear policy and cleaning out tax administration. This is in sharp contrast to the tax advocacy of donors where the system is further complicated and all Pakistanis are painted as tax cheats. 
it is time we started listening to some good local experts rather than donor consultants who have created this mess. 

Better cities are required for a growth acceleration

Anjum and Nadeem discuss what cites are and why they are important to growth. Discussion is wide ranging and touches upon many aspects of cities and their contributions to growth, development and civilization. 

They also argue that Pakistan while urbanized does not have any cities that measure up to international standards. This may be an important reason for Paksitan's lagging growth rate. 

What policies are required for better cities? 
Why decentralization is important? 

How Universities are managed and what is their quality

Pakistan has been on a university-building binge for the last 15 years. large campuses with beautiful buildings have been made. 

Are universities with big buildings and campuses providing quality education? Are students learning or merely becoming degree-holders?  Where are the professors?  Are universit├ęs well managed? Or is are bureaucracies interfering and overzealous? 

Prof Iqrar Ahmed VC UAF has done a remarkable job in his university. As a leading VC he is the best situated to talk about universities and university management. He talks candidly and very constructively about universities, what their product should be, how they should be managed and how policy need to change from  a. making more buildings to hiring more professors. b a focus on degrees to learning c. teaching to research questioning and pedagogy.   

Role of the Government in an Economy

Anjum and Nadeem discuss the role fo the government in an economy arguing that this subject needs a lot of attention. Most people tend to criticize the market and consider government to have every role that they wish it to have. 

Is there away to think about the role of the government. What can we learn from economics an social science about the role of the government. 
A fascinating discussion venues. 
This important subject is left out of the classroom and training academies leaving many to take polar positions: leave all to market or all to government. The truth is very different and economic thinkers have interesting thoughts on the subject.  
All students and those interested in policy must listen to this episode and debate it. 

On Health Policy

Political Statements are often made to claim government doing much to provide health and eduction. 
Yet what do our health indicators show? How well are we doing compared to our peers? How is policy made? is it well thought out? Who thinks about it? where?  How are health institutions managed? Should that system be changed? Donors provide a lot of assistance--cash as well as consultants--where does this money go? Do donors do a good job?  How can the system be improved?

Dr. Samia Altaf, an international public health official evaluates Pakistan's health policy and system providing many international comparisons. 
Reform and management issues are taken up. 

How budgets are made and implemented in Pakistan

Economists don't pay attention to process of economic policymaking and implementation. However, policy is only as good as the process that backs it up. 
Budget is in the air and there will be a lot of talk of it. But when you listen to this podcast, you will find out how serious the budget is and how seriously it will be taken by those who make it. 
Commentators will pick the budget to the bone looking for policy. Is there any policy in the budget? Was it prepared with policy mind? 
What is the relationship between the Planning Commission, Department and the ministry of finance?
Is there teamwork in government or is MOF creeped up to be "first among equals"? 
Wajid Rana ex-Finance Secretary MOF talks candidly but very constructively about our budget process. His extensive experience in this area is something we should  all profit by and learn about the budget process. 

Examining Pakistan's trade policy and institutions

Trade policies are made used to made every year with much fanfare. Now they are made every 3 years. One was announced recently.
What are these policies? Are they well researched? What is their objective? How open is Pakistan? How open should it be?  Why are exports as a percentage of GDP no increasing?  Do we have an import tariff regime that makes sense?  What do TDAP, MOC Commercial counsellors in embassies do? 
These and many other questions are discussed here with Dr. Manzoor Ahmed who has extensive experiencer of trade Policy of Pakistan and and ha advised many countries o trade issues. He has been with the WTO and with Paksitan civil service. 
If you trade, study trade or are interested in Pakistan Economic policy, this is a must hear.  

How grow agriculture at potential in Pakistan

The system of agriculture is reviewed with Prof. Iqrar Ahmed the Vice Chancellor of Agriculture University of Faisalabad, one of Pakistan's leading economists. 
The discussion is wide ranging. Agriculture must be seen as a system and not a sector. It is a set of markets and business relationships. Policy and reform is required to bring it to potential. 

Perpetual Crisis and Haste--How ECC works?

Listen to Soch Bichar episode 9

Understand how economic decisions are made.
Process based on haste, arbitrary power and no serious thought.
A must learn for everyone.

Should we think trade corridors or an efficient trade system open to the world?

Should we think trade corridors or an efficient trade system open to the world?: Conversations on issues of development policy in Pakistan and the rest of South Asia. Political economy subjects that are seldom featured in the media will be taken up....

Why does the myth of rural Pakistan persist?

Why do Pakistani official circles still like to maintain Pakistan is a rural country? Every pronouncement of government, at the cabinet table and even in donor dialog, this myth is maintained. Yet data shows otherwise.
Reza Ali an indigenous urban researcher has been studying this use for some time. For decades he has argued that censuses are underestimating the extent of urbanization.
His most recent work using satellite imaging that about 70% of Pakistan is non-rural. He hesitated to say that 70% was urban because despite showing concentration of population several areas lacked city functionality.
He found large areas where density was at levels that were by international definitions accepted as urban. Yet he hedged and called them ‘urbanizing’ because he found that despite density they really were satellites of some urban core.
The new category of “urbanizing’ that Ali used is newly emerging suburbia. As we all know there is a push for housing colonies and strip urbanization alon…