trade
The supply slide
The businesses are impatient of government regulations but seek the umbrella of protection — in the form of import tariffs and subsidies — to shield them from having to compete with foreign suppliers
By Hussain H Zaidi
Does Pakistan need foreign aid or trade? The answer is obvious. The prevalent and the usual view, particularly among politicians, is that the country should break the begging bowl and seek enhanced market access for its exports. 

Braving the threat
People who have been creating problems for aid organisations to work in areas like Balochistan and KPK are playing into the hands of a mindset that thinks aid-work is spy-work
By Aoun Sahi
Unidentified gunmen kidnapped Dr Khalil Ahmed Dale, a 60-year-old British Muslim national and head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) medical operations in Balochistan province on January 5, near the Chaman Housing Scheme in Quetta. 

assistance
In the absence of funds
Countries like Pakistan need to re-appropriate their own resources more prudently tomeet contingency needs
By Naseer Memon
Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has said that only 40 percent of the funds have so far been received against the appeal launched by the UN. The UN launched an appeal for $ 356 million for support of the flood affectees in Sindh and Balochistan. So far, hardly $150 million could be mobilized. Whereas the scale of flood disaster this year surpassed the damages of previous year’s flood, donors’ response has been starkly lukewarm this time. 

Agony of the informal sector
Rights of workers from this sector, especially women, need to be highlighted
By Ume Laila Azhar
The informal sector comprises small units that produce goods or services with the primary objective of generating employment and incomes for the families engaged in these activities. Informal activities have often been characterised by low levels of capital, skills, diminished access to organised markets and technologies; low and unstable incomes and poor and unpredictable working conditions. 

Rate race
Every news is not breaking news, but the ‘breaking news’ fashion has out-caste the research and investigation attitude from journalism in Pakistan
Ahmed Noor Kahloon
In Pakistan, problems of one institution are spreading in others while media, being the fourth estate, is not an exception too. Electronic media, instead of standing bigger than the crowed, unfortunately, due to lack of basic ethics of journalism and broadcasting, are joining the crowed.

politics
The same old tricks
Those who are clamouring to be given entry into the corridors of power should rest assured that the methods that they are currently favouring to gain access to power will come back to haunt them
By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the ‘politics of the court’ on these pages. While at the time I suspected that political fireworks were on the horizon, I could not have predicted that the Supreme Court and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government would come to (figurative) blows as quickly as they have. The extent of the contradictions within ruling circles has now become clear to the world, and it is unlikely that the PPP-led dispensation will survive in its present form for too much longer.


Looking back in despair
Economic and security crises coupled with changing priorities in the developed world necessitate nations such as ours to redefine paradigms of sustainable development
Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri
Let us recap 2011 and some of the changes taking place at various levels. Pakistan witnessed another year of energy deficiency, fiscal deficit, policy led poverty, man made floods, and socio-political instability. 

first person
New approach to 
climate

“Trees planted on farms can eventually reduce pressure on local forests.”
By Abdul Sattar
Eak Rana is a Nepalese expert on sustainable development. He joined International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu in November 2009 as Project Coordinator for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation. The project is being run in developing countries to protect forests. Rana coordinates with partners and liaise with local ministries and stakeholders to institutionalise forest carbon accounting, monitoring, and registration and help develop a national forest carbon fund. 

Export cartels: any solutions?
Sweeping the issue under the carpet hampers competition in international markets and prevents trading countries from getting benefits of trade liberalisation
By Frederic Jenny and Pradeep Mehta
Interactions between trade and competition could not be more intimate as they are today when countries the world over are getting severely affected by the volatility of trade in primary commodities. 

 

 

trade
The supply slide
The businesses are impatient of government regulations but seek the umbrella of protection — in the form of import tariffs and subsidies — to shield them from having to compete with foreign suppliers
By Hussain H Zaidi

Does Pakistan need foreign aid or trade? The answer is obvious. The prevalent and the usual view, particularly among politicians, is that the country should break the begging bowl and seek enhanced market access for its exports.

The argument in support of this position is two-fold. One, foreign aid is incompatible with national sovereignty. Two, if the country is to stand on its own feet it must curtail reliance on external assistance and, instead, strive for better market access for its exports.

Few will debate that safeguarding national sovereignty and promoting exports are worthy objectives. However, increased market access, though exceedingly important, is not sufficient for substantial increase in exports. The country must also overcome its supply side constraints. These include poor governance, weak or instable institutions, flawed or inconsistent policies, low labour productivity, macro-economic instability, etc.

In the ensuing paragraphs, an attempt has been made to explain these constraints. The two main reference works are the State Bank of Pakistan’s Report on the State of the Economy for FY11 and the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012. 

Macro-economy:  Pakistan’s supply-side constraints are well borne out by the country’s poor economic performance during last few years. In FY08, the economy grew by 3.7 per cent (pc), which slipped to 1.7 pc in FY09. The growth rate accelerated to 3.8 pc in FY10 only to fall to 2.4 pc in FY11 giving the country average annual growth rate of only 2.9 pc during last four years.

Manufacturing, which registered growth of 4.8 pc in FY08, contracted by 3.6 pc in FY09. In FY10, it bounced back with growth of 5.5 pc but next year (FY11), the growth decelerated to 3 pc. Large-scale manufacturing (LSM), which accounts for nearly 75 pc of total manufacturing, grew by 4 pc in FY08 but contracted by 8.1 pc next year (FY09). In FY10, the LSM registered growth of 4.9 pc, which slipped to 1 pc in FY11. Capacity utilisation in key LSM sub-sectors, such as textiles, chemicals, petroleum, cement fertilizers and metals is on the decline. The textiles sector, the linchpin of the country’s industrial and export performance, is marred by low productivity, obsolete machinery, lack of innovation and deficiency of skilled labour force.

Agriculture grew by 1 pc in FY08, 4 pc in FY09, 0.6 pc in FY10 and 1.2 pc in FY11. The services sector, which accounts for more than a half of the gross domestic product (GDP), registered percentage growth of 6, 1.7, 2.9, and 4.1 in FY08, FY09, FY10 and FY11 respectively.

Low growth rate has been accompanied by high inflation. The CPI inflation was 12 pc in FY08, 20.8 pc in FY09, 11.7 pc in FY10 and 13.9 pc in FY11 (average annual inflation of 14.6 pc during last four years). There is something seriously wrong with an economy having a low growth-high inflation combination.

High inflation deters savings and productive investment and thus slows economic growth. Growth recession, in turn, drives up inflationary pressures. In case of Pakistan, investment-GDP ratio has been on the decline: 22 pc in FY08, 18.2 pc in FY09, 15.4 pc in FY10 and 13.4 pc in FY11; while saving-GDP ratio has remained low: 13.6 pc in FY08, 12.5 pc in FY09, 13.1 pc in FY10 and 13.6 pc in FY11.

The low growth-high inflation predicament is closely connected with fiscal deficit, another major macro-economic problem of Pakistan. During last four years, the average annual fiscal deficit has been 6.5 pc of GDP. The high fiscal deficit has largely been financed by bank borrowing.

The borrowing from the central bank is highly inflationary, while that from commercial banks crowds out private sector investment. Thus, the private sector credit demand, which grew by 16.5 pc in FY08, slumped to 0.6 pc in FY09, and subsequently recovered to 3.9 pc in FY10 and 4 pc in FY10.

Institutions: Pakistan’s institutional framework is characterised by high economic cost of terrorism, organised crime, lack of transparency in the public sector, inefficient dispute settlement mechanism and lack of adequate protection of property, including intellectual property, rights.

The government needs to create an enabling institutional environment, which means improved economic governance by strengthening regulatory and administrative frameworks and institutions. These include a completely autonomous State Bank of Pakistan, an effective competition regime, prudent regulation of the financial sector, in particular the stock market, and civil service and judicial reforms to make for good governance.

Energy and infrastructure: Energy shortage is a major supply-side constraint, which has hampered Pakistan’s economic and export performance. The economy presents a big mismatch between the demand for and supply of energy. As the State bank of Pakistan observes in its recently released state of the economy report, various factors account for energy scarcity.

These include failure to draw up a consistent energy policy, the resurgence of circular debt, lack of infrastructure for import of natural gas and electricity generation, paucity of funds to initiate power supply projects, and power transmission and distribution losses.

Strides in information and communication technology have connected domestic markets to the international economy. Accordingly, trade related physical and commercial infrastructure has become a major element of competitiveness of nations.

However, in case of Pakistan, the overall quality of infrastructure leaves much to be desired. Both the Pakistan Railways and Pakistan International Airline (PIA) are in a shambles, while the road infrastructure needs a lot of improvement.

According to a World Bank study, if Pakistan wants to achieve sustained growth rate of 8 pc per annum, it must increase infrastructure investment to 7.6 pc of the GDP.

Human resource development: Access to basic health and education shores up the productivity of labour and makes it easier for workers to adapt themselves to advanced production processes. In case of Pakistan, the relevant problem areas are low literacy level (58 pc), low level of net primary education enrolment (66.4 pc), high infant mortality rate (63.3 pc), low life expectancy and poor quality of primary education.

Budgetary allocation for heath (0.6 pc of GDP) and education (1.8 pc of GDP) is meager. In addition to basic heath and education, investment in higher education and training, including on-job training, is important if the economy is to move up the value chain.

In case of Pakistan, higher education and training has been a neglected area. The biggest impediment is low level of secondary (33.1 pc) and tertiary education (6.4 pc) enrollment followed by inadequate staff training, availability of research and training services, internet access in schools, quality of science education and low level of research and development. The country is at 118th number among 140 nations on the knowledge economy, and only 3 percent of the people undergo vocational training.

Technology and innovation: Technology is the mainspring of growth and development. Lack of technological readiness, the agility with which existing technologies are adopted to raise productivity, is another supply side constraint. The major problems are lack of technology transfer through FDI, the internet usage, availability of latest technologies, government’s procurement of advanced technological products, grant of utility patents and availability of scientists and engineers.

Corporate culture: The business culture of Pakistan is by and large characterised by inefficiency and lack of delegation of authority. The businesses are impatient of government regulations but seek the umbrella of protection — in the form of import tariffs and subsidies — to shield them from having to compete with foreign suppliers.

 

[email protected]


 

Braving the threat
People who have been creating problems for aid organisations to work in areas like Balochistan and KPK are playing into the hands of a mindset that thinks aid-work is spy-work
By Aoun Sahi

Unidentified gunmen kidnapped Dr Khalil Ahmed Dale, a 60-year-old British Muslim national and head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) medical operations in Balochistan province on January 5, near the Chaman Housing Scheme in Quetta.

Interestingly, the area where he was picked up is one of the high security zones in the housing offices of all international organisations. It was second high profile kidnapping of foreign aid workers from the area in the last two years.

In February 2009, UNHCR’s John Solecki was also abducted from the same area and later BLA claimed responsibility. So far, no organisation has claimed responsibility for Dr Khalil’s kidnapping. “He was serving most deprived people of Pakistan from the last one and a half years,” says a Pakistani colleague of Dr Dale. “He was a great human being and a dedicated health professional”, he adds.

ICRC has been permanently present in Quetta since 1983 continuously. It initially started operations here to provide health assistance to the victims of the armed conflict in Afghanistan while its current operation focuses on Balochistan, assisting victims of armed violence and natural disaster.

It provides medical care for the wounded and disabled people, visits detainees in some areas and restore family links. It is also supporting the livestock and dairy development department in the province.

“We are focusing more and more on health facilities there. We have been helping thousands of people here every year through our weapon-wounded assistance and physical rehabilitation programmes. From January to November 5,681 patients have been treated at ICRC. It supported three clinics in Quetta while 3,333 patients were treated at rehabilitation centre from January to December 2011. Along with costs of entire treatment of registered patients we also cover most of the travel and food expenses of patients,” informs Najum-ul-Saqib Iqbal, Operational Communication Manager, ICRC.

Restoring Family Links (RFL) is one of the most important activities of the ICRC in Balochistan through which it, along with its partners, make an effort to re-establish and maintain broken family links because of violence or disasters.

Between October and December 2011, the ICRC team in Quetta facilitated the exchange of 40 Red Cross Message and 7 Salaamats (verbal message) between families and their relatives detained abroad. In total, 10 RFL related phone calls were performed, including teleconference calls with people and their families detained at Bagram and Guantanamo Bay. “We helped thousands of people during 2008 earthquake and 2010 floods in the province as well”, says Najum-ul-Saqib Iqbal, adding, “We do not know why somebody would kidnap an official of such an organisation. We have not been contacted by anybody so far regarding Dr Dale”.

Police in Quetta say it has reached very close to the people responsible for the incident. “We do not want to reveal their identity as it can put Dr Khalil Dale in danger”, says Nazir Kurd, Police Operations Deputy Inspector General (DIG). According to him, Dr Dale was on his way to the office when a group of armed men intercepted his vehicle and detained him at gunpoint. “The abductors left behind the vehicle and spared the driver”, he says, adding “ICRC has been offered security in the past but it declined terming it was against its mandate,” Kurd tells TNS.

The organisation also received threats in May 2010 from some Baloch insurgents and closed down its offices for a few days in Quetta. The officials of the organisation do not link those threats with the latest incident.

The ICRC head office at Islamabad has called for an unconditional release of its kidnapped staff member. The organisation has also re-affirmed that despite the incident, it will be continuing its humanitarian work in Pakistan.

But the incident has placed deprived and helpless people at risk in the most backward province of the country. At the day of the incident, the ICRC announced closure of its six offices in Pakistan, including three based in the remote areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa while one each in Punjab (Lahore), Sindh (Jacababad) and AJK (Muzaffarabad).

Operational Communication Manager, ICRC says that organisation was facing increasing difficulties for the last few years regarding access to those areas and population where it wants to work. “In addition, questions were being raised repeatedly on issues related to the ICRC’s scope of activities and operational procedures, so we decided to limit the physical presence of the organisation by almost 70 percent. We will maintain presence in Islamabad, Peshawar, and Quetta and continue operations in other areas through these offices. ICRC’s office in Karachi remains operational for the time being,” he says.

The organisation has been striving its level best to serve the most backward and tough-to-reach areas of the country. “Unfortunately, the most vulnerable groups-children and women of these deprived and violence-hit areas will be most affected in future by the closure of ICRC offices”, says a leading local aid worker from Quetta. “The people who have been creating problems for aid organisations to work in areas like Balochistan and KPK are playing into the hands of a mindset that thinks aid-work is spy-work”, he says.

 

 

assistance
In the absence of funds
Countries like Pakistan need to re-appropriate their own resources more prudently tomeet contingency needs
By Naseer Memon

Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has said that only 40 percent of the funds have so far been received against the appeal launched by the UN. The UN launched an appeal for $ 356 million for support of the flood affectees in Sindh and Balochistan. So far, hardly $150 million could be mobilized. Whereas the scale of flood disaster this year surpassed the damages of previous year’s flood, donors’ response has been starkly lukewarm this time.

So far, European Commission, US, Japan, UK and Norway have been the major donors. According to the latest figures of the NDMA, 520 people died during the flood. Approximately 34,000 villages were affected and 1.6 million houses were damaged which affected more than 9.6 million people.

Rural economy in Sindh is ruined as cropped area over 2.2 million acres was damaged and more than 116,000 cattle heads were perished. According to the UN, the floods have wiped out 73 percent of standing crops, 36 percent of livestock, and 67 percent of food stocks in the 13 worst-affected districts of Sindh. Loss of crop and livelihood is a serious concern as these two are the key sources of livelihood in the flood affected areas.

Sluggish response by humanitarian aid community is causing severe stress on relief activities. Major shortfall is in critical areas of food security (86 pc) drinking water (83 pc) and shelter (49 pc). As a result of that three quarters of the total affected households in Sindh and Balochistan have not received any shelter assistance.

In winter, the need for shelter and blankets has increased. In Sindh and Balochistan, 3 million flood-affected people remain highly vulnerable and in need of immediate food assistance. According to aid agencies, over five million people urgently require agricultural support to resume food production and income generation activities.

Clearly, this situation is leading towards a lurking human crisis in the coming days. World Food Program has also raised concern on the shortfall of $107 million to cover food needs of critically affected communities till Feb 2012.

The agency has warned that if resources are not mobilised their stock will be exhausted by the end of November and they will be constrained to cut down the size of ration and number of people being assisted after December.

The latest update of NDMA on 2nd Dec shows approximately 232,000 people still living in 755 camps, requiring all kinds of assistance. According to UNOCHA, around 25 percent of the 9 million flood affected population is in danger of contracting various kinds diseases as cases of malaria, cholera, upper and lower respiratory tract infections, and skin diseases have been reported. This situation certainly calls for urgent action on the part of government and humanitarian aid community.

Donor’s response shows a downward trend in recent disasters. During 2010 floods UN appealed for $1.9 billion but only $1.3 billion were provided by donors. 11 most generous donors contributed $1.6 billion and the least generous 15 countries contributed only $33 million.

Denmark contributed $23 million but Portugal with bigger GDP contributed nothing. France donated $ 4.2 million, nine times less than Sweden’s donation while having six times larger GDP. According to a report by an aid agency, Islamic Relief, there is a marked difference in donor response compared to Haiti’s earthquake.

In Haiti 3.7 million people were affected and it received $948 per affectee in aid whereas in 2010 floods more than 20 million people were affected in Pakistan but only $122 per affectee was received.

According to an analysis by an international aid agency, Oxfam GB, only $1.30 has been committed per person by international donors in the first 10 days of the UN appeal as compared to $3.20 committed in the same period during last year’s floods. The corresponding figures for 2005 earthquake was $70 and for Haiti’s earthquake was 495$. This trend clearly indicates that donor response does not commensurate with the scale of disaster. Except number of deaths all other accounts of damages in recent floods have been far greater than Haiti’s earthquake.

Delayed appeal by the government, economic slowdown in Euro zone and US, lack of efficiency and transparency on part of government, lukewarm coverage by international media are considered as key reasons for the poor response by humanitarian aid community.

The government underestimated the scale of disaster and the appeal for international aid came too late when millions were already shelterless. Also, major aid contributors, e.g. Europe and US, are reeling under economic meltdown. The US, after losing $US 550 billion in Afghanistan war, is facing worst unemployment in recent decades. Fourteen million unemployed Americans are a major cause of concern.

After losing credit rating one step down, US law makers are bent upon axing international aid. Deep cuts in food and medicine for Africa and disaster relief aid are being seriously contemplated. US foreign assistance has declined from two percent of its federal budget in 70s and 80s to less than one percent in 2011.

The House Appropriation Committee has proposed cutting assistance to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Similarly, major countries in European Union are facing a worst debt crisis. Gross domestic debt in Euro zone is now 85pc of its GDP. Budget deficit in Britain has reached 10.4 percent and in US is 8.9 percent. Unemployment in 16 to 24 years age group in UK has reached 14 percent during the last three years. A 10 percent cut in government spending is already on cards.

In this scenario, international aid is likely to be more sluggish in the event of any future disasters. Countries like Pakistan need to re-appropriate its own resources more prudently to meet contingency needs. With alarming rise in the frequency of disasters, Pakistan needs to contemplate a long-term master plan for disaster risk reduction. A fraction of the huge sums of money required for relief and rehabilitation operations can help making better pre-disaster arrangements.

 

The writer is Chief Executive of Strengthening Participatory Organization-SPO, [email protected]

 

Agony of the informal sector
Rights of workers from this sector, especially women, need to be highlighted
By Ume Laila Azhar

The informal sector comprises small units that produce goods or services with the primary objective of generating employment and incomes for the families engaged in these activities. Informal activities have often been characterised by low levels of capital, skills, diminished access to organised markets and technologies; low and unstable incomes and poor and unpredictable working conditions.

Such activities are often outside the scope and purview of the official statistical enumeration and government regulations, while also eluding the formal system of social protection.  The units operating in the informal sector are highly labour-intensive but employment is mostly casual, and based on kinship or personal relations rather than contractual arrangements ensuring protection.

In Pakistan the situation is extremely instable not only because of the global depression, but also on account of Pakistan’s involvement in the so-called ‘war on terror’. The prolonged war has increased uncertainty, lowered investment and created an environment of fear due to the frequent suicide bombings and target killings in marketplaces.

In Lahore, majority of the home-based workers work mostly at their own homes where they receive raw material through sub-contractor. In some cases, group of women also opt to work together at one place. They are spread out in all localities

A number of businesses, social and political groups have petitioned for laws and ordinances banning kite flying which does damage to property and people. All of this culminated in the Supreme Court issuing the ruling this week that imposed the ban on kites during the month long Basant (spring festival) celebrations.

Kite flying is another sector where HBWs working in the informal sector are involved. Kite making has always been a business restricted to the informal sector. It was work that kept both women and men earning, and work was shared by entire families, who could earn up to Rs 2,000 a day. Today they are broke with no work to do.

While the general populace has qualms about missing Basant festivals something that they could celebrate, the more afflicted party is that who has lost out financially, and is now living in intense poverty. Where once they make enough money to live contentedly, today they have bowed down to the heavyweight of financial pressures and have ended up losing the only work that they knew since decades.

Kite making has always been a business restricted to the informal sector. It was work that kept both women and men earning, and work was shared by entire families, who could earn up to Rs 2,000 a day. The kite flying has been banned by Punjab government due to the hazardous wire used. Kite flying is totally a homebased work done by families living in walled city of Lahore and Shalimar town of Lahore..

At this crucial juncture where unemployment is increasing, inflation increasing on weekly basis and population ratio also on the rise; it becomes essential to encourage the cottage industry to flourish and empower informal sector employment. In Faisalabad, filling reels (or ‘cones’ as they were commonly called) with thread was found in many neighborhoods. In general, piece rate payment was Rs200 for filling 40 cones; the process was being carried out using an electrical industrial unit.

In urban Faisalabad, women were also found to be making very fine quality leather shoes; the entire stitching was being carried out by hand. Faisalabad was a huge hub for HBWWs; they were engaged in many different types of work, including gluing mukaish-like tinsels on kameez and dupatta.

Carpet making was being carried out in Faisalabad city as well as rural areas of DG Khan, and Kasur. Women of all ages, including girl children were found to be making carpets of various sizes; the loom sizes varied, from very large to small carpets. The earning for making one carpet in 26-30 days varied from Rs. 800 to Rs. 3,800 based on the carpet size.

The shift to informal sector jobs during the financial and economic crisis will likely be long lasting for many workers. This adds considerable pressure on earnings for those in vulnerable employment. Such trends will keep the level of working poverty high, especially since social protection is relatively limited.

There is a wide variety of declarations, conventions and goals, both at the international and national levels, which reflect the aspiration to eradicate extreme poverty and ensure decent work and living conditions for workers and citizens: 1) The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1 refers to the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger and aims to halve the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day; goal 2 refers to primary education for both boys and girls by 2015; goal 3 refers to gender equality and empowerment of women and aims to increase the share of women in waged employment in the non-agricultural sector.

Additionally, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Articles 22-26), Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW: Article 11), the Beijing Platform for Action 2005, Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), International Covenant on Social and Economic and Cultural Rights (ICSECR), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions are all a part of the global aspirations to create a just world for workers in general and women workers in particular.

The Labour Policy 2010 acknowledges the difficulties of extending labour protections to the country’s large informal sector. The proposed policy for home-based Workers constitutes the following objectives: 1) to increase women’s incomes and economic viability; 2) Secure Social Protection; 3) lay the Foundation for a Political Framework through which women can articulate their concerns and demands. The salient features of the policy include a focus on minimum protection, minimum remuneration, regulation of working conditions, skill development and literacy programmes, and occupational health and safety standards. 

Since women in home-based sector are among the most vulnerable and deprived strata of society social protection is absolutely necessary for them. Effective and affirmative actions for the registration of home based workers are a must to bring them under the labour workforce.

The writer is a development manager and can be reached [email protected]

 

Rate race
Every news is not breaking news, but the ‘breaking news’ fashion has out-caste the research and investigation attitude from journalism in Pakistan
Ahmed Noor Kahloon

In Pakistan, problems of one institution are spreading in others while media, being the fourth estate, is not an exception too. Electronic media, instead of standing bigger than the crowed, unfortunately, due to lack of basic ethics of journalism and broadcasting, are joining the crowed.

The present episode has been yet another example in which media could not live up to even basic journalism principles. It once again became visible that rather than using common sense and cross checking the information and help the public get closer to the truth, media hastened to deliver all those questions as “Breaking News” and had talk shows based on these rumours and speculations. They went on jumping their guns without any proof and their ‘credible sources’ once again proved to be incredible sources.

On the other end of the spectrum: problem lies with the authorities as well for not giving enough information to the media, if the president was unwell, for instance, the government could have at least lessened the severity of the crisis by avoiding giving contradictory and misleading statements to the media.

However, this case is no exception: be it terrorist attack on GHQ, Raymond Davis case, US operation against Osama Bin Laden in Abottabad, PNS Mehran attack, memogate scandal, Nato attack in Pakistan or a social issue, in such times of instability, there have repeatedly been similar concerns that media coverage might have exacerbated the crisis by exaggerating a news item or letting incredible information leak out among wider audiences.

With due respect, media owners of some news channels, media managers and anchors should be held equally responsible for not showing a sense of social responsibility and steering this unfortunate country towards its doom, by beating panic with panic in their news broadcast and talk shows, eventually, spreading chaos in society.

Journalists need to understand their rights and responsibilities and know when to step back or move forward as questions arise during work. Decision-making becomes easier and less risky when one is aware of the laws governing the media. If one makes ethical decisions for a reason that one can explain, people will respect work.

True, incompetent political and military leadership and foreign interference has brought the country to this pass, no matter the situation, elements responsible for this crisis should all be subject to observation and scrutiny by media. Under such circumstances, media can play a positive role in bringing things back to normal which no army, political party or other unseen power groups can do. But, how can media question them unless they put their own house in order?

Television channels and the anchors are trying their best to convey information to the public, ideally to serve public interest. However, the manner in which this information is being disseminated through TV channels, has not only a negative impact on the mental health of the public but the country at large.

Every news is not breaking news, but the “Breaking News” fashion has out-caste the research and investigation attitude from journalism in Pakistan. The race to be the first to break the news is promoting sensationalism and painting the country’s image more gloomier. Media, instead of being agenda setter, has become agenda follower of the power elite.

The statement that “we show what people want to watch” is no more justifiable as media ought to play its actual role of trend setter not of trend follower. Media should shape community values objectively. People won’t mind if media covers difficulties of their everyday life more than activities of politicians and others.

The dilemma that media is facing today might be because it’s a novice and most of broadcast journalists come from print to broadcast journalism without proper education and training. On the other hand, there is no gate-keeping institution in almost all news channels to cross check or balance the news items coming from different sources; media owners seem to be least bothered about ethics in journalism because their prime concern is the rating of the channel which is gained through disseminating sensationalism. This attitude may help in generating high revenues but it creates panic in society and results in loss of credibility.

However, it’s still not too late to avoid imminent loss. According to Centre for International Media Ethics, “J-ethinomics” a combination of journalism, ethics and economy can produce remarkable results. Ethics is a great opportunity to make news organisations economically sustainable. Trust in the news influences news sales. The audience’s perception of news as “ethical” and responsible cannot only ensure media’s economic viability, but will also help in gaining long-run public trust as well.

 

   

politics
The same old tricks
Those who are clamouring to be given entry into the corridors of power should rest assured that the methods that they are currently favouring to gain access to power will come back to haunt them
By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the ‘politics of the court’ on these pages. While at the time I suspected that political fireworks were on the horizon, I could not have predicted that the Supreme Court and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government would come to (figurative) blows as quickly as they have. The extent of the contradictions within ruling circles has now become clear to the world, and it is unlikely that the PPP-led dispensation will survive in its present form for too much longer.

Cue applause. It is sad but true that so many Pakistanis, and particularly political forces, are licking their lips at the prospect of yet another elected government being shown the door before the end of its stipulated term. Of course, the PPP and the much reviled Zardari may yet live to fight another day — and one would not put it past them given their penchant for survival — but even if they do, it will not change the fact that such a large section of our political class seems intent on getting rid of them by hook or crook.

It is true, as some commentators have noted in recent times, that the PPP and democracy are not synonymous, and that the principle of protecting the democratic process should not be conflated with the imperative of saving the PPP government. I also believe it is necessary to hold the PPP to account for what it has achieved — or not, as the case may be — in terms of policy and legislation since the 2008 general election. I understand the frustration of those who point to the PPP’s miniscule progress on the everyday issues that affect the Pakistani people. The present regime has spent most of its time engaged with questions of its own survival — moving on from one ‘crisis’ to the next, the ‘people’s government’ has evinced little concern for a plethora of issues that should have been at the top of its agenda.

This is precisely why I find the hardly contained excitement of political workers on the anti-PPP side of the current divide appalling. They either could care less about the very issues they are criticizing the PPP for neglecting, or they genuinely believe that they will magically fix all of the long-term structural problems of this country as soon as the PPP is evicted from the presidency and PM house and ‘clean’ and ‘committed’ leaders take their place. These ‘clean’ and ‘committed’ politicians, who appear to be jialas of the Chief Justice of Pakistan whilst remaining devoted defenders of the men in khaki, obviously feel they are legitimately entitled to openly lobby for the current occupants of the presidency and PM house to vacate their premises.

But are they entitled to do so? How much have Pakistani politicians really moved on from the fractious bickering and intrigue that characterised the ‘lost’ democratic decade of 1988-99? For all of the talk of maturity and a ‘new’ politics doing the rounds, does the present confrontation bode well for Pakistani democracy or does it confirm just how difficult it will be to institutionalise some semblance of a representative political process in this country?

Despite the constant assurances being issued about the impossibility of martial law on the part of populists such as Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif, as well as the Chief Justice himself, any reasonably seasoned observer of the Pakistani political scene can testify to the fact that the Pakistani military will not cease pulling the strings even if the days of direct military takeovers appear — and I must stress appear — to be over. Lest any evidence be required one need only to consider the statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) machinery this past week which was a thinly-veiled threat to the government to back down or face the exit door.

More generally, the military still exclusively formulates major policies, both to do with Pakistan’s relations with the outside world (Kashmir, Afghanistan) and the state’s priorities and actions within the country (budgetary allocations, Balochistan, patronage of religious militancy). Large sections of the media and intelligentsia steer clear of any overt criticism of the institution, and even the emergent activist judiciary makes no bones about the fact that elected representatives of the people can be subjected to unrestrained judicial scrutiny but the men in khaki enjoy virtual immunity.

Yet those who proclaim the impossibility of ‘undemocratic’ or ‘extra-constitutional’ excess want the people of Pakistan to believe that the latter have suddenly become the wellspring of power? They want those of us who have fought tooth and nail against the military dominance to ignore the fact that state policy continues to be formulated at the behest of General Headquarters (GHQ) at the cost of the welfare of the ordinary Pakistani? Clearly, the media’s spin doctoring has got the best of the populists spearheading the ‘regime change’ campaign — they themselves do not realise just how much has changed in today’s Pakistan.

This is now a society wracked by competing visions of the future and endless spouting of the myth of the indivisible Pakistani people cannot change this. It is almost irrelevant whether or not the PPP is planning to manoeuver some kind of electoral mileage out of the current imbroglio — what matters is that there are a non-negligible number of social constituencies that are on the PPP side of the divide and the merest hint that a ‘Punjabi’ conspiracy is afoot to undermine the elected government will simply underline the divide. Public discourse is, without doubt, heavily manipulated in this country, and the information revolution has to an extent reinforced the ability of the powers-that-be to forge an environment that suits them. But the means of manipulation have become only slightly more sophisticated relative to the confidence with which dissenters now make themselves heard and seen. In other words, the same old tricks can no longer guarantee the same results.

The judges and generals will do what they will. What is of greater significance is the positions taken by those who purport to represent the Pakistani people. In their heart of hearts all of our mainstream politicians know that not one of them represents the diverse and increasingly assertive constituencies that together constitute the polity. When General Musharraf departed the scene some three and a half years ago, many observers were cautiously optimistic about the sounds being made by the political class vis a vis the sanctity of the political process and the need to move forward through consensus. The consensus, to whatever extent it existed, now appears close to collapse. Those who are clamouring to be given entry into the corridors of power should rest assured that the methods that they are currently favouring to gain access to power will come back to haunt them, very likely sooner rather than later.

 

 

Looking back in despair
Economic and security crises coupled with changing priorities in the developed world necessitate nations such as ours to redefine paradigms of sustainable development
Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri

Let us recap 2011 and some of the changes taking place at various levels. Pakistan witnessed another year of energy deficiency, fiscal deficit, policy led poverty, man made floods, and socio-political instability.

These problems were so sever in nature that they masked some of the good things that actually happened in Pakistan during 2011 (yes there are quite a few, such as decrease in suicide attacks at least in major cities of Pakistan).

In order to meet social sector development challenges, Pakistan has been heavily relying on external actors and factors. The revenue collected by Government of Pakistan is barely enough to meet debt repayment and defense expenditures. Day to day domestic expenditures are met through domestic borrowing, while social sector development is linked to external help, aid and loans. This is precisely the reason that Public Sector Development Program gets axed when an external commitment be it is “Kerry Lugar Money” or “Friends of Pakistan Forum” pledges does not come through.

Economic and security crises coupled with changing priorities in the developed world necessitate nations such as ours to redefine paradigms of sustainable development amid ‘curtailed aid’ or ‘no aid’ scenarios as the dependence of our development on developed world would no more be sustainable in the near future, meaning we would have to think beyond foreign aid and looking beyond the West.

This year global community would be gathering for Rio+20 conference to carry out a stock taking exercise on what did it achieve on sustainable development front. It would assess the sustainability of some of the solutions that were proposed for sustainable development. While preparing for Rio+20, it is about time for us to make reality check whether the prescriptions prescribed to us so far were relevant, whether those solutions were financially viable, whether we had the political will at the top, demand at grassroots level and expertise at implementers level to deliver, whether all of the abovementioned factors or none of these factors were responsible for our current state of affairs.

At the same time we do need to come up with new normative for our existing problems. To me part of the revised normative of our problem is existing mistrust on our regional resources and capabilities.

Pakistan is almost at the verge of global isolation. It needs to redefine its development policies following a philosophy of “looking East” for survival and doing businesses to enable its people to get benefit out of the growing regionalism. Many are opposing trade normalization efforts between Pakistan and India on both sides of the border. To me these efforts are very timely. They can be an appropriate response to changing priorities of our traditional allies which necessitate diversity of trading partners and exploration of new markets. Year 2012 would be a year of realignment and it is about time we as a nation should also learn to realign our priorities, policies, and practices taking a pro-people approach.

On economic front at the global level, financial crisis in Eurozone, resulting in resignations by Italian and Greek premiers and a virtual surrender of individual EU member’s financial policy sovereignty to EU financial regulators threatened the whole EU philosophy.

This uncertainty also affected the strength of Euro which hit the 16 years lowest against US dollar. However, a strong US dollar did not mean a strong US economy. US economy did receive quite a few shocks during 2011, especially downgrading of sovereign credit rating of United States.

The Obama administration received warnings not only from Federal treasury, but also from China that happens to be the biggest investor in US Federal Securities for irresponsible spending and over borrowing. China, on the other hand, too faced a slowed economic growth for the first time in last 11 years.

Chinese real estate market continues to face slump. Increased unemployment and reduced predictions for growth in the global north are indications of further chaos. London riots, attacks on immigrants in Greece Italy and Spain; demonstrations against international financial institutes and movements like “Occupy Wall Street” are yet other signs that “development” in the global north that many in the global south were following as role model is not sustainable enough.

In fact, that model is unable to take care of the needs of the current generations and it would definitely not be able to fulfill the needs of the future generations.

On political front, one witnessed Arab spring where a combination of internal and external actors and factors proved lethal to the powerful rulers like Hussni Mubarak and Gaddafi whereas few more seem to be on their way out. One of the lessons learnt from Arab Spring is that state security devoid of human security would never result in stable governments.

On energy front, rise in fuel prices to a record high after 2008 and Fukushima nuclear plant tragedy yet again reminded us of the importance of energy efficiency and finding some new solutions to current energy crisis.

On regional front, US’s decision to enter in dialogue with Taliban and NATO’s back channel diplomacy for an honorable exit from Afghanistan may change the geo-political scene of this region.

Changed attitude of US and NATO towards post Osama Pakistan and Pakistan’s recent attempt to assert its existence as sovereign nation to NATO and US governments may reshape West’s priorities, policies, and practices towards this region.

In social sector development, missed commitments for development assistance by most of the developed countries and missed millennium development goals by most of developing countries are points of concern for the poor, marginalized and socially excluded people.

Yet another inconclusive round of talks in Durbin on climate change merits a thorough analysis of existing priorities, policies, and practices of major stakeholders.

 

The writer is heading Sustainable Development Policy Institute and may be contacted at [email protected]

first person
New approach to 
climate

“Trees planted on farms can eventually reduce pressure on local forests.”
By Abdul Sattar

Eak Rana is a Nepalese expert on sustainable development. He joined International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu in November 2009 as Project Coordinator for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation. The project is being run in developing countries to protect forests. Rana coordinates with partners and liaise with local ministries and stakeholders to institutionalise forest carbon accounting, monitoring, and registration and help develop a national forest carbon fund.

Rana gained extensive experience in forest resources management and livelihood improvement during many years of work. His recent experience included working for an initiative in Nepal where he was involved in various activities implemented by the Forest Ministry’s REDD Forestry Cell under the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility scheme. He has rich experience working with government, civil society, and NGOs. Rana has a Master of Science degree in sustainable resource management from Technical University of Munich, Germany, specialising in forest ecosystem management. He is project coordinator; REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) Ecosystem Services at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu. The News on Sunday had the opportunity to interview Rana. Excerpts follow:

The News on Sunday (TNS): Tell us about your work at REDD?

Eak Rana (ER) Globally, REDD is considered a new approach for climate change mitigation and adaptation. We think that forest policies will have to align with the incentives of and the public interest. However, a challenge is made more difficult by the complex causes of deforestation, many of which are external to forestry sector. Nepal still does not have a concrete framework in terms of a policy under REDD, but is part of two programmes: the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, and the United Nations REDD Programme. The country has gotten $200,000 for a readiness preparation proposal and an additional $3.5 million from the World Bank to work on six different components related to REDD.

TNS: What is the purpose of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development?

ER: The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, ICIMOD, is a regional knowledge development and learning centre serving the eight regional member countries of the Hindu Kush-Himalayas — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and is based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Globalisation and climate change have an increasing influence on the stability of fragile mountain ecosystems and the livelihoods of mountain people. ICIMOD aims to assist mountain people to understand these changes, adapt to them, and make the most of new opportunities, while addressing upstream-downstream issues. The center supports regional trans-boundary programmes through partnership with regional partner institutions, facilitates the exchange of experience, and serves as a regional knowledge hub. It strengthens networking among regional and global centres of excellence. Overall, it is working to develop an economically and environmentally sound mountain ecosystem to improve the living standards of mountain populations and to sustain vital ecosystem services for the billions of people living downstream now, and for the future. To adapt to the changing scenario, ICIMOD has set up a demonstration centre in the Jhikhu Khola watershed at Lamdihi village, farmers are taught the techniques of roof-water harvesting, making farm ponds, drip irrigation, composting and terracing. From growing one maize crop a year, some farmers now harvest rice, potato and vegetables thrice a year.

Under this project we are working hard to stop forest degradation and deforestation. Community foresting is one of the ways to save forests. Such foresting was adopted three decades ago under which forested areas were handed over to local communities. In 1988, community-based forest management groups were formally approved, with the Kavre and Sindhupalchowk districts being the pioneers. There are now 16,000-20,000 community-managed forests in Nepal, covering 25 per cent or 1.2 million hectares of the country’s forest land. This policy really yielded positive results and many degraded landscapes rejuvenated after the communities imposed management regime allowing natural regeneration. Communities also earn revenue by selling non-timber forest produce (NTFP), rejuvenating the land.

Forests are very important for the Nepalese people especially those living on high lands. One of the studies conducted by the project indicated 70 per cent of forest users depend on forest biomass based household energy as a source in project sites. We are of the opinion that they should use this source of energy in a sustainable way. Recognising this, the project has introduced alternative energy technologies such as bio Biogas and improved cooking stoves so that pressure on the forest could be reduced. Similarly, there has been enrichment plantation of native and culturally valuable tree seedlings in community and private forest land within three watersheds. Trees planted on farms will eventually reduce pressure on local forests. In one year, the community forests in three watersheds increase carbon offset of carbon dioxide of 2.67 tonnes per hectare. The entire project covers about 10,266 hectares of community forest area. In voluntary market, the price per tones of carbon dioxide is between US$ 3 and 5. However, the market price can go above US$ 20 for per tones of carbon dioxide internationally.

TNS: How Nepal was affected by climate change?

ER: Like other states of developing world, the countries of South Asia have been hit by climate change and Nepal is no exception. The country known for its high mountains and rich forests is facing droughts on the one hand and floods on the other hand. This drought leads to forest fires that is not only destroying livelihood of the people living on highlands but also causing damage to environment. Eighty per cent people in Nepal depend on agriculture but because of drought and floods agriculture yield has greatly been affected. Our country is facing two types of floods — glaciar lake outburst and overflow in regular rivers. Glaciers lake outburst flood the local lakes. This has also led to an overflow in rivers. The country is also witnessing irregular rainfall, which is also contributing to floods. These irregular rainfalls have been caused by temperature rise, which is a global phenomenon now and          Nepal          is no exception. This temperature rise has created many difficulties for the Nepalese people; the lowland people face drought and floods while the specter of forest fires and drought keep haunting the people of highlands. In Panchakhal area of the country, it now rains in May though traditionally rainfall occurred during June-September. With help from an NGO, the village has dug a 250-foot borewell and pumps water to a tank. Villagers get 80 litres a day for their use, but the 11-hour load shedding does not help. Most families use biogas to reduce dependence on forests.

TNS: How people are dealing with this changed situation?

ER: This phenomenon has forced people the way they used to live. Earlier people in highland would live in houses made of wood but now there has been a trend to make metal houses to escape the devastating consequences of forest fires. Peasants also find it hard to decide as to which crop they should grow. Since they are not sure about rainfall, they have diversified the means of their livelihood. Earlier all people would be dependent on agriculture and would grow crops to meet both ends but now one or two members of a family choose to go to urban centers in search of livelihood. Farmers are employing pre-sowing methods of agriculture. Because of irregular rainfalls farmers sow seeds before time, for instance potatoes grow in five months but now it may take seven months and the peasants sow its seeds before time. Earlier they would cut potatoes into four and sowed it but now they sow a whole potato to combat moister.

TNS: What has Nepalese government done to deal with this situation?

ER: We have launched National Plan of Adaptation Actions in 2011 under the United Nations Framework Covenants on Climate Change (UNFCCC). We will get fund from the UN agency for the five areas that we have identified as being hit by climate change and we will work to improve situation in these five areas.

 

Export cartels: any solutions?
Sweeping the issue under the carpet hampers competition in international markets and prevents trading countries from getting benefits of trade liberalisation
By Frederic Jenny and Pradeep Mehta

Interactions between trade and competition could not be more intimate as they are today when countries the world over are getting severely affected by the volatility of trade in primary commodities.

The major commodity spike of 2007-08 sent alarm bells ringing when the prices of many primary goods doubled from what they had been not so long ago. Much of this fluctuation may be explained by way of simple economics of demand and supply, while managing supply side failures is critical to restore some sense in the market.

One such management issue is that of the inability of trading nations to deal with rampant anticompetitive practices, especially when the importing countries pay heavily for anticompetitive practices exempted by exporting countries’ competition laws. Case in point here is the global potash fertiliser export cartel.

A recent study has highlighted the overcharge paid by India due to anticompetitive practices in the global potash market. Under a competitive scenario, the price of potash would decline from $574 per tonne in 2011 to $217 by 2015, and subsequently, increase to $488 by 2020. However, in the continuing presence of fertiliser cartels, the price of potash would steadily increase from $574 per tonne in 2011 to $734 in 2020. The resulting overcharge for India and China, two of the largest buyers of potash amounts to more than a billion US$ per year per country.

Such export cartels are in some cases government sponsored. For example, in February 2010, China, which controls more than 95 percent of the global production of rare earths, a collective name for 17 minerals used in high technology from mobile phones to military equipment, announced that it intended to impose restrictions on rare-earth mining in the next five years while maintaining international cooperation on trade in the metals, including “reasonable” export quotas.

But export cartels also exist in the manufacturing sector and can originate in developing countries. For example, last year the Chinese government filed an amicus brief in a US court in support of a motion to dismiss a private suit against four Chinese vitamin manufacturers accused of having cartelised their exports to the US since 2001. The Chinese government argued in its brief that it had supervised the price-fixing as part of its effort to “play a central role in China’s shift from a command economy to a market economy” and in order to mitigate the exposure Chinese companies faced in potential antidumping investigations.

Export cartels have a significant influence on prices in general and on the swing of prices of primary products in particular. Competition authorities in the countries of origin of the export cartels do not act against them because export cartels do not affect the domestic markets of the cartelists.

Competition authorities in the victimised countries either do not have powers to act against the export cartels which they suffer from for a variety of reasons. They may lack extra-territorial jurisdiction (as the litigation in India against the US-based soda ash cartel under the now repealed Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969 showed); the sovereign compulsion doctrine may prevent them from prosecuting state sponsored export cartels; they may not have the means to gather the evidence they would need to convict the perpetrators even if they have jurisdiction or they can be under pressure from their government not to act against them so as not to expose the country to retaliations endangering its own economy and state supported export cartels.

In January, 1997 the WTO established a working group on the interaction between trade and competition policy to explore the linkages and see whether a multilateral agreement on competition can be incorporated in the WTO. The idea was carried forward in the Doha Development Agenda. Alas, the same was taken off the negotiating agenda in 2004 due to opposition by developing countries to negotiations on several issues, which included competition policy.

Given the reforms in competition regimes brought about across the world since the collapse of the agenda in WTO (130 countries have adopted a competition law today as opposed to 35 in 1995) and now that it seems as though the Doha negotiations do not have an immediate future and that the WTO has to redirect its focus from trade negotiations to analyses, the time has come for this multilateral organisation to undertake a serious and dispassionate study of the effects and the appropriate legal regime to regulate export cartels.

Such a study would need to distinguish between the export cartels which may actually enhance the export opportunities of small countries which would not otherwise be able to access export markets from the export cartels which have no such redeeming values and are limited to rent seeking and reduce competition rather than enhance it. It would also need to distinguish between the purely private export cartels and the state sponsored cartels, like oil, which may deserve a different treatment. Finally, it should take into account the fact that export cartels may originate in countries which have vastly different levels of economic development and therefore have quite different domestic impacts.                 

Sweeping the issue under the carpet as has been the case of late foster beggar-thy-neighbour activities hampering competition in international markets and preventing trading countries from getting the benefits of trade liberalisation.

The writers are Chairman, OECD Committee on Competition Policy and Secretary General of CUTS International respectively.

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