from the scholar
a friend to all
"We need a growth rate of
By Raza Khan
Dr Rashid Amjad, Vice Chancellor, Pakistan Institute of Developmental Economics (PIDE), Islamabad, talks about different aspects and problems of Pakistan’s economy
TNS: Pakistan presently is facing a severe and multifaceted economic crisis. How would you explain the situation?
Dr Rashid Amjad: There is no doubt Pakistan is going through extremely difficult times economically. It is due only to the resilience and the hard work and efforts of our people that we have managed to weather the storm.
After the fast economic growth during the 2000-2006 period, the economy was hit hard because of the unprecedented increase in world commodity and oil prices and then the global financial meltdown. When the new government took over, it faced a very difficult situation due to neglect and inaction of the last government, especially on not adjusting prices and not taking fiscal measures or undertaking structural reforms. After we were hit by the global meltdown, the economy faced a severe balance of payment crisis. Unfortunately our friends did not come to our aid which we had hoped. Therefore, we were forced to go to the IMF to have a standby agreement.
TNS: Was resorting to IMF necessary?
RA: Whether we had gone to the IMF or not, there was a need to stabilise the economy. If we had not gone to the IMF we would still have followed a shadow IMF programme. Nevertheless, stabilisation was the need and the panel of economists set up by the government-- of which I was the convener and Dr Hafeez Pasha was the chair and had many other eminent economists -- all agreed that stabilisation was essential, and therefore the government took the critical decision to stabilise the economy.
These measures have, however, been partly successful. The bleeding of the economy stopped and the balance of payment situation improved. We were helped initially by fall in oil prices and also increase in remittances and foreign assistance. However, when we were just beginning to show signs of recovery we had this unprecedented floods that were of epic proportion. PIDE estimate is that Pakistan has had to lose five to six billion dollars per annum due to floods, which is two and a half percent in terms of loss to the economy. That said, I think the government could have done better if it had remained focused on a selected number of issues.
I felt that at the end of the day, the government could show little for itself in terms of economic achievements. The issues which a brilliant economic manager like Shaukat Tarin should have focused on were solving the energy crisis and retiring the circular debt. But instead he got into this rental power plants debate which stalled his efforts. Moreover, the tax to GDP ratio should have been increased. Here again the government could not muster enough support to be able to bring about necessary changes; then curbing the inflation and monetisation of the fiscal deficit could not control due to the security situation and energy subsidies.
TNS: Why did the government fail to take such measures?
RA: Let me say here that economic management under a political democratic system and that through a coalition government is difficult. Things which are much more obvious to economists and to donor agencies are much more difficult to put into practice by the government. Also some of the immediate reforms like increasing taxes are much more difficult when the economy is in a downturn, especially when you have an energy crisis, infrastructure constraints, and high inflation.
In such a situation people’s capacity or willingness to pay is deeply eroded. We have tried to move the economy from short-term, knee-jerk reactions to a more and more medium term perspective. In this context, for instance, the Planning Commission came up with the Approach Paper to the tenth Five-Year Plan calling for investing in the people and we almost had a draft of the plan. But due to the 7th NFC Award and the 18th Constitutional Amendment there was a need to reflect further on what the federal government can do and what the provinces could do.
Therefore, in the new situation the Planning Commission is coming up with a strategy which would basically increase reliance on development rather than growth or the private sector. Because the federal government will not have the resources to carry out these infrastructure projects and the provincial government gradually will have the capacity so there is going to be a much greater role for the private sector and it is important to facilitate the growth of the private sector. Of course, the government will have to still play an important role in economic development particularly infrastructure development either through encouraging public-private partnership, in which we have not been successful so far or by trying to get foreign investment or to pour in more resources.
TNS: Do you see any silver lining in these dark clouds of economic crises?
RA: On the positive side, the 18th Constitutional Amendment is really path-breaking. We generally do believe that if these reforms are seriously implemented and time given to them to take effect this would really strengthen Pakistan.
Moreover, I am afraid we have not done our homework sufficiently especially on the 7th NFC Award. We divided up our resources in the hope that over the next five years we would increase our tax to GDP ratio to 14 percent, which I don’t feel is realistic.
Nevertheless the 18th Amendment is a very commendable development and it would prove to be an ‘engine of growth’ in the future. Because the more you decentralise the more you bring the economic activity and economic decision-making nearer to the people, whether to provincial or local level which ensures better utilisation of resources.
TNS: What is the real problem with the Pakistan economy?
RA: The real problems are bad governance, failure to implement economic reforms and overcoming physical infrastructure constraints. These are things which you cannot do in a day but you have to give the right signals for that. We have two great pillars and forces in Pakistan through which you can help improve governance.
The first is an independent judiciary and the second is a free and vibrant media. An independent judiciary is playing a very important role in Pakistan in ensuring good governance, especially in terms of economic transparency and coming down hard on corruption and economic mismanagement or diversion of resources. The media is also playing a very positive role. People are debating and discussing issues and letting off steam. Although, going through this kind of process somewhat slows down decision-making but it lays the foundation of good governance in the country.
In order to improve governance we need to increase the capacity of government to both mange the economies as well as well deliver public services. Because of human resources shifting abroad and to the private sector, few competent people have joined government services. General decline in the education system also hits governance. Therefore, there is a need to improve the calibre of our civil services.
TNS: Do you think after devolution there would be some improvement in the social services?
RA: It would still need a considerable amount of efforts.
TNS: What is the relationship of higher education with economic growth and development?
RA: In higher education, the critical factor is the quality of your graduates. Our economy has grown fairly respectively but two things strike us. The first is that ever since globalisation has exacerbated Pakistan has not been able to take advantage of the phenomenon of globalisation.
On the contrary economies like India and China have taken immense advantage of globalisation. One reason really here is not only the availability of human resources but the quality of those resources. It is not just education but we have other skills passed on from generation to generation which have kept going. But as technology changes you cannot pass all skills from one generation to another because the technology has changed which replaces skills. Economists call this Total Factor Productivity Growth. So our growth is only by growth of quantity of labour and the quantity of capital.
India and China have managed to grow Total Factor Productive Growth, which we have not been able to. I, therefore, do believe that while the number game is important because our numbers are very small quality must be the criteria. HEC realised this and that is what we really want to do. It is great to see that education institutions have come up. And once you have many institutions it creates synergy and result is quality.
TNS: Keeping in view our economic problems what should be the foremost priority, stabilisation or growth?
RA: In the current scenario, stabilisation is still important but my greatest concern is that not enough attention is being given to igniting growth in the system. However, I am very concerned about the cut in the Public Sector Development Expenditure.
During recession, China and India invested in infrastructure as a kind of fiscal stimulus which at least had improved their infrastructure. On the other hand we have depleted our infrastructure further. By cutting on the Public Sector Development Spending we would be depleting it even further and that is to me very worrying. I wish our economic managers must make full notice of it.
Moreover, we have not been making economic reforms during stabilisation. Growth is a vital element, the quicker we do it the better. In Pakistan there are firms which have done very well even during 2010, the era of great recession; consumer goods industries have made large profits.
Suddenly agriculture has become very profitable not just because we increased prices but because world prices have gone up. Against this backdrop we should not just be obsessed with stabilisation we need to think about sustainable and inclusive growth of the economy.
Stabilisation no doubt is important for growth but growth is also important for stabilisation. Otherwise you would get trapped into such things and the government would say: Our balance of payments have become surplus or we have huge forex reserves or our trade account has become surplus. But sir can I ask what is your growth rate? Two to two and a half percent.
We don’t want a surplus or have huge forex reserves or a trade account, what we need is a growth rate of 8-9 percent. This is where the mindset of the government has to change. I am disappointed as the government is thinking of four percent growth next year. At least we should keep our target high value but obviously realistic.
Since I have returned to Pakistan, income disparities have increased. This is despite the fact that the poor may have become relatively better; I don’t think the poor have become worse off. Nevertheless, food security has been greatly threatened by the growing food prices. In this respect if the BISP is properly targeted it can works wonders provided this results in pulling many people out of poverty and it develops into an effective safety net. Then we have to cut down on conspicuous consumption.
TNS: Which of the resource we must greatly focus on?
RA: I think women empowerment. I seriously believe that women in Pakistan are under-utilised, overworked and under-invested resource wise. Our economic policies have not been gender sensitive. Women in Pakistan have transformed the rural economies, for instance: the growth of livestock and dairy sector. Women have made enormous contributions, but they have not been fully rewarded and have remained unpaid family helpers.
TNS: How could we take advantage of globalisation?
RA: See the new global markets are somewhat different from the old global markets. For instance, you just not send final products; rather you become part of the global value chain where you can have higher valued-addition.
TNS: What are the strengths of our economy?
RA: One of the major strength of Pakistan is its diaspora. There are different estimates about the strength of this diaspora. Some people say two million, but my feeling is it is much more than that -- may be about 5-6 million. We expect to receive $11 billion this year. So far an economy which is 160-170 billion dollars is a large amount.
But I really think we have to tap this diaspora and we have to have transfer of knowledge and skills. Similarly we need to keep up our efforts to be able to send people abroad. In a global economy, if your people are abroad in a much larger number it can bring strength to your people.
The remittances have a major role in reducing poverty and a source of economic growth. At the same time we need to study the factors -- what are the real factors causing steady increase in remittances: who are sending them and where are they going and how we could build in incentive structures. Although Pakistan’s image has suffered due to the insurgency, but having said that, any foreign firm which has ever come to Pakistan has made huge profits and very few have left. We need to publicise this particular factor.
Art of the future
Young artists represent a diversity of approach and a variety of themes in the 7th Annual Exhibition at Alhamra
By Quddus Mirza
The opening of the 7th Annual Exhibition of Young Artists at Alhamra was kind of claustrophobic -- both in terms of the crowd and the number of works displayed. Once inside the car after the formal opening, I opened the catalogue of the exhibition and had a completely different view of the show.
The difference between walking inside the gallery and leafing through the catalogue was not just about space and movement of one’s body; it was more about the distinction between real and replica. It shows how the reproduction had a starkly different effect from the actual work of art. Usually we are not too concerned about this distinction. Due to lack of museum collections on public display and rare exhibitions of international artists, majority of our audience is content with pictures of art works printed in books, magazines and catalogues. Often, one is lazy enough to pass judgment upon a show or an artist by merely seeing the images printed on the invitation card or in the accompanying catalogue; we tend to accept or reject the artist without ever stepping inside the gallery and experiencing real works of art.
Our artists, especially students, continue to follow this practice. Since majority of art education in Pakistan is based upon the history of Western art -- including Ancient, Renaissance, Modern and Contemporary periods -- examples of which can not be viewed over here, artists and students rely on art books to refer to various styles, movements and phases. This has become a kind of habit --of not utilising the opportunity of seeing other works which are available and can be experienced in the museum or galleries of permanent display. For example, a large number of miniature students depend upon illustrated books of art for their inspiration, instead of paying a visit to the museum. Likewise, several artists and art students hardly go to an exhibition or display of modern and contemporary paintings, prints and sculpture in a public gallery; they would rather consult a book of Pakistani art, a volume that can provide a wide range of images, without making much effort.
Books on art and catalogues are important in order to preserve the past (and even present), but these also alter the art work to a large extent. To begin with, the surface of each work printed in the book appears flat, glossy and even. Thus the experience of seeing the painted canvas with the residue of an artist’s hand, mark and texture is absolutely absent. Similarly, the variation in the surface treatment gets lost as paintings in books look similar and smooth. In addition, sizes mentioned in the margins/labels are hardly experienced or realised on looking at the illustrated books on art. In these publications, a mural has identical scale as of a miniature painting; so diversity in dimension diminishes to a standard size. .Also a round object turns flat, like a painting in a catalogue or book.
All this information on art works is inappropriate, since it restricts -- if not hides -- the real experience of seeing a piece of creative expression and leads to false notions. Hence, artists and students prepare surfaces of their finished paintings and miniatures as if these are glazed like an offset print, or devoid of any brush mark; because all brush strokes and textures diminish when a canvas of 54 square feet is reduced to 4 by 3 inches and a hand painted miniature looks like a mechanical image in printed form. Similarly the three-dimensionality and scale of a sculpture is subdued when transformed into a flat image on the pages of a book. That is perhaps why a large number of sculptures made in our surroundings are attempts in stretching a flat visual into a round format. Or a painting and miniature painting is merely an enlargement of a printed illustration.
That is why it is not surprising the see canvases following an identical size in an exhibition. Or surfaces of miniatures rendered in a smooth and mechanical fashion. Or sculpture pieces fabricated as tiny artifacts with a front and a back. This was found in ‘Red Hot’ at the Alhamra Art Gallery, which includes a large number of works by recent graduates and students of art institutions from Lahore and Karachi. In works spread in every room of the gallery, one could glimpse how the young artists had tackled large themes; yet their scales and techniques, in many cases, were restrictive and limited.
This by no means reduces the significance of the exhibition which in the short span of seven years has become the occasion to foresee the art of the future. Compared to past years, the present exhibition of young artists represents a diversity of approach and a variety of themes. Curated by Taniya Suhail, like always, most works selected for this show indicate how the young artists have been engaged with concerns different from earlier generations. For instance, one realises that both overt political subjects and the obvious problem of tradition do not hold much attraction for the participants. Instead, it is personal, physical and formal issues that appear to be important for our young artists.
Experiments with surfaces and materials are also visible in some works. For example, the painting of Scheherzade Junejo, the miniature of Tuba Zaki, mixed media by Saba Saleem and Naqsh Raj and the oil on canvas by Mahvish Pervaiz are a few examples of how these artists have focused on private subjects, at the same time converting these into general and collective concerns. Two bodies curled up in Scheherzade’s painting may allude to how the self is confronted with/by the ‘Other’. Similarly the induction of actual drain in the painted miniature by Tuba reduces the distinction between real and imaginary in a subtle manner. Naqsh replaces figures from the Last Supper with contemporary characters using multiple mediums. Saba sketches the outlines of different men, one filled with nails, thus suggesting the current unbearable conditions in our surroundings.
These artists and many more affirm that our young artists are endowed with vision and vitality. But because of the small scope of art and the limitation of our art organisations (galleries too), many of these young and exciting artists disappear after their degree shows and initial exhibitions. If we consider this loss of talent seriously and open up our venues to new artists; the ‘Red Hot’ along with being an annual affair will remain permanently red and perpetually hot.
(The exhibition will remain open till April 28, 2011)
The relationship between the practice and theory of music should be revitalised as a befitting tribute to N.A. Baloch
By Sarwat Ali
Nabi Bakhsh Khan Baloch (Dr N.A.Baloch) who died last week was a scholar of exceptional ability whose area of research spanned quite a few disciplines -- literature, languages, folklore, history, culture, archaeology and anthropology -- but all centred around his beloved Sindh.
In music too he did seminal work about its development in this area. The scholarship of music is usually the preserve of non-practicing scholars and their output is based on strictures and prescriptions, which the practicing musicians are averse to abide by and dismiss it. For the practicing musicians the real truth or worth of music lies in its practice and not lifeless theorising and dissection. This dichotomy has persisted despite many examples of practice and theory coinciding in an individual.
Though N. A. Baloch was not a practicing musician, he realised the significance of music and its importance in the making of a culture so he kept a close liaison with the practicing musicians without at anytime wishing or wanting to place them at a step lower in hierarchy. He knew that the real merit of music lay in its performance and not the other way round as many scholars delude themselves into believing. Just a few years ago, he planned an initiative to revive this integral bond between the theory and practice of music but unfortunately it didn’t continue because he couldn’t micromanage everything due to ill health.
The Sindhi scholars have prided themselves into building a foundational structure of their musical system as different from the major classical stream of North India or Hindustan. Being at the periphery of the subcontinent, it was obvious that the region was exposed to many external influences that in due process got absorbed by the time they reached the cultural heartland of subcontinent. There has been a talk about the similarities between the music of the Gypsies in Europe, especially Flamenco and that of Sindh, which predated the musical developments that were later to characterise the music of the heartland.
According to Baloch, Sindh compared to the other eastern parts of the subcontinent remained outside the direct influence of Brahmanism. It was Buddhist for centuries; ‘Hindu Music’, as such, which developed, as a form of religious worship did not gain ground in Sindh. The ‘Sindhian System’ of music remained a function of its own ethnology and culture and, hence, distinct from the ‘Hindu System’. There was, however, an interaction between the two systems, a process that continued onto the modem times.
The earliest Sindhi melodies originated in the ancient Dravidian music, the music of the Scythian period and the folksongs of the different indigenous ethnic groups. Belial/Belial, Asawari/Asa, Dhanashree, Todi and Kamod melodies, which have been an integral part of the Sindhi tradition and are widely diffused in folk singing to this day, were all adapted from the non-Aryan Dravidian melodies.
Turki origin melodies received from the Scythians were adapted and called ‘Saka Raga’. The desi melodies of the Gurjaras, Saurashtra and Cambay became popular in Sindh and were incorporated into the Sindhian System under the names of Gujri, Soratli and Khambhat.
Also it was during this early period that some of the typical melodies current in Sindh were introduced into the neighbouring Indian provinces. The ‘Saka Raga’, the ‘Taka Raga’, and the indigenous melodies under the varying names of Saindhavi, Sindhavi, Sindhuri, Sindhura, and Sindh were integrated into the early Indian Music Tradition.
During the Arab rule in Sindh, close cultural contacts developed between Sindh, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Spain. There were frequent exchanges of poets, scholars, musicians, artists and craftsmen. Al-Mas’udi, the prolific writer and a profound scholar who visited Sindh and India in the early second decade of the 10th century, studied Sindhi and Indian music, and in his Kitab-al-Zulaf (Book of Meadows) he wrote comprehensively on the music and musical instruments of different countries including those of ‘Sindh’ and ‘Hind’. These developments in Sindh had a great impact on the Indian System.
With the Muslims, music was far from being sacrosanct: it was simply a form of secular art for study and enjoyment. These developments which originated in Sindh were further strengthened with the advent of Muslims from Central Asia in the 11th century and the eventual establishment of their power in the subcontinent. Their encouragement of music as a secular art and the influence of the Arab-Iranian-Turkish system of music, which they introduced here, had a great impact on the revival of the ancient Hindu music.
During this period, the Sindhian Music System developed some new dimensions and became more defined. Of the Arab-Persian modes and melodies which had become current during the earlier period, Husaini, Yaman, and Zangola became an integral part of the Sindhi System. Zangola was Sindhised as Jhanglo and is known by that name to this day.
Among the first in the subcontinent to promote devotional music were the two great saints Bahauddin Zakariya of Sindh-Multan, a renowned disciple of Shahabuddin Suhrawardi, and Khwaja Mueenuddin who worked among the Samma masses of Sindh and probably discerning their attachment to music. He patronised the singers of devotional songs, the zakirs. In the course of time, these zakirs of Sindh developed great professional skill in singing Madah, Maulud and Kafi and Kalam.
Later, during the rule of the Soomras and the Sammas as a result of liberal patronage, the art of ‘musical narration’, developed. Professional minstrels in a variety of surs narrated the great epic of ‘Dodo-Chanesar’ and other popular folk stories. The following stories, among others, became the main ‘Music Themes’ during the Soomra period: Suhni/Mehar, Sasui/Punhun, Moririo/Machh, Lilan/Chanesar, Sorath/Chanesar, Sorath/Rai Dayach, Umar/Marui, and Mooma/ Rano.
During the Samma period, the art of musical narration was further perfected and the theme of the romance of Noori-and-Jam Tamachi was added. Each of these stories interspersed with verses was artistically narrated and sung in specific ragas and distinct styles of presentation. The ragas employed were mostly the result of the creative genius of the professional minstrels. Thus, Sunhni-&-Mehar was sung in raga Suhni; Sasui & Punhun was sung in Desi, Aberi and Husaini (later Shah Abdul Latif included two more melodies); Moririo in Ghatu; Lilan-&-Chanesar in Lilan; Sorath-&-Rai Dayach in Sorath; Moomal-&-Rano in Rano; Umar & Marui in Marui. All this happened during the Soomra period i.e. before 1350 A.D.
The music form of Suhni became so very popular even outside of Sindh that it was also incorporated into the ‘Indian System’. During the Samma period, the romance of Noori-&-Jam Tamachi came to be sung in the Kamod melody. As we study them today, we find that some of them have retained a distinct identity of their own, despite the similarity of their nomenclature with the recognised melodies from the domain of the classical Hindustani Music.
For example, the Sindhi melodies of Manjh, Joag, Jhangla and Kedaro all differ in composition from the classical melodies of Madh, Jogia, Zangola and Kidara. This early tradition of ‘sur music’ was epitomised some 275 years ago in the ‘Music Institution’ of the renowned poet Shah Abdul Latif, known as Shah-jo-Raga (Shah’s Music). Through this institution, the pattern of thematic music was more clearly defined.
This musical institution between the practice of music and its theory should not be allowed to sap but revitalised for a well-grounded scholarship of music. This could be a befitting tribute to N.A.Baloch’s contribution.
Usman Ghouri will always be remembered as the innovative artist, restless in his search for new ideas
By Nafisa Rizvi
Usman Ghouri, printmaker, painter and more-recently installation artist, passed away April 9 in the prime of his life. He was 41. He will be remembered for his all-embracing camaraderie, constant good cheer and his ability to make people laugh. He had an audacious sense of humour which when combined with his facility for keen observation about people’s quirks and eccentricities, made for jovial conversations, all the while keeping within the limits of propriety and etiquette.
As an artist Usman Ghouri was continually searching for new ground and investigating the paradigms of not just new thematic concerns but new mediums as well. His degree from NCA was in the discipline of Design and though he struggled for many years to shake off the mantle of design and be recognised as a fine artist, he retained an integral design vocabulary that he used to his advantage in his works as a painter and printmaker. The structured, methodical parameters that he maintained spoke of the integrity of design values rather than the spontaneous energy associated with a work of art.
Usman’s iconography extended to the elements that he was touched by. We spoke often of his association with the fish, a visual icon found frequently in his work. He maintained that his evocation of the fish began as a result of its sustaining characteristics on the dinner table, harkening back to times of joyous family gatherings in which the whole cooked fish was a significant part.
In Ghouri’s last public show, which was incidentally curated by me, he created three-dimensional installations of the fish in metal, using found objects like fishing hooks and cutters to fabricate the form to resemble a missile or mortar shell suspended as if in flight and facing a defined target that he created to reflect the object itself.
Born in Sukkur, Usman came from a modest background, with his father a government employee. Usman’s decision to study art was met with great trepidation and consternation, with art not being the profession of preference for young men in middle-income families from Sukkur. But if anything, Usman was persistent and made his way to NCA. He returned to Karachi and began teaching at Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture from 1996 to Apr 2011, only leaving in 2000 to complete a Master’s in Printmaking from the College of Fine Art, University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.
Usman’s organisational skills were par excellence and he managed to fit into his day what most would do in a week. He taught, spent time on his own production, curated shows, and still managed to attend almost every lecture or show opening.
His friends and colleagues used his room in the printmaking department as a watering hole for a cup of coffee and pleasant conversation. It was a factor he was considerably proud of. "I want everyone to be able to feel comfortable enough to walk into my room any time they wish and share a coffee with me. I enjoy people’s company", he said once. As an extension of this principle, he had envisaged the printmaking department at the Indus Valley as a thriving, bustling, happening space where artists from all disciplines could converge and work on their plates and enjoy the rigours of printmaking and its tactile process.
Amongst his other curatorial efforts, he had invited several leading artists, some who had never explored the possibilities of the discipline, for two major Box Print Portfolio projects and had planned a third. In the last such project in 2010, Usman Ghouri was accompanied by Michael Kempson, head of printmaking department at UNSW in Sydney and together they assisted artists like Moeen Faroqui, Mehr Afroze, Adeel-uz-Zafar, Munawar Ali Syed Abdul Jabbar Gul, to create one or two plates. Kempson remarked several times during the workshop about how ingeniously Usman had found ways and means to bypass the lack of technological and other funds-demanding resources that would have curtailed the growth of the department.
Usman Ghouri’s planner was always full of dates for new shows that he was going to curate and those he had signed on for display of new works. He was in the process of applying for participation in workshops in the UK and other countries. It was recently, perhaps in the last five years that Usman Ghouri had come into his own as an artist having become popular with art buyers who recognised his ability to render his imagery with precision and skill and infuse it with metaphorical allusions. He will be remembered as the innovative artist, restless in his search for new ideas. But most of all he will be remembered for his cheerful demeanour with acquaintances and his untiring, unchanging devotion to his family and close friends.