analysis
The struggle within
Labourers and students have a rich history of rebelling against the state and using anti-establishment tactics
By Ameem Lutfi
The current upsurge of labour strikes all over the country has once again brought to the forefront the same rhetoric of 'work harder instead of complaining'. For the urban non-labour part of the population to respond to labour strikes in this fashion, by emphasising on a lack of hard work ethos, is not a first by any means and has been in use ever since the intense process of industrialisation started in the early 1950s.

Newswatch
Three cheers for austerity, Pakistani-style
By Kaleem Omar
The government says it has inherited a huge fiscal deficit from its predecessor and is trying to solve the problem by reducing the budgetary allocation for the Prime Minister's Secretariat by 40 percent. Other measures may be planned, but cutting spending on the PM's Secretariat is the only one that the government has spelled out so far.

firstperson
The peacemaker from Swat
Successive governments forgot that a stitch in time saves nine
By Syed Inayat Ali Shah
NWFP Minister for Forests and Environment Wajid Ali Khan, 58, hails from the Patani area of Mingora in the scenic Swat valley. His elders were part of the administration when Swat was a princely state ruled by the Wali. However, they also represented the dissident group that wanted reforms in the state. This invited the wrath of the rulers and his family had to remain in exile in a village near Wali Bagh in Charsadda from 1951 to 1954. During the Wali's era, political activities were not allowed in Swat. Wajid's elders, however, were closely associated with the founding father of the Awami National Party (ANP), Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan.

A road to nowhere?
It is important to save the Doha round of talks to bridge the gap between developed and developing countries
By Hussain H Zaidi
A mini-ministerial conference, the apex body of the World Trade Organization (WTO), was held in Geneva this week with a view to sorting out modalities for further liberalisation of trade in agriculture and non-agricultural products under the Doha Programme. Started in November 2001, the Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations represented an ambitious attempt to use trade as an instrument of development. The round, which initially was supposed to conclude by the end of 2004, has been remarkable for its slow progress.

trade
Pie in the sky
An effective trade policy can be a harbinger of industrial development
By Zubair Faisal Abbasi
A senior bureaucrat travelling in a chauffeur-driven latest-model Toyota in Islamabad and narrating virtues of autonomous trade liberalisation and receding involvement of state in marketable technology development raises many fears. It appears that a strong grip of neoliberal orthodoxy in Islamabad has somewhere concealed the real success story of Toyota -- a sewing machines-producing company that graduated to make globally competitive automobiles. Similarly, it seems that the economic bureaucracy has decided to forget the history of the Japanese government that kept this inefficient company alive by allowing it to experiment with lean production techniques for many years.

Limited choices
The current state of affairs demonstrates a gross failure of distributive justice in the country
By Dr Noman Ahmed
In the last few weeks, burgeoning poverty has affected the poor in a preponderating manner. A father of 11 children committed suicide in Gujranwala on July 11 out of utter helplessness. In fact, the spate of suicides is on the rise in most parts of the country. The World Food Programme has warned that 77 million people in Pakistan are critically affected by the ongoing food crisis, and 95 out of 105 districts in the country have a sizable population of the poor who do not have access to daily dietary requirements.

The 'necessary' myth
Pakistanis have always lived under threats, whether real or imagined, and the situation is not likely to change in the near future
By Syed Nadir El-Edroos
As politics in Pakistan takes one turn after another, inconsistency has become the only consistent thing for us -- the people. One unfortunately expects the worst, because the pessimism that reality brings easily overwhelms the optimism of political leaders. However, one may pause to question the persistent pessimism that has dominated the mindset of society over our nation's history. The vision of Pakistan, created with much optimism, was quickly replaced with consistent pessimism. The myth of threats, whether real or created, has since the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan helped to subjugate the society while maintaining an elite-serving status quo.

The silent victims
Though automobile workshops come under the category of hazardous occupation, no protective measures have been adopted
By Salam Dharejo
The automobile industry in Karachi is rapidly increasing since the last few years. Besides providing employment to skilled and semi-skilled labour force, a large number of underage children are also employed in this sector. Children working in auto garages are likely to be exposed to critical occupational hazards. During work, children have to suffer from physical injury, loss of body parts and punctures, including skin diseases and eye impairment during work in automobile garages and mechanical maintenance workshops. Despite confronting occupational challenges, no serious efforts have been made by the government and civil society organisations to provide legal support to working children through ensuring implementation of concerned laws.

 

 

analysis

The struggle within

Labourers and students have a rich history of rebelling against the state and using anti-establishment tactics

By Ameem Lutfi

The current upsurge of labour strikes all over the country has once again brought to the forefront the same rhetoric of 'work harder instead of complaining'. For the urban non-labour part of the population to respond to labour strikes in this fashion, by emphasising on a lack of hard work ethos, is not a first by any means and has been in use ever since the intense process of industrialisation started in the early 1950s.

At the time of the subcontinent's partition, an industrial infrastructure was almost non-existent in the nascent state of Pakistan. Unlike India, Pakistan had no major factories (with the exception of Dalmia Cement Factory in Karachi, Sir Sri Ram's Cotton Mills in Lyallpur and the Premier Sugar Mills in Mardan). The serious deficiency of industrial infrastructure and non-existence of an indigenous industrial capitalist class presented the state of Pakistan, with its notion of 'modernity', a very discomforting picture.

It was at that time widely believed that, in the absence of a strong industrial base, Pakistan would not be able to survive as an independent state. It was this placing of industrialisation with modernisation that led the state, which even though was controlled primarily by the land-owning class and rich professional merchants, to take the onus upon itself to develop an industrial base and start an intense drive to 'industrialise' the nation.

In order to achieve the intended degree of industrial growth, three categories of people were deemed essential: investors, labourers and technical functionaries. To rope in the investors, a series of subsidies, tax cuts and other investment-friendly policies were implemented. It was the latter two that presented more of an intellectual challenge to the state's goal of industrialisation, since both labourers and students (who were seen as future technical functionaries), as actors in the anti-colonial struggle, had a rich history of rebelling against the state and using anti-establishment tactics. How was the state to ensure a stable supply of dedicated labourers and students? Just like any other government in the world, this was achieved through a mixture of coercive and persuasive techniques. However, unlike most 'liberalised' governments, coercive techniques got precedence over persuasive techniques in Pakistan.

In the case of students, who by their very definition are the most educated section of the population, and hence subscribers to post-enlightenment conceptions of human rights, persuasive techniques took precedence over coercive techniques, though they were always backed by more real threats of police action. The persuasive technique manifested itself through the loaded rhetoric of 'discipline'. "As the cream of our rising society, it is in their hands that the future of the country shall ultimately lay and it is up to them to set the highest example of disciplined behaviour," Ayub Khan said in a public address in 1961, after student agitation in Dhaka and Karachi.

Wrapped within patriotic fervour, students were continuously drilled with this rhetoric of discipline. Those who detracted from the given path of discipline were almost immediately alienated and often dealt with brute force for their 'indiscipline'. This mantra of discipline required of the student to remain focused on their education as per the curriculum prescribes, and not to invest in areas that lay outside of their immediate concern.

In response to the student demonstrations against the murder of the Congo leader Patrice Lumumba and the massacre of Muslims in Jabalpur in 1961, one of the ministers said: "The students are agitating for some demands which do not even fall into the orbits of their interest." An almost absolute no-go area for students under this policy of promoting discipline was the field of politics. For a vast majority of the 'non-political' population till today, student politics are only for the ghundas and 'failures'. Student leaders within popular perception continue to be looked down upon for not being 'disciplined' enough.

Unlike students, labourers happen to be a much less educated section of the population. Especially after the imposition of ban on labour unions, which had given them some space to barter with the state on the basis of citizenship and human rights, labourers have been placed outside the state and continue to be treated by it as subjects rather than citizens.

Due to the fact that labourers are being placed outside the 'liberalised' portions of the population, the state continues to use colonial style coercive techniques against them. Unlike the persuasive techniques used against students, the state has been much more willing to use a heavy-handed approach against labourers. The November 8, 1972, firing on labour protests in Karachi's SITE area, which resulted in a large number of casualties, and the massacre of workers in Multan's Colony Textile Mills during the Zia regime stand as two glaring examples of the state's readiness to use brutal tactics.

Even though labourers themselves were not necessarily bombarded with persuasive rhetoric intended to keep them in order (the danda and the threat of being fired upon with no recourse to the law proving enough to keep them under control), the investor and the technical functionary classes that remained in close contact with them were prevented from developing sympathies for the agitating labourers. Since these two classes, due to being members of civil society, carried with them set conceptions of citizen rights and human rights, they needed to be convinced that the treatment of labourers was in total contradiction to these high ideals.

It is here that this rhetoric of labourers lacking hard work ethos fits in. This rhetoric has been given a new life following the spate of labour movements against the privatisation of major public entities. Civil society representatives and the non-labour portion of the population have been made to believe that the protests are encouraged not by the threat of possible lay-offs in the future, but are rather due to the unwillingness of labourers to work under the cut-throat and efficient model of private corporations.

As it stands, to be against the persuasive techniques of the state seems like the right thing to do, because most of these techniques are intended to benefit a select few at the cost of the masses. But what if a government comes to power that stands for the very policies that we as individuals support? Would we then support the state in its attempts to achieve order through these persuasive techniques? To establish a certain degree of order is necessary for any government to rule effectively. Should we then support these disciplinary measures provided they are not intended to benefit a certain class? Perhaps not!

(Email: ameem@mail.utexas.edu)

 

Newswatch

Three cheers for austerity, Pakistani-style

 

By Kaleem Omar

The government says it has inherited a huge fiscal deficit from its predecessor and is trying to solve the problem by reducing the budgetary allocation for the Prime Minister's Secretariat by 40 percent. Other measures may be planned, but cutting spending on the PM's Secretariat is the only one that the government has spelled out so far.

While this may reduce government spending in fiscal 2008-09 by a few hundred million rupees, it is hardly likely to make much of a dent in a projected fiscal deficit in excess of six percent of GDP. Six percent of a projected GDP of about $160 billion translates into $9.6 billion or Rs691 billion at the current exchange rate of 72 rupees to the US dollar.

Given the huge difference between the projected fiscal deficit and the projected 40 percent cut in spending on the PM's Secretariat, I would like to suggest that the government should say to hell with austerity and declare that what this country really needs is more fleets of official cars.

Back in May 2003, in the days when Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali was prime minister, newspapers had carried reports stating that he had approved the re-appropriation of funds from other budgetary allocations for buying an additional fleet of at least 15 new cars for the PM's Secretariat, because the existing armada of cars was considered "inadequate or obsolete".

That was great news indeed, and I think Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani should emulate the good Jamali's example and immediately order the purchase of yet another fleet of new cars for the PM's Secretariat. The question is: which cars? Should they be any old 1300 or 1600 cc clunkers or something better?

If I were prime minister, I'd definitely go for something better, something more in keeping with our status as a country that has seen its foreign exchange reserves plummet from $16.5 billion a year ago to $10 billion today and its trade deficit soar by more than 50 percent over the figure for fiscal 2006-07 to $20.7 billion in fiscal 2007-08.

I mean, what's the point of having such rapidly dwindling foreign exchange reserves and such a rapidly widening trade gap if we can't even go in for a more up-market fleet of cars for the Prime Minister's Secretariat?

Islamabad certainly has the roads for it, including the swanky 'Amended' Constitution Avenue. But what these boulevards now need is a bunch of high-performance machines. Give me a Lamborghini Diablo over a Suzuki Alto any day.

When Mohammed Khan Junejo was prime minister, he wanted to put the military brass into smaller cars. But that experiment didn't last very long. Neither did Junejo's government, for that matter. Then, during the second Nawaz Sharif era, the government bought a fleet of 20 Mercedes limousines, claiming that they were needed for an OIC conference in Islamabad.

Eventually, the Mercs ended up in the garages of the Cabinet Division, from where they would occasionally venture forth when Sharif wanted to travel on the motorway to Lahore for a bit of cricket and nihari on weekends. Yes, those were the days. Weekend cricket, steaming plates of nihari, fleets of gleaming Mercedes limos -- what more could any prime minister want?

What eventually became of those Mercs, though, is not known. One version has it that they were sold off to private buyers, as part of the government's austerity drive. Another version says that, no, they are still in the possession of the Cabinet Division and could be trotted out again one day in the event of Sharif making a comeback.

Be that as it may, there's no denying the fact that the Prime Minister's Secretariat now needs a new fleet of luxury vehicles. Indeed, the need is so pressing that this new fleet should be purchased on a priority basis.

This brings us back to the question about which type of car the PM's Secretariat should go in for. When Jam Sadiq Ali was chief minister of Sindh back in the early 1990s, he had approved a plan to buy high-performance BMWs as police escort vehicles for his motorcade.

Redco, a firm owned by PML-N's Saifur Rehman, aka Ehtehsabur Rehman, was Pakistan's agent for BMW in those days, and the Jam may have figured that buying some BMWs for the police through Redco would be a good way of getting into the good books of Rehman, and, even more importantly, into the good books of Rehman's buddy, then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The Sindh police authorities vociferously protested that they were already badly strapped for funds and that their budget could not afford the money needed to buy the BMWs. But the Jam would not be budged and insisted that what his motorcade needed was BMW escort cars. Before the deal could go through, however, the Jam shuffled off his mortal coils and departed for those happy real estate hunting grounds in the sky.

But he had the right idea, and the time has now come to put his idea into practice at the federal government level by buying a fleet of high-performance machines for the Prime Minister's Secretariat. Naturally, however, since the office of prime minister outranks that of a chief minister, the cars to be ordered now will have to be better than the BMW. So which car should it be?

In my view, the car to go in for should be the Aston Martin V12 Vanquish. Priced at about $250,000 (without extra trim), the Vanquish is one of the fastest sports coupes in the world, with 0 to 60 acceleration figures of 4.5 seconds and a top speed of close to 200 miles per hour.

So if we were to go in for, say, a fleet of 15 Vanquish V12s, the total price tag would be only $3.75 million -- a mere bagatelle for a country with foreign reserves of $10 billion. We could buy them out of petty cash and not even notice the difference.

What a glorious sight a prime ministerial motorcade of V12 Vanquish machines would make as the cars thundered down 'Amended' Constitution Avenue at 190 miles an hour, sirens blaring, flags fluttering, policemen saluting, and pedestrians -- the people -- waving!

 


firstperson

The peacemaker from Swat

Successive governments forgot that a stitch in time saves nine

 

By Syed Inayat Ali Shah

NWFP Minister for Forests and Environment Wajid Ali Khan, 58, hails from the Patani area of Mingora in the scenic Swat valley. His elders were part of the administration when Swat was a princely state ruled by the Wali. However, they also represented the dissident group that wanted reforms in the state. This invited the wrath of the rulers and his family had to remain in exile in a village near Wali Bagh in Charsadda from 1951 to 1954. During the Wali's era, political activities were not allowed in Swat. Wajid's elders, however, were closely associated with the founding father of the Awami National Party (ANP), Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan.

Born in 1949, Wajid received his early education from Government High School Mingora No 1, while he did his graduation from Jehanzaib College. Later, he did his LLB from the Karachi University, from where he also did his master's in History. After completing his education, Wajid formally joined the ANP. In the February 18 general elections, he was elected to the NWFP Assembly for the second time. Importantly, Wajid has been playing an important role in holding talks with the local Taliban in Swat. He was a member of the committee, along with NWFP Senior Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour and Dr Shamsheer Ali, that brokered the peace deal with Maulana Fazlullah-led Taliban in Swat on May 21. The News on Sunday interviewed him recently. Excerpts follow:

The News on Sunday: Why did you join the Awami National Party (ANP) instead of a mainstream political party?

Wajid Ali Khan: Swat was a princely state till 1969 and political activities were not allowed in the valley. However, my family was closely affiliated with Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan who enjoyed a lot of respect in the valley, because the people here were staunch Muslims and utterly against the British Raj. His undaunted non-violent struggle against the British endeared him in the hearts of the people of Swat. When the local rulers forced my family to leave the area, we settled in Wali Bagh near Charsadda, the ancestral abode of the ANP leadership.

This association inspired my family to join the nationalist party when the princely state of Swat was abolished and merged into Pakistan. I remained a member of the Pakhtun Students' Federation till 1975. Later, when I went to Karachi for higher education, I organised the ANP Students' Wing in Sindh and worked hard to strengthen the party in the province.

TNS: The peaceful valley of Swat has been engulfed by violence in a short period of time. What do you think are the causes?

WAK: Violence did not come to the area all of a sudden. There were many factors that contributed to the people's dissatisfaction. Ineffective administrative system coupled with lack of access to the basic amenities of life created a vacuum that someone had to fill. During the Wali's era, the people of Swat had access to quality education and health facilities for free. The most important thing was the speedy justice system, which was backed up by strict rule of law.

When the princely state of Swat was merged into Pakistan and the present administrative system was introduced, the people could not adjust to the lengthy process of the courts, where decision of a simple dispute takes decades, putting huge financial burden on the people seeking justice. The people remained nostalgic about the old system when instant justice was available to them and when there was no exploitation. This forced the people to rally around the group that was demanding the enforcement of Shariah in the area. This demand gradually turned violent, because successive governments forgot that a stitch in time saves nine.

TNS: You were a member of the committee that signed a 16-point peace agreement with the local Taliban on May 21. Will this agreement pave the way for lasting peace in the area?

WAK: In the February 18 general elections, the people voted for the ANP due to its slogan of non-violence and its promise of restoring peace in Swat. That was the major reason that the party won almost all seats in the valley. We facilitated the release of Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the chief of the Tanzeem Nifaz Shariat-i-Muhammadi, immediately after the formation of the ANP-led government in the NWFP. We sincerely offered the Taliban to resolve the dispute through talks.

The most difficult job in ending any conflict is to convince the stakeholders to come to the table and resolve the dispute through peaceful means. The provincial government did this without wasting any time and was extended all out support by the federal government. As a result, it successfully signed the peace accord with the Taliban. If the people of Swat wanted the enforcement of Shariah, there was nothing wrong with it; only the means adopted were wrong.

TNS: The Taliban is accusing the ANP government of not following the peace accord. What are your views on this?

WAK: The provincial government and the peace committee are sincere in resolving the dispute in Swat and in implementing the peace accord. We had decided to announce the enforcement of Shariah in the Malakand region within the stipulated time of three months, as was agreed in the peace accord. However, the draft needs further deliberations. Earlier, the 1994 Shariah Ordinance and the 1999 Nizam-e-Adl Ordinance could not be implemented properly because of the lack of proper homework. The previous governments made the Malakand region a laboratory for administrative experiments and the demands of the people were not met on a permanent basis.

We do not want to repeat the past mistakes and will enforce Shariah in letter and spirit with the consent of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). For this, a little more time is required. We are also working on other matters decided in the agreement. We have already released many Taliban prisoners, while those still detained are supposed to be released soon. The losses will be compensated and checkpoints removed in due course of time. Also, rest assured that the provincial government will never violate the peace agreement.

TNS: Why is the United States critical of the Swat peace deal?

WAK: It is our internal matter and we are a sovereign state, independent in our decisions. The US may not be aware of the dynamics of our society. When the people demand something, we have to oblige them as elected representatives of the people. This is what democracy is all about. Even if you fight for a hundred years, you have to come to the table and resolve the dispute through dialogue. Violence breeds more violence and the use of force further inflames conflicts. The only solution to the problem is to listen to and accommodate each other's views. I understand that there will be challenges to our peace drive initially, but it takes time in making a peace deal successful after an area has experienced violence.

TNS: Are foreigners also involved in enflaming violence in Swat?

WAK: There are no foreigners in our area and we have made the agreement with the local people. We all know each other. I hail from Swat, so does Maulana Fazlullah, Haji Muslim Khan and other leaders of the TTP. Swat is only 90-kilometre away from the Pak-Afghan border and this is a misconception that there are foreign elements in Swat.

TNS: Are you optimistic about the success of the peace agreement?

WAK: Brokering peace anywhere in the world is not an easy job. There are always fifty fifty chances of its success and failure, because two parties are involved in the process. Currently, we have accomplished one of the most difficult tasks of agreeing to each other's stance. No doubt, it is difficult for both the provincial government and the TTP to honour what they had decided on May 21. As far as I am concerned, being member of the peace committee, I am sure that the agreement will help stop violence in Swat.

TNS: Violence has destroyed the only industry of tourism in Swat, which was also a major source of income for thousands of local people. How will your government restore it?

WAK: Peace is the prerequisite for all kinds of development. Tourists used to visit the scenic areas, because there used to be peace. When peace will be re-established in the valley, tourists will again start coming to the area. The people of Swat are tolerant, co-operative, generous and hospitable. I hope that very soon Swat will again become a hub of tourism like it used to be in the past. That is the reason we are focusing on stopping violence and improving the law and order situation, so that the poor people of the valley regain their jobs and tourism further flourishes here.

TNS: As a minister, what are you doing for the depleting forests in Malakand and Swat?

WAK: The NWFP Forest Department is set to launch a new project worth Rs303 million, aimed at setting up new nurseries in Malakand, Swat and other areas of the province. The federal government is supporting the project and Rs191 million have already been released to us. The public will also be involved to protect thousands of the newly planted trees. Besides, we have deputed officers of good reputation as conservators to increase forests and save them from the timber mafia. The main objective of the new project is to halt deforestation.

 

A road to nowhere?

It is important to save the Doha round of talks to bridge the gap between developed and developing countries

 

By Hussain H Zaidi

A mini-ministerial conference, the apex body of the World Trade Organization (WTO), was held in Geneva this week with a view to sorting out modalities for further liberalisation of trade in agriculture and non-agricultural products under the Doha Programme. Started in November 2001, the Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations represented an ambitious attempt to use trade as an instrument of development. The round, which initially was supposed to conclude by the end of 2004, has been remarkable for its slow progress.

The Doha Declaration, which set forth the agenda for the round, provided for negotiations on a number of issues -- agriculture, non-agricultural market access (NAMA), services, rules, trade facilitation, investment, transparency in public procurement and competition policy. The last three -- also referred to as the 'Singapore issues' because they were first adopted during the Singapore round -- were subsequently dropped on the insistence of developing countries, and it is agriculture and NAMA that have occupied the centre stage.

To understand the reasons for the slow progress of the Doha round, it is important to analyse the context in which the Doha Declaration was adopted. The Doha Ministerial Conference, which marked the beginning of the Doha round, was the fourth meeting of the WTO's apex body. The Third WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle in 1999 was supposed to launch a new round of trade negotiations, but it ended in a fiasco and failed to adopt a declaration.

The major contentious issues pertained to reforms in trade in agriculture, linking trade and labour standards (particularly those related to child labour), and finalisation of a Multilateral Agreement on Investment. It was also during the Seattle Ministerial Conference that the growing influence of developing countries on the multilateral forum was felt. Developed countries came to realise that unlike in the past, developing countries, particularly the bigger ones, could no longer be taken for a ride.

The Doha Declaration represented a compromise between the positions of developed and developing countries. The former agreed to liberalisation of trade in agriculture and to address special needs of the latter in NAMA and trade in services, but did not define the modalities of the reforms and the timeframe within which the same were to be carried out. In short, whatever commitment developed countries made was couched in vague, non-committal terms.

The Doha Declaration provided for negotiations aimed at substantial improvements in three areas related to trade in agriculture: market access, export subsidies and trade-distorting domestic support. For reasons political as well as economic, trade in agriculture has remained subject to a very high level of protectionism. The major reasons include: one, food being the primary human need, every country wants to ensure food safety. Also, food deficiency can have serious social and political consequences. The current global food crisis only underscores this point. Two, being a labour-intensive sector, agriculture is a major source of employment. Three, in developed countries the landed class, though small, is politically very influential. It is in large measure the need to protect the interests of this class that accounts for the high level of protectionism which characterises the agricultural policies of developed countries, especially those that constitute the EU.

Some of the principal issues in farm trade are as follows:

The WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AOA) provides for converting non-tariff barriers (NTBs), such as import quotas, into tariffs -- a process known as 'tariffication'. However, since NTBs used in agriculture were very restrictive, the tariffication resulted in very high tariff equivalents. This has made market access for agricultural exports a real issue. In the August 2004 Framework Agreement, WTO member countries accepted the principle that high tariffs should be subject to deeper cuts than low tariffs. The contentious issue is the extent of tariff cuts. The G-20 (a group of 23 developing countries established in 2003) wants average tariff cuts of 54 percent by developed countries -- a proposal that the EU was reluctant to accept until very recently. Though the EU has now agreed to reduce average farm tariffs by 54 percent, the offer is contingent upon other players making 'proportionate offers'. The US, on the other hand, has ambitiously proposed average tariff cuts of 75 percent, besides reducing the highest tariffs by 90 percent. The EU's latest offer is to reduce the highest tariffs by 66 percent. It may be mentioned here that the reduction, whatever level is agreed, will be from bound and not applied tariffs. Moreover, tariff cuts by developing countries will be smaller than that by developed countries, while least developed countries (LDCs) are not required to make any cuts at all.

WTO member countries will be allowed to exempt certain number of products -- called 'sensitive products' for all countries and 'special products' for only developing countries -- from the tariff reduction formula. The major issues include the number of products that a member country may designate as special or sensitive products, the level of tariff reduction for them and the number of such products that a member country can totally exclude from tariff reduction. These issues are important because designating a large number of products as sensitive or special would mean that the products with the highest tariffs, and thus most in need of reduction commitments, will remain protected.

Developed countries dole out billions of dollars worth farm subsidies. These subsidies are of two types: domestic support and export subsidies. The AoA distinguishes between three types of domestic subsidies depending upon whether or not they stimulate production directly: 'amber box', 'green box' and 'blue box' subsidies. There is no 'red box', which means that WTO member countries are not required to eliminate domestic support. The amber box includes those subsidies that directly affect production and distort trade. Such subsidies, with a few exceptions, have to be reduced. The green box includes those measures that are decoupled or delinked from production and are considered to have minimal impact on trade. These subsidies can be used freely without any limits. The blue box includes direct payments to farmers where they are required to limit production. The blue box measures are linked with production and should in principle be in the amber box. Under the AoA, the blue box measures are not to be reduced and there are no limits on them. Though WTO member countries agree to substantially reduce domestic support, what constitutes 'substantial reduction' is the bone of contention. The EU has agreed to reduce its trade distorting domestic support by 75 percent, provided the US also makes a similar offer. The latter, however, has not been keen to follow suit.

Developing countries would also ideally want an end to blue box subsidies and if this is impossible, put a limit on them. Again, the 'limit' is a bone of contention.

The green box also needs to be reopened, because some of the related measures, such as direct payments to producers, are a fit case to be transferred to the amber box.

Export subsidies is perhaps the only area in which the Doha round of trade negotiations has borne fruit: At the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Conference, developed countries agreed to phase out export subsidies by 2013. However, it remains to be seen whether they honour their commitment.

The Doha Declaration also provided for negotiations on NAMA to reduce or eliminate tariffs, including tariff peaks and tariff escalation, particularly on products of export interest to developing countries. Full account was to be taken of the special needs and interests of developing countries and LDCs, including through less than full reciprocity in reduction commitments. In NAMA negotiations, therefore, the basic thrust is on bringing down industrial tariffs significantly and then binding them so that they cannot be increased again. The major issues are the level of tariff reduction, the timeframe and flexibilities that may be available to developing countries. There is consensus that tariff reduction will be done through a formula, rather than through an individual approach.

Pakistan has been an active player in the Doha round negotiations. However, for some political reasons, the country's major emphasis has been on agriculture.It is a member of G-20 and Cairns Group, which have aggressive interest in trade in agriculture, and has hosted ministerial meetings of both the groups. Further liberalisation of trade in agriculture is important, but it will essentially benefit countries that have a high potential for export of agricultural goods. Pakistan -- a net food importer -- has only a limited export potential in agriculture. Of the country's major exports, only rice is an agricultural product, while the rest are industrial products.

Pakistan's real interest lies in NAMA negotiations -- liberalisation of trade in industrial goods. Textile and clothing, our major exports, carry high tariffs in our major markets: on average, eight percent in the EU, nine percent in the US, 11.3 percent in Canada, 6.7 percent in Japan, 6.6 percent in Switzerland and seven percent in Norway. Importantly, several competitors of Pakistan in textile and clothing -- such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Turkey and Mexico -- have duty free access to the EU market, the largest importer of these products. Therefore, an early agreement on NAMA will be in Pakistan's interest. On the import side, the country will have to reduce its industrial tariffs, which will affect public revenue as well as domestic industry.

The WTO negotiations are based on the principle of a single undertaking: nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Hence, the NAMA package cannot be agreed unless the agricultural package is agreed and vice-versa. Therefore, both developed and developing countries have to show flexibility if the Doha round is to complete successfully. However, developing countries have higher stakes in the continuation of the multilateral trading system than developed countries. The alternative to multilateralism is bilateralism. While developing countries can successfully take on developed countries at multilateral level, it will be difficult for them to do so at a bilateral level.

(Email: hussainhzaidi@gmail.com)

 

trade

Pie in the sky

An effective trade policy can be a harbinger of industrial development

 

By Zubair Faisal Abbasi

A senior bureaucrat travelling in a chauffeur-driven latest-model Toyota in Islamabad and narrating virtues of autonomous trade liberalisation and receding involvement of state in marketable technology development raises many fears. It appears that a strong grip of neoliberal orthodoxy in Islamabad has somewhere concealed the real success story of Toyota -- a sewing machines-producing company that graduated to make globally competitive automobiles. Similarly, it seems that the economic bureaucracy has decided to forget the history of the Japanese government that kept this inefficient company alive by allowing it to experiment with lean production techniques for many years.

In fact, they have tended to lose the historical perspective of the economic growth strategy of industrialised nations whose comparative advantage was once in primary products, such as silk and rice, than in any industrial product. Knowing the fact that history cannot be repeated -- let alone be replicated -- at any other place, this article assumes that important lessons can still be learnt from institutional arrangements and strategies of the past, especially if a country wishes to reorient trade and industrial growth policy.

Historical and empirical evidence suggests that all major countries of East Asia, some of them now part of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), have actually used policy instruments -- such as tariffs, subsidies and investment management -- to become competitive in exportable industrial products. These instruments have been backed by the central role of the state to accumulate and utilise the capital for expansion of export-oriented industrialisation. Therefore, the state-led interventions made the domestic private sector competitive in the global export markets with enormous welfare gains from trade. The strategy, in simple terms, was aimed at economic and sectoral industrial success, followed by strategic integration into the global markets to gain from trade and then reinvest the profit to explore new production possibility frontiers.

Looking from this perspective, the neo-liberal sermons of international development policy establishment the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO) -- seems contrary to the historical evidence. While providing assistance to developing countries for economic change, they impose conditionalities to open-up systems of production for international competition, and rescind from any investment coordination and management. One example can be seen in the shape of Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMS), which predominantly needs removing state controls over investment management and coordination. This effort basically creates the rights and obligations that favour rich country investors (corporate magnates) in the name of liberalisation of economy.

Prof Ha-Joon Chang of the University of Cambridge argues in his book Bad Samaritans: The Guilty Secrets of Rich Nations and The Threat to Global Prosperity that knowing the fact that a six-year old boy -- without protection, support and a long period of investment by parents -- cannot be competitive in his professional dual with a surgeon makes things clear. At the age of six, if his parents stop making investments in his accumulation of skills, the child will be able to earn some money and use his half-baked human capital. But he will end up as a crude butcher or a good shoe shiner at best.

Though exposed to competition, successfully employed, relatively independent and possibly street-smart, he will never be able to compete in the high end market of surgeons. This apparently simple story tells the logic behind infant industry argument implemented by the US, the UK and almost all developed countries. However, the argument does not ask for feeding the 40-year old as an infant, but definitely requires appropriate trade and industrial strategies for investment and labour management in transitions from sunset to sunrise industries. The role of state as a public entrepreneur is the case in point.

If we look at East Asia and the West in historical perspective, we will understand what went wrong with Pakistan in managing economic change for industrial competitiveness in global markets; the competitiveness about which the father of the nation eloquently spoke in his speeches. Developed countries helped the growth of their industries by using at least three strategies: protection, domestic support and a proactive approach. They could then accumulate critical mass for industrial growth and manage the capitalist class for productive investments, rather than a sheer waste on personal comforts. East Asia could, in addition, redistribute the welfare gain more efficiently as well. The state in Pakistan has miserably failed to play the role of an entrepreneur providing vision and viable institutional arrangements for industrial growth and development to gain from international and domestic trade.

The strategic orientation of trade policy since the late 1980s and more vigorously during the periods of interim governments in the 1990s and then since 2000 has been emphasising liberalisation. Despite knowing the post-liberalisation problems with manufacturing and employment in the neo-liberal poster boy Mexico as well as a host of other countries, such as Ivory Cost and Zimbabwe, our trade and commerce strategy points in diametrically opposite direction. The strategy tries to make Pakistanis believe that tariffs once dismantled, subsidies withdrawn and investment management left to spontaneity of markets, Pakistan will become a liveable and attractive place. In unison with the neo-liberal sermon, they claim that free trade and free market are actually in Pakistan's national interest. They need to think again, for sure.

For Pakistan's economic development, the role of the state is much more critical than the current trade policy envisions. A serious revision of the strategic orientation of the trade policy of Pakistan, especially of those parts that affect the prospects of export-oriented industrialisation, is warranted. It requires rethinking the scale, scope and capacity of the state in developing and executing trade and industrial policy interventions. Though the WTO commitments and structural adjustment programmes have reduced, and are further reducing, the national policy space necessary for developing countries, it can be argued that the state still has a vital role to play.

More than just dismantling vital trade policy instruments in the name of autonomous liberalisation, it is important to create innovative strategies that bring the state back to perform the role of a public entrepreneur. It needs institutional innovations both for support and co-ordination in managing export-oriented industries to execute industrial policy aided by trade and flanking social policies. Merely have industrial clusters established and run by regressive bureaucracy is not going to make any substantial difference to the country's industrial and trade performance.

Therefore, in order to have diversity and quality in industrial production and destination (markets) of the products, the state has to assume the role of developing mechanisms for increasing returns to scale and establishing entrepreneurial rents. However, it needs commitment and political backing that ensures the state is not captured by vested interests (including the neo-liberal orthodoxy) and shows signs of autonomy while being enterprise-friendly rather than extortionist. An extremely difficult but worth pursing task! If not, what else a state must do?

(The writer, a Chevening Scholar, is pursuing a post-graduate degree in the UK.

Email: abbasi.zubair@gmail.com)




Limited choices

The current state of affairs demonstrates a gross failure of distributive justice in the country

By Dr Noman Ahmed

In the last few weeks, burgeoning poverty has affected the poor in a preponderating manner. A father of 11 children committed suicide in Gujranwala on July 11 out of utter helplessness. In fact, the spate of suicides is on the rise in most parts of the country. The World Food Programme has warned that 77 million people in Pakistan are critically affected by the ongoing food crisis, and 95 out of 105 districts in the country have a sizable population of the poor who do not have access to daily dietary requirements.

Security analysts have rung the danger bell by establishing nascent correlation between poverty and rising terrorism. There is a strong possibility that intakes in seminaries across the country shall rise, because the destitute may resort to any action for mere survival. This state of affairs demonstrates a gross failure of distributive justice in the country and can lead to further anarchy among the masses. Therefore, policy choices beyond rhetoric and lip service are needed.

Pakistan is currently faced with a number of challenges. It has become obvious that in the short- and medium-term, poverty shall remain a core issue for the policy-makers to grapple with. The incidence of poverty has been compounded because of many factors. It can be safely inferred that statistics about poverty must have been under reported, given the high inflation rate, failing wheat crop and poor control on the retail distribution of food items in the country.

The assessment carried out by the Federal Bureau of Statistics (FBS) is pertinent to Sensitive Price Index (SPI). This variable is a collated indicator of increase in prices of 53 items of essential use. The SPI-based inflation increased by 5.41 percent in May over April. Rice registered a whooping escalation of 35.82 percent, while wheat showed a 4.82 percent increase. This implies that essential food commodities have gone beyond the purchasing capacity of poor people.

Poverty is further compounded due to calamities and subsequent dislocations. For instance, the ongoing insurgency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has caused thousands of people to migrate to safer locations in Pakistan, mainly Karachi. The means of livelihood of these people have been severed, putting them at a high poverty risk. The affectees of floods and rains in Sindh and Balochistan are still dislocated in different areas. Similarly, energy shocks have affected the industrial employment, because many small and medium enterprises have not been able to sustain production under erratic and expensive energy supply.

Competent policy-makers can use these predicaments as potentials for development. It is invariably a situation of high labour force availability, especially in the low skill category. This labour force can be used for development projects of national importance. For instance, the subcontinent used to have periodic cleaning and maintenance of canal and irrigation infrastructure in the intermittent period between the crops. It used to be steered by the irrigation department with the assistance of area landlords. On a 'food for work' arrangement, this much needed service was provided by the rural workforce. The same practice can be re-initiated in the present circumstances with suitable modifications. The labour force can also be given mass training in trades related to agriculture, which has become a promising occupation again.

Higher food prices and lower purchasing power are leading to increased food insecurity in Pakistan's growing cities and towns, where about 35 percent of the country's more than 160 million inhabitants now live. Therefore, it is high time to build on the rising value of agriculture by investing in it in a targeted manner. Agro-planners may be invited to come up with innovative plans for yield enhancement, efficiency in input utilisation and conservation of water. It can also lead to a reversal of urbanisation if the livelihood of marginal communities are effectively sustained in their respective habitats.

The world is facing an extraordinary oil price-hike since the last one year. Pakistan, which experienced a high growth rate in the beginning of the current millennium, has also experienced a high consumption rate. Thus, the soaring prices have affected economic growth in several ways. Pakistan's petroleum imports accounted for 24 percent of total imports in 2006-07 and consumed 44 percent of the country's export earnings. While in 1999-2000, the share of petroleum imports was 27 percent of total imports and accounted for 33 percent of total export earnings.

Improving terms of trade means that a smaller volume of exports is needed to pay for a given quantity of imports. For Pakistan, this ratio, however, is decreasing -- more exports are needed to offset the burden of rising import bill. Given the high cost of doing business and low industrial output, this appears to be the foremost challenge. The available opportunities comprise an alternative energy plan to lower the dependence on oil, oil and gas development strategy through rigorous drilling / exploration missions, and conservation approaches.

In this context, the use of semi-skilled and unskilled labour is a matter of vital concern. This cross section of population is abundant. About half of the total workforce in the country currently belongs to this category. Taking a cue from age old Keynesian economics, investment in the maintenance and development of productive infrastructure can be attempted by the government. At present, the federal and provincial governments have started preparing programmes aimed at providing direct subsidies to the deserving.

This may be reconsidered, because the government lacks the capacity to sustain such expenditures. If targeted labour is acquired for the benefit of the people by building productive assets, a great deal of sustainable advantage can be accrued. Roads, watercourses, warehouses, threshold developments in agro-fields and other similar components of infrastructure can be enacted by suitably formulated rural works programmes.

There are a few important constraints that must be dealt with political wisdom and administrative acumen. The ongoing conflict between the local and provincial is a major handicap. No programme -- despite its conceptual merits and practicality -- can achieve its targets in spread out schisms where institutions are led at cross purpose directions. The bureaucracy must be freed from the blatant political influences to build up its managerial capacity. Similarly, the political leadership must come down to the masses for stock-taking of their plight on the first hand basis. Tough challenges can only be dealt with by walking an extra mile!

(Email:nomaniconn@hotmail.com)



The 'necessary' myth

Pakistanis have always lived under threats, whether real or imagined, and the situation is not likely to change in the near future

 

By Syed Nadir El-Edroos

As politics in Pakistan takes one turn after another, inconsistency has become the only consistent thing for us -- the people. One unfortunately expects the worst, because the pessimism that reality brings easily overwhelms the optimism of political leaders. However, one may pause to question the persistent pessimism that has dominated the mindset of society over our nation's history. The vision of Pakistan, created with much optimism, was quickly replaced with consistent pessimism. The myth of threats, whether real or created, has since the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan helped to subjugate the society while maintaining an elite-serving status quo.

It is amazing how we as a nation learn little from history and how eager we are to accept the diktats of incompetent governments. Today's political economy of Pakistan testifies to this theory. Regardless of whether military or civilian governments are in power or whether the PPP or the PML-N hold the reigns of the state, fear presented by those in power has always dominated the minds of Pakistanis. For most of our history, we have been 'threatened' by India, our own countrymen (the Bengalis), presence of the Soviets in Afghanistan, Zionist and American conspiracies, nationalists in Balochistan, increasing oil prices, the Taliban, terrorism, etc.

The question is not whether these threats are imagined or real; rather, the ease with which they are used to galvanise and subdue the society is disturbing. Regardless of the threat, our leaders boldly declare that the people of Pakistan have always rendered sacrifices and shall continue to render sacrifices. The question is why should the people of Pakistan continue to render sacrifices, especially in economic and social spheres, when the problems have been created due to the incompetence of those in power?

The consistency in the number of threats we face is alarming by any count. In the face of so many threats, one may ask why we are under threat in the first place: either the rest of the world does not want Pakistan to exist or it is in the state's interest to inculcate a perpetual sense of fear among the people. To answer this question, we must first identify who benefits from maintaining the status quo.

Over the course of our history, regardless of the state of the country, the military has always managed to maintain its position. Even after the debacle of East Pakistan, the army returned to reinsert itself. Economics plays a major role in this, because the incentives provided to the military have now become so huge that withdrawing them would potentially lead to internal confrontation. Weak and illegitimate political parties still do not seem to have the muscle to take on the military. It is in this context that one wonders why the PPP-led coalition government did not put the military back in its constitutionally assigned place after assuming power.

The answer lies in the precarious and arguably dysfunctional nature of political parties in the country. They themselves struggle for legitimacy and in many ways seek the military's tacit support to legitimise their policies. Political parties developed around feudal lords and industrialists gain votes not through policies and results, but through patronage that they deem to deserve.

In the end, the nation suffers overall, because this military-political interplay is predicated on maintaining the status quo that Pakistan is under threat, and in facing these threats the society at large should be prepared to continually render sacrifices. The implication here being that the government functions not at the behest of its constituents; rather the constituents sacrifice economically, politically and legally to ensure that the government functions in a manner beyond its mandate.

The irony is that while we in Pakistan are critical of the United States and Israel, the policies that these countries have adopted to commit the acts we condemn are being implemented by our own government. Israel exists on the very premise that it is surrounded by hostile states. Though Israel faces internal strains due to the quarrels between Jewish migrants from different parts of the world, it is the persistent Arab threat that keeps it united. The neo-conservatives in America first exaggerated the Soviet threat to the US in the late 1970s and 1980s, then they did the same in the case of Iraq and al-Qaeda, and now they are doing the same to Iran and Venezuela. All in all fear dominates the agenda, because this is a 'necessary' myth to maintain national cohesion.

Essentially, there are two necessary myths through which a nation seems to sustain itself: unity through religion and unity through fear. Considering Pakistan's ideology, the former was used as a tool to unite the nation, though events over the last 60 years point to the contrary. What remains is unity through fear; the maintenance of a constant threat, whether internal or external. Unity through fear basically leads to two problems: it serves narrow interests and shows political incompetence.

In Pakistan's case, the sad fact is that whether policies are good or bad, the elite always benefits. Increases in commodity prices and the power of cartels ensure that the coffers of landlords and industrialists continue to grow. A sorry economic state forces the government to make outright concessions, as was evident in the recent package offered to the textile industry. The ever-present security threat, regardless of how the country is performing, ensures that the military remains a dominant recipient of budgetary allocations.

While the failure of state policy to serve the interests of the majority is well documented, the myth of fear has an important and perhaps an even more devastating implication for the future of the nation. Fear is used as a political tool once politicians have nothing to offer to its citizens. Every policy seems to be addressing something that has already gone wrong. Many commentators have discussed how Pakistan's political economy seems to be in a vicious cycle where the past is continually resurfaces. This is mainly due to the fact that politicians currently have very little to offer to us as a society.

(Email: nadirnwo@gmail.com)

 

What a waste!

Is quality education only for the wealthy? What about the rest, the vast majority of gifted and entrepreneurial young people? Are they not the ones who will bring about change in the society?

 

By Atle Hetland

Education leads to change and economic development. It also leads to better living standards, especially for girls and women. Education has a value in itself, because it increases the individual's self-respect and confidence he or she feels less separated from what goes on in the community and society. A person who has gone to school will also know that a poor person can do as well as a rich person, or a peasant's son or daughter may do better in exams than a lawyer's child. Not that education should only be for the bookish intelligent children and be about getting good marks in exams.

As a matter of fact, primary education should rather make it possible for all children to feel that they have done well as long as they have done their best under circumstances, which may often be far from ideal. That creates happy and more confident children who are in a better position to face the outside world. At the middle and secondary levels, as well as in higher education, students will have to learn to excel, because the working life is getting increasingly competitive with each passing day.

Pakistan has not yet made full use of education for development of the individual or of education for economic development. Pakistan is a developing country, but not a least developed country (LDC) and, therefore, can afford to invest more in education at all levels, especially at the primary level. Today, only about half of the children complete the full five-year school cycle, which in any case is too short. More importantly, fewer girls than boys receive education.

That means that the first hurdle, the first inequality, that you face is whether you are enrolled in school at all; and if you are, can you manage to avoid dropping out before the short primary school cycle is over. Since the primary school cycle is only for children aged five to 10, they ought to continue through middle school, which is actually considered part of 'basic education'. If they do not, they will normally have to begin to work at a tender age.

It is a fact that all those children who do not go to school or drop out start working and that usually means child labour in more or less strict forms. However, if a child helps adults with work within the family or immediate community, and through that learns a trade or other skills for earning a livelihood, we should not consider it child labour. It is better than idleness. Such work, with learning, should probably be considered as a form of apprenticeship and authorities could draw up guidelines for it.

Within the education system in Pakistan, there are many inequalities than we would like to discuss, but let us draw attention to only a few because of space constraints: Girls lose out to boys in the current education system and in society as a whole. Rural children have fewer chances than urban children. This is often not because of conservative traditions in rural areas, but because education is not available. Poor children cannot compete with the rich. The handicapped are hardly included in the education system at all. Some surveys suggest that only about four percent of handicapped children receive adequate education and care.

Who succeeds in the current education system? First, if you are rich or belong to the upper layers of the middle class, you are ok, your children are likely to go to private schools and be taught in English. This is elitist and clearly preparing the children for leadership and maintaining the existing class structures. Even when the children play in the neighbourhood after school, they may notice that there are differences among them, mostly caused by what schools they go to and how well they speak English. It is not only those who lose out who suffer from this; also those who succeed will know that it is unfair.

Over one third of all pupils in Pakistan attend private schools. Some of these schools are of top quality, many of good quality and some of poor quality, run by local communities and parents, sometimes supported by the government. Whether a school is good or not depends on resources, but as important is the dedication and competence of the principal and other teachers, and the participation from the parents and the local community. That also means that a private school does not have to be expensive, but often it is because it is run like a business and a business must make a profit.

In the future, it is likely that the number of private schools will grow. The private schools could establish partnership with government schools or local authorities and, obviously, if there is further expansion of private schools, it must be with government regulations, inspection and support. Studies and plans must be undertaken to understand more about the cost of private schools and whom they benefit. In the long run, like any other country, Pakistan would like to have a cohesive education system that reaches all children.

Then there are the religious schools, the madrassas, which cater to about five percent of the schoolchildren in Pakistan. In some areas, especially in the NWFP, this percentage is much higher. Up to one-third of the pupils are girls. Madrassas are often for the very poor children who cannot attend other schools, and they are provided free education and boarding / lodging there. However, not all children studying at madrassas are very poor; they attend these schools because they are considered good by their parents and community members. The children who complete education at madrassas usually get employment easily and become respected members of their communities.

A recent study of a sample of madrassas in the NWFP notes that these schools are particularly well integrated in the culture of the communities they belong to. Educationists and sociologists have always emphasised the importance of education being integrated in the local community and not be alien to it (such as the English medium schools risk being). The education system of a country should be integrated in the country's culture or cultures, and at the same time be open to change and development. Madrassas are often seen as conservative elements in society, less open to change and development. Whether this is always true is not entirely certain and, in any case, we should give them credit for their strengths too.

In all countries of the world, including in Pakistan, governments are the main providers of the. In Pakistan, about 60 percent of all children attend government schools. Some government schools are good, but most of them are either average or poor. It is important to emphasise here that the government's role in education in any country is the key. In many countries of the world, providing education and other social services are seen as one of the government's foremost functions. In many developed countries, government schools are as good as or even better than private schools.

The Education for All (EFA) movement has as its goal that all the world's countries should provide quality education for all children by 2015, and secondary education and higher education should be available on merit (not determined by wealth, social status, gender, geography, ethnicity or other irrelevant factors). Governments have been made responsible for achieving the EFA goals, as well as the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs). Naturally, the government can sometimes use private providers of primary and higher education.

Usually, private schools offer education from the primary to secondary levels. There are just a few private universities, save for a couple of good institutions imparting education in a limited number of fields. In most countries, private universities need direct or indirect government support, such as subsidised land to build the campus and government student loans for fees.

Most funds for long-term investment in education are public funds -- those obtained through taxes and from other government sources. Parents and even many rich private companies are not willing to invest in higher education and research at the required high level, knowing that the fruits can only be harvested after many years, sometimes decades, and those who will benefit may not even be those who paid. In other words, many fields of education are to be seen as public, and only the government and the people at large will value educational investment.

In Pakistan today, the expensive private schools drain the public school system for scarce resources. It is a challenge for the government to raise the general standard of government schools and develop some excellent ones too. Moreover, there is a need for establishing government partnerships with all types of schools and for making sure that the teachers are well trained. It is a fact that almost all teachers, also in private schools, are graduates from government colleges.

This leads us to a few considerations about secondary and, in particular, higher education. Studies have shown that the best preparation for vocational and technical training is good primary and secondary education, and that practical training is best learnt at the work places, notably some forms of on-the-job training, apprenticeship or internship, combined with related theoretical content. Often, vocational and technical education is second-class to academic education. In the future, such inequalities should be reduced or gotten rid of entirely. Why is it that a competent plumber must work longer hours under harsher conditions for lower pay than a computer specialist in an office? And why do we keep giving lower status to manual work, when we all need manual work to be done in the home, town and country?

All over the world, there is today a drive towards excellence, though sometimes in a very technocratic and almost childish manner. Maybe part of this drive comes from educationists, since we have argued so long for the importance of education? In the West, literally every young person goes to school until the end of his or her teenage years, and in many countries 50 percent go on to university, whether they are interested in it or suited for it. It should be said that for higher education to have been opened to a large number was a way of reducing inequalities in society.

Yet, new inequalities pop up, such as the fact that those who do not have higher education, still half even of the richest countries' populations, can easily be considered second-class, not to speak of those 10 percent or so who have no proper secondary education or permanent jobs. We believe that developing countries may give more respect to ordinary working people than what is done in the West, contrary to what many think. In a developing country many factors decided what job a person got into; in the West, everyone was free to choose and compete, and some lost in spite of good opportunities.

When education systems expand, especially at secondary and higher levels, institutions usually complain about dropping standards. In higher education today, 'the best' want niches for excellence or advanced studies and we suppose that those who propagate hardest for it probably want these niches for themselves and a few friends! University professors and experts in many countries, rich and poor, think that only some of their universities can be excellent. We believe that instead of making centres of excellence, we ought to lift all institutions up to a good, general standard, and from such institutions, some would develop into excellent ones, or some departments within the institutions, or some projects within departments, would become very good.

Through general good standards, the contributions of universities to development would improve. This applies to Pakistani as well as foreign institutions. However, Pakistan continues to upgrade its higher education institutions, especially through scholarships for advanced degrees, improved salary structures, online acquisition of literature, etc. This will benefit all staff and students, and eventually, employers of candidates and the society at large. It is true that Pakistan, too, has ambitions to create centres of excellence. We are sceptical of using money and incentives 'artificially', rather than letting good environments develop 'naturally' into centres or milieus of excellence, creating unnecessary inequalities between subject areas and disciplines.

In the long run, Pakistan would like to have a cohesive education system that reaches out to all children and where we are sure that the values taught are in line with common values. After all, part of the purpose of education is to build a nation and bind people together. That is also why it is so important to have a common education system for all, notably a government system, with government-regulated private (non-governmental) schools. Through this we will reach an education system with fewer inequalities and more patriotic citizens and skilled people those who can take better care of themselves, one another and the country.

(The writer is a Norwegian social scientist currently based in Pakistan.

Email: atlehetland@yahoo.com)

 

The silent victims

Though automobile workshops come under the category of hazardous occupation, no protective measures have been adopted

 

By Salam Dharejo

The automobile industry in Karachi is rapidly increasing since the last few years. Besides providing employment to skilled and semi-skilled labour force, a large number of underage children are also employed in this sector. Children working in auto garages are likely to be exposed to critical occupational hazards. During work, children have to suffer from physical injury, loss of body parts and punctures, including skin diseases and eye impairment during work in automobile garages and mechanical maintenance workshops. Despite confronting occupational challenges, no serious efforts have been made by the government and civil society organisations to provide legal support to working children through ensuring implementation of concerned laws.

According to an International Labour Organisation (ILO) report, entitled Future without Child Labour, released in 2002, about 246 million children aged between 5 and 17 worldwide are child labourers and work at places exposed to risk to their health and safety. In this way, one of eight children in the world is working in hazardous conditions. The same report also reveals that about 69 percent of the child workers suffer from diseases and injuries.

The risks children are exposed to during work are identified as injury, broken bones, chopping of a part of body, burn, skin disease and asthma. According to the Child Labour Survey 1996, "the susceptibility of children to work-related injuries and diseases in reflected from the fact that seven percent of the working children suffered from illness/injuries frequently, 28 percent occasionally and 33 percent rarely. Male children were more prone to injuries / illness as compared with the female children."

It has been found that most of the semi-skilled work in automobile workshops is extracted from the underage children of seven to 14 years. Most of the work in auto workshops -- such as denting, painting, welding and tyre repairing -- that needs less skill is carried out by underage children. Though automobile workshops come under the category of hazardous occupation, no protective measures have been adopted. Consequently, children are exposed to health problems, such as respiratory and skin diseases and tuberculosis.

"During work, one of my fingers was chopped," says Murad, showing his four-fingered hand. Apparently, wiring of a vehicle seems less dangerous than it actually is. Arshad, 11, lost his left eye because sulphuric acid dropped in his eyes while he was repairing a battery. Talking about the occupational health and safety hazards, Dr SM Zameer views that more than half of the children working in welding workshops suffer from eyesight problems.

Detailing the reasons, he says: "Due to heat and light sensitive rods and cones of eyes, retina is directly affected by the light of welding. Consequently, eyesight of the worker becomes weak. Moreover, the children engaged in welding work often suffer from severe pain in eyes." Pointing towards his younger brother, Ahsan, 10, Murad says: "He often could not sleep at night due to the pain in his eyes. To reduce the intensity of pain, we used to keep wet cloth on his eyes."

For the occupational health and safety, it is necessary that protective measures are adopted before starting any hazardous work. But it has been observed that children do not adopt any protective measures, such as dark glasses and gloves, even while welding. "I have been taught by my ustad that just close your eyes when a sharp flash comes out of the wielding rod."

Respiratory problems and tuberculosis are commonly found in children who used to work in auto painting workshops. In garages, mostly children paint vehicles with colour spray without wearing masks on their faces. They inhale spray when they take breath during the work, which directly affects their lungs. Similarly, the sulphuric acid of the battery causes skin diseases and injuries, informs Dr Zameer.

A vast majority of child workers in auto workshops comprise illiterate children. It has been revealed during meeting with employers and parents that many parents do not send their children to schools despite having the means to do so. They deliberately keep their children at workplaces, so as to equip them with some skill. "Why should we send children to schools? Education will not help them in getting employment. In garages, at least children would be able to become mechanics. I am not a poor person. I am owner of two buses, but I have not admitted my children in schools. Rather, I have put them in garages, so that they could at least learn some skill," Haji Nawaz Khan says.

In Pakistan, rights of the children are recognised in the 1973 Constitution. The article 11, 35 and 37 of the Constitution of Pakistan prohibits child labour. Where as, Employment of Children Act 1991 clearly states that no child below the age of 14 shall be permitted to work or be employed in any establishment in the country. Similarly, being a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Pakistan signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the ILO in June 1994, under its international programme for the elimination of child labour.

To combat the menace of child labour, the government of Pakistan ratified the ILO Convention 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour in August 2001 and initiated the Child Labour Time Bound Programme (TBP) with ILO-IPEC's technical assistance. The purpose of the programme was to target hazardous industries and to develop proposal for the rehabilitation of 26, 000 children, who are engaged in worst form of labour in the country in different sectors.

In pursuance of the international commitment to eliminate the worst forms of child labour, the government of Pakistan in collaboration with the ILO started a programme for the rehabilitation of child labourers through providing them informal education and skill development courses. In this regard, a project for the rehabilitation of children working in auto garages, small shops and tailoring was initiated in Karachi through the Skill Development Council.

The project was aimed at creating awareness about the problem among all partners through seminars / public meetings within their localities, survey of workshops and garages where children are working, and providing training as well as education to bring them into the mainstream. The pilot project for 100 children was started in the urban area of Karachi with direct approach to children working in the following types of enterprises: automobile repair / mechanic shops that include denting, painting, electric work, tyre repair and puncture, etc; mechanical maintenance workshops that include welding, lathe, shaper, fabrication work, etc. Under this project, about 100 children were provided skill development raining and informal education.

News reports unveiled that a very high proportion of the children got physically injured or fell ill while working. These included punctures, broken or complete loss of body parts, burns and skin diseases, eye and hearing impairment, respiratory and gastro-intestinal illnesses, fever, headaches from excessive heat in the fields or in factories. A large majority of these children had to consult medical doctors and some had to be taken to hospital. Many affected children had to miss work for a time, with some stopping work for good. Moreover, occupational hazards cause not only short-term health effects but most effects are long-term and will only become evident in adulthood. Therefore, they are difficult to measure and to quantify.

(The writer is regional promotion manager, Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child.

Email: secularsalam@yahoo.com)

 



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