Category Archives: South Asia

Public-Private Dialogue Key for Economic Development in Afghanistan

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Fifteen years after the U.S.-led military intervention in Afghanistan began, it feels as if many of the same problems persist. Thousands of Afghans have been made jobless as military bases have closed across the country and development and foreign assistance programs have been reduced or have ended; the National Unity Government continues to be paralyzed by political infighting and rampant corruption; and a resurgent Taliban have threatened to overrun several provincial capitals and have orchestrated a number of terrorist attacks across the country, including in Kabul. Despite these worrying trends, the Afghan people have made significant progress since the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001. Basic services such as electricity and running water were unavailable even in Kabul during the years of Taliban rule, and have now spread throughout the country. Trips between cities that used to take days due to unpaved roads can now be completed in hours. Prior to October 2001, making an international call involved traveling across the border to Pakistan. Today, almost 85% of the population has mobile phone coverage, according to a 2012 USAID assessment.

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #42: Kalsoom Lakhani on her Journey from Storytelling to Empowering the Startup Community in Pakistan

Podcast Guest Kalsoom Lakhani

Podcast guest Kalsoom Lakhani

On this week’s Democracy that Delivers podcast, Invest2Innovate (I2I) CEO and Founder Kalsoom Lakhani talks about the trends, opportunities, and challenges that entrepreneurs face in Pakistan and the report that I2I just launched that looks at the environment for start-ups and investors in the country. Lakhani traces her work today back to her childhood in Bangladesh and Pakistan, and to her early interest in conflict resolution that stemmed from hearing about her family’s experiences during the Bangladesh War of 1971. The stories she heard as a child still resonate today as she seeks to increase understanding around the world about what everyday life is really like in countries such as Pakistan that are often best known in the West for violence and instability. Lakhani talks about how her interest in social justice led her to venture philanthropy and to the work she does today helping shape a supportive environment for entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses in Pakistan.

Follow Kalsoom on Twitter: @kalsoom82.

Download a free copy of the Invest2Innovate 2016 Pakistan Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Report.

Want to hear more? Listen to previous podcasts at CIPE.org/podcast.

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Democracy That Delivers Podcast #41: Manogya Sharma and Sarita Sapkota on Generating a Voice for Reform in Nepal

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From left: Guests Sarita Sapkota and Manogya Sharma, with guest host Jenny Anderson and Ken Jaques

This week on the Democracy that Delivers podcast, Manogya Sharma and Sarita Sapkota from CIPE partner Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation, discuss their organization’s work in Nepal providing policy solutions to economic challenges and generating public-private dialogue to forge a way forward on key issues facing the country. Sharma and Sapkota talk about how their organization has grown over the last ten years from focusing on youth-based programs to wider issues, including the development of a Nepal Economic Growth Agenda. They also discuss the importance of coalition-building and how to make sure your message reaches the government, even in times of political turbulence. Discussion also covers the investment climate in Nepal and the environment for entrepreneurs starting and growing businesses.

Learn more about Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation through their website and follow them on Twitter @SamriddhiTPF.

Want to hear more? Listen to previous podcasts at CIPE.org/podcast.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or on your Android device.

Like this podcast? Please review us on iTunes to help other listeners find the show.

Supporting Women’s Economic Empowerment through Women’s Chambers of Commerce

Women from the Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry participating in a capacity building workshop

Women from the Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry participating in a capacity building workshop

Since its creation in 1983, CIPE has been working with business associations, chambers of commerce and economic think tanks around the world to promote institutional reforms and advance economic and political empowerment.

Women business associations are one type of business associations that CIPE has partnered with in order to support the economic empowerment of women. Recognizing the unique role such organizations play, CIPE has focused on strengthening women business associations and thus empowering women to become entrepreneurs and leaders in their local communities and countries.

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #28: CIPE Afghanistan Country Director Mohammed Nasib on Afghanistan’s Challenges and Its Future

CIPE Afghanistan Country Director Mohammed Nasib (left) with guest host Jenny Anderson.

CIPE Afghanistan Country Director Mohammed Nasib (left) with guest host Jenny Anderson.

As foreign forces pull back from Afghanistan, the country faces not only the threat of renewed violence but also deep economic challenges and corruption, which are deeply intertwined with the political instability.

Mohammed Nasib, Country Director for CIPE Afghanistan, and guest host Jenny Anderson, Program Officer for South Asia, discuss the country’s challenges and how CIPE is helping the Afghan private sector play a positive role in Afghanistan’s future.

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Listen to past episodes of our show here.

Like this podcast? Please review us on iTunes to help other listeners find the show.

Debate on Taxation in Pakistan: Reforms Move to the Next Level

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Karachi Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Pakistan’s overall tax-to-GDP ratio has been hovering around 10 per cent for the past decade, which is approximately five per cent lower than the average of comparable economies. Despite a large tax base available in all provinces, they collectively contribute only seven per cent in overall revenues.

Federal revenues are low, and government coffers are emptied by debt servicing, high defense spending, and power subsidies, resulting in government institutions without adequate budgets to operate. Without tax reform, Pakistan’s civilian government and its ability to govern remains weak and ineffective. Moreover, Pakistan remains on the brink financial crisis.

Since the passage of a constitutional amendment in 2010 aimed at rolling back the excessive power the central government had built up over years of military rule, the provincial administrations have been entrusted with greater revenue mobilization responsibilities. The amendment was intended to bring education, health, and other basic government services closer to the people and help develop areas that were historically ignored by Islamabad, and was viewed as an important first step in a series of reforms to create a responsive and accountable democratic Pakistan.

However, empowering provinces without the proper mechanisms in place for implementation, and conflict resolution, and without strengthening revenue raising capability at the provincial level, has resulted in greater duplication of bureaucratic structures and processes at central and provincial levels, leading to more wasteful spending and higher budget deficits. Moreover, government services that are now to be provided by the provincial governments are often not provided at all, as provincial governments themselves appear confused or reluctant to take on service delivery and financial responsibilities.

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Charting a Way Forward for Business in Kandahar, Afghanistan

Kandahar PBA picture 4

On April 27, the Kandahar branch of the Afghan Chamber of Commerce & Industries and 28 other major business and sectoral associations in Kandahar province, with CIPE’s support, released the Kandahar Provincial Business Agenda report at an official launch event in Kandahar City.

The PBA report lists the primary concerns of the private sector and impediments to commercial growth in Kandahar and other neighboring provinces, as well as a set of concrete policy recommendations intended to overcome these barriers.  These policy recommendations include requests to simplify business registration procedures and documents, lowering tax rates, and improving public infrastructure, as well as recommendations more specific to Kandahar province, including taking steps to improve security conditions at the border crossing in Boldak, on the Pakistani border.

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