Category Archives: South Asia

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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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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With Freedom Comes Responsibility

powerful women-powerful nation

By Tasneem Ahmar, Director, Uks Research Center

Pakistan today has a large, vibrant and diverse media. Our media by and large enjoys freedom of expression. Barring a few “sensitive” topics that come under the rubric of “national interest,” “national security,” etc., Pakistani news media churns out content that can be heavily critical of the ruling party, leaders, and establishment.

Then what is wrong with Pakistani media? Why are some civil society organizations – including Uks Research Center – critical of how the media delivers news? In my opinion, it is the gender blindness, bias, or insensitivity that has been bothering us, and it seems that this will continue unless the decision-makers in the media make a conscious effort to reverse the tide.

Uks Research Center is a research, resource, and publication center dedicated to the cause of gender equality and women’s development. The word “Uks” is an Urdu term meaning “reflection,” and our team of professional media persons and research staff aims to promote the reflection of a neutral, balanced, and unbiased approach to women and women’s issues within and through the media.

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Helping Earthquake-Affected Farmers Get Back on their Feet in Nepal

Women are crucial to Nepal's agricultural sector. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Women are crucial to Nepal’s agricultural sector. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Just over a year after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake left thousands dead, destroyed centuries-old UNESCO World Heritage sites, and wiped out entire villages, Nepal is struggling to cope with the economic impacts of the earthquake. According to the Nepal government, the overall damage is estimated to be about $10 billion – more than half of the country’s $19.2 billion GDP.  The disaster is also expected to push an additional 700,000 Nepalese below the national poverty line, which is currently $200 a year, before mid-2016.

Nepal's economy was severely affected by last year's devastating earthquake.

Nepal’s economy was severely affected by last year’s devastating earthquake. (Source: Central Bureau of Statistics)

Particularly worrisome is the devastating impact on agriculture. Two thirds of Nepal’s population is employed in the agriculture and forestry sector, according to the International Labor Organization, accounting for 34 percent of the country’s economic output. The government’s estimates show the agricultural sector’s losses at about NPR 28.3 billion, or $284 million at current exchange rates. Without the restoration of the agricultural sector, Nepal won’t fully recover from the earthquake.

The Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal (FWEAN) has been working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Department, with CIPE’s support, to raise awareness among women agro-entrepreneurs about the various funding opportunities offered by the Ministry. Through training seminars on grant applications and procedures for agricultural credit subsidies at each of FWEAN’s 25 district chapters, FWEAN is encouraging women entrepreneurs to use the resources made available by the government.

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #10: Accountability Lab’s Blair Glencorse Talks About Engaging Youth to Build a Movement for Integrity

Podcast hosts Ken Jaques and Julie Johnson with Blair Glencorse (center)

In this week’s podcast, Executive Director of the Accountability Lab (@accountlab) Blair Glencorse talks about why accountability is important and how his organization is building a generational movement for integrity.

Glencorse discusses youth-driven approaches to building accountability and transparency in governance, using technology and popular culture to engage youth, and how the highly popular Integrity Idol television show celebrates honest government officials in Nepal.

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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!

Sparking Debate on Economic Policy in Nepal

Samriddhi wins an award at the Asia Liberty Forum in Kuala Lumpur.

Samriddhi wins an award at the Asia Liberty Forum in Kuala Lumpur.

By Sarita Sapkota, Samriddhi

In the annual Asia Liberty Forum in Malaysia this year, Atlas Network presented the Asia Liberty Award to Samriddhi for its ‘Econ-ity’ initiative. As part of Atlas’ Regional Liberty Awards, The Asia Liberty Award recognizes think tanks within the Atlas Network that have made important contributions to improving the landscape for enterprise and entrepreneurship in their regions. Through the award, Econ-ity was specially appreciated for the success it has brought about in advocating for and having an impact on energy sector reforms and investment policy reforms in the area of foreign investment in Nepal.

These reform efforts include pressuring the government to remove the minimum investment requirement in its recent foreign investment policies to allow small entrepreneurs to receive smaller investments and technology transfer from foreign companies as well as the establishment of a hydropower trade agreement with India that creates a more optimistic environment for investors in the sector. CIPE has been partnering with Samriddhi on several research and advocacy projects in both areas over the years.

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