Category Archives: South Asia

Losing Steam: Scorecard Shows Slow Progress on Pakistan Economic Policies

pak-econ-scorecard

In 2013, Pakistan experienced its first peaceful transition between two elected, democratic governments. In another first, several parties, including the winning PML-N, produced a concrete manifesto outlining their planned economic policies. But citizens have no mechanism to regularly track what governments are doing towards achieving their election promises.

With CIPE support, the Policy Research Institute of Market Economy (PRIME), an independent economic think tank, has been monitoring progress on the government’s economic manifesto via a carefully designed scorecard. The results show that while the new government has made some progress, implementation of its election promises remains slow.

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Welcoming Future Business Association and Chamber Leaders

dc chamberlinks participants

Washington, DC area ChamberLINKS participants (from left to right): Frida Mbugua (Kenya), Mariana Araujo (Venezuela), and Nini Panjikidze (Georgia).

This week five young professionals from different countries arrived to the U.S. to partake in CIPE’s ChamberLINKS program. The program, which is taking place for the fifth year, matches rising young stars from chambers of commerce and business associations around the world with similar organizations in the U.S.

This year’s participants and placements include:

For the following six weeks, these participants will shadow senior staff of their host organizations to observe and take part in the daily operations of successful associations.

Through the ChamberLINKS experience, the participants will gain valuable skills such as advocacy, membership development, and events management. At the same time, these international participants will provide their U.S. hosts with intercultural understandings such as insights into how associations operate in other nations.

The program also has a long-term impact because the participants bring back what they learned from their experiences to their home organizations after the program ends. For instance, Kipson Gundani, a 2012 ChamberLINKS program participant, raised funds and created momentum to start several new initiatives at the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) based on his experience at the Ponca City Chamber of Commerce in Oklahoma. This included internship programs connecting 50 university students with ZNCC members, evening networking events for ZNCC members, and improving the Chamber’s governance systems by making the board selection process more transparent.

Everyone involved in the program –the international participants, the host organizations, and CIPE – are excited to see what the participants will learn from the next six weeks.

Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.

World’s Largest Democracy Goes to the Polls

Indian voters show their ID cards. (Photo: PressTV)

For the next five weeks, over 814 million voters in India will choose representatives for India’s lower house of Parliament, the Lok Sabha. Given the many corruption scandals involving the current ruling party, coupled with slow economic growth and high unemployment rate, many observers say that Indians voters are hoping for change and a new leadership.

This general election, which is the largest vote ever held in India, is important because the party that wins the most seats will govern the country  for the next five years and also choose the prime minister.

As a background, India’s electoral system is quite complex: it is a multiparty system with more than 50 regional parties and two major national parties. Given that local contexts and challenges are vastly different between the regions, many analysts are having difficulty predicting the outcomes.

Moreover, this elections is logistically challenging: the Election Commission of India has sent more than 10 million polling officials and security officers to carry out the elections at a staggering 930,00 polling stations.

The results are scheduled to be announced on May 16. From a viewpoint of a democratic exercise, and to set an example in a region where democracy is difficult to achieve, it will be interesting to see the results both in terms of who wins and how the logistics pan out.

Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.

I Paid a Bribe, and Tweeted About It

ipaidabribe

By Shrey Goyal, 2013 CIPE Blog Competition Winner. Read the other winning blogs here.

A few months ago, the Global Corruption Barometer 2013 by Transparency International (TI) told us that 47 percent of Indians think corruption is a serious problem in our public sector, and 68 percent feel the government is ineffective against it, with most corruption perceived to exist in political parties (86 percent), police (75 percent) and parliament/legislature (65 percent). It is evident that most Indians are perturbed by the presence of corrupt practices thriving in all nooks and crannies of the public machinery.

Not only is corruption rampant in India, it’s also remarkably visible and lacking in subtlety. In fact, for most Indians, corruption has always been a way of life. To think about it, I ended up paying a bribe no less than four times last week alone, and had to disperse massive amounts in cash to bureaucrats and their peons a couple of years ago just to make sure that my new business registration does not get stuck indefinitely for no discernible reason. And I am hardly alone: A 2005 study by TI found that more than 62 percent of Indians had a first-hand experience of paying bribes or influence peddling to get jobs done in public offices successfully.

According to some estimates, India has lost a staggering $462 billion in illicit financial flows since gaining independence in 1947, and the economic burden of corruption in the last decade is estimated at INR 1,555 thousand crore ($250 billion).

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Helping Afghanistan’s Provincial Councils Fight Corruption and Improve Governance

Kunar PC 2 Jan 22 2014

To improve local governance in Afghanistan, CIPE conducts training seminars for the Provincial Councils in Afghanistan on democratic governance and market economics, including topics like advocacy, corruption, and the informal economy. Using the knowledge gained from the seminars, many of the Provincial Councils have taken on issues affecting their communities.

CIPE recently discussed the efforts of the Kunar Provincial Council with Chairperson Haji Mia Hassan. After discussing corruption issues with local government officials, the Kunar Provincial Council filed corruption cases against several officials with the prosecutor’s office, including the director of the Customs Department and the Director of Haj and Endowments.

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Youth Entrepreneurship: The Way Out For Pakistan’s Economic and Social Suffering

Celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week in Pakistan.

Celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week in Pakistan.

Fayyaz Bhidal is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Atlantic Council.

According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2010-11, out of labor force of 55 million people, over three million are unemployed or underemployed, and the official unemployment rate in urban areas is double that of rural areas.

Marred by an acute energy crisis, militancy, political instability and host of other issues, Pakistan’s annual GDP growth rate is stuck at little above three percent, while the population is increasing at a rate of over two percent per year. This means that every year, roughly two million people enter the labor force. If the current situation is unchanged, the unemployment rate in the country will rise precipitously in the years to come.

According to the Planning Commission of Pakistan, providing jobs to the unemployed — both existing and those entering the labor market every year — requires an annual GDP growth rate of nine percent. Given the fact that both industrial and agricultural sectors are observing negative growth in real terms, and largely uneducated youth cannot be absorbed into the relatively well performing services sector, there seems no way the government will be able to curb this ever-increasing unemployed population.

One of the ways out of this otherwise gloomy national economic picture is to promote youth entrepreneurship. For a society like Pakistan, youth entrepreneurship is a new concept, and will require some serious efforts for promotion to an extent where it will start contributing to annual GDP growth and for extending decent employment opportunities to the youth.

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Business Community Unites on Pakistan Budget Proposal

kcci presidents conference

“In a rare show of strength, top representatives of all the country’s chambers of commerce and industry gathered in Karachi and asked the government to revamp the tax collection system if it wants to increase revenue collection in the country.”Express Tribune

For the past five years, CIPE Pakistan has been supporting the All-Pakistan Chamber Presidents’ Conference organized by Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce & Industry. This conference has provided the business community an opportunity to assemble and a platform to advocate for policy reforms in the country with one voice.

Following in the footsteps this conference, Pakistan’s largest chamber, the Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry, organized a Chamber Presidents’ Conference focusing on bringing together leading chambers to submit a joint proposal for the forthcoming federal budget.

Considering the fact that Pakistan has one of the lowest tax to GDP ratios, which results in the government falling short of revenue and burdening those who already pay heavy taxes, participants of this conference remained focused on a single-point agenda “to work with government on increasing tax collection and reducing dependence on IMF loans.”

Zubair Motiwala, Co-President of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce & Industry said, “Our successive governments have followed a policy of divide and rule. But now that we are united here on one platform, no government can ignore us anymore.”

The conference was attended by the presidents of more than 18 chambers including those from Faisalabad, Lahore, Multan, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan, Lasbela, Sukkur, and other cities and regions.

This was the first time that leading chambers have agreed to develop a unified budget proposal at least two months ahead of budget preparation. The proposal will be finalized at the next meeting, which will be hosted by Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry in April of this year.

The business community showed its determination to keep advocating for policy reforms to encourage economic revival in the country. Speaking at the occasion, Dr. Shimail Daud, President of the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said;

“The unnecessary power of the bureaucracy should be curtailed for the good of the country’s economy. The business community from all four provinces of the country is working together for the most implementable and serious budget proposals and this time it will definitely bring results.”

Moin Fudda is Country Director for CIPE Pakistan.