Category Archives: South Asia

Democracy that Delivers Podcast #81: Vaqar Ahmed on Growth in Pakistan’s Private Sector

From left: podcast guest Vaqar Ahmed and guest hosts Maria Philip and Vivek Shivaram

This week’s guest on CIPE’s Democracy that Delivers podcast is Vaqar Ahmed, Ph.D. Ahmed is deputy executive director of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

In this podcast, Ahmed discusses CIPE’s partnership with SDPI, the growth of Pakistan’s economy, and the country’s need for a thriving private sector. After a decade of low gross domestic product (GDP) growth, Pakistan’s economy has begun to improve. The private sector will play a key role in the country’s economic turnaround, and a free, transparent market is necessary for the private sector to flourish.

SDPI’s main aim is to provide a sustainable development community in Pakistan by addressing such issues as climate change, food security and tax reform. With CIPE’s support, SDPI has developed economic programs that have received support from members of the Pakistani parliament.

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #80: Manzoor Ahmad on Economic and Infrastructure Growth in Pakistan

From left: podcast guest Manzoor Ahmad, guest hosts Frank Brown and Jennifer Anderson

This week on CIPE’s Democracy that Delivers podcast, Manzoor Ahmad, Ph.D., discusses economic and infrastructure growth in Pakistan. Ahmad is president of the PRIME Institute and a senior fellow with the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development in Geneva.

CIPE and PRIME collaborated to create the Government Policy Scorecard, which is intended to hold the Pakistani government accountable for economic promises made to its citizens. Ahmad says the project has been a success because it has opened the door for dialogue between the Pakistani government and PRIME Institute.

Ahmad also discusses the positive effects of the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which took effect in February 2017 Ahmad credits the TFA with facilitating exports and expediting trade in developing countries, such as Pakistan.

Finally, in regards to infrastructure, Ahmad says Pakistan has benefited since the 2016 implementation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is intended to strengthen Pakistan’s economy by modernizing its infrastructure.

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #79: Masooma Sibtain on Women’s Chamber of Commerce in South Asia

From left: podcast guest Masooma Sibtain, with Jennifer Anderson, guest host Marc F. Schleifer and host Ken Jaques.

This week on CIPE’s Democracy that Delivers podcast, Masooma Sibtain, president of the South Punjab Women’s Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SPWCCI) in Pakistan, discusses the current state of women entrepreneurs in South Asia.

Born and raised in Pakistan, Sibtain says women in her country have always participated in the work force. However, most of their jobs have been in the informal sector as artisans. The regional women’s chambers are transforming Pakistani women from informal artisans to entrepreneurs by helping them to market and sell their products.

Sibtain says because of CIPE, the other women’s chambers in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh learn from and support one another. Sibtain credits her chamber, its members and CIPE for teaching her the importance of support systems and advocacy.

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Improving Afghanistan’s Economy from the Bottom Up

Lead farmer Abdul Rahman with grapes. Afghanistan. 2008.
Photo: © Nicholas Bertrand / TAIMANI FILMS / WORLD BANK via Flickr

CIPE and the local Afghan business community teamed up to develop an initiative that is helping to spur economic growth and create jobs in the provinces. Driven entirely by the provincial business communities in Nangarhar, Kandahar, Balk, and Herat, CIPE’s Provincial Business Agenda (PBA) program has produced a wide range of results that improve the local business climate, which has suffered setbacks in recent years. In areas far from Kabul, the economy has been particularly hard-hit by a drastic reduction in international development spending since 2014, resulting in a huge increase in unemployment in the provinces. This has caused many Afghans who were previously employed by the military and international donors to move to Kabul to look for work—or to leave their country out of desperation to earn a living.

CIPE started working at the provincial level in 2008, but has stepped up its efforts since 2014 as its role has become increasingly vital. CIPE works with home-grown, provincial-level small businesses to identify the day-to-day problems Afghans face when trying to start or grow their businesses, which leads to the creation of more jobs. CIPE takes the bottom-up approach in Afghanistan. We do not create business associations, because in CIPE’s experience, the local business community views donor-created business associations as inauthentic. We work with associations and chambers that formed because the business community came together out of the innate understanding that there is safety in numbers and power in collective action. Given the context of decades of war, continuing violence and deep-rooted ills, removing the obstacles caused by poor governance is a reasonable starting point for a country as complex and as dangerous as Afghanistan. Creating an environment that is friendlier to small businesses is a good first step towards improving the overall economy.

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Women Entrepreneurs in South Asia are Critical to the Region’s Economic Growth

Women work at a chili flake production facility owned by a Nepalese woman who used to carry stones to help send her brothers to school. Her business exports chili flakes to the United Kingdom.

By Jennifer Anderson and Maria Philip

Healthy, vibrant democracies must deliver for all of their citizens. Women’s full economic participation, control over their financial circumstances, and greater decision-making power are essential to building gender-equitable political and economic systems. Moreover, it has been shown that women’s economic empowerment can have a positive multiplier effect, leading to political and economic gains that benefit society as a whole. Yet research also shows that it is insufficient to focus solely on income-generating projects for women. Rather, to empower women as equal stakeholders, it is necessary to build a gender-inclusive business-enabling environment that allows women to start and grow their own businesses.

In the evolving democracies of South Asia, the majority of women are blocked from full economic and civil participation by a range of formal and informal obstacles, including laws and regulations, and cultural and societal norms. Women in the region continue to trail their peers in other parts of the world. Indicators for women’s employment, income, and wealth in South Asia are particularly dismal, and the region is the slowest in the world to equalize laws affecting women’s employment and entrepreneurship. From 2014 to 2016, the region enacted just three reforms to increase women’s economic opportunities—the fewest reforms out of 65 economies.

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Using Technology to Strengthen Policy Advocacy across South Asia

CIPE training session in Kathmandu, Nepal

Throughout South Asia, women in business have faced several barriers to achieving full civic and economic participation. To tackle these challenges, the South Asia Regional Women’s Economic Network has helped amplify women’s empowerment in the region. Supported by CIPE, the network has been able to effectively advocate for policy reforms that create more opportunities for women-owned businesses. This network is comprised of women business associations from Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, India, and Sri Lanka.

The achievements of the network continue to show that now, more than ever, focusing on women’s economic growth is key to strengthening democracy. For example, Multan, in South Punjab, and Peshawar—both cities in turbulent regions—are home to large artisan communities consisting mainly of women working on hand embroidery and handcrafted textiles. Despite challenges for women to participate economically and politically, both the Southern Punjab and Peshawar Women’s Chamber pushed the government to change a policy that was impeding the earning potential of women artisans. Eventually, the State Bank issued policy instructions that led to lengthening the amount of time that artisans have to pay back their loans. Extending credit will help them in fulfilling orders, and allows them to plan purchases and sales further in advance, with less pressure for rapid repayment.

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #62: Ayesha Bilal on Encouraging Transparent Policymaking in Pakistan

From left: podcast guest Ayesha Bilal, with guest host Marc Schleifer and host Julie Johnson

On this week’s Democracy that Delivers podcast, Ayesha Bilal, Chief Operating Officer of Pakistani think tank PRIME (Policy Research Institute of the Market Economy), discusses PRIME’s work encouraging citizen involvement in public policymaking in Pakistan. She talks about PRIME’s highly successful Scorecard project to track how well the government has met its economic reform promises. Bilal shares how PRIME included the government as a stakeholder in the project and how the government is now using the Scorecard to track its own progress.

Bilal talks about the importance of tackling issues that have a broad appeal, and tactics for involving many sectors of the population in policy discussions – from homemakers to entrepreneurs to business owners. She stresses the need for openness and transparency in research and advocacy projects, and the importance of encouraging discussion, not imposing solutions. She also discusses PRIME’s current #FairTax campaign.

For more information on PRIME, Pakistan’s leading economic research think tank, visit: www.primeinstitute.org

View PRIME’s Scorecards

Follow PRIME Institute on Twitter: @PrimeInstitute

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