Tag Archives: Pakistan

What’s Stopping Pakistan from Reaping its Demographic Dividend?

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Photo: Dawn

“In the absence of adequate job creation by the public or private sectors, it is more important to enhance financial inclusion, which can help create greater opportunities for self-employment instead of salaried employment.” Tameer Microfinance Bank CEO Nadeem Hussain

Pakistan is one of the top ten most populous countries in the world. Youth make up over 36 percent of the Pakistani labor force, and that proportion is projected to rise to 50 percent by 2050. According to the World Bank there will be 1.7 million Pakistanis entering the country’s labor force every year, yet, worryingly, the Pakistan labor force survey also finds that over 3.7 million people are currently unemployed. The yearly upsurge in the unemployment rate is putting additional weight on the shoulders of the Pakistan government. The government must reassess and make needed reforms in order to change the current trajectory and allow Pakistan to reap the benefits of its demographic dividend.

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Pakistan’s Cyber Crime Bill Has Free Speech Advocates and Business Community Worried

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“The proposed Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2015, in my opinion, is even worse than the one we advocated against during the Musharraf era.  The fact that the Ministry of IT&T felt the need to operate in complete secrecy over the past year clearly indicates the mindset with which this draft has been put together. P@SHA, ISPAK, legal cybercrime experts and civil society were not called in for a consultation.”
– Jehan Ara, President Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and ITES (P@SHA)

Pakistan has a long history of suppressing the freedom of speech. Democratically elected governments have left the popular video site YouTube blocked since 2012. Twitter was blocked in the same year and in 2010 a court order forced government to block every social media site in the country on the pretext of preventing the distribution of blasphemous content.

Even with this background, the current government’s “Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015” has civil society, business, the information technology sector, and the media deeply worried about the future of online freedom of speech and Pakistan’s information technology industries.

The proposed bill aims to rectify the lack of legislation pertaining to cyber-crime. While the government argues that the bill had undergone a public consultative process, stakeholders are of the view that since government has not shared the final version of the bill, it may contain clauses that will infringe upon the right to online speech. Representatives of Pakistan’s information technology sector have strongly criticized previous drafts of the bill.

“Just a quick look at the clauses and sections in this Act shows that very little thought went into its drafting,” said Jehan Ara, president of P@SHA. “The definitions are weak, the language is loose and vague and leaves much to interpretation, and it criminalizes all sorts of activities that do not even fall within the gambit of this Bill.”

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7th All-Pakistan Secretary Generals’ Conference 2015

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By Huzaifa Shabbir Hussain and Emad Sohail

“I am always proud to be a part of the Secretary Generals Conferences that have created tremendous impact in the working and improving the efficiency of the participating Chambers and Associations in Pakistan. In every conference we learn new and innovative ideas and exchange experiences with each other that provide us the opportunity to implement best practices in our respective organizations. In fact, these conferences through the rich experience and guidance of mentors like “Hammad Siddique” act as “Change Agent” that develop “out of the box thinking” to think creatively for efficient working.” – Majid Shabbir, Secretary General, Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry

 “The role of trade associations, chambers of commerce, large corporations and the business groups in the economic development had become an important area of research.”  Shahid Khalil Secretary General Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry

“I feel very lucky that I got an opportunity to become part of this group, this event provides us guidance as an institution that help us in resolving all matters regarding our business association.”  Khurshid Anwar, The Vehari Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

The 7th Annual Secretary Generals conference was held on April 13-14 this year and was attended by 22 participants who gathered in Lahore from various parts on the country. The two-day event is considered a flagship event because of its strategic importance in creating a network and platform of private sector leaders who learn from each other and discuss new ideas and visions for the future.

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China and Pakistan’s All-Weather Friendship

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Huma Sattar is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. This post originally appeared at The Diplomat.

Much to the befuddlement of the rest of the world – and as ironic as it is – Communist China and Islamic Pakistan are fast friends. It’s all hail to China in Pakistan and as other partnerships wither and die, these two countries continue to devote energy to strengthening their relationship. China has historically come to Pakistan’s rescue with economic, political, military and nuclear assistance and perhaps what was once a relationship founded on a mutual disillusionment with India has moved toward one with more aspirational intentions on both sides.

It would appear that Pakistan has been the greater beneficiary of this friendship – from military to economic assistance, China has stood by Pakistan, but is the friendship really that sustainable? Andrew Small from the German Marshall Fund certainly seems to think so. An Asia expert, Small recently published a book examining what he calls the unusual nature of the secretive relationship between China and Pakistan and argues that it is much more promising than Pakistan’s erratic ties with the U.S. And indeed, history supports this. On a visit to Pakistan earlier this year, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi assured Islamabad that China and Pakistan were in sync on all matters and have an “iron-clad” understanding between them, one that has taken years to hone and fortify.

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Holding Pakistan’s Government Accountable on Tax Reform

Pakistan collects far less tax (as a percentage of GDP) than most countries. (Chart: Dawn)

Pakistan collects far less tax (as a percentage of GDP) than most countries. So far the PML(N) government has not been able to significantly increase the tax ratio. (Chart: Dawn)

The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML (N)) government is completing its second year in power on May 11, 2015. It is astonishing to observe that the accountability process for democratically elected government has improved significantly.

Under a CIPE grant, the first such public accountability process was initiated by Policy Research Institute for Market Economy (PRIME), an independent think tank based in Islamabad. PRIME started a simple exercise by taking concrete promises from PMLN’s economic platform and, through a scientifically designed scoring process, monitoring the government’s performance under three key sections: Economic Revival, Energy Security, and Social Protection. These sections were further divided into 82 sub-categories.

The report is widely accepted as an unbiased measure of the government’s performance. The report received significant coverage in local media, both print and television. PRIME Executive Director Ali Salman suggests that “IMF Staff Mission assessment of Pakistan’s economic situation and reforms have many agreements with PRIME’s Tracking Report.”

The accountability process has recently moved to the next level, as the government’s Standing Committee on Finance publically accused the PML (N) government of making decisions on taxation measures in isolation, without taking the Standing Committee in confidence.

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Pakistan and India: Irreconcilable or Just Stubborn?

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Trucks wait at the India-Pakistan border. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Huma Sattar is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Heritage Foundation

Pakistan and India share a long, unyielding history. The past is marred with political and territorial conflict, militarization, and a general sense of mistrust on both sides.

Since 2003, trade between the two countries has grown seven-fold, with Indian imports into Pakistan taking 80 percent of the share, according to data reported by International Trade Centre. While formal figures report bilateral trade of U.S $2.3 billion for 2013, some estimates contend that a larger share of bilateral trade between Pakistan and India comes through indirect or informal routes. Trade is estimated to be double what statistics report with significant Indian imports coming through Dubai into Pakistan.

Many studies which have aimed to estimate potential bilateral trade between Pakistan and India have concluded consistently that there are enormous economic synergies that can exist between the two economies given their trade complementarity and geographic proximity. Mutually preferential cooperation would benefit both Pakistan and India.

However, Pakistan has still not granted Most Favored Nation status (MFN) to India despite talks that seemed to have made progress in the past few years. Judging by the recent statements made by officials from Pakistan, it seems the country will remain flummoxed by the idea of granting MFN to India, contending one or more of the following as reason for their reservations:

  • India gave MFN to Pakistan in 1996. For Pakistan, however, the trade deficit has only increased.
  • MFN to India will hurt the local economy of Pakistan.
  • Increasing trade with India has hardened India’s stance on Kashmir.

Unfortunately for Pakistan, the merits of these arguments are wearing thin. In fact, putting the Kashmir issue and trade on the same table ensures that neither side relents and both issues remain unaddressed. 

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How Pakistan’s Education System Holds Back Economic Growth and Democracy

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A recent World Bank report suggests that the country will not meet the Millennium Development Goals of universal primary education by 2015. The report ranks Pakistan 113th out of 120 countries in the “Education for All Index.” With seven million out-of-school kids, the challenge is snowballing with each passing year.

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