Saturday, February 6, 2010

Water availability falls sharply


Sunday, February 07, 2010
By our correspondent

LAHORE: Pakistan is fast becoming a desert because of a drastic fall in water availability from 5,000 cubic metres per capita in the 1950s to 1,000 cubic metres in 2010.

Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s former vice president Shahzad Ali Malik said this in a presentation to US Consulate’s Economic and Political Adviser Richard C Jao.

LCCI Vice President Faisal Iqbal Sheikh, Executive Committee members and former Lahore Chamber of Commerce presidents also attended the presentation.

Malik said without water 20 million acres of fertile land would dry up in a week and tens of millions of people would face starvation. No army, with bombs and shellfire, could devastate the country as India by cutting off river flows, he stressed.

He urged the US to ensure implementation of the Indus Water Treaty in letter and spirit, sharing of complete information about water flows as per Article VI of the treaty and installation of telemetry system on rivers by international agencies.

Besides, he added, the country should be compensated for loss of 0.2 million acre feet of water to Baglihar and protection of watershed in upper reaches (J&K) of western rivers.

According to the presentation, Indian manipulation of river water goes back to 1948 as all the rivers on which Pakistan depends originate from India and Kashmir.

The presentation further said between 1951 and 1960 the US took keen interest in water issues leading to the Indus Water Treaty in 1960. The World Bank was the facilitator in appointment of neutral experts and arbitration. Three eastern rivers (Ravi, Beas and Sutlej) were given to India and three western rivers (Indus, Jhelum and Chenab) to Pakistan.

However, last-minute changes in the treaty permitted India irrigation of 1.343 million acres (2.85 MAF) from western rivers. Water for Pakistan was not quantified.

All water heads originated in Kashmir, the jugular vein of Pakistan, he said, adding through annexation of Kashmir India managed to take control of Pakistan’s ‘lifeblood’.

India first used the water weapon in 1948, prompting an intervention by US President Truman. Under the Indus Water Treaty, India cannot stop or interfere with western rivers, whereas in case of Baglihar Dam India did not meet the treaty’s provisions of sharing information. India withheld 0.2 MAF of water in case of Baglihar.

He said India was building a huge storage facility (national river linking project) at a cost of $120 billion to be completed in 2016 which might result in conflicts with neighbouring countries including China, Bangladesh, Bhutan and others.

India was also blatantly violating commitment to ensuring 50,000-plus cusecs in Chenab at Marala. The presentation said that under-construction Kishanganga Dam was a severe threat to Neelum-Jhelum Hydel Project of Pakistan.

Govt trying to get GSP-plus status from EU

Sunday, February 07, 2010
By our correspondent

KARACHI: The government is trying to negotiate with the European Union to get Generalised System of Preferences-plus status for Pakistan which will help exporters to compete in European markets.

In this regard, a booklet and a documentary have been prepared so Pakistan’s case can be well presented in the European Union. It shows how the cost of the war on terror is badly affecting the cost of doing business.

This was stated by Zafar Mahmood, Federal Secretary for Commerce, at the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on Saturday.

He said the war on terror was affecting industrial sectors of the country and was one of the major factors which was adding up to the cost of manufacturing and doing business. Eighteen factors had been identified including tangible and intangible factors which were adversely affecting the trade, he said.

Owing to the high cost of the war on terror, he said, investment from various sectors was being shifted to the war, which was badly affecting development in different sectors including energy.

He said European and American buyers were pressurising Pakistani suppliers to shift their manufacturing units to other places in order to ensure continuous and timely supply. He said exporters should share such type of information so the government could take up the issue because closure of any industrial unit would lead to unemployment and that in turn would create terrorists. “Unemployment is also one of the reasons for growing terrorism.”

He said a committee had been set up to look into the pros and cons of trade agreements with different countries, adding free trade agreement with China was not benefiting Pakistan though its aim was to provide benefit for both countries. However, “China is benefiting from it.”

He added Pakistani goods’ containers were rejected on technical grounds and no one was providing the details and the issue would be taken up.

He said eight per cent tax to GDP ratio was very low and governments could not sustain on that rate and tax collection had to be increased but systematically.

Regarding the Afghan Transit Trade, he said, a committee had been set up which was negotiating on various issues with Afghan officials.

The secretary said commercial counselors or commercial attaches would be appointed on merit and for this written test had been made mandatory and they would be on contract for two years. They would be given targets to achieve and their contract would be revised subject to their performance in the respective countries, he added.

He said drop in imports was not a good sign which showed that the purchasing power had decreased and production had dropped.

The secretary commerce said the KCCI should put on record the fake trade bodies’ issue and send its suggestions to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce.

KCCI Acting President Rasheeduddin Rashid, Businessmen Group (BMG) Chairman Siraj Kassam Teli and Adviser to Sindh CM on Investment Zubair Motiwala were also present.

Some major issues were discussed including power and gas crisis, high utility tariffs, textile sector problems, Trade Ordinance 2007 and Afghan Transit Trade Agreement.

Businessmen said textile exports fell sharply as high operational cost and hike in power and gas tariffs affected export activities. Due to the high operation cost, exporters were unable to compete in the global market, they said, adding some concessons must be given to the textile sector in the form of exemptions and relief in taxes.

They said the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement had been massively abused by unscrupulous elements who imported products way above their actual demand in Afghanistan and brought the products into Pakistan.

Ishrat sees high trade potential for Pakistan, India


Sunday, February 07, 2010
By Samia Saleem and Farhan Zaheer

KARACHI: Dr Ishrat Husain, former State Bank of Pakistan governor and Dean of the Institute of Business Administration, sees Indo-Pak relations in a new perspective as the two media giants of India and Pakistan provide people an opportunity to present their views, end mistrust and improve economic ties.

Dr Ishrat, having a keen eye on economic affairs, has given key analysis on prospects of growth between the two countries.

“Through their peace initiative ‘Aman ki Asha’, the Jang Group and The Times of India have taken a responsible step towards the cause of peace but have a long way to go,” he feels.

He is of the view that with changing times the burgeoning economy of India will realise the importance of improved ties with Pakistan as recognising the potential of each other is in favour of both the nations.

He says India today is a fast growing economy and a very important economic power-in-making and “we must recognise that”. “At current 80 per cent of the Gross Regional Product (GRP) income of South Asia comes from India and India today has one of the largest markets in the world and the economy of Pakistan can benefit multifold if we have trade with the country.”

He expects the economy of Pakistan can be doubled if Pakistan is able to capture even 10 per cent of the 300 million-middle class market of Pakistan and India.

Dr Ishrat, who has a proficient background as an economist, sees Indo-Pakistan friendship as a step towards prosperity for both.

Quoting a 2004 State Bank study, he says, trade between India and Pakistan can be increased from $1 billion to $5 billion if the entire trade between the two sides through illegal means is brought in the legal net.

He says Pakistan can tap this potential in the sectors where India has already excelled like steel, pharmaceuticals, IT, consumer products and various raw materials.

Quoting an example, he says, “we import coal and iron ore for our steel mill from Australia and Brazil, but can import it from India which has a growing expertise in the industry and will reduce our cost to one-fifth.

“This will cut our cost of production of steel and will have a positive effect on other industries like automobile and construction,” he says.

“We need to increase our growth rate because low growth rate hampers employment opportunities and increases poverty. The problems of today’s Pakistan are non-economic like law and order, terrorism and improper use of natural resources.”

On the failure of dialogue due to disputes between the two countries, he feels that it is not actually the fault of any country but is rather an action-reaction diplomatic retort that mars relations. He feels that economic or any other ties with India cannot be sustained unless the political mistrust and discord is removed.

However, the mistrust cannot be removed unless and until “we recognise each other’s potential, sensitivities and value. But for this, India too has to behave as a bigger regional country instead of being aggressive and arrogant.”

He says ‘Aman ki Asha’ has provided an open platform to the people of the civil society to express their views and concerns about relations of the two neighbouring countries. Unlike the old times when the issue of relations between the two countries was limited to government to government correspondence and stances, this step has provided common people with an opportunity to talk for them openly on their issues, he says.

“Now businessmen and the organisations can put on the table whatever is on their minds and the people can articulate their views openly with the most powerful media groups in both the countries.”

After a bright career as an economist, Ishrat entered the field of education to take Pakistan’s name among top teaching institutes in the world. “This is not a job, rather a passion for me as I want to take the IBA to the next level where it is not only considered the best in the country but also in the world,” he says.

Having a keen eye on the economy relative to the world, he feels that the biggest problem of the country is illiteracy and lack of work on human resource. “This if tackled properly can also become our greatest strength as the population in western countries is fast growing old and the future says that our youth will be in demand provided we train them properly.”

He is of the view that the upcoming business conference under the banner of ‘Aman ki Asha’ this month, where top-notch Indian leaders belonging to the civil and business society will come, is the right step towards bridging the big gap in relations.

Supporting the initiative, he says “given history of relations, Aman ki Asha will see both successes and failures but the key is persistence. And that both media groups should have to go a long way that is to go beyond just seminars and conferences.”

Friday, February 5, 2010

Only 66% committed education aid disbursed

The News
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Myra Imran


The commitment and disbursement gap in the Official Development Assistance (ODA) in Pakistan’s education sector is becoming all the more evident in view of the fact that only 66 per cent of the ODA committed is disbursed.

These views were expressed at the launch of a study titled ‘A Policy Scan of Official Development Assistance (ODA)’ published by the Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE). Civil society activists, government officials, media representatives and education experts participated in the event and expressed their views on the issue.

The study shows that the ODA in education sector faces innumerable issues and challenges such as meagre allocation of resources, little focus of multinationals on education, gaps in commitments and actual disbursements, strict aid conditionalities, and lack of implementation and transparency mechanisms.

Highlighting the importance of ODA, Chairman National Standing Committee on Education Abid Sher Ali said it is vital in addressing the missing links in education. “Our enhanced focus, however, should be on generating and mobilising local resources,” he added.

Talking about the inadequate focus of multinationals on education, researcher of the study and Executive Director Centre for Peace & Development Initiatives (CPDI) Mukhtar Ahmed Ali said the trend is evident from the fact that the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank apportion most of the project aid to infrastructure development. He further mentioned that grants constitute only 19 per cent of ODA and the remaining comes in the form of loans.

Assessing the role of ODA in Pakistan, Advisor to Chief Minister Sindh Dr Kaiser Bengali emphasised that as a rule, loans should only be taken for asset creation and should never be taken for budgetary support. However, he cited education as an exception to this rule, as it is not aimed at asset creation but the overall well-being.

He reiterated the importance of foreign assistance but specified four areas of concerns regarding shortage that of teachers, laboratory equipments/instruments, libraries, and research resources like journals/books and scholarships. He also called for comprehensive planning to control the brain drain.

Mohammad Muntasim Tanvir, Campaign Coordinator Asia South Pacific Association for Basic & Adult Education (ASPBAE) - a network of 200 organisations working in 36 countries - spoke on the ODA trends in Asia. He highlighted the inadequacy of aid and low priority accorded to education in the whole region.

He also underlined the key policy demands from the Asian civil society regarding aid, adding that aid should be transparent, unconditional, consistent and better quality grants (instead of loans). “The aid should be monitored through strong accountability measures and should be used in a harmonised process for long term and sustainable projects with full participation from civil society in its design, implementation and monitoring.”

Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE) is a network, which by design is a forum for initiating, sharing and exchanging dialogues on different education related issues like policy, governance and financing. It encourages dialogues on issues in education with a view to promote awareness among people and create a critical mass for facilitating a positive change and improving upon the overall education scenario.