Monday, November 30, 2015

Pakistani Kids Are World Champs at World Education Games 2015

Pakistanis were crowned World Champions and won the Maths World Cup, with Malaysia taking second place and the Literacy World Cup and Australia claiming third place overall and the Science World Cup, according to a report in Australia's The Educator publication.

World Education Cup 2015 saw student competitors from 159 countries earn 169 million UNICEF points, and raise more than $100,000 which will help 33,000 kids go to school.

The event was hosted by 3P Learning, an Australian company internationally renowned for its online education resources including Mathletics. Its CEO, Tim Power, said he had seen a big improvement in the results of STEM education subjects. World Education Games is a free downloadable program for registered schools for students to use.

Pakistan's winning team members included Ali Saud Khan (Grade 9), Abeeha Saud (grade 4) and Emaan Fatimah (Grade 7) from Beaconhouse school in Mandi Bahauddin, Lahore, according to The Express Tribune newspaper. The goal of the annual event is to ensure that students have 21st century skills to be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.

Pakistani kids are now increasingly visible on the international stage in global competitions. Recently,  an exceptionally bright student of PakTurk International School in Jamshoro brought home a gold medal after competing in Math Challenge V hosted by the Pan-Asia International School in Bangkok.  In 2013, Khadija Niazi,  then a 12-year-old Pakistani girl attending advanced MOOCS (Massively Online Open Courses) was featured at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. In 2012, four teams of Pakistani students won five medals, including one silver, in four international science competitions.

After seeing its youngsters win several international competitions, Pakistan has now decided to host the 48th International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) in Karachi next year at the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), University of Karachi (KU).

Although access to quality education remains quite limited in Pakistan, it is still encouraging to see some Pakistani youngsters excelling in STEM fields at the international level. I hope these wins will help inspire more young Pakistanis to pursue and excel in math and science education.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Girl's Journey From Karachi Slum to Harvard Business School

12-Year-old Pakistani Girl at World Economic Forum

Pakistani Kids Outperform Indian Counterparts in Math and Reading

PakTurk Schools in Pakistan

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

Human Capital Growth in Pakistan

Pakistan Joins CERN as Associate Member

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Black Friday Sales in Pakistan

Pakistan saw its first Black Friday sales this year. These retail sales were on at both brick-and-mortar stores and e-tailers like There were also media reports indicating similar sales in the UK and other countries as well.  For those unfamiliar with Black Friday, let me explain what it is.

Black Friday, a day of mega sales by retailers, follows Thanksgiving Day in America. Black Friday marks the start of the annual Christmas shopping season that accounts for about half the annual retail revenue and much of the profits earned by US retailers.

Thanksgiving is a quintessential American holiday that commemorates the arrival of European "Pilgrims" fleeing religious persecution across the Atlantic. It is celebrated with a dinner of turkey, cranberries and corn that made up the feast offered by native Americans, also known as American Indians, to welcome the hungry and tired Europeans in this continent of North America. President Barack Obama used the occasion to remind today's Americans of their duty to welcome those who are fleeing persecution in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. Here's what the President said:

“Nearly four centuries after the Mayflower set sail, the world is still full of pilgrims – men and women who want nothing more than the chance for a safer, better future for themselves and their families. What makes America America is that we offer that chance. We turn Lady Liberty’s light to the world, and widen our circle of concern to say that all God’s children are worthy of our compassion and care. That’s part of what makes this the greatest country on Earth.”

So what do many American shoppers do on Black Friday? They mob the shopping malls and the brick-and-mortar stores as they open very early on Friday morning following Thanksgiving holiday to snap up bargains. Overzealous shoppers are known to knock down and trample other shoppers as they race to take advantage of bargain basement prices on items such as new apparel, consumer electronics and toys. With the rise of e-commerce, many American shoppers now prefer to take advantage of Black Friday sales offered by popular e-tailers like The e-commerce sites usually have such Black Friday sales continue beyond a single day.

This year, Pakistan's e-tailer offered Black Friday bargains to Pakistani shoppers. partnered with several companies including PTCL, Ponds, Mediatek, InnJoo and Easypay. EasyPay is the official payment partner, offering an additional 25 per cent discount on products to customers who use Easypay on Black Friday.  There were category discounts as high as 63 per cent on smartphones, 50 per cent on computers and 70 per cent on fashion and accessories on offer at Daraz, according to Express Tribune newspaper.

In addition to e-commerce sites, there was also a report in England's "The Daily Mirror" about "Lahori aunties going mad" on Black Friday at a fabric store in Lahore.

To the dismay of many, American style consumerism is finding broad acceptance among the middle class consumers across the world, including developing countries like Pakistan. Is this wise? Is it sustainable? How would it affect our future? I'll leave these questions for the readers to answer for themselves.

Amir Khan Under Fire Over "Intolerance" in India; Black Friday in Pakistan; Russia-Turkey Conflict in Syria; PPP's Asim Husain C from WBT Productions on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

E-Commerce in Pakistan

High-Tech Investments in Pakistan

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan's Appetite For International Brands

Pakistan Middle Class Grows to 55%

South Asia's Rising Consumption; Depleting Resources

Syrians Flee Persecution

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Diwali Brings High Pollution Warning For Indian Capital Delhi

India's capital Delhi has the dubious distinction of being the world's most polluted city and Diwali fireworks are making its air pollution even worse. The smog will be particularly dangerous on Nov. 12 and 13, with the concentration of pollution-related particles — PM2.5 and PM10 — projected to increase by 148% and 170% respectively, according to Indian media reports.

News headlines said US President Obama's 3 day visit to New Delhi last year cut his life expectancy by 6 hours. Why? Because Delhi has the highest level of the airborne particulate matter, PM2.5 considered most harmful to health, with 153 micrograms per cubic meter, 15 times higher than the 10 micrograms per cubic meter considered safe by the World Health Organization (WHO).

World's Dirtiest Cites

Delhi is not alone; Other cities in India claim 13 spots among the top 20 dirties cities in the world. Not far behind  Delhi's 153 micrograms is another Indian city, Patna with 149 micrograms. Other Indian cities among the world's dirtiest are: Agra (88 ug/m3), Allahabad (88 ug/m3), Ahmedabad (100 ug/m3), Amritsar (92 ug/m3), Firozabad (96 ug/m3), Gwalior (144 ug/m3), Khanna (88 ug/m3), Kanpur (93 ug/m3), Lucknow (96 ug/m3), Ludhiana (91 ug/m3) and Raipur (134 ug/m3).  Pakistani cities of Karachi (117 ug/m3), Peshawar (111 ug/m3) and Rawalpindi (107 ug/m3) also count among the world's most polluted.

India's pollution problems are not entirely due to poorly controlled industry and transport. The early winter problems are significantly exacerbated by the burning of the fields by farmers after harvest.

With a score of just 3.73 out of 100, India ranks as the worst country for the ill effects of toxic air pollution on human health among 132 nations, according to a report presented at the World Economic Forum 2012. India's neighbors also score poorly for toxic air pollution, but still significantly better than India. For example China scores 19.7, followed by Pakistan (18.76), Nepal (18.01) and Bangladesh (13.66).

In the overall rankings based on 22 policy indicators, India finds itself ranked at 125 among the bottom ten environmental laggards such as Yemen, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Iraq while Pakistan ranks slightly better at 120. The indicators used for this ranking are in ten major policy categories including air and water pollution, climate change, boidiversity, and forest management.

These rankings are part of a joint Yale-Columbia study to index the nations of the world in terms of their overall environmental performance. The Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and Columbia's Center for International Earth Science Information Network have brought out the Environment Performance Index rankings every two years since 2006.

The Yale-Columbia study confirms that environmental problems in South Asia are growing rapidly. The increasing consumption by rapidly growing population is depleting natural resources, and straining the environment and the infrastructure like never before. Soil erosion, deforestation, rapid industrialization, urbanization, and land and water degradation are all contributing to it.

It's important to remember that Bhopal still remains the worst recorded industrial accident in the history of mankind. As India, Pakistan and other developing nations vie for foreign direct investments by multi-national companies seeking to set up industries to lower their production costs and increase their profits, the lessons of Bhopal must not be forgotten.

It is the responsibility of the governments of the developing countries to legislate carefully and enforce strict environmental and safety standards to protect their people by reversing the rapidly unfolding environmental degradation. Public interest groups, NGOs and environmental and labor activists must press the politicians and the bureaucrats for policies to protect the people against the growing environmental hazards stemming from growing consumption and increasing global footprint of large industrial conglomerates.

There will be severe health consequences for all Indians unless the Modi government acts to legislate and regulate various sources of pollution in the country. Pakistan government, too, needs to act to prevent severe harm to public health by rising pollution.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India's Air Most Toxic

Pak Entrepreneur Recycles Trash into Energy and Fertilizer

Bhopal Disaster

Environmental Pollution in India

Rising Population, Depleting Resources

India Leads the World in Open Defecation

Heavy Disease Burdens in South Asia

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Economists Criticize Rising Intolerance in Modi's India

Top economists have now joined the rapidly growing ranks of Indian writers, historians and other intellectuals warning Modi government of the negative consequences of rising intolerance for the entire nation.

Billboard During Modi's Silicon Valley Visit
The Wall Street Journal reported that India's chief central banker Raghuram Rajan "made an unusual appeal for tolerance in a speech Saturday, triggering a debate about whether he was trying to send a message to the country’s leaders". “The first essential is to foster competition in the market place for ideas,” Gov. Rajan told students at his alma mater, the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi. “Without this competition for ideas, we have stagnation.”

Arun Shouri, BJP leader who has previously served as a federal minister and worked as World Bank economist, joined the criticism of the Modi government when he said: "there is clearer belief (in the Modi government) that managing the economy means managing the headlines and this is not really going to work.” He said the NDA government was essentially “the Congress plus a cow”, in an apparent reference to the violence against minorities and killings of Muslims accused by the Sangh Parivar activists of consuming beef.

Ratings agency Moody's has also weighed in with its own warnings saying that "in recent times, the government also hasn't helped itself, with controversial comments from various BJP members. While Modi has largely distanced himself from the nationalist jibes, the belligerent provocation of various Indian minorities has raised ethnic tensions.

"Along with a possible increase in violence, the government will face stiffer opposition in the upper house as debate turns away from economic policy. Modi must keep his members in check or risk losing domestic and global credibility," Moody's said.

While the chorus of criticism of Modi's government has been rising in recent weeks, what is different is that the economists' warnings are inspired by practical economic concerns rather than the moral dimensions of the Hindu militancy in Modi's India.

What Mr. Narendra Modi must realize is that it is hard to reverse the real damage to the nation once the forces of bigotry and intolerance are unleashed. The difficulty he faces is the lack of his moral authority with his Hindu Nationalist power base given his own track record as the chief executive of Gujarat for many years that include the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom on his watch.

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Historic Low LNG Prices Can Help Resolve Pakistan Energy Crisis

LNG spot prices hit a new low of $4 per mmBTU as the supply continues to significantly outstrip demand. It's creating opportunities for Pakistan to get access to large supply of cheap fuel for its power generation.

With softening demand from China and 130 million tons per year (mmpta) of additional LNG supply set to reach market over the next five years, gas research firm Wood Mackenzie sees continuing downward pressure on global LNG spot prices.

LNG Price History Source: WSJ

“The entire industry is worried because it is hard to tell when China’s demand will pick up again,” said an LNG strategist at a Malaysian energy company who attended the Wood Mackenzie conference in Singapore, according to Wall Street Journal. “Rising demand from smaller countries such as Pakistan, Egypt and Bangladesh is not enough to offset the declining demand from north Asia.”

As recently as two years ago, LNG shipped to big North Asian countries like Japan and Korea sold at around $15 to $16 a million British thermal units. This month, the price has already hit $6.65 a million BTUs, down 12% from September, according to research firm Energy Aspects. It expects prices to fall further in Asia next year, to under $6 per million BTUs, as a wave of new gas supply in countries from the U.S. to Angola to Australia comes on line, according to Wall Street Journal.

Petronet LNG Ltd, India’s biggest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG), is saving so much money buying the commodity from the spot market that it’s willing to risk penalties for breaking long-term contracts with Qatar.

This is a great opportunity for Pakistan to take advantage of historically low LNG prices to alleviate its severe load-shedding of gas and electricity.  Recently, Pakistan has launched its first LNG import terminal in Karachi and started receiving shipments from Qatar.  Pakistan has also signed a $2 billion deal with Russians to build a north-south pipeline from Gwadar to Lahore. But the country needs to rapidly build up capacity to handle imports and distribution of significant volumes of LNG needed to resolve its acute long-running energy crisis.

Here's a related video discussion:

Pakistan Local Elections; Indian Hindu... by ViewpointFromOverseas

Pakistan Local Elections; Indian Hindu Extremism; LNG Pricing; Imran-Reham Split from WBT TV on Vimeo.

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Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Twin Energy Crises of Gas and Electricity

Affordable Fuel For Pakistan's Power Generation

Pakistan Shale Oil and Gas Deposits

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor 

Blackouts and Bailouts in Energy Rich Pakistan

Pakistanis Suffer Load Shedding While IPPs Profits Surge