Friday, August 29, 2014

Political Rulers Bring Neither Democracy Nor Development to Pakistan

“Na Khuda hi mila, na visaal-e-sanam/Na udhar kay rahay, na idhar kay rahe (I found neither faith, nor union with my lover/And now I belong neither there nor here).”

Pakistan's quest for democracy under civilian rule has produced neither democracy nor development in the Islamic country of over 180 million people. Currently, Pakistan is experiencing 6th consecutive year of  stagnant economy and human development under an elected but highly corrupt "democratic" government run by the Sharif family and their cronies for their own benefit.

Is it a Democracy?

Can one call it a rule-of-law or democracy when the Sharifs illegally order the Lahore police to attack the home of Allama Tahir ul Qadri, kill over a dozen unarmed civilians including women, and then refuse to file a report  (FIR) of the incident at the local police station?  Can you call it constitutional rule when the ruling politicians openly defy the Supreme Court orders to hold local government elections under Article 140 (A) of the Pakistan constitution? Is it democracy when all of the most powerful government positions are held a few members of the Sharif family and their close friends?

Is it Development?

Is it development when Pakistan's human development progress is the slowest in decades? Is it development when Pakistan faces another lost decade like the decade of 1990s under PPP and PMLN rule? Is it development when Pakistan continues to drop in world rankings on social indicators included in the UNDP's HDI index?

Pakistan's HDI grew an average rate of 2.7% per year under President Musharraf from 2000 to 2007, and then its pace slowed to 0.7% per year in 2008 to 2012 under elected politicians, according to the 2013 Human Development Report titled “The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World”.

Source: Human Development Report 2013-Pakistan



History of Human Development in Pakistan: 

At 0.515, Pakistan's HDI is lower than the average HDI value of 0.558 for South Asia which is the second lowest among the various regions of the world tracked by UNDP. Between 2000 and 2012, the region registered annual growth of 1.43% in HDI value, which is the highest of the regions. Afghanistan achieved the fastest growth (3.9%), followed by Pakistan (1.7%) and India (1.5%), according to the United Nations Development Program.

Overall, Pakistan's human development score rose by 18.9% during Musharraf years and increased just 3.4% under elected leadership since 2008. The news on the human development front got even worse in the last three years, with HDI growth slowing down as low as 0.59% — a paltry average annual increase of under 0.20 per cent.

 Who's to blame for this dramatic slowdown in the nation's human development?  Who gave it a low priority? Zardari? Peoples' Party? Sharif brothers? PML (N)? PML (Q)? Awami National Party? Muttahida Qaumi Movement?  The answer is: All of them. They were all part of the government. In fact, the biggest share of the blame must be assigned to PML (N).

Sharif brothers weren't part of the ruling coalition at the center. So why should the PML (N) share the blame for falling growth in the nation's HDI? They must accept a large part of the blame because education and health, the biggest contributors to human development, are both provincial subjects and PML(N) was responsible for education and health care of more than half of Pakistan's population.

Source: The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World
Source: The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World

Going further back to the  decade of 1990s when the civilian leadership of the country alternated between PML (N) and PPP,  the increase in Pakistan's HDI was 9.3% from 1990 to 2000, less than half of the HDI gain of 18.9% on Musharraf's watch from 2000 to 2007.



Acceleration of HDI growth during Musharraf years was not an accident.  Not only did Musharraf's policies accelerate economic growth, helped create 13 million new jobs, cut poverty in half and halved the country's total debt burden in the period from 2000 to 2007, his government also ensured significant investment and focus on education and health care. The annual budget for higher education increased from only Rs 500 million in 2000 to Rs 28 billion in 2008, to lay the foundations of the development of a strong knowledge economy, according to former education minister Dr. Ata ur Rehman. Student enrollment in universities increased from 270,000 to 900,000 and the number of universities and degree awarding institutions increased from 57 in 2000 to 137 by 2008. In 2011, a Pakistani government commission on education found that public funding for education has been cut from 2.5% of GDP in 2007 to just 1.5% - less than the annual subsidy given to the various PSUs including Pakistan Steel and PIA, both of which  continue to sustain huge losses due to patronage-based hiring.

Source: Pew Surveys in Pakistan


Looking at examples of nations such as the Asian Tigers which have achieved great success in the last few decades, the basic ingredient in each case has been large social sector investments they have made. It will be extremely difficult for Pakistan to catch up unless similar investments are made by Pakistani leaders.



Summary:

Civilian rule in Pakistan has delivered neither democracy nor development. The country stands at a crucial juncture with highly energized Pakistanis staging a historic massive sit-in in Islamabad since August 14, 2014. They have shaken up the ruling Sharif family and forced them to seek Pakistani military's help to save themselves from the wrath of the people. Any decisions made by Pakistan's military and politicians now will have long term impact on the health of the country. Let's hope these decisions bring about changes which help accelerate socio-economic development while making Pakistan's rulers more accountable and responsive to the people for their actions.

Here's a video discussion on the current political crisis in Pakistan:

http://vimeo.com/104722439

http://youtu.be/r66ep0WghZU


Pakistan PM Invites Army Intervention; Can Army Chief Save Nawaz Sharif Govt? from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Another Lost Decade in Pakistan?

Pakistan Military's Role in Current Crisis

Civilian "Democracy" Vs Military "Dictatorship" Debate in Pakistan

Saving Pakistan's Education

Political Patronage Trumps Public Policy in Pakistan

Dr. Ata-ur-Rehman Defends Pakistan's Higher Education Reforms

Twelve Years Since Musharraf's Coup

Musharraf's Legacy

Pakistan's Economic Performance 2008-2010

Role of Politics in Pakistan Economy

India and Pakistan Compared in 2011

Musharraf's Coup Revived Pakistan's Economy

What If Musharraf Had Said No?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Media Drones Over Islamabad

Since tens of thousands of supporters of Imran Khan and Allama Tahir ul Qadri marched into Islamabad a few days ago, there have been continuous live aerial images and spectacular videos of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf's and Pakistan Awami Tehrik's massive but peaceful sit-in protests broadcast directly from Islamabad by several Pakistani TV channels. This breathtaking live drone camera coverage of  a major media event has made drone journalism history in the South Asian country of over 180 million people.



There are few examples of such mainstream media coverage using drones. One example is when Australia's Nine Networks 60 Minutes program used  an unmanned aerial vehicle to broadcast images of  a vast immigration detention camp set up by the Australian government away from the eyes of the media. Paparazzi, too, use drones but such activity is often illegal and frowned upon by the mainstream media.


The Punjab government banned the use of media drones in Lahore where the PTI and PAT rallies originated before converging on Islamabad. “We have banned the use of helicams/drone cameras after the Ministry of Defence has informed us in writing that the use of such flying devices by anyone except the authorised state agencies is already banned under certain rules and regulations related to civil aviation, etc,” District Coordination Officer retired Capt Muhammad Usman told Pakistan's Dawn newspaper.

In Islamabad, however, there have been half a dozen drones in the air covering the combined PTI-PAT dharna (sit-in) round the clock for the last several days. “We were stopped from using these machines yesterday to cover the placement of the containers because the authorities have become sensitive about it,” says Nadeem Ihsan, senior manager (technical) of Samaa TV, which says it used the drone camera the first time in Islamabad during the coverage of the PTI’s earlier public gathering at D-Chowk on May 11.

Pakistani authorities remain cautious about the growing use of these new drones. “We are concerned that the number of these drones may increase to an unlimited level and that would be alarming. We need to make rules to control this technology,” a senior administration official said.

Silicon Valley's Venturebeat publication cites the following additional recent examples of drone usage for reporting:

1. In December 2011, a Fair Elections rally in Moscow used a remote-control model helicopter to get government-independent aerial photos of the crowd.

2. In summer of 2013, a drone videotaped a police clash at a demonstration in Istanbul. The drone was reportedly later shot down, apparently by police.

3. In March 2014, a business systems expert shot half an hour of aerial video in East Harlem after a gas explosion demolished two buildings.

4. CNN has an ongoing request for crowdsourced drone aerial footage.

5. Using drone imagery, Wake Forest University created a 3D model of Duke Energy’s coal ash spill in North Carolina, independent of the utility-favoring state regulators.

6. Drone maker DJI has demonstrated spectacular video of its Phantom drone flying into a volcano in the Tanna island of Vanuatu.

7. In 2012, a camera drone flying near Dallas discovered blood-red spots in the Trinity River. It turned out that pig blood was being emptied via an underground pipe from the Columbia Meat packing plant, located on a creek that feeds into the river. The company was indicted on 18 criminal counts, and a trial is pending.

The civilian drones are coming. Some drone makers would like to see them swarming the skies soon. But  others are horrified at the prospect of so many drones flying overhead. Before the drone usage becomes widespread, there will have to be reasonable regulations in place to address safety and privacy concerns of the public at large.

Related Link:

Haq's Musings

Drones Inspire and Outrage Pakistanis

Pakistan Media Revolution

Drone Journalism Lab

Military Contingency Plans For Escalating Political Crisis

Pakistani Drones in America

Imran Khan Draws Inspiration From Allama Iqbal

Kudos to Qadri

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Student Math and Reading Skills in India and Pakistan

Recent World Bank report on student learning in South Asia is depressing. Sri Lanka is the sole exception to the overall low levels of achievement for primary and secondary school kids in the region.  The report documents with ample data from various assessments to conclude that "learning outcomes and the average level of skill acquisition in the region are low in both absolute and relative terms". The report covers education from primary through upper secondary schools.

Source: World Bank Report on Education in South Asia 2014

Buried inside the bad news is a glimmer of what could be considered hope for Pakistan's grade 5 and 8 students outperforming their counterparts in India. While 72% of Pakistan's 8th graders can do simple division, the comparable figure for Indian 8th graders is just 57%. Among 5th graders, 63% of Pakistanis and 73% of Indians CAN NOT divide a 3 digit number by a single digit number, according to the World Bank report titled "Student Learning in South Asia: Challenges, Opportunities, and Policy Priorities".  The performance edge of Pakistani kids  over their Indian counterparts is particularly noticeable in rural areas. The report also shows that Pakistani children do better than Indian children in reading ability.

Source: World Bank Report on Education in South Asia 2014


Here are some excepts from the World Bank report:

Unfortunately, although more children are in school, the region still has a major learning challenge in that the children are not acquiring basic skills. For example, only 50 percent of grade 3 students in Punjab, Pakistan, have a complete grasp of grade 1 mathematics (Andrabi et al. 2007). In India, on a test of reading comprehension administered to grade 5 students across the country, only 46 percent were able to correctly identify the cause of an event, and only a third of the students could compute the difference between two decimal numbers (NCERT 2011). Another recent study found that about 43 percent of grade 8 students could not solve a simple division problem. Even recognition of two-digit numbers, supposed to be taught in grade 2, is often not achieved until grade 4 or 5 (Pratham 2011). In Bangladesh, only 25 percent of fifth-grade students have mastered Bangla and 33 percent have mastered the mathematics competencies specified in the national curriculum (World Bank 2013). In the current environment, there is little evidence that learning outcomes will improve by simply increasing school inputs in a business-as-usual manner (Muralidharan and Zieleniak 2012).

In rural Pakistan, the Annual State of Education Report (ASER) 2011 assessment suggests, arithmetic competency is very low in absolute terms. For instance, only 37 percent of grade 5 students can divide three-digit numbers by a single-digit number (and only 27 percent in India); and 28 percent of grade 8 students cannot perform simple division. Unlike in rural India, however, in rural Pakistan recognition of two-digit numbers is widespread by grade 3 (SAFED 2012). The Learning and Educational Achievement in Punjab Schools (LEAPS) survey—a 2003 assessment of 12,000 children in grade 3 in the province—also found that children were performing significantly below curricular standards (Andrabi et al. 2007). Most could not answer simple math questions, and many children finished grade 3 unable to perform mathematical operations covered in the grade 1 curriculum. A 2009 assessment of 40,000 grade 4 students in the province of Sindh similarly found that while 74 percent of students could add two numbers, only 49 percent could subtract two numbers (PEACE 2010).

Source: World Bank Report on Education in South Asia 2014



The report relies upon numerous sources of data, among them key government data (such as Bangladesh’s Directorate of Primary Education; India’s National Sample Survey, District Information System of Education, and National Council of Education Research and Training Assessment; and Pakistan’s National Education Assessment System); data from nongovernmental entities (such as Pakistan’s Annual Status of Education Report, India’s Student Learning Study, and its Annual Status of Education Report); international agencies (such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] Programme for International Student Assessment [PISA] 2009+ for India; the World Bank Secondary Education Quality and Access Enhancement Project in Bangladesh); and qualitative studies undertaken for the report (such as examining decentralization reforms in Sri Lanka and Pakistan). The study also uses the World Bank Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER) framework to examine issues related to ECD, education finance, assessment systems, and teacher policies.

I hope that this report serves as a wake-up call for political leaders and policymakers in Pakistan to redouble their efforts with significant additional resource allocations for nutrition, education and healthcare.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Who's Better for Pakistan Human Development?

History of Literacy in Pakistan

Myths and Facts About Out-of-School Children in Pakistan

PISA, TIMSS Results Confirm Low Quality of Indian Education

India Shining, Bharat Drowning

Learning Levels and Gaps in Pakistan by Jishnu Das and Priyanka Pandey

Pasi Sahlberg on why Finland leads the world in education

CNN's Fixing Education in America-Fareed Zakaria

PISA's Scores 2011

Poor Quality of Education in South Asia

Infections Cause Low IQs in South Asia, Africa?

Peepli Live Destroys Western Myths About India

PISA 2009Plus Results Report

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Innovation in Pakistan

Culture of innovation has enabled huge productivity increases and major improvements in peoples' living standards since the advent of the Industrial Revolution in Europe in the 18th century. It has resulted in a monumental power shift from the East to the West and led to the European colonization of the rest of the world.

Countries in the East have finally begun to understand the value of innovation since achieving independence which came after a couple of centuries of subjugation by European powers.


Efforts to promote innovation in Pakistan are being spearheaded by several different groups including DICE Foundation and Pakistan Innovation Foundation.  Both DICE and PIF focus almost entirely on higher education institutions.

Before assessing the situation and making recommendations on promoting innovation in Pakistan, it's important to understand the history of innovation by studying the examples of major innovations since the industrial revolution.

James Watt:

James Watt (1736-1819) is credited with the innovation of the steam engine which is believed to have enabled the Industrial Revolution in Scotland. Watt only had high school education. He never studied at a college or a university. His invention enabled a wide range of manufacturing machinery to be powered.  His steam engines could be sited anywhere that water and coal or wood fuel could be obtained and provided up to 10,000 horsepower to run large factories. It could also be applied to vehicles such as traction engines and the railway locomotives. The stationary steam engine was a key component of the Industrial Revolution, allowing factories to locate where water power was unavailable.

Thomas Edison:

Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931), the man who invented the light bulb, was probably the most prolific inventor since the Industrial Revolution. He had no formal education. He was a tinkerer who worked with his hands to come up with many devices and was awarded over 1000 patents by the U.S. Patent Office. His innovations were transformational in their impact: electric light and power utilities, sound recording, and motion pictures, all established major new industries world-wide. Edison's inventions contributed to mass communication and, in particular, telecommunications. These included a stock ticker, a mechanical vote recorder, a battery for an electric car, electrical power, recorded music and motion pictures.

Steve Jobs:

Steve Jobs (1955-2011) invented Apple personal computer. Jobs revolutionized several industries from computing and personal electronics to publishing and entertainment. Jobs, a highly prolific innovator, attended college briefly but did not complete college education. Jobs, too, was a tinkerer who worked with his hands to create things.

These examples clearly establish that some of the most prolific innovators have been people who had little or no college education. It is therefore not wise to limit promotion of innovation to just the college level.

In fact, it is much more important to start promoting innovation during early years in primary and secondary schools. It can be done through inquiry-based learning and provision of tools and training at the K-12 school level. Some examples are as follows:

Inquiry-based Learning:

Inquiry-based learning is a method developed during the discovery learning movement of the 1960s. It came in response to a perceived failure of more traditional rote learning. Inquiry-based learning is a form of active learning, where progress is assessed by how well students develop experimental, analytical and critical thinking skills rather than how many facts they have memorized.  Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) and The Citizens Foundation (TCF) are beginning to promote inquiry-based methods to encourage more active learning and critical thinking at an early age in Pakistan. These skills are essential to prepare Pakistani youngsters to be capable of facing the challenges of living in a highly competitive world in which the wealth of nations is defined in terms of human capital and innovation.

Maker Movement:

The Maker Movement is a technological and creative learning revolution underway around the globe. It has exciting and vast implications for the world of education. New tools and technology, such as 3D printing, robotics, microprocessors, wearable computing, e-textiles, “smart” materials, and programming languages are being invented at an unprecedented pace. The Maker Movement creates affordable or even free versions of these inventions, while sharing tools and ideas online to create a vibrant, collaborative community of global problem-solvers.

Maker movement is helping spawn facilities in many different cities around the world. These places have a wide range of both hardware and software tools and classes available to help people to create and "make" things with their own hands.

The only possible example of "makerspace" that comes close in Pakistan is Robotics Lab that was launched in 2011 in Karachi. It was founded by two friends Afaque Ahmed and Yasin Altaf who had previously worked in Silicon Valley. They bought a 3D printer for the lab as a tool to help children learn science. The founding duo is now looking for ways to expand its audience.“Our goal is to push this science lab to TCF schools, a nationwide school network covering about 150,000 underprivileged students,” says Ahmed. The project, however, is currently pending because of funding constraints. “We have asked them to find some big donor for this purpose. Currently, we train these children only through field trips to our labs.”

Out-of-the-Box Thinking:

The key to innovation is not necessarily advanced education and training in a certain field. It is out-of-the-box thinking. Major innovations have often come from people working in unrelated fields. Recent examples of such innovations from people of South Asian origin include Zia Chisti's Invisalign and Salman Khan's Khan Academy. Both Zia and Salman came from investment banking background before they revolutionized the fields of orthodontics and education.

Summary: 

Encouragement of the culture of innovation should begin during children's formative years in primary and secondary schools. Innovation requires free out-of-the-box thinking. History tells us that some of the biggest innovators were tinkerers with little or no formal education in the fields of their biggest and most transformative innovations. Groups and foundations promoting innovation in Pakistan need to increase their outreach to the school kids. As a start, they can expand inquiry-based learning and build more makerspaces like Karachi's Robotics Lab in partnership with private industries and foundations in major cities.

Here's a video of my friend Ali H. Cemendtaur's visit to Karachi Robotics Lab:

http://vimeo.com/58856985


Visiting Robotics Labs, Private Limited in Karachi, Pakistan from Ali Cemendtaur on Vimeo.
Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Industrial Revolution Power Shift

Steve Jobs' Syrian Father

Inquiry-Based Learning in Pakistan

3D Printing in Pakistan

Zia Chishti's Innovation in Orthodontics

Human Capital Growth in Pakistan

Khan Academy Draws Pakistani Visitors


Friday, August 1, 2014

Consumer Confidence Boosts Pakistan Eid Sales

Eid and Ramzan sales, making up over 40% of annual revenue of retailers in Pakistan, are estimated to have jumped 10-15% this year, according to early data reported in the news media.

Nielsen, a global provider of data on consumers, reports that Pakistan consumer confidence has held steady at 99 for two consecutive quarters. This compares favorably with consumer confidence figures which declined over the previous quarter in the overall Middle East/Africa region. Among the region, UAE led the way for Middle East/Africa consumer confidence with an index of 109, a decline of five points from first-quarter 2014. Egypt (81) reported a drop of six points compared to the first quarter. South Africa posted the only regional confidence increase, climbing three points to 85, and confidence held steady in Saudi Arabia (102).

Global Consumer Confidence Index Report. Source: Nielsen 


More than half (56%) of Middle East/ Africa respondents in Nielsen consumer surveys viewed their personal finances in a positive light which held steady from the first quarter. In Pakistan, 59 percent of the respondents believed the state of their finances was good or excellent, up from 57 percent in the first quarter of this year.

“Pakistani consumers are generally optimistic as seen by mostly high consumer confidence scores over the last three years. However, a score of 99 in the first as well as the second quarter of this year, is the highest we’ve seen since the second quarter of 2011,” said Mustafa Moosajee, Managing Director, Nielsen Pakistan. “This reflects the overall mood in the country, especially relating to economic conditions. The economy is showing signs of recovery but macro challenges remain.”

Pakistan's Nielsen consumer confidence index of 99 is just below 100, a level that indicates optimism. Countries at or above 100 are: China (111), India (121), Indonesia (124), UAE (114), Philippines (111), Thailand (108), Brazil (106), Switzerland (104),  Saudi Arabia (102), Peru (101), United States (100), Denmark (100) and New Zealand (100).

Consumer spending in Pakistan has increased at a 26 percent average pace the past three years, compared with 7.7 percent for Asia, according to data compiled by Euromonitor International, a consumer research firm. Pakistan's rising middle class consumers  in major cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad are driving sales of international brand name products and services.  Real estate developers and retailers are responding to it by opening new mega shopping malls such as Dolmen in Karachi and Centaurus in Islamabad.

Dolmen City, Clifton, Karachi
Here's a recent video of a CNN report on "British Brand Invasion" from Dolmen Mall in Clifton district of Karachi:



 http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2013/04/01/mohsin-bristish-brands-in-pakistan.cnn

Pakistan has continued to offer much greater upward economic and social mobility to its citizens than neighboring India over the last two decades. Since 1990, Pakistan's middle class had expanded by 36.5% and India's by only 12.8%, according to an ADB report titled "Asia's Emerging Middle Class: Past, Present And Future.

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Dolmen Mall Clifton Featured on CNN from DHAToday on Vimeo.

Rising consumer is good but not sufficient to boost economic growth to meet the needs of growing population. What Pakistan requires badly now is significant new investments, both foreign and domestic, to overcome the ongoing energy crisis and rejuvenate the manufacturing sector.


Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

Educational Attainment in Pakistan

Foreign Visitors to Pakistan Pleasantly Surprised

Pakistan's Infrastructure and M2 Motorway

India Pakistan Comparison 2011

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers


FMCG Consumption Boom in Rural Pakistan

Pakistan Visits Open  Indian Eyes