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Showing posts from October, 2009

Social Entrepreneur Solving India's Sanitation Crisis

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Guest Post by Dost_Mittar

A simple solution to a disgusting problem
"The toilet is a part of the history of human hygiene which is critical chapter in the growth of civilization."
[Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak]

Anyone who has seen the blockbuster film “Slumdog Millionaire” would remember one scene above all others. I am referring, of course, to the “potty scene” where the young Jamal is shown relieving himself in an open pit. The scene caused a lot of adverse reaction in India as unrepresentative of true India. But according to a joint study conducted by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 665 million Indians, or nearly two-thirds of them defecate in the open. I am not sure if these 665 included people using indoor toilets without plumbing; if it did not, then the number of Indians defecating in an unhygienic manner is even greater.

I love traveling by train when I am in India and have many enchanting childhood memories of such travel. But one of the less enchanting memory is of s…

Ending Corruption Not a Priority in South Asia

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Under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), all American companies are required to provide details of illegal payments made in foreign countries.

Paxar Corporation, a New York listed company recently acquired by Avery, acknowledged paying $30,000 to bribe Pakistani customs officials in 2008 through its local customs broker. Avery, a California-based company, manufactures and markets various office products in several dozen countries around the world.

In a settlement with the SEC, Avery has agreed to pay over $300,000 in fines, and accepted SEC's cease-and-desist order to stop its corrupt practices.

Here is a list of FCPA violations involving Indian entities reported to the Indian Prime Minister by India's US Ambassador Meera Shanker in Washington:

* On January 9, 2009, Mario Covino of Control Companies allegedly pleaded guilty to making illegal payments of over $ 1 million to employees of state-owned entities, including the Maharashtra State Electricity Board.

* On Feb …

In Defense of Pakistan's Higher Education Reform

Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy is a vocal critic of Pakistan's Higher Education Reform initiated by Dr. Ata ur Rahman, adviser to President Musharraf, in 2002. This reform resulted in over fivefold increase in public funding for universities, with a special emphasis on science, technology and engineering. The reform supported initiatives such as a free national digital library and high-speed Internet access for universities as well as new scholarships enabling more than 2,000 students to study abroad for PhDs — with incentives to return to Pakistan afterward. The years of reform have coincided with increases in the number of Pakistani authors publishing in research journals, especially in mathematics and engineering, as well as boosting the impact of their research outside Pakistan.

Reacting to the recent publication of a report on reform by Dr. Athar Osama, Prof. Adil Najam, Dr. Shams Kassim-Lakha and Dr. Christopher King published in Nature Magazine, Dr. Hoodbhoy wrote a letter to the…

Pakistan's Multi-Billion Dollar IT Industry

Pakistan's information technology industry is quite young. It is in very early stages of development compared to the much older and bigger Indian IT industry, which had a significant headstart of at least a decade over Pakistan. During the lost decade of the 1990s under Bhutto and Sharif governments, Pakistani economy stagnated and its IT industry did not make any headway. However, the industry has grown at 40% CAGR during the 2001-2007, and it is estimated at $2.8 billion as of last year, with about half of it coming from exports. This pales in comparison to over $5 billion revenue a year reported by India's Tata Consulting alone.

Here's some data on Pakistan's IT industry:

"The State Bank of Pakistan for 2007-08 reports the export figures of software and Information Technology-enabled services to be US$169 million which shows a consistent annual growth. State Bank of Pakistan adopted BPM 5 reporting system to report the IT exports revenue, which restricted the …

Insider Trading Scandal Rattles Silicon Valley and South Asia

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Two prominent Indian-Americans, along with a Sri Lanka born billionaire, have been charged in what U.S. prosecutors say is the biggest insider-trading case in a generation. The scandal is now reverberating in South Asia, particularly the island nation of Sri Lanka.

It is estimated that billionaire Raj Rajaratnam, the founder of hedge fund Galleon Group under arrest in New York on charges of insider trading, has invested more than $150 million in Sri Lankan shares. Even rumors of his trades can send the market up or down. Born in Sri Lanka, he was educated at the prestigious Wharton business school in Pennsylvania and went to set up a hedge fund for boutique investment bank Needham. The hedge fund was spun off with Mr Rajaratnam at its head in 1997. Galleon was well known for its extensive research reports, according to the New York Times, and for having many senior technology executives as its investors.

In 2007, there was a minor scandal involving accusations of insider trading again…

Comparing US and Pakistani Tax Cheats

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In addition to borrowing heavily, the US collects over 28% of the nation's GDP to support various government expenditures. As the government spending continues to grow to stimulate demand, the US national debt is ballooning, forcing Uncle Sam to pursue offshore tax cheats.

Thursday is the deadline for Americans to come clean about the money they have hidden offshore, in places like Swiss bank accounts. No one can say with certainty how much money is out there — the accounts are secret — but the hoard may be tens of billions of dollars, The New York Times’s Lynnley Browning reports.

Several thousand wealthy Americans have come forward, hoping to avoid large fines or possibly even prison. But many others are still weighing their options. The choice is clear: They can confess and pay the penalties, or gamble that they will not get caught. With the deadline only days away, tax lawyers say they are being inundated by anxious clients, according to the New York Times.

In contrast to the US,…

Looking Beyond Food, Clothing and Shelter in South Asia

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There is nothing more basic in terms of human necessities than the adequate availability of roti, kapra aur makaan. Going beyond these bare essentials of food, clothing and housing, one can add sanitation, health care and education. Let's examine how the two biggest nations in South Asia are coping with such fundamental necessities of their population:

1. Food:

Food is the most basic necessity of all. In terms of being better fed, Pakistanis consume significantly more dairy products, sugar, wheat, meat, eggs and poultry on a per capita basis than Indians, according to FAO data. Average Pakistani gets about 50% of daily calories from non-food-grain sources versus 33% for average Indians.

There is widespread hunger and malnutrition in all parts of India. India ranks 66th on the 2008 Global Hunger Index of 88 countries while Pakistan is slightly better at 61 and Bangladesh slightly worse at 70. The first India State Hunger Index (Ishi) report in 2008 found that Madhya Pradesh had the m…

US, UK Dominate as Asia Gains in World's Top University Rankings

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The latest edition of the world's top universities from The Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) has few surprises in 2009. The top 10 Universities are: Harvard (US), Cambridge (UK), Yale(US), UCL, London (UK), Imperial College, London and Oxford (both UK, joint 5), Chicago (US), Princeton (US), MIT, Massachusetts (US) and California Institute of Technology (US). As always, the top of the list is dominated by American and British Universities this year, together making up about 40% of the entire list of 200. The US universities account for more than a quarter, while the UK institutions make up about 15% of the top 200 universities. Outside of the US and the UK, there is fair representation of Australian, Canadian and European institutions and a smattering of Asian universities from China, Japan, South Korea, India, Singapore and Malaysia.

A US publication, US News & World Report, also published its ranking of the world's top universities in June, this year. USN&WR r…

South Asia Lags in Human Development

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In spite of the fact that Pakistan's Human Development Index (HDI) has risen by 1.30 percent per year from 0.402 to 0.572 during 1980-2007 period, and it has accelerated to 1.9% increase since 2000 when it was reported to be 0.499, its progress is not yet sufficient to improve the nation's ranking relative to other countries in regions like East Asia, which have been moving considerably faster. Pakistan's index grew by 1.75% in the 1980s but slipped to less than 1.3% during the lost decade of the 1990s.

South Asia Lagging

In fact, the latest Human Development Report for 2009 shows that all major South Asian nations have slipped further down relative to other regions of the world. Pakistan's HDI ranking dropped 3 places from 138 last year to 141 this year, and India slipped six places from 128 in 2008 to 134 this year. The report includes human development data on 182 countries on the index, which measures achievements in terms of life expectancy, educational attainment a…