Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pakistan Ahead of India and China on Happiness Index

You wouldn't know from the headlines what Gallup global poll on wellbeing found through its recent survey: More Pakistanis say they are thriving than do Indians or Chinese.

The results of the 2010 global wellbeing survey of 124 nations conducted by Gallup reveal that Pakistan ranks 40th with 32% of Pakistanis saying they are thriving. By contrast, India ranks 71st with 21% of the Indians thriving and China ranks 92nd with only 12% of the Chinese considering themselves “thriving,” the highest level of wellbeing.

Pakistanis are a resilient people. But the only tangible explanation for Pakistanis ranking ahead of their neighbors in the wellbeing Gallup survey can be found in the strength of Pakistan's rural economy. It is being spurred by the higher food and commodity prices resulting in the transfer of additional new tax-free farm income of about Rs. 300 billion in the current fiscal year alone to Pakistan's ruling party's power base of landowners in small towns and villages in Southern Punjab and Rural Sindh, from those working in the the economically stagnant urban industrial and service sectors who pay bulk of the taxes. The downside of it is a bigger hole in Pakistan's pubic finances which is being funded with increased foreign aid and loans.



Moazzam Husain, the Director General of the Punjab Board of Investment and Trade, describes the current rural resurgence as follows in a recent blog post titled "The Other Pakistan":

"GLORIOUS countryside lies between Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalpur. Travelling across six districts in Punjab, before a blazing summer sets in, I experienced endless fields of wheat waiting to turn golden, of freshly harvested mustard, acres of ripe sugarcane and sprawling mango orchards.

Far from the drudge and gloom of metropolitan Pakistan, economic privation, traffic snarls, extreme religion and the cricket World Cup agony, this is another Pakistan. Over a quarter of a century after the green revolution ended the rural economy is back in boom, this time on the back of rising prices. The feel-good factor is all around.

Burgeoning commodity prices are churning unprecedented amounts of cash through the farm sector. I pass tractor-pulled trolleys laden with sugarcane waiting outside sugar mills. The crushing season is in full swing. Meanwhile, the flour mills are still grinding away at last year’s surplus crop. This is an agro economy at serious work.

Alongside the cash economy, the place is also brimming with ideas, and with an entrepreneurial spirit. A young man I meet at Rahim Yar Khan’s chamber of commerce has an IT degree and owns an ice cream distribution business spawning an elaborate cold chain across three districts. He tells me that sales are surging because rural society is transitioning to modern desserts which are now more affordable than traditional sweets like mithai and khoya.

Meanwhile, he’s toying with the bigger vision of an electronic marketplace for agricultural produce. Live connectivity to grain mandis and markets for fresh produce and milk will empower farmers to obtain prices online and through their cellphones. He wants to materialise this and wants tips. I give him my two cents worth: study similar models, write a concept paper, galvanise partners around it, put in seed money and get the venture to mezzanine level."


In 2008, the government pushed the procurement price of wheat up from Rs. 625 per 40 kg to Rs. 950 per 40 kg. This action immediately triggered inflationary pressures that have continued to persist as food accounts for just over 40% of Pakistan's consumer price index. According to State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) analysis, cumulative price of wheat surged by 120 per cent since 2008, far higher than the 40 per cent between 2003 and 2007. it is also many times greater than the international market price increase of 22 per cent for wheat in the same period. Similarly, sugar prices have surged 184 per cent higher since 2008, compared with 46 per cent increase during 2003-07.

Bumper crops and exports at higher prices are also contributing to the rural prosperity in Pakistan. For example, the Wall Street Journal reported increased Pakistan's wheat exports in a recent story as follows:

"Asia's immediate wheat demand is being met by ample supply from Pakistan, which is exporting existing inventories to make way for the new harvest, trading executives said Monday.

"Pakistan has filled a crucial gap in Asian wheat trade due to the absence of supply from the Black Sea region," said a Singapore-based executive with a global trading company.

If Pakistan hadn't permitted wheat exports during this period of tight overall global supply, price conscious buyers in South Asia and Southeast Asia would have had to turn to costly alternative supply from Canada, the U.S. and Europe.

The absence of Pakistan would have also increased demand pressure in Australia, where ports are already facing congestion and there are logistical delays in moving wheat from upcountry warehouses.

Pakistan approved wheat exports in December and shipments began the following month.

In less than four months it has shipped out an estimated 1.16 million metric tons of wheat.

The International Grains Council has projected Pakistan's wheat exports in the year ending June 30 at 1.6 million tons, the highest in at least four years."


The steps such as the increased exports, the transfer of additional Rs. 300 billion to Pakistan's agriculture sector during the current fiscal year 2010-2011 by higher prices of agriculture produce, and direct flood compensation to 1.6 million affected families at the rate of one hundred thousands rupees each are boosting economic confidence in the countryside. This infusion of money is also generating rural demand for consumer items including consumer durables such as fans, TVs, motorcycles, cars, refrigerators, etc.

The big feudal landowners have been the biggest beneficiaries of the PPP's gift of high crop prices. However, the policy has helped small farmers as well, as shown by a recent survey reported by The Nation newspaper. The survey of 300 farmers in Sind's Sukkur district was conducted by Sukkur Institute of Business Administration for the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). It has highlighted the following about district's rural economy:

1. In Sukkur district, majority of the farmers are subsistence farmers. 31 percent of them own less than 5 acres of land, and another 34 percent own up to 12.5 acres of land.

2. They spend an average of Rs. 1,611 a month on their children's education, with some of them spending up to Rs. 12,000 a month.

3. Wheat, rice, cotton and sugarcane are the major crops being cultivated by 93 per cent, 58 percent, 37 percent and 12 percent of the respondent farmers in that order.

4. 24 percent of them are also growing fruits including dates, mangoes and bananas.

5. 22 percent of the respondent own livestock.

6. About half (49 percent) use privately purchased seeds for wheat cultivation, 33 perecent use their own retained seed and 18 perecent use the seed purchased from Public Sector Seed Corporations.

7. On average, a farmer uses 96.73 Kg chemical fertilizer per acre with the maximum and minimum of 350 Kg and 40 Kg respectively. The average per acre cost of wheat production is Rs. 10,670.

8. All 300 farmers are using tractors for cultivation and preparing land for crops, and some are using tractors for fetching their crop produce to market.

It appears from the economic data and anecdotal evidence that bulk of the 32% of the Pakistani poll respondents who say they are thriving have income from the rural sectors of Pakistan's economy.

As expected, the people in the developed world report higher state of wellbeing than those in the developing nations. With Danes ranked the most satisfied people with 72 percent of respondents considering themselves “thriving,” people in Sweden and Canada follow close behind, each at 69 percent in Gallup’s 2010 Global Wellbeing Survey. The US came in somewhat near the bottom among developed western nations, with 59 percent of Americans thriving.

A median of just 21 percent were found to be “thriving” in the Gallup survey polling 1,000 adults, age 15 and older, in both face-to-face and telephone interviews in each country throughout 2010.

African nations show up near the bottom of the list, with only 12 percent of the respondents considering themselves to be thriving in Egypt, followed by 6 percent in Kenya and Chad with 1 percent ranking it dead last at 124.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Rural Economy

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

Agriculture, Textiles Employ Most Indians and Pakistanis

New Index Finds Indians Poorer Than Africans, Pakistanis

Pakistan's Exports and Remittances Rise to New Highs

Sugar Crisis in Pakistan

Agricultural Growth in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

Pakistan's Rural Economic Survey

Pakistan's KSE Outperforms BRIC Exchanges in 2010

High Cost of Failure to Aid Flood Victims

Karachi Tops Mumbai in Stock Performance

India and Pakistan Contrasted in 2010

Pakistan's Decade 1999-2009

Darkness Before Dawn? Future of Pakistan

Musharraf's Economic Legacy

World Bank Report on Rural Poverty in Pakistan

Copper, Gold Deposits Worth $500 Billion at Reko Diq, Pakistan

China's Trade and Investment in South Asia

India's Twin Deficits

Pakistan's Economy 2008-2010

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sesame Street Goes to Pakistan

SimSim Humara ("Ours"), the new Pakistani edition of the original American TV classic Sesame Street, is expected to be launched this year for Pakistan's pre-school children, according to the Guardian newspaper.



Launched in 1969 as a program designed to enhance school readiness in low-income and minority children, Sesame Street was the first television series to attempt to teach an educational curriculum to children as young as two years of age. Sesame Street is not entirely new to Pakistani audiences - the original American version ran on local TV during the 1990s.



Sesame Street International already co-produces 18 localized versions in Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kosovo, Mexico, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Russia, South Africa , and reaches millions of children in 120 nations around the world. The Indian adaptation called "Galli Galli Sim Sim" and Bangladeshi adaptation "Sisimpur" were both launched in late 2006 with USAID funding. Pakistan's SimSim Humara represents the 19th local adaptation of the 42 year old original American Classic.



Sim Sim Hamara will be set around a dhaba, Urdu name for a roadside tea shop, and it will show residents hanging out on their verandas. It will feature Rani, a cute six-year-old Muppet, the child of a peasant farmer, with pigtails, flowers in her hair and a smart blue-and-white school uniform. Other characters include an energetic woman, Baaji, who enjoys family time and tradition, and Baily, a hard-working donkey who longs to be a pop star. They'll speak entirely in local languages - Urdu and four regional languages of Balochi, Punjabi, Pashto, and Sindhi . The only monster from the original American version being retained is Elmo, the cheerful toddler, but he will be recast with new local personality touches. Each show will pick one word and one number to highlight.

Faizaan Peerzada, the head of a Pakistani theater group that is collaborating with Sesame Street's American creators, told McClatchy Newspapers: "The idea is to prepare and inspire a child to go on the path of learning. And inspire the parents of the child to think that the child must be educated". Peerzada added that "this is a very serious business, the education of the children of Pakistan at a critical time."

Funded by a $20 million grant by US AID (United States Agency For International Development), the show will be carried by the state-owned PTV channel which reaches every nook and corner of Pakistan. It will reach 3 million pre-school kids via television screens in their homes. In addition to 78 TV episodes in Urdu and 56 in regional languages, there will also be a radio show and several mobile TV vans to show the program in remote areas and a traveling Muppet road show to front public service messages, on issues such as health, to reach 95 million people.



It's an opportune moment for TV shows like SimSim Humara to ride the wave of the current media revolution sweeping the nation. It began ten years ago when Pakistan had just one television channel, according to the UK's Prospect Magazine. Today it has over 100. Together they have begun to open up a country long shrouded by political, moral and religious censorship—taking on the government, breaking social taboos and, most recently, pushing a new national consensus against the Taliban. The birth of privately owned commercial media has been enabled by the Musharraf-era deregulation, and funded by the tremendous growth in revenue from advertising targeted at the burgeoning urban middle class consumers. Analysts at Standard Charter Bank estimated in 2007 that Pakistan had 30 million people with incomes exceeding $10,000 a year. With television presence in over 16 million households accounting for 68% of the population in 2009, the electronic media have also helped inform and empower many rural Pakistanis, including women.

Larry Dolan, the director of the education office at USAID for Pakistan, told McClatchy that the expenditure on SimSim Humara is a valuable addition to the "series of different pots" of educational assistance the U.S. provides. "Teaching kids early on makes them much more successful when they get to school. And this program will have the capacity to encourage tolerance, which is so key to what we're trying to do here," he said.

Thirty years of research by Georgetown University Early Learning Project has shown that Sesame Street has made a huge positive impact on increasingly diverse American society.

Here is a summary of some of the key findings reported by Georgetown:

1. School-Readiness : In studies completed after Sesame Street's first two televised years, viewers experienced positive outcomes in the areas of alphabet and number knowledge, body part naming, form recognition, relational term understanding, and sorting and classification abilities.

2. Long-term Benefits : In a longitudinal study examining the long-term impact of preschool-aged viewing of Sesame Street, it was found that exposure to the program in the preschool years was significantly associated with secondary school achievement.

3. Social Impact : Sesame Street has also been evaluated with regard to its ability to teach prosocial behavior to young children. Some studies have shown that children were able to generalize demonstrated behaviors in free play situations (Zielinska & Chambers, 1995), while others have found that children were only able to imitate the behaviors in situations similar to those appearing on the program (Paulson, 1974). Sesame Street has also been successful in contributing to children's understandings of complex issues such as death, love, marriage, pregnancy, and race relations. (Fisch, Truglio, & Cole, 1999)

4. Sesame Street has proven to enhance academic skills and social behavior. Children's television based upon collaborative efforts to develop appropriate curricula for young viewers is now more prevalent than ever.

In addition to teaching basic reading and math skills, Pakistan desperately needs to instill in its people greater tolerance and acceptance of diversity to ensure a more pluralistic and peaceful society for genuine democracy to take root. It is my earnest hope that SimSim Humara and other shows like it will be carefully scripted and presented to lay the foundation to move Pakistan closer to Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's vision of a peaceful, pluralistic and democratic Pakistan.



Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Sim Sim Hamara

Sim Sim Hamara Youtube Channel

Pakistan's Media and Telecom Revolution

Impact of Cable TV on Indian Women

Early Childhood Education in Pakistan

Newsweek Joins Pakistan's Media Revolution

UNESCO Report on Pre-School Education in Pakistan

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's Vision of Pakistan

Billion Dollar UK Aid For Pakistani Schools

Pakistan Must Fix Primary Education

Teach For Pakistan

Developing Pakistan's Intellectual Capital

Intellectual Wealth of Nations

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

Student Performance By Country and Race

India Shining and Bharat Drowning

South Asian IQs

Low Literacy Rates Threaten Pakistan's Future

Light a Candle, Don't Curse Darkness

Mobile Phones For Mass Literacy in Pakistan

Poor Quality of Higher Education in South Asia

Teaching Facts vs Reasoning

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Aid For Education in Pakistan

A new British aid package for Pakistan, announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in Islamabad, is worth $1,055 million over four years. The money will fund education for up to 4 million students, train 9,000 teachers, purchase 6 million new text books and build 8,000 schools by 2015, according to various media reports.

Announcing new aid, Cameron said, “I struggle to find a country that’s more in our interest to progress and succeed than Pakistan." “If Pakistan succeeds then we will have a good story ... if it fails we will have all the problems of migration and extremism, all the problems", he added.



With growth in the last decade, a number of countries like China, India and Pakistan have transitioned from low- to middle-income status under World Bank classifications. But China and India together still account for about half of the world's poor, and most of the illiterates, according to The Guardian. The focus of the OECD nations and the World Bank should be on helping all of the poor people regardless of whether they live in low-income or middle-income countries. Such help needs to be specifically targeted toward human development programs like education and healthcare.



Earlier this year, a Pakistani government commission on education found that public funding for education has been cut from 2.5% of GDP in 2005 to just 1.5% - less than the annual subsidy given to the PIA, the national airline that continues to sustain huge losses.

The commission reported that 25 million children in Pakistan do not attend school, a right guaranteed in the country's constitution, and three million children will never in their lives attend a lesson, according to the BBC.

The report added that while rich parents send their children to private schools and later abroad to college or university, a third of all Pakistanis have spent less than two years at school.

Among the key findings of the commission are the following:

* 30,000 school buildings are so neglected that they are dangerous
* 21,000 schools do not have a school building at all
* Only half of all women in Pakistan can read, in rural areas the figure drops to one third
* There are 26 countries poorer than Pakistan which still manage to send more of their children to school
* Only 65% of schools have drinking water, 62% have latrines, 61% a boundary wall and 39% have electricity

The report concluded that Pakistan - in contrast to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - has no chance of reaching the UN's Millennium Development Goals for education by 2015.

Will the additional British aid bring new focus on education in Pakistan? Is it still possible for Pakistan to achieve the UN's Millennium Development Goals for education by 2015? I certainly hope so, but it will take a renewed national focus in both public and private sectors of the country.

Fortunately, there are a number of highly committed individuals and organizations like The Citizens Foundation (TCF) and the Human Development Foundation (HDF) which are very active in raising funds and building and operating schools to improve the situation in Pakistan. It is important that all of us who care for the future of Pakistan should generously help these and similar other organizations.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan Must Fix Primary Education

Teach For Pakistan

Developing Pakistan's Intellectual Capital

Intellectual Wealth of Nations

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

Student Performance By Country and Race

India Shining and Bharat Drowning

South Asian IQs

Low Literacy Rates Threaten Pakistan's Future

Pakistan Education Emergency

Light a Candle, Don't Curse Darkness

Mobile Phones For Mass Literacy in Pakistan

Poor Quality of Higher Education in South Asia

Teaching Facts vs Reasoning

Labels: , , ,