Friday, May 29, 2015

Heat Deaths: S&P Says India Among Most Vulnerable to Climate Change

Over 1,800 people have so far died as a result of a severe heatwave sweeping across India, according to government officials and media reports. The highest death toll is in southern India with 1,700 heat-related deaths in the worst-hit states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, where temperatures rose above 45C (113F).

Other parts of the country have been hit by high temperatures ranging between 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) and 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) with 43 heat deaths reported in the eastern state of Orissa, 12 in West Bengal and 7 in the Ahmedabad city in the western state of Gujarat, according to state officials. Most of the deaths were caused by heat stroke and dehydration.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are also hot with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but India is suffering far worse, due in part to its many densely populated areas, according to a CNN report.

As expected, India has blamed Pakistan for heat-related deaths. “In Pakistan’s Sindh, temperatures have shot up to 49, even 50 degrees. Westerly winds are bringing with them this extreme, dry heat through a process called advection (transport),” said BP Yadav, director India Meteorological Department (IMD).

As longer, more severe heat waves become increasingly frequent globally, India appears to be the most affected. Thousands of people died across India during heat waves in 2002 and 2003.  In 2010 around 300 people were killed by intense temperatures, according to media reports of the period.

Bangladesh and India, along with several South East Asian and African nations, are the most vulnerable to climate change, while the United States, Canada and Western Europe are the least vulnerable, according to an assessment by Standard and Poor credit rating service.  The rich industrialized nations which have contribute the most to climate change are the least vulnerable to its disastrous effects now. The report says Pakistan and China are relatively less vulnerable than India and Bangladesh.

Source: Standard and Poor Global Portal


There are two basic reasons why poor countries are bearing the brunt of climate change: geography and poverty. Most of the red countries on the Standard and Poor map lie near the equator, where climate change-caused storms, flooding, and droughts will be more intense, according to media reports.  India is particularly vulnerable because of its rising population and depleting resources.

India is ranked 33rd and Pakistan 39th among the most overcrowded nations of the world by Overpopulation Index published by the Optimum Population Trust based in the United Kingdom. The index measures overcrowding based on the size of the population and the resources available to sustain it.

India has a dependency percentage of 51.6 per cent on other nations and an ecological footprint of 0.77. The index calculates that India is overpopulated by 594.32 million people. Pakistan has a dependency percentage of 49.9 per cent on other nations and an ecological footprint of 0.75. The index calculates that Pakistan is overpopulated by 80 million people. Pakistan is less crowded than China (ranked 29), India (ranked 33) and the US (ranked 35), according to the index. Singapore is the most overcrowded and Bukina Faso the least on a list of 77 nations assessed by the Optimum Population Trust.

Standard and Poor has ranked 116 nations according to their vulnerability across three indicators: proportion of population living lower than 5 meters (16 feet) above sea-level, share of agriculture in economic output and a vulnerability index compiled by Notre Dame University. It ranks India at 101 and Pakistan at 94 while Bangladesh is ranked at 114 along with Vietnam at 115 and Cambodia at 116 as the most vulnerable among 116 countries. China is ranked at 82. Among African countries listed as most vulnerable are Senegal (113), Mozambique (112) and Nigeria (109).

Standard and Poor's analysts led by Moritz Karemer warned that global warming “will put downward pressure on sovereign ratings during the remainder of this century,” “The degree to which individual countries and societies are going to be affected by warming and changing weather patterns depends largely on actions undertaken by other, often far-away societies.”

Both India and Pakistan have seen recurring droughts and massive flooding in recent years which have resulted in large numbers of deaths and injuries in addition to property losses. India has seen one farmer commit suicide every 30 minutes over the last two decades.

The fact is that the developing countries facing huge costs from climate change can do little to control it without significant help from the rich industrialized nations most responsible for it.  The World Bank is warning that this could lead to massive increases in disease, extreme storms, droughts, and flooding. Unless concerted action is taken soon, the World Bank President Jim Kim fears that the effects of climate change could roll back "decades of development gains and force tens of more millions of people to live in poverty."

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Climate Change Worsens Poverty in India

India's Rising Population and Depleting Resources

Recurring Droughts and Flooding in Pakistan

An Indian Farmer Commits Suicide Every 30 Minutes 

Growing Water Scarcity in Pakistan

Political Patronage in Pakistan

Corrupt and Incompetent Politicians

Pakistan's Energy Crisis

Culture of Tax Evasion and Aid Dependence

Climate Change in South Asia

US Senate Report on Avoiding Water Wars in Central and South Asia

Labels: , ,

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Has PM Modi Turned Indian Economy Around?

Things are not looking so rosy at home for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he continues his world tour with the latest stop in Beijing, China.


Is Modi government's honeymoon already over on its first anniversary at the helm? Has the Indian economy really turned around? Is it really growing faster than China? Are Indian businesses doing better under the new government? Are investors more excited about India's prospects? Has Indian currency recovered to levels before its collapse in 2013? Is India any cleaner than it was last year? To answer these questions, let's look at some data:

1. Revision of GDP methodology by India's Central Statistical Office (CSO) to show it is growing faster than China has drawn serious skepticism, even derision by serious economists around the world. While India's boosters in the West are not only buying but applauding the new figures, Indian policy professionals at the nation's Central Bank and the Finance ministry are having a very hard time believing the new and improved GDP brought to the world by Indian government. Dissenters include Morgan Stanley's Ruchir Sharma, an Indian-American, who has called the new numbers a "bad joke" aimed at a "wholesale rewriting of history".

2. India's exports are continuing to drop. The trade data shows a sharper slowdown (21%) in exports than in imports (13%,  due to lower oil prices) for March, 2015.  Exports are down another 13.96% in April 2015. There is an overall decline in both for the year too, according to Seeking Alpha.

3. Large scale manufacturing in India continues to disappoint. Growth slowed in April 2015, according to HSBC India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) data. At 51.3 in April, down from 52.1 in March, the headline PMI points to slowing demand.

4. Mumbai stocks are among the worst performing in emerging markets. FII (foreign institutional investments) net outflows gave been of the order of Indian Rs 125 billion (about US$ 2 billion) over the past month. The stock market index has seen the biggest correction of 10 per cent in a short time, according to India's First Post.

5. In spite of Prime Minister Modi's high-profile campaign to improve hygiene,  India has been ranked near the bottom on access to clean water and sanitation. India has ranked 92 on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene  (WASH) Index developed by The Water Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health in the US, far below Pakistan which ranked near the top in 5th position.

India's Economic Times has recently reported results of a survey of top CEOs.  Majority of them say that demand is depressed. "The bonhomie and cheer that greeted the arrival of the Modi government is replaced by a sombre mood and a grim acknowledgement of the realities of doing business in India," reports ET, as it captures the sentiment of the CEOs. The largest engineering conglomerate L and T has said some of its plants are idle as demand for capital goods is very weak. The Aditya Birla Group had deferred its revenue target of $65 billion by 3 years, to 2018.

A recent piece titled "Why India is Not A Buy in Current Environment" published by Seeking Alpha summarizes the current Indian situation as follows:

"While there are some who consider India to be the best emerging market and recommend it as such, my own assessment is different. Whether it's relatively high valuations, weak fundamentals with persistent deficits, government bonds under pressure, weakening currency, rebounding oil prices, declining confidence in the government and so on, India is facing a ton of headwinds going forward. Far too many to be a number one pick among emerging markets."

Modi government has to turn some of its election promises into action. Mr. Modi cannot rely on the benefit of the doubt because his honeymoon period is now over. He will be judged on what he is able to accomplish.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Can India Survive Without Western Money Inflows?

Modi's Pakistan Policy

India's Soaring Twin Deficits

Xi Jinping's Pakistan Visit

How Strategic Are China-Pakistan Ties?

India Pakistan Economic Comparison in 2014

Pakistan's KSE-100 Outperforms India's Sensex

India's IT Exports Highly Exaggerated



Labels: , ,

Monday, May 11, 2015

Pakistan 2.0: Technology Drives Productivity, Economy

Introduction of green revolution technologies drove Pakistan's rapid GDP growth in 1960s and 1970s when it was essentially an agricultural economy. The decade of 1980s saw livestock revolution that helped increase farm productivity. Will rapid absorption of information and communication technology (ICT) do the same in coming decades?

Abundance of historical data on educational attainment shows that young Pakistanis are more literate and better educated than their parents and grandparents. And recent data confirms that they are rapidly embracing new technologies. Technology, particularly ICT, is increasingly visible among consumers, industries and public sector.  As a result, Pakistan today stands at the threshold of soaring productivity and rising standards of living over the next several decades. The basic requirements for it to materialize are maintenance of peace and security and  increasing investments in education, health care, energy and infrastructure.

3G, 4G Mobile Broadband Rollout:

The launch of 3G and 4G networks has accelerated the growth of Internet users in Pakistan. More than a million subscribers are signing up every month since the 3G and 4G rollout in the country last year. These new users are generating more and more data traffic requiring rapid increases in available bandwidth.



Pakistan ended March 2015 with over 12.07 million 3G/4G subscribers, up from 10.34 million in February, according to data from Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA). Telenor led the 3G/4G market with over 3.53 million subscribers, followed by CMPak (2.95 million 3G/4G subscribers), Mobilink (2.86 million 3G subscribers), and Ufone (2.66 million 3G subscribers). Warid had 66,140 LTE network subscribers at 31 March.

Thousands of kilometers long fiber network is currently in place to deal with the growing domestic bandwidth demand. Several projects are underway to grow this network further.

Consumer Applications:

Young entrepreneurs are developing and launching mobile apps for everything from sports and entertainment to education, ride-sharing and e-commerce.

Pepper.pk has topped BlackBerry’s Appworld with their game Ninja Fruit Bash, TenPearls won Nokia and ATT Innovators 2011 contest through their game Animal 101, start-ups such as PiLabs also made their mark with mobile games such as ‘Field Garfield’ which is an official Garfield game.

A ride-sharing app called savaree, photo-sharing app Groopic and custom shoes app Markhor have been making news lately in Pakistan and overseas.

E-commerce is taking off in Pakistan with companies such as Home shopping, Shophive, daraz.pk and Symbios are becoming popular for online shopping.

Spurred by a favorable regulatory and technology environment, Pakistan is witnessing dramatic growth in mobile banking.  Four out of five cellular mobile companies currently operating in Pakistan have launched m-money systems in partnership with financial institutions. The m-money market volume reached 153 million annual transactions worth US$ 6.2 billion as of 2013.

Industrial Applications:

Information and communications technology is being deployed in Pakistan's energy sector.

In addition to automatic reading of smart meters at the customer premises, smart meters have been installed with the support of USAID on incoming and outgoing feeders at all nine government-owned electric utilities. These will help move the system toward building of a smart national grid to better manage power generation, transmission and distribution in the country.

A captive power plant owned by Sapphire Group textile mill in Muridke Lahore is using hundreds embedded sensors and other digital instruments in power turbines, analyzing the data they collect, and using the information to improve the plant’s performance, optimize production and reduce unplanned downtime. US-based General Electric is paying for the sensors and the software. The company will be paid by splitting all benefits with Sapphire under a win-win scenario, according to GE Reports website.

Public Sector Applications:

IT projects ranging from automated meter reading and computerized land records management to online education and mobile banking are now at various stages of implementation across Pakistan.  In a report released last year, the World Bank called these projects "unprecedented in the public sector in developing countries". The objective of these efforts is to reduce corruption, increase productivity and improve service delivery in both private and public sectors.

The Punjab government is deploying smartphone applications to crack down on absentee mobile government workers and their corrupt practices. As part of this project, the government employee must send his or her picture and a report of interaction with citizens along with GPS coordinates. For example, a agricultural pest control official required to visit farmers must file reports of his findings and actions in real time via a smartphone app.

An SMS soliciting feedback from citizens is sent out after each such visit or interaction. Responses from users are logged into a central database, and the data then analyzed and mapped. Call centers have also been trained to contact those who do not respond or are unable to read the text due to illiteracy. More than three million users of public services have so far been contacted since the summer of 2012, with both positive and negative feedback, according to the World Bank report. “Sir, we went to the hospital yesterday. They asked for 1500 rupees [in bribes]. We didn’t have the money so we left,” reads one of the reports about a hospital in Lahore, the provincial capital. The feedback is actively monitored by the office the Chief Secretary – the top civil servant in the province – to manage the performance of officials.

Summary:

Pakistan today stands at the threshold of soaring productivity and rising standards of living over the next several decades. The basic requirements for it to materialize are maintenance of peace and security and  increasing investments in education, health care, energy and infrastructure.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

High-Speed Fiber Optic Connectivity in Pakistan

E-Commerce in Pakistan

Public Sector Apps in Pakistan

History of Educational Attainment in Pakistan

Online Education in Pakistan

Value Added Agriculture in Pakistan

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

Labels: , ,

Friday, May 1, 2015

Will Gwadar Be Another Hong Kong For China?

The port city of Hong Kong has played a pivotal role in China's economic and trade expansion on the Chinese East Coast in the Pacific region. Meanwhile, China's Western region has remained relatively underdeveloped.

China's West Coast:

Is China looking to build and use Gwadar in Pakistan as Hong Kong West to accelerate development in its West? Will Gwadar serve as a superhighway for China's trade expansion in Middle East, Africa and Europe? A point to project Chinese economic and military might westward?

Unlike the continental United States which has coasts on both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans allowing it easy access to Europe and Asia, China has only one coast, its East Coast along South China Sea.

As the Americans look to Asia with the US Pivot to Asia and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Chinese are looking to expand westward with Central Asia as well as Africa, Europe and the Middle East with "One Road One Belt" initiative funded by Silk Road Fund and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Pakistan is a crucial partner in this strategy, particularly the development of Pakistan-China Corridor linking China's western region with Gwadar port on the Arabia Sea.



Gwadar Deep Sea Port:

The Chinese see Gwadar deep sea port and the town of Jiwani as Hong Kong West, a gateway to Middle East, Africa and Europe. It will be the most important link in China's Maritime Silk Route (MSR), a sort of superhighway to the West for Chinese trade.

Professor Juan Cole of University of Michigan has aptly described the Chinese strategy as follows:

China’s enormous northwest is much closer to the Arabian Sea than to the port of Shanghai. It is about 2800 km. from Urumqi (pop. 4 million, the size of Los Angeles inside city limits) to Karachi, but twice as far to Shanghai. China has decided to develop its northwest by turning Pakistan into a sort of Hong Kong West. Hong Kong played, and perhaps still plays an important role as a gateway for certain kinds of foreign investment into China. In the same way, Pakistan can be a window on the world and a conduit for oil and trade into northwestern cities such as Urumqi and the smaller Kashgar (pop. 1 mn.)

In addition to a major expansion of the deep sea port,  there are plans in place for building a modern city with several skyscrapers, an international airport, highways and industrial parks in Gwadar, Balochistan. There will be air, road and rail links to move people and freight to and from around the world. Oil and gas pipelines are planned to transport energy as well. When completed, it will be comparable to major international port cities of Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Baloch Insurgency:

Baloch insuegency is cited as  a key threat to the implementation of the China-Pakistan Corridor in Pakistan. What is often not acknowledged by analysts is the fact that the Baloch insurgency is dying. It's a fact that has recently been described in some detail by Malik Siraj Akbar who is sympathetic to the Baloch separatist cause. Here's what Akbar wrote in December 2014 in a piece titled "The End of Pakistan's Baloch Insurgency?":

"Since its beginning in 2004, the Pakistan's Baloch insurgency is caught up in the worst infighting ever known to the general public. Different left-wing underground armed groups that had been fighting Islamabad for a free Baloch homeland have now started to attack each other's camps......Frustration, suspicion, infighting and division are the common features of the end of a guerrilla fight. Perhaps that time has come in Balochistan. "

Language Map of Balochistan


The announcement of the Pak-China deal seems to have re-energized those who seek to hurt Pakistan. They are now trying to resuscitate the dying Baloch insurgency. Western media has widely publicized an interview of Bramdagh Bugti who is running the insurgency from the comfort of a Swiss hotel room.  In addition, Pakistan's western-funded NGOs are being used to play up the Baloch insurgency in the media with events like "Un-Silencing Balochistan" event and by blaming the ISI for the murder of Karachi activist Sabeen Mahmud.

Summary:

The China-Pak Corridor deal could prove to be transformational for Pakistan's economy, prosperity and rising living standards of its nearly 200 million people. As development work moves forward for Gwadar and China-Pakistan Corridor, I fully expect several hostile nations, including neighboring India, to use their proxies on the ground in Balochistan and some members of the "civil society" made up of some foreign-funded NGOs in Pakistan to make progress as difficult as possible. There will be serious efforts by many to resuscitate the dying Baloch insurgency. Pakistani people and both civil and military leaders need to be prepared to deal with these hurdles.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Who Killed Sabeen Mahmud? Why?

Xi Jinping in Pakistan

Pak-China Industrial Corridor

American Hypocrisy on Dr. Afridi's Sentence

Post Cold War World: Pakistan-China-Russia Vs India-US-Japan

How Strategic Are China-Pakistan Ties?

Alaska Permanent Fund: A Model For Balochistan?

Has Modi Stepped Up India's Covert War in Pakistan?

Serious Issues Undermining Baloch Insurgency

Labels: , ,