Monday, April 24, 2017

Pakistani Diaspora Bucks Global Trend With 2.8% Higher Remittances in 2016

Pakistani diaspora bucked the 2016 global decline in remittances with a modest 2.8% increase over 2015, according to a recently released World Bank report. An estimated $19.8 billion remitted to Pakistan amounted to 6.9% of the country's GDP. This is a welcome relief coming on the heels of the State Bank of Pakistan report indicating the country's current account deficit widened to $6.13 billion or 2.6% of GDP in the first 9 months of fiscal 2017.

2016 Remittances to South Asia. Source: World Bank

Global Decline:

Meanwhile, global remittance flows to developing countries registered a decline for two successive years, said the report.  Remittances declined by an estimated 2.4 percent, to $429 billion, in 2016, after a decline of 1 percent in 2015. India, the largest remittance-receiving country worldwide, led the fall with a decrease of 8.9 percent in remittance inflows.

South Asia Region:

Remittances to India declined by 8.9 percent in 2016, to $62.7 billion, ranking the country as the top recipient of such inflows.  In Bangladesh, remittances declined by an estimated 11.1 percent in 2016. In Pakistan, the 12 percent growth witnessed in 2015 moderated to an estimated 2.8 percent in 2016. Nepal experienced unusually high growth in remittances, at 14.3 percent in 2015, due to emigrants sending financial assistance after the earthquake. In 2016, remittance flows to Nepal declined by an estimated 6.7 percent from the previous year’s high level. In Sri Lanka, remittance growth was estimated at 3.9 percent in 2016.

Next Year Forecast:

The World Bank says the remittance growth in the region is projected to remain muted, because of low growth and fiscal consolidation in GCC countries with low energy prices. An increase of only 2.0 percent is expected in 2017. Bangladesh’s remittance growth in 2017 is forecast at 2.4 percent, India’s at 1.9 percent, Pakistan’s at 1.4 percent, and Sri Lanka’s at 1.3 percent.

Summary:

World Bank report says Pakistani diaspora bucked the 2016 global decline in remittances with a modest 2.8% increase over 2015. An estimated $19.8 billion remitted to Pakistan amounted to 6.9% of the country's GDP. This is a welcome relief coming on the heels of the State Bank of Pakistan report indicating the country's current account deficit widened to $6.13 billion or 2.6% of GDP in the first 9 months of fiscal 2017. Future growth in remittances is likely to remain muted. Slowing growth in such inflows will further increase pressure on Pakistan to work on enhancing exports and attracting more foreign direct investment.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

CPEC and FDI

Pakistan Remittances Rise Amid Falling Oil Prices

Pakistani Diaspora Among World's Largest

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Add 2 Million Jobs

ADB Raises Pakistan GDP Growth Forecast

Gwadar as Hong Kong West

China-Pakistan Industrial Corridor

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Panama Verdict; US-India H1B Dispute; Trump NSA in South Asia

What are the implications of the split Pakistan Supreme Court verdict recently announced in Panama Case filed against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by PTI Chief Imran Khan, JI Chief Siraj ul Haq and AML chief Shaikh Rasheed? Why did 3 out of 5 judges not vote to disqualify Mr. Sharif from holding office under Articles 62 and 63 of the Pakistan constitution? Has the Prime Minister not committed perjury, a felony in Pakistani law, by offering multiple conflicting explanations for the source of funds used to buy London flats? Does the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) appointed by the Supreme Court have the independence and the skill set to find credible evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Sharif? Will Nawaz Sharif survive the JIT and serve out his term scheduled to end in mid-2018?


Why has President Donald J. Trump tightened H1B temporary work visa requirements with an executive order calling for "Buy American, Hire American"? How will it impact India, the biggest beneficiary of the lion's share of the 85,000 US H1B visas issued each year? Are these visas being abused to bring in lower paid foreign workers to replace American workers? How will India respond? Will the Indian government retaliate against US products/services imported by India as suggested by the Indian trade minister Nirmala Sitharaman? How will India deal with similar other restrictions on temporary work visas recently announced by Australia, New Zealand and other industrialized nations?

What took President Trump's National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster to Afghanistan, India and Pakistan? Why did Mr. Trump announce his request for increased US aid to Pakistan just prior to General McMaster's South Asia trip? Did General McMaster threaten Pakistan to "cooperate or else" as being reported by the Afghan and the Indian media?

Viewpoint From Overseas host Misbah Azam discusses these questions with panelists Ali H. Cemendtaur and Riaz Haq (www.riazhaq.com)

https://youtu.be/HR8JYfPgFOI




Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Panama Leaks: Did Musharraf Steal People's Money?

India Files H1B Visa Complaint Against US to WTO Amid Falling Exports

H1B Visa Abuse by Indian Body Shops

Gen H.R. McMaster's Appointment as NSA

Impact of Trump Appointment on US Domestic and Foreign Policy

Talk4Pak Youtube Channel

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Bollywood Business in Sharp Decline: Down 12% in 2016

Bollywood movie revenue suffered 12% drop in 2016 to $338 million, the sharpest decline ever, according to Reuters news agency. Meanwhile, the global movie revenue rose just 1% to a record $38.6 billion last year, according to a report by Motion Pictures Association of America.

Box office sales hit a record $11.4 billion in the United States and Canada, up 2% from 2015, thanks to blockbusters such as “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” and “Captain America: Civil War”, according to a report in Los Angeles Times.

By contrast, the Bollywood revenue, a tiny fraction of the global film market,  has been in decline since 2014. It fell from $413 million in 2014 to $385 million in 2015 to $338 million in 2016, down 6.7% from 2014 to 2015 and then again dropping 12% from 2015 to 216.

While Bollywood business is in sharp decline, the Pakistani cinema, though small, is growing very rapidly with the explosive growth of multiplex theater screens. Pakistan's "The News Sunday" estimates that box office receipts in the country jumped 28 per cent in 2015 as compared to 2014 and this figure is only expected to grow in coming years.

Here's how Indian media and entertainment analyst Akar Patel describes Bollywood's business opportunity in Pakistan:

"In Pakistan, there is a big market for Indian movies in their multiplexes. For decades this revenue was lost to Bollywood because the movies were pirated. Under former president Pervez Musharraf, the official screening of movies was allowed, benefiting both nations. Today all Bollywood movies are shown there. Unfortunately, the current state of ties between the two countries has been allowed to deteriorate so much that we should not be surprised if Musharraf's wise decision is reversed."

It can be a win-win arrangement with Pakistani artists working with their Indian counterparts in Indian movies and increasing Bollywood revenue from the growing Pakistan market that is already the second largest market for Bollywood entertainment. However, the powerful Hindu Nationalists appear to be succeeding in thwarting this partnership.

If the anti-Pakistan rhetoric and the attacks on Pakistani artists in Mumbai continue, it is very likely that Pakistan will respond by reimposing the ban on showing of Indian films in a rapidly expanding market market for Bollywood entertainment. In addition to increasing estrangement between the two neighbors, stopping cooperation and collaboration will be a significant blow for the entertainment industries in both India and Pakistan.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Bollywood Eyes Pakistan Market

Peepli Live Destroys Indian Myths

Bollywood-Hollywood Combos

Indian Bollywood Seeks Cultural Dominance

US Mortgage Fraud Funded Bollywood Movie

Coke Studio: Music Drives Coke Sales in Pakistan

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Pakistani-American's Tech Unicorn Files For IPO at $1.6 Billion Valuation

Washington D.C. based AI technology firm Afiniti, founded by serial Pakistani-American entrepreneur Zia Chishti, has filed for initial public offering (IPO) at $1.6 billion valuation, according to VentureBeat.

Zia Chishti founded his first company Align Technology in 1997 in Silicon Valley. It creates clear plastic braces for straightening teeth by using advanced 3-D computer imaging. The technology now trademarked as Invisalign has helped millions of people straighten their teeth for a beautiful smile without enduring the pain and unsightly looks of the traditional steel brackets and wires used in orthodontics. Align Technology is now valued at $10 billion.

Afiniti:

Afiniti uses artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to enable real-time, optimized pairing of individual call center agents with individual customers in large enterprises for best results. When a customer contacts a call center, Afiniti matches his or her phone number with any information related to it from up to 100 databases, according to VentureBeat. These databases carry purchase history, income, credit history, social media profiles and other demographic information. Based on this information, Afiniti routes the call directly to an agent who has been determined, based on their own history, to be most effective in closing deals with customers who have similar characteristics.

Investors in Afiniti's latest round include GAM; McKinsey and Co; the Resource Group (TRG); G3 investments (run by Richard Gephardt); Elisabeth Murdoch; Sylvain Héfès; John Browne, former CEO of BP; Ivan Seidenfeld; and Larry Babbio, a former president of Verizon. The company has now raised more than $100 million, including the money previously raised, according to VentureBeat's sources.

Zia Chishti and Kelsey Wirth
Align Technology:

After graduating from Stanford Business School, Chishti wore braces when working as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley. When his braces were removed he wore a clear plastic retainer. He noticed that when he did not wear the retainer for several days his teeth would move. However, putting the retainer back on helped bring his teeth to their desired, straightened state. It was this observation that a clear plastic device was capable of moving his own teeth that led to Chishti to conceive a process that became the Invisalign System.

Out-of-the-Box Thinking:

A background in computer science gave Chishti the insight that it was possible to design and manufacture an entire series of clear orthodontic devices similar to the retainer he wore, using 3- D computer graphics technology to straighten teeth. He and his co-founder Kelsey Wirth started Align Technology in 1997 to realize this vision. The process has now evolved to make extensive use of 3D printing for creating a series of braces to apply gentle pressure to straighten teeth over several months. In 2012 alone, the company printed 17 million transparent dental braces for patients.

Afiniti Target:

Afiniti has deployed over 150 programs for some of the world’s largest businesses, according to the company website.  The company says "we work with some of the biggest global brands across a wide range of sectors, including Airlines, Financial Services, Hospitality, Insurance, Politics, Retail, Satellite TV, Social Media, Telecommunications, and Utilities".

Big Names Board:

The company's board of directors includes heavyweights such as former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar,  former US Treasury Secretary John Snow, Shine Group’s founder and former Chairman Elisabeth Murdoch and Ivan Seidenberg, the former chief executive officer of Verizon Communications Inc.

Summary:

Zia Chishti is a serial entrepreneur of Pakistani origin. Prior to Afiniti, he founded or cofounded Align Technology, OrthoClear and The Resource Group (TRG). Afiniti, Zia's latest venture, has filed for IPO to raise additional funds at $1.6 billion valuation.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistani Brothers Spawned $20 Billion Security Software Industry

Pakistani-American Ashar Aziz's Fireeye Goes Public

Pakistani-American Pioneered 3D Technology in Orthodontics

Pakistani-Americans Enabling 2nd Machine Revolution

Pakistani-American Shahid Khan Richest South Asian in America

Two Pakistani-American Silicon Valley Techs Among Top 5 VC Deals

Pakistani-American's Game-Changing Vision 

Minorities Are Majority in Silicon Valley 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Pakistani Stock Market Still Offers Great Value After Stellar Performance in 2016

Pakistan's KSE-100 continues to offer attractive valuations for investors in 2017.  Its equities are trading at a forward price-earnings ratio of just 9.1, according to Pakistani brokerage firm Arif Habib Limited.

Pakistani shares are on offer at a deep discount to the Indian shares trading at 17.3 price-earnings multiple. While India's stock market is among the world's most expensive, the Pakistani market is among the cheapest.  Pakistani shares are now trading at 47.3% discount to Indian shares.


In spite KSE-100's major run up of 46% in 2016, far outpacing India's Sensex's 2.57% rise and MSCI emerging market's 8.42% increase, Pakistani equities (PE ratio 9.1) are still cheaper than Asian emerging markets (12.1) and China (11.9), according to published data.

 Pakistani shares are now trading at 47.3% discount to Indian shares, 31% discount to Asia Emerging Market index and 23.5% discount to Chinese shares.

Consumer confidence index in Pakistan jumped five point from the prior quarter to reach 106 in Q4/2016, according to Nielsen’s global survey of consumer confidence for 63 countries released recently.

Source: Nielsen

Here's an excerpt of Nielsen's report Africa/Middle East region that includes Pakistan:

"Consumer confidence in the Africa/Middle East region declined in the fourth quarter, falling four points to 83, the lowest level in more than three years. Confidence was highest in United Arab Emirates, which held steady from the third quarter at 108. Pakistan was the only country where consumer confidence moved in a positive direction, rising five points from the third quarter to 106, the highest score for the country since it was added to the survey in 2008."

The share of Pakistani respondents worried about job security dropped to 21%.  51% of Pakistanis said they are optimistic about better job opportunities in the next 12 months, according to the survey.

“The findings of the consumer confidence reflect a favorable atmosphere in Pakistan. The set of factors that influence the confidence levels of Pakistani consumers goes beyond economics and business, and is reflective of improved security conditions, increased energy availability and low inflation rates,” reported the survey.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has also led to a higher activity in large-scale manufacturing and construction, opening more investment opportunities,” said Nielsen Pakistan Managing Director Quratulain Ibrahim, according to Pakistan's Express Tribune newspaper.  “We hope to see this optimism among Pakistani consumers during the coming months.”

Pakistani banks have boosted lending to businesses and consumers. Large-scale manufacturing sector borrowed Rs. 225 billion in 2016, up from Rs 119 billion in 2015. Consumer loans have jumped from Rs. 29 billion in 2015 to Rs. 70 billion in 2016. Auto financing soared 32% to Rs 30.7 billion in 2016, according to the State Bank of Pakistan as reported by Daily Times.

Pakistani consumers and businesses are feeling increasingly confident with improved overall security, rising foreign and domestic investments and  better employment prospects. They are earning, borrowing and spending more to further stimulate the economy thereby creating a virtuous cycle. Low oil prices and relatively subdued inflation are also helping. It's now up to Pakistan's political, economic and military leadership to maintain this growth momentum.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Economy and Security in 2016

Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2016

Pakistan's Middle Class Larger and Richer Than India's

Pakistan Translates GDP Growth to Citizens' Well-being

Rising Motorcycle Sales in Pakistan

Depth of Deprivation in India

Chicken vs Daal in Pakistan

China Pakistan Economic Corridor




Sunday, April 2, 2017

Pakistani Students Team Wins First Place in Stanford Design Contest

A 3-person team of Pakistani students, including a female student from Islamabad's National University of Science and Technology (NUST), won first place in a contest organized by Stanford Center of Longevity. The team's entry is a device they designed and prototyped that enables tremor patients to perform daily routine tasks.

The Purpose: 

The purpose of the contest is to encourage innovation to help improve the quality of life of aging populations in the West and the rest of the world.

The 2017 Stanford Longevity Design Challenge had the following goals:

1. Create well-designed, practical solutions that address key issues associated with aging

2. Encourage a new generation of students to become knowledgeable about aging issues

3. Provide promising designers with a path to drive change in the world


2017 Stanford Longevity Design Challenge Winners
The Winners: 

NUST's Hooriya Anam, Awais Shafique, and Arsalan Javed defeated teams from around the world with their anti-tremor prototype project TAME. The team from famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) placed second while Virginia Tech team stood third, according to results announced by the Center.
NUST's Stanford Challenge Winners From L to R: Arsalan Javed, Hooriya Anam, Awais Shafique

The Competitors:  

In addition to NUST, MIT and Virginia Tech teams, there were other teams from Cornell University, University of Sao Paolo Brazil,  China's Beijing University and Silicon Valley's Stanford University who also competed in the contest.

The winners received $17,000 in cash prizes along with paid travel to Stanford where they presented their designs to industry, academic, and government leaders.

College and University Enrollment in Pakistan:

Wins such as the Stanford Challenge are the result of improvements in higher education in Pakistan since the year 2000.

There are over 3 million students enrolled in grades 13 through 16 in Pakistan's 1,086 degree colleges and 161 universities, according to Pakistan Higher Education Commission report for 2013-14.  The 3 million enrollment is 15% of the 20 million Pakistanis in the eligible age group of 18-24 years.  In addition, there are over 255,000 Pakistanis enrolled in vocational training schools, according to Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA).

Graduation Day at NED Engineering University For 1300 Graduates in 2013
Pakistani universities have been producing over half a million graduates, including over 10,000 IT graduates, every year since 2010, according to HEC data. The number of university graduates in Pakistan increased from 380,773 in 2005-6 to 493,993 in 2008-09. This figure is growing with rising enrollment and contributing to Pakistan's growing human capital.

Source: UNESCO's Global Education Digest 2009






Higher education in Pakistan has come a long way since its independence in 1947 when there was only one university, the University of Punjab. By 1997, the number of universities had risen to 35, of which 3 were federally administered and 22 were under the provincial governments, with a combined enrollment of 71,819 students. A big spending boost by President Pervez Musharraf helped establish 51 new universities and awarding institutions during 2002-2008. This helped triple university enrollment from 135,000 in 2003 to about 400,000 in 2008, according to Dr. Ata ur Rehman who led the charge for expanding higher education during Musharraf years. There are 161 universities with 1.5 million students enrolled in Pakistan as of 2014.

R&D Investment: 

Rise of research and publications at Pakistani universities began during Musharraf years when 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. Government R&D spending jumped seven-fold as percentage of GDP from 0.1% of GDP in 1999 to 0.7% of GDP in 2007. It has since declined as percentage of GDP.

Summary:

Pakistani students, scientists and researchers are continuing to produced highly recognized and cited research in spite of serious economic and security challenges. Enrollment in higher education is rising and giving a boost to innovation. With better policy focus and more investment in higher education, Pakistan  can make an even greater impact with its young demographics.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan Beats BRICS in Highly Cited Research

Pakistan Becomes CERN Member

Pakistani Scientists at CERN

Rising College Enrollment in Pakistan

10 Pakistani Universities Among Asia's Top 300

Genomics and Biotech Research in Pakistan

Human Capital Growth in Pakistan

Educational Attainment in Pakistan

Pakistan Human Development in Musharraf Years

Robotics Growth in Pakistan 

Friday, March 31, 2017

H-1B Visa Abuse; Flynn's Immunity Request; Muslim NATO's Pakistani Commander

Why is H-1B visa abuse in the news? Why are Indian companies under suspicion as the chief abusers? Why does the lion's share of H-1B visas goes to Indians? Are H-1B visa holders replacing higher-paid ($95,000+ per year) American tech workers at significantly lower pay ($60,000 per year)? What proposals are under discussion to control this abuse?

Source: Glassdoor


How has President Trump performed in his first two months since inauguration? Why has he lost the key battles for Muslim ban and Obamacare repeal/replace?

Why is President Trump's ex NSA General Michael Flynn seeking immunity from prosecution before offering testimony in the investigation of Trump campaign's Russia links? Did he do something that could lead to his criminal prosecution without immunity? What possible impact would Flynn's testimony have on the Trump presidency?

What are the objectives of the Saudi coalition force variously described as "Muslim NATO" or "anti-Shia" alliance? What signal does the appointment of General Raheel Sharif to head this coalition send to the world? Is it an endorsement by Pakistan of the coalition? How is Iran reacting to it? What are its implications for Pakistan's sectarian violence?

Viewpoint From Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses these issues with Riaz Haq (www.riazhaq.com)

https://youtu.be/J_WgkswPvZM




Related Links:

Haq's Musings

H-1B Visa Abuse

Trump's Muslim Ban

Trump's Key Appointments

Does America Share Responsibility for Rise of ISIS?

Gen Petraeus Debunks Allegations of Duplicity Against Pakistan

Iran-Saudi Conflict

Talk4Pak Youtube Channel

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Nielsen: Pakistan Consumer Confidence Highest Since 2008

Consumer confidence index in Pakistan jumped five point from the prior quarter to reach 106 in Q4/2016, according to Nielsen’s global survey of consumer confidence for 63 countries released recently.

Source: Nielsen

Here's an excerpt of Nielsen's report Africa/Middle East region that includes Pakistan:

"Consumer confidence in the Africa/Middle East region declined in the fourth quarter, falling four points to 83, the lowest level in more than three years. Confidence was highest in United Arab Emirates, which held steady from the third quarter at 108. Pakistan was the only country where consumer confidence moved in a positive direction, rising five points from the third quarter to 106, the highest score for the country since it was added to the survey in 2008."

The share of Pakistani respondents worried about job security dropped to 21%.  51% of Pakistanis said they are optimistic about better job opportunities in the next 12 months, according to the survey.

“The findings of the consumer confidence reflect a favorable atmosphere in Pakistan. The set of factors that influence the confidence levels of Pakistani consumers goes beyond economics and business, and is reflective of improved security conditions, increased energy availability and low inflation rates,” reported the survey.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has also led to a higher activity in large-scale manufacturing and construction, opening more investment opportunities,” said Nielsen Pakistan Managing Director Quratulain Ibrahim, according to Pakistan's Express Tribune newspaper.  “We hope to see this optimism among Pakistani consumers during the coming months.”

Pakistani banks have boosted lending to businesses and consumers. Large-scale manufacturing sector borrowed Rs. 225 billion in 2016, up from Rs 119 billion in 2015. Consumer loans have jumped from Rs. 29 billion in 2015 to Rs. 70 billion in 2016. Auto financing soared 32% to Rs 30.7 billion in 2016, according to the State Bank of Pakistan as reported by Daily Times.

Pakistani consumers and business are feeling increasingly confident with improved overall security, rising foreign and domestic investments and  better employment prospects. They are earning, borrowing and spending more to further stimulate the economy thereby creating a virtuous cycle. Low oil prices and relatively subdued inflation are also helping. It's now up to Pakistan's political, economic and military leadership to maintain this growth momentum.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Economy and Security in 2016

Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2016

Pakistan's Middle Class Larger and Richer Than India's

Pakistan Translates GDP Growth to Citizens' Well-being

Rising Motorcycle Sales in Pakistan

Depth of Deprivation in India

Chicken vs Daal in Pakistan

China Pakistan Economic Corridor

Friday, March 24, 2017

H1B Visa Abuse: What Do Software Engineers Earn in India and Pakistan?

A segment of CBS 60 Minutes, top rated American newsmagazine on television, has recently brought sharp focus on H1B visa abuse. It alleges that the H1B visas are being misused by Indian body shops to bring low-cost Indian software engineers to the United States to replace higher-paid American workers.

H1B Visa Abuse:

The visa category was originally intended to help fill gaps in the high-tech workforce with highly skilled employees from abroad in situations where there aren’t enough Americans. Instead, it has given rise to body shops that bring in workers from overseas, mainly from India, to replace higher-paid American workers.

Recent examples of the firing of American IT workers and their replacement by Indian workers at UC San Francisco and Walt Disney and Co have received a lot of media attention. What has particularly incensed the American public is the practice of forcing the American workers to train their replacements.

Labor Cost Savings:

A loophole in H-1B legislation that US companies are taking advantage of allows them to outsource jobs to Indian body shops without even looking for Americans, if those jobs pay approximately $60,000 or higher. Similar jobs in Silicon Valley pay an average of $110,000 a year.

The average salary of a software engineer ($110,000) in Silicon Valley is about 20X more than the average salaries in India ($6,875) and Pakistan ($4,770), according to Glassdoor.

Source: Glassdoor


Indians Gaming H1-B System:

Indian body shops are masters of gaming the H1-B system.  Most of India's IT exports to the United States are made up of wages of H1B workers brought to the United States by a handful of Indian body shops like Cognizant, Tata Consulting Services (TCS) and Infosys.  In 2014, 86% of the H1B visas for tech workers were granted to Indians, according to available data.

Excluding the Indian H1B workers' pay,  India's IT exports drop to about one-twentieth of the the amount reported by the Indian government as IT exports, according to a 2005 study by US General Accounting Office (GAO).

The Indian body shops like Cognizant, TCS and Infosys that rely on the H1B visa program in the US are "the shining star" of the Indian economy, and the country's largest export, according to an Indian-American professor Ron Hira who is a strong critic of the abuses of H1B program. By complaining, the Indian government and firms that rely on the program are trying to "build up a firewall so that no other reforms can come through and constrain the program in any way."

Average Salaries of Software Engineers in Major Cities Source: qz.com


Indian Code Coolies:

H1B workers brought in by Indian body shops are described variously as "code coolies" or "H1B slaves". Some call them "indentured servants", like the ones from India who replaced slave labor after the British empire abolished slavery.

“’Indentured servants’ is a pretty accurate term because in many cases that’s exactly what’s going on,” said Phillip Griego of San Jose’s Phillip J. Griego and Associates. Over the years, Griego and his law partner, Robert Nuddleman have represented several H-1B workers in lawsuits against body shops.

Trump's Pledge:

Along with cracking down on illegal immigration, a key campaign promise of President Trump has been to create lots of American jobs for American workers.  “You’ve heard me say the words, and I’ll repeat them, right now: Buy American and Hire American. It’s not just a motto, it’s a pledge. It’s a pledge to the working people of this country. The era of economic surrender for the United States is over -- it's over,” Trump said at Michigan earlier this week.

Right after the CBS 60 Minutes segment on H1-B visa, Senator Chuck Grassley tweeted: "If u just saw CBS 60minutes abt ripoff H1B visa program is replacing AmWorkers u shld know my/Durbin bill will correct this injustice."

There are reports that new legislation is being offered to change the H1-B program. Among the key provisions of this new proposed legislation are cutting the number of visa by 50% and doubling the minimum salary of H1B workers from $60,000 to $120,000.

Summary:

The abuse of H1B visas to replace American workers and depress wages is drawing both legislative and executive attention under the Trump administration. High profile cases like the firing of American workers at UC San Francisco and Disney and their replacement by Indian workers has energized the support for cracking down on abuse.


Pakistan's Software Prodigy

Biotech and Genomics in Pakistan

Monday, March 20, 2017

World Happiness Report 2017: Pakistan Tops South Asia

World Happiness Report 2017 ranks Pakistan (score 5.269) at 80, well ahead of the rest of South Asia.

The latest world happiness report released on March 20, 2017 ranks Bhutan (score 5.011) at 97, Nepal (4.962) at 99, Bangladesh (4.608) at 110, Sri Lanka (4.44) at 120, India (4.315) at 122 and Afghanistan (3.794) at 141 among 155 nations surveyed.



Norway (7.537) has the highest score that combines economic, health and polling data compiled by economists that are averaged over three years from 2014 to 2016. Denmark (7.522) ranks second followed by Iceland (7.504), Switzerland (7.494) and Finland (7.469) making the top 5.

Modi Gang Tells Critics to Go to Pakistan 

At the bottom are Sub-Saharan African nations of Tanzania (3.349) at 153, Burundi (2.905) at 154 and Central African Republic (2.693) at 155. War-torn Syria (3.462) is at 152.

World Happiness Report 2017 offers the following rationale for its annual happiness measurement exercise:

"The first World Happiness Report was published in April, 2012, in support of the UN High Level Meeting on happiness and well-being. Since then we have come a long way. Happiness is increasingly considered the proper measure of social progress and the goal of public policy. In June 2016, the OECD committed itself “to redefine the growth narrative to put people’s well-being at the centre of governments’ efforts”.1 In a recent speech, the head of the UN Development Program (UNDP) spoke against what she called the “tyranny of GDP”, arguing that what matters is the quality of growth.“ Paying more attention to happiness should be part of our efforts to achieve both human and sustainable development” she said."

The survey uses Cantril Self-Anchoring Scale, developed by pioneering social researcher Dr. Hadley Cantril, consisting of the following:

1. Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top.

2. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you.

3. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?

4. On which step do you think you will stand about five years from now?

In addition to the answers to Cantril questions, the survey considers the following six variables: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, social freedom, generosity, and absence of corruption.

Here's another excerpt of the latest World Happiness Report:


Here's another excerpt of the World Happiness Report emphasizing social factors influencing happiness:

"A household’s income counts for life satisfaction, but only in a limited way. Other things matter more: community trust, mental and physical health, and the quality of governance and rule of law. Raising incomes can raise happiness, especially in poor societies, but fostering cooperation and community can do even more, especially in rich societies that have a low marginal utility of income. It is no accident that the happiest countries in the world tend to be high-income countries that also have a high degree of social equality, trust, and quality of governance. In recent years, Denmark has been topping the list. And it’s no accident that the U.S. has experienced no rise of life satisfaction for half a century, a period in which inequality has soared, social trust has declined, and the public has lost faith in its government."

Going by regions, European and North American nations are at the top of the list while sub-Saharan African nations are at the bottom. The rest of the world is in the middle.

In addition to median income and wealth, the prevalence of depression is among the key factors determining a country's happiness or the lack of it. The World Happiness Report 2015 noted that Pakistan has made significant efforts in treating rural women's depression. Here's an excerpt from the report:

"Community health workers (Lady Health Workers) were trained to identify and treat maternal depression, using a CBT-based ( intervention (the Thinking Healthy Program). The initiative used 16 home-based individual sessions and included active listening, collaboration with the family, guided discovery and homework (Cognitive Behavioral Therapists) is, trying things out between sessions, practicing what was learned). Forty local areas were assigned to either intervention or routine care, with about 450 mothers in each group. At follow-up sessions (after six months) the experimental group included 23% still depressed, compared with 53% in the control group. In another study, psychoeducation is being offered to all mothers."

Lancet paper describes the mental health intervention as follows:

"Lady Health Workers (LHWs) were trained to deliver a Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) based intervention to depressed women, beginning in the last trimester of pregnancy and ending at 10 months postpartum. The intervention is based in a psychosocial model and not presented as a ‘treatment’ for a ‘mental health problem’ but rather as way to improve positive and healthy thinking around the mother and the baby. The actual delivery of the intervention was integrated into the routine work of the existing community health worker – called Lady Health Worker (LHW) and delivered at the women’s’ home. LHWs are mainly responsible for maternal and child health care".

The Lady Health Workers (LHW) program in Pakistan has been described as “one of the best community-based health systems in the world” by Dr. Donald Thea, a Boston University researcher and one of the authors of a recent Lancet study on child pneumonia treatment in Pakistan. He talked with the New York Times about the study.

Pakistan's relatively lower levels of depression and suicides (less than 3 per 100,000) in South Asia are reflected in the region's suicide statistics. A 2013 scientific paper titled "Mental Depression of Indian Women" published in "Anthropology"  described the situation in India as follows: "Suicidal rate in India is higher comparing to other countries in the world. In each year over a half million people put their own lives down globally, of them 20% are Indians (17% of world population). However, during last two decades the rate of suicide has increased from 7.9 to 10.3 per 100,000".

India's youth suicide rate of 30-40 per 100,000 is among the highest in the world, according to a Lancet study. In addition, Indian farmers' suicides are continuing unabated at a rate of one every 30 minutes for the last two decades.

The problem of suicides appears to be at least in part due to the fact that India's value added agriculture continues be among the lowest in the world. Unlike India, Pakistan managed to significantly raise agriculture productivity and rural incomes in 1980s through a livestock revolution. Economic activity in dairy, meat and poultry sectors now accounts for just over 50% of the nation's total agricultural output. The result is that per capita value added to agriculture in Pakistan is almost twice as much as that in Bangladesh and India.

The key to improving happiness in developing countries like India and Pakistan is to focus on meeting basic needs such as education, nutrition and hygiene, in addition to addressing issues of health, including mental health.




Sunday, March 12, 2017

Trump Slump in Tourism; Corruption in South Asia; Imran Khan on PSL Final

How does President Trump's latest travel ban on citizens of 6 Muslim nations differ from his earlier executive order blocked by courts? Will the new order face similar block? What is the economic impact of Trump's travel ban on US travel and tourism industry? Will it lead to increased trade deficit and job losses?

What does the latest Transparency International's Asia survey say about the prevalence of bribery in India and Pakistan? Which countries are the best and the worst? Who are the biggest victims of such bribery? The rich or the poor?

Why is Imran Khan critical of the successful Pakistan Super League final in Lahore, Pakistan? Why did he denigrate foreign players who came to Pakistan to play the final? Does his language border on racism? What did PMLN's Javed Lateef say about PTI's Murad Saeed and his sisters that so enraged Murad Saeed and Imran Khan? Is such verbal and physical abuse justified for parliamentarians?

Viewpoint From Overseas host Misbah Azam discusses these questions with panelists Ali H. Cemendtaur and Riaz Haq (www.riazhaq.com)

https://youtu.be/xssAbcNKI5Q




Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Trump Slump: Economic Impact of Muslim Travel Ban

Silicon Valley Protest Against Trump's Muslim Ban

Transparency International's Asia Bribery Survey

Pakistan Super League

Imran Khan in Silicon Valley

Talk4Pak Youtube Channel

Talk4Pak Vimeo Channel

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Proliferation of Cyber Warfare Capabilities in South Asia

Recent reports of Russian hacks of the American Democratic Party's election campaign staff to influence the outcome of US elections have brought international cyber espionage in sharp focus once again. How many nations have such capabilities? What are their names? Are India and Pakistan among them?

Pakistan is believed to be among a couple of dozen nations with serious cyber espionage capabilities. This belief has been strengthened among the cyber security community since Operation Arachnophobia is suspected to have originated in Pakistan.

Bloodmoney: A Novel of Espionage:

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius frequently writes about the activities of intelligence agencies and often cites "anonymous" intelligence sources to buttress his opinions. He is also a novelist who draws upon his knowledge to write spy thrillers.

Ignatius's 2011 fiction "Bloodmoney: A Novel of Espionage" features a computer science professor Dr. Omar who teaches at a Pakistani university as the main character. Omar, born in  Pakistan's tribal region of South Waziristan, is a cyber security expert. One of Omar's specialties is his deep knowledge of SWIFT, a network operated by Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication that tracks all international financial transactions, including credit card charges.

Omar's parents and his entire family are killed in a misdirected US drone strike. Soon after the tragedy,  several undercover CIA agents are killed within days after their arrival in Pakistan.  American and Pakistani investigations seek the professor's help to solve these murders. Ignatius's novel ends with the identification of the professor as the main culprit in the assassinations of CIA agents.

Operation Arachnophobia:

In 2014, researchers from FireEye, a Silicon Valley cyber security company founded by a Pakistani-American,  and ThreatConnect teamed up in their investigation of "Operation Arachnophobia" targeting Indian computers. It features a custom malware family dubbed Bitterbug that serves as the backdoor for stealing information. Though the researchers say they have not identified the specific victim organizations, they have spotted malware bundled with decoy documents related to Indian issues, according to DarkReading.com.

The reason it was dubbed "Operation Arachnophobia" has to do with the fact that variants of the Bitterburg malware detected by the researchers included build paths containing the strings “Tranchulas” and “umairaziz27”, where Tranchulas is the name of an Islamabad-based Pakistani security firm and Umair Aziz is one of its employees.

Operation Hangover:

Operation Arachnophobia targeted Indian officials. It appears to have been Pakistan's response to India's Operation Hangover that targeted Pakistan. Investigations by  Norway-based security firm Norman have shown that the Operation Hangover attack infrastructure primarily was used as a means to extract security-related information from Pakistan and, to a lesser extent, China.

"Targeted attacks are all too common these days, but this one is certainly noteworthy for its failure to employ advanced tools to conduct its campaigns," said Jean Ian-Boutin, malware researcher at ESET security company. "Publicly available tools to gather information on infected systems shows that the attackers did not go to great lengths to cover their tracks. On the other hand, maybe they see no need to implement stealthier techniques because the simple ways still work."

Attack Easier Than Defense:

The fact that cyber attacks so often succeed suggests that it's easier to attack a system than to defend it.  By the time such attacks are detected, it's already too late. A lot of valuable information has already been lost to attackers.

However, it's still very important to possess the cyberattack capability as a deterrent to attacks. Those who lack the capacity to retaliate invite even more brazen cyberattacks.

Need for International Treaties:

Cyberattacks on infrastructure can have disastrous consequences with significant loss of human life. Disabling power grids and communication networks can hurt a lot of people and prevent delivery of aid to victims of disaster. It's important that nations work together to agree on some norms for what is permissible and what is not before there is a catastrophe.

Summary:

About 30 nations, including US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, China, India, Iran, Israel and Pakistan, possess cyber espionage and attack capabilities.  Growth and proliferation of such technologies present a serious threat to world peace.  There is an urgent need for nations of the world to come together to agree on reasonable restrictions to prevent disasters.

Haq's Musings

Revolution in Military Affairs: Cyberweapons and Robots

Cyber Warfare

Pakistani-American Founder of Fireeye Cyber Firm

Pakistan Boosts Surveillance to Fight Terror

Pakistan's Biometric Registration Database

Operation Zarb e Azb Launch

Ex Indian Spy Documents RAW's Successes in Pakistan

Intelligence Failures in Preventing Daily Carnage in Pakistan

What If Musharraf Had Said NO to US After 911?

Pakistani Computer Scientist Fights Terror

Pakistani Killer Drones to Support Anti-Terror Campaign

3G 4G Rollout Spurs Data Services Boom in Pakistan



Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Transparency International Says India Most Corrupt in Asia

A Transparency International (TI) study of 16 Asian countries, including India and Pakistan, has found that India has the highest bribery rate.  69% of survey respondents in India said they have paid a bribe, given a gift or done a favor to receive government services like education and health care. Vietnam follows with 65%, Thailand 41% and Pakistan 40%. China reported a much lower 26%.

Corruption in Asia. Source: Transparency International 2017


The Transparency International study released in March 2017 is part of a regional series for the Global Corruption Barometer.  22,000 people participated in the survey to answer questions about their recent experiences with corruption in 16 countries and territories in the Asia Pacific region.

The study found that Japan has the lowest incidence of bribery at 0.2 per cent. South Korea and Australia recorded 3% each, Hong Kong 2% and Taiwan 6%. While 46% to 60% of Indians say they paid bribes for various public services, including in public schools and hospitals and for getting IDs, voter cards and permits and accessing utilities and the police, 31% to 45% said they paid bribes for court services as well.

Unlike the rest of Asia, the poorest people are the biggest victims of corruption in India (73%), Pakistan (64%) and Thailand (46%).

Poor vs Rich Victims of Corruption in Asia. Source: TI

Pakistan fares worse than India in terms of bribes paid to police and courts but better in access to schools and health facilities.

The TI report said that "police top the list of public services most often demanding a bribe. Just under a third of people who had come into contact with a police officer in the last 12 months said they paid a bribe. Overall, 38 per cent of the poorest people surveyed said they paid a bribe, which is the highest proportion of any income group".

Although this report suggests Pakistan is doing better than its neighbor India, the corruption levels in Pakistan remain very high relative to more developed Asian economies. The worst part of it is that the poorest people who can least afford to pay bribes are the biggest victims of such corrupt practices. Fighting corruption requires a broad-based effort. The mass media need to play a role in exposing it; the lawyers and the judges need to do their part to address it. And the civil society at large needs to speak up whenever and wherever they see it.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Culture of Corruption in Pakistan

Panama Leaks, Musharraf and Sharifs

Pakistani Leaders in London After Panama Leaks

Culture of Corruption in Pakistan

Zardari Corruption Probe

President Pervez Musharraf's Legacy

We Hang Petty Thieves and Appoint Great Ones to High Offices



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Trump Slump: Muslim Travel Ban Hurting US Tourism Industry

U.S. President Donald Trump's revised travel ban on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries will not reduce its impact on tourism, according to Taleb Rifai,  the head of UN World Tourism Organization. "People don't go to places where they don't feel welcome," he added.

Reports indicate that foreign travelers from many non-Muslim majority countries have also been met with hostility by US officials upon arrival in the United States.

Mem Fox, author of children's books advocating tolerance and acceptance, was detained by U.S. immigration officials as she arrived in America to give a talk about the importance of tolerance and acceptance, the Washington Post reported.  She said "the manner in which we were interrogated — in public view about really private information — was terrible. It was the insolence that was beyond mind-boggling.”

Hopper, an app which uses data to predict and analyze airfares, says that its research indicates that searches for flights to the US between January 26 and February 1 by internet users from 122 different countries dropped 17 per cent compared to the first three weeks in January, according to media reports.

Trump's travel ban has already resulted in a worldwide 6.5 per cent drop in the number of airline bookings for travelers headed to the United States, according to Daily Mail.

Global Foreign Tourist Arrival Data: Americas' Marketshare 16% in 2015
Meanwhile,  New York City projects it will see 300,000 fewer international visitors in 2017 than it did in 2016, a 2.1% dip, according to a report in USA Today.  It's the first time that group of travelers has shrunk since 2008, according to NYC and Company, New York's tourism arm.

The US travel industry had nearly $250 billion in sales to foreigners in 2015 and had a $98 billion trade surplus, the most of any sector, according to MarketWatch. Without travel, the U.S. trade deficit would be about 20% larger, $600 billion instead of $500 billion.

It seems that President Trump's policies are not only hurting America's image abroad but also contributing to potential job losses in travel and tourism industry that employs millions of Americans. Such policies are more likely to hurt than help the "working class white" Americans who voted for Mr. Trump.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Rising Hate Crimes in Trump's America

Trump Phenomenon

A Conversation with White Nationalist Jared Taylor

Implications of Trump's Muslim Ban

Islamophobia and Gun Violence in America

Policy Impact of Trump's Appointments 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

American Tourist Ranks Pakistan Among Top 10 Favorites After Visiting 196 Countries

Cassie De Pecol, recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for traveling to all 196 countries of the world in shortest time, has put Pakistan at number 5 among the top 10 "must visit" countries.

Other countries on De Pecol's top 10 list are: Mongolia, Bhutan, Maldives, Vanuatu, Oman, Tunisia, Peru, Costa Rica and USA.

Lahore Fort Source: Telegraph

De Pecol said people must visit Pakistan “to get a true sense of raw, authentic Asian culture, and for the food.”  Earlier, in an Instagram message at the start of her Pakistan visit she wrote: “My time here in Pakistan has just begun and has been one of the many wonderfully educational and culturally enriching experiences…. Don’t judge by its color or a country by the media", according to media reports.

De Pecol, a Connecticut native, left the United States on July 14, 2015, and just completed her 196-country tour Feb 2, 2017 — beating the current Guinness record of three years and three months, according to Today.com.

De Pecol needed money to finance her expedition. She found her first nonprofit endorsement through the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism, and after that, she decided to reach out to big and small companies and independent investors to contribute to her mission. “A lot of people think it’s so easy to find a sponsor to travel,” she today Today. “One of the most difficult aspects of this expedition was trying to find funding through sponsorship.”

Here's a Pakistan Pictorial:

Find more photos like this on PakAlumni Worldwide: The Global Social Network

World's Most Polluted Countries: China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

The 2.5 micron particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution of air accounts for the world's highest number of pollution-related premature deaths in China and South Asia, according to a report titled "State of Global Air 2017".

Source: State of Global Air 2017

PM2.5 Pollution Deaths:

More than half of the 4.2 million deaths attributed to PM2.5 pollution occur in just two countries: India and China. The next two countries accounting for the highest pollution-related mortality are Russia with 136,900, Pakistan with 135,100 and Bangladesh with 122,400 deaths in 2015, according to the report.

India and Bangladesh experienced some of the largest increases in PM2.5- attributable mortality, on the order of 50% to 60%. India (1.09 million deaths) now approaches China (1.11 million deaths) in the number of deaths attributable to PM2.5.

Source: State of Global Air 2017
Nearly all (86%) of the most extreme concentrations (above 75 µg/m3 ) were experienced by populations in China, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Among the world’s 10 most populous countries and the EU, the biggest increase (14% to 25%) in seasonal average population-weighted concentrations of ozone over the last 25 years were experienced in China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Brazil.

The report said decreases in exposure in Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, and Pakistan were offset by population growth and population aging, resulting in net increases in attributable mortality.

In the United States and the European Union, reductions in exposure over the past 25 years have offset the contributions of population growth and aging, resulting in net decreases in PM2.5-attributable mortality (by 17% and 22%, respectively).

A similar pattern contributed to a net decrease of 34% in PM2.5-attributable mortality in Nigeria, although the reductions in exposure were likely due to factors different from those in the United States and EU. Within the EU, this pattern held in all member countries except Italy, Greece, and Malta, where attributable mortality increased from 1990 to 2015, according to the report.

Haze Under Himalayas Source: NASA

South Asia's Vulnerability:

South Asia is particularly susceptible to pollutants that hang in the air for extended periods of time. The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has recently released images of dull gray haze hovering over northern India and Pakistan, and parts of Bangladesh. It is believed that emissions from solid fuel burning, industrial pollutants and farm clearing fires get trapped along the southern edge of the Himalayas. NASA Earth Observatory explains this phenomenon as follows:

"The haze visible in this image likely results from a combination of agricultural fires, urban and industrial pollution, and a regional temperature inversion. Most of the time, air higher in the atmosphere is cooler than air near the planet’s surface, and this configuration allows warm air to rise from the ground and disperse pollutants. In the wintertime, however, cold air frequently settles over northern India, trapping warmer air underneath. The temperature inversion traps pollutants along with warm air at the surface, contributing to the buildup of haze."

Urgent Actions Needed: 

South Asian governments need to act to deal with rapidly rising particulate pollution jointly. Some of the steps they need to take are as follows:

1. Reduce the use of solid fuels such as cow dungwood and coal to limit particulate matter released into the atmosphere.

2. Impose higher emission standards on industries and vehicles through regulations.

3. Increase forest cover by planting more trees.

4. Encourage the use of more renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, etc.

The cost of acting now may seem high but it will turn out out to be a lot more expensive to deal with extraordinary disease burdens resulting from rising air pollution.

Summary:

South Asia accounts for more than a third of all PM2.5 pollution related deaths in the world. The sources of particulate pollution range from solid fuel burning to crop clearing fires and use of dirty fuels in vehicles and industries. Recognition of the growing problem is urgent. Failure to act could be very costly in terms of human health.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Response to Climate Change

Diwali Pollution Warnings in India

Cow Dung Sales in India

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