Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Asian Development Bank is due to approve a USD500 million budgetary support to Pakistan

The Asian Development Bank is due to approve a USD500 million budgetary support to Pakistan. According to The Express Tribune, the bank’s executive board will vote on Pakistan’s request Aug. 27.

The ADB funding forms part of the Accelerated Economic Transformation Program, approved in September 2008.

Pakistan's economy has been seriously affected by the skyrocketing international prices of oil and food. The severity of the exogenous shocks, aggravated by the uncertainties surrounding the recent political transition, has been felt on several fronts over the last fiscal year (June 2007-July 2008): the year-on-year overall domestic inflation reaching 24% from 7%; deterioration in the external accounts with current account deficit widening to 8.5% of GDP from 4.8%; depreciation of the Pakistani rupee (PRs) by 22%; foreign exchange reserves declining by more than 40% to $6 billion (about 1.5 months of imports); and unprecedented fuel, food and electricity subsidy needs, which rose four-fold to PRs408 billion ($6 billion) from their original budgeted level. Symptomatic of the declining investor confidence, the Karachi stock index dropped by more than 35% during April-July 2008, and the spreads on sovereign debt have surpassed 1,100 basis points at end-August 2008 from less than 200 basis points in early 2007. The outcome of all this has been a decline in real gross domestic product (GDP) growth to 5.8% from 7% during the previous year.

These challenges facing Pakistan have come despite steady real GDP growth of 7.3% on average per year during FY2004-FY2007. But they have also come in the context of, as well as due to, persistent fiscal, trade and investment imbalances and lack of any significant structural changes in the economy.

Pakistan now needs to transform itself in three directions:
First, it has to address the immediate distortions facing the economy, particularly in the agriculture and energy sectors. The pricing and procurement system for wheat needs to be restructured, and subsidies better targeted to benefit the poor and vulnerable. Untargeted wheat subsidies cost the Government PRs40 billion ($600 million) in fiscal year (FY) 2008. In the electricity sector, Pakistan doest not yet have an automatic tariff adjustment mechanism. The Government needs to reform the subsidy system in the sector, since it has not been able to settle the payments owed to distribution companies, which has resulted in a vicious circular debt problem and debt overhang. This needs to be addressed urgently to resolve the present energy crisis. Electricity subsidies are estimated to have cost PRs133 billion in FY2008 ($2 billion). In addition to these subsidy needs, an estimated $1.6 billion is required to partially protect the poor.

Second, Pakistan needs to strengthen financial intermediation to facilitate structural transformation. At the macro level, the Government has relied heavily on the central bank for its fiscal requirements, a practice that needs to be reversed. In parallel, the legal and regulatory framework should be strengthened to manage risks more effectively in the financial sector, promote consumer confidence, and deepen financial intermediation. 

Third, over the medium to long term, the production and trade structure of the economy needs to be transformed so Pakistan can compete more effectively in the global economy. A deeper industrial base is vital, along with a more productive agricultural sector, greater value creation in the service sector, and far greater export sophistication. To achieve this, the Government has to (i) address short-term policy and institutional distortions, (ii) identify industries where it might compete on a global scale, and (iii) attract private sector investments.
ADB has worked in the past with Pakistan alongside other development partners to support reforms and investments in all three directions. The challenges now facing the country are diverse and significant that immediate assistance is needed to address the short term constraints and to provide safety nets for the poor, while paving way for boosting Pakistan's competitiveness.
ADB was scheduled to approve the budgetary support in May 2010 but deferred the decision due to the Pakistani government’s failure to provide a comprehensive financing plan to rid the inter-corporate debt of state-run companies.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Mishal and STEP to work together on overcoming post disaster disabilities through education and economic empowerment in Pakistan.

Muhammad Atif Sheikh, President Special talent Exchange Programme for the Disabled (STEP) and Amir Jahangir, Chief Executive Officer of Mishal Private Limited, at the MoU Signing Ceremony in Islamabad, Pakistan

The Special Talent Exchange Programme (STEP), the leading non-for-profit organization working on promoting disability issues in Pakistan has signed a Memorandum of Understanding today with Mishal Private Limited, the leading media capacity building institution in Pakistan. Both parties have agreed that they will jointly work for the empowerment and mainstreaming of disabled people in the society.

Speaking at the occasion, Mr. Amir Jahangir, Chief Executive Officer, Mishal said that it is extremely important that the media is sensitized on the issues of disabilities, especially when Pakistan is fighting its war on terror. Pakistan is increasing its numbers of disabled persons on a daily basis, as we get casualties due to the terrorism acts and it is extremely important that we bring these people into mainstream through education and economic empowerment.

Mishal has brought together the leading Press Clubs and Journalist’s Associations on a common platform to build the capacity of the media to report on different verticals.

Jahangir also shared that Mishal in collaboration with various institutions will create more awareness and will produce specialized programs on talented disabled youth in Pakistan.

Amir Jahangir said that Mishal Pakistan is working on creating initiatives on inspiring a new generation for developing global citizens of the 21st century. He said that the initiative will create better understanding on what does global citizenship mean, and how can individuals, particularly youth can become responsible global citizens? What the can do youth in the community and country as global citizens?

Jahangir also said that at any age, encouraging and supporting responsible global citizenship improves multiple sectors of our societies, both social and economic. However, the large youth population found in many countries draws particular attention to the challenge of giving these youth the skills, tools or systems they may need to successfully participate as citizens, he said.

Currently, there are approximately 1.77 billion youth in a world that’s more closely connected than ever before. Youth aged 10-24 represent 30% or more of the population of many developing countries, and people under 20 years of age make up about 25% of the US population as compared to 80% in Pakistan.

Mr. Muhammad Atif Sheikh, President of STEP appreciating the efforts of Mishal Pakistan said that “a disabled person becomes more disabled when the society denies him or her, the right to participate by not providing access to the community services and establishments, he also said that media can play a vital role in mainstreaming of persons with disabilities in society”.

The MoU envisages the skill development trainings of disabled persons to improve their livelihood opportunities. Mishal through its platform will engage media entities to produce documentaries, debate programs on post disaster disabilities and carry out more awareness initiatives through multiple platforms.

Both Mishal and STEP will also work on creating research opportunities on post disaster disability and media integration through education as well. Both the organizations will also be creating more awareness on understanding rights, increasing citizen’s participation and expanding accountability. This will include workshops on how do individuals in Pakistan view their rights, roles, and responsibilities as a citizen, what are the barriers citizens face to active participation and how the media views Pakistan’s political and civil engagement and what tools would increase citizen participation in Pakistan? Initiatives on the issues concerning, citizens’ need to support their goals and aspirations and what roles citizens can play in accountability of public funds will also be highlighted.

Mishal has also identified the 10 of the greatest challenges facing the world. Identified by the Global Pulse 2010 initiative of the United States Agency for International Development, which gives a clear outlook for the areas where media needs to concentrate.

Unfortunately the capacity of the media in Pakistan is limited by its exposure to international development initiatives and lack of trainings in the media sector to address the challenges in the right perspective. Mishal has also identified the 10 greatest challenges to be the basic outline for media capacity building and to identify the best journalists and media professionals in Pakistan, who not only understands the issues but also can inspire others in the industry to set benchmarks for creating more public focus on the issues.

Mishal Pakistan was launched in 2003, as the leading media research and capacity building organization. Mishal is working on building media’s capacity to report on issues impacting the society on economic opportunities and empowerment, health and survival, education and political awareness.

Honoured as the Young Global Leader for 2010 by the World Economic Forum for his work on initiatives to improve the state of media and to integrate it with the development issues concerning Pakistan, Amir Jahangir, joined Mishal Pakistan as the CEO in April this year. The Festival of Media, Valencia ranked him among the top 10 media personalities in the world for his work on making media companies more relevant to sustainability issues.