Development / 28.03.2016

By Anjum Altaf and Nadeem ul Haque Should PIA, a State Owned Enterprise (SOE), be privatized or not? It is poorly run, losing a great deal of money, and a drain on the budget. But what does that have to do with PIA being a SOE? Therein lies the real question and some answers to our particular predicament in Pakistan. If one were to line up all potential services with the smallest in scale at one end to the biggest at the other, readers would likely agree that the smallest (say, tea stalls at a railway station) are better provided privately and the largest (say, national defense) by the public sector. The reasons are not hard to fathom – bureaucracies are not good at adapting to rapid changes in market conditions and consumer preferences; markets cannot exclude those unwilling to pay for a service like national defense. In...

Development / 19.08.2013

By Anjum Altaf It is remarkable that the governments of Pakistan and India have not been able to ensure essential social services for citizens – public health and education are in shambles. As a consequence, ill health and illiteracy mar the lives of millions – a human capital deficiency that diminishes the potential of all. The resources diverted to sustaining an ailing population are no longer available for productive investment. This is not a far-fetched claim. Think of individuals who have to spend a good part of their income to buy treatment – they would have that much less left to invest in their own nourishment or in their children’s education. What holds for individuals holds for countries as well. A recent study examines what has been termed the calorie consumption puzzle in India – real rural household incomes and expenditures have risen but malnutrition remains higher than...

Cities/Urban / 12.06.2013

By Anjum Altaf One of my insights into Pakistan’s socioeconomic evolution was due inadvertently to my father when, as a student of economics, I encountered his changed post-retirement pattern of time use. It was the nature of the change that was surprising. I saw him rise early to monitor the water level in the rooftop storage tank, climb down to check the underground one, turn on the electric motor, then switch it off after an appropriate interval. Often the motor would malfunction and he would arrange to have it fixed. Less frequently, someone would be called to clean the tanks. Over time the pipes to and from the tanks acquired a byzantine complexity with various valves catering to the vagaries of the public supply. A hand pump sprouted in the backyard as a last resort and its water sent for regular testing. Water consumed a big part of our...

Cities / 12.06.2013

By Anjum Altaf One of my insights into Pakistan’s socioeconomic evolution was due inadvertently to my father when, as a student of economics, I encountered his changed post-retirement pattern of time use. It was the nature of the change that was surprising. I saw him rise early to monitor the water level in the rooftop storage tank, climb down to check the underground one, turn on the electric motor, then switch it off after an appropriate interval. Often the motor would malfunction and he would arrange to have it fixed. Less frequently, someone would be called to clean the tanks. Over time the pipes to and from the tanks acquired a byzantine complexity with various valves catering to the vagaries of the public supply. A hand pump sprouted in the backyard as a last resort and its water sent for regular testing. Water consumed a big part of our...