Archive for ‘Economics’

Good News from the WTO

By , 21 September, 2010, No Comment

New post over at Foreign Exchange on the WTO’s new trade stats and WTO chief Pascal Lamy’s discussion with the press. Some highlights:

“contrary to the original 9.5% stat released by the agency, international trade is going to be up 13.5% this year. That’s quite a change from the 15 point plunge global trade took last year. In fact, it’s a new record for annual trade expansion.”

“You may recall that it was not so long ago that Lamy’s agency was getting pilloried by liberal reporters and harassed by protesters on the ground that its free-trade agenda is a form of economic imperialism that lets the rich countries benefit at the expense of the poor. That critique has always been flawed, but in case the critics need more evidence, here’s the relevant stat: this year’s 13.5% increase is comprised of an 11 point expansion in the developed world and a 17 point expansion in the developing world. When trade grows, it grows MUCH faster for the poor. Moreover, Lamy notes, “a large part of this growth is south-south trade.” Rich countries can’t be ripping off the poor if it’s the poor countries who are trading with one another.”

There’s much more info, so go read the whole thing.

Blogging the UN MDG Summit

By , 20 September, 2010, No Comment

I’m covering the UN MDG summit this week, because it’s right in my wheelhouse of politics and economics. And I’m blogging it for Forbes, because I just got a blog over there. It’s called Foreign Exchange and it’s going to focus on my foreign policy/international political economy coverage. Other things–culture, domestic politics and policy, technology, media–will stay here at Cappuccino. And I will always let you know when something’s happening at Foreign Exchange that you need to be reading.

A snippet of today’s post: “One reason for the lack of agreed mechanisms is the continued schism in the international aid community over the role that markets are supposed to play in development, and the way that discussions of development often become discussions on the merits of globalization.” Go check out the rest, and stay tuned for more updates.

Sex and the City, revisited

By , 14 July, 2010, 6 Comments

I recently came across some poll data about gender. Gender equality, in the abstract, is a widely supported goal, especially in the developed world and among women, but nearly half the respondents “believed men had more right than women to obtain jobs in a down economy.”

Unpack that. Firstly, it suggests that men are supporting families while women are working for kicks. Secondly, it suggests that because women are working for kicks, they will be the ones taking time to worry about raising families. If you’re an employer, the argument goes, a woman who wants to make her kids’ doctors appointments is a less reliable employee. And when you have limited funds, you want the reliable bang for your buck.

The first point is false: the majority of women, like the majority of men, work because they have to. If they are lucky, they will enjoy it, but that’s not why they do it. But women do take the lion’s share of responsibility for the house and the kids. The answer to that should be a reorganization of family life that makes it easier to achieve equality in the workplace. But the truth is that the notion of workplace equality is, on its own, fairly appealing to people, while the notion of shared domestic responsibilities still scares us.

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ICapp Exclusive: Sherry Rehman Slams Punjab’s “Total Insanity”

By , 19 June, 2010, 4 Comments

In the wee hours of the morning, I got word that Pakistani politician Sherry Rehman was circulating an op-ed statement against the Government of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest and wealthiest province. Think of it as the Midwest (farms, mills, and traditional values) meets New England (history and culture and more tradition). It’s where the army recruits from, where the most federal funds go, and where the tourists want to visit. In other words, it’s the establishment.

Rehman was outraged because Punjab has just decided to give some of those federal budgetary funds to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an Islamic charity considered to be the political arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant organization focused primarily on the ‘liberation’ of Kashmir and its establishment as an Islamic state. Unlike the militant groups in the Western part of Pakistan (who focus on destabilizing Pakistan itself) or those militants exiled in Pakistan due to the US/NATO operations in Afghanistan (who focus on fighting Western forces), L-e-T targets Pakistan’s major rival, and as such, has historically received support from Pakistan’s military elite, and a blind eye from its government.But, says Rehman, direct financial support from civilian leaders is a new step, and a bridge too far. “It’s total insanity,” she shouts, when she speaks to me from her home in Karachi.

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In Favor of Results

By , 11 March, 2010, No Comment

I’ve been off the Pulitzer blog for a bit, I know, but I promise it’s because I’m chasing good stories and am totally overwhelmed by them. In any case, here’s the latest, on some nonprofits I’ve had the opportunity to look into.

“The ALBA Collective’s model is premised on identifying failures in the models of its local partners and presenting itself as a solution. That is rather the opposite of Lend-a-Hand’s model, which identifies successes and then asks locals “How can we help?” In my travel across South Asia, I’ve been stunned by the number of nonprofits who make ALBA’s mistake.”

Read the post, and comment, here.

Getting Serious for a Moment

By , 3 February, 2010, No Comment

Latest blog post, on the trillion-dollar question of Indo-Pak peace:

‘…These days, optimists are focused on a new effort by two leading newspapers—the Times of India and The News in Pakistan—to promote “Aman ki Asha,” or “Hope for Peace.” In Delhi, the campaign is ubiquitous: billboards, posters, and television advertisements, some featuring major Bollywood lights. But the simple one below, where Pakistanis are trying to request a song on Indian radio, is my favorite.

The goal, says the News, is “mobilising popular pressure for peace on the establishment of both countries.” The mechanism, says the Times, is “a series of cross-border cultural interactions, business seminars, music and literary festivals and citizen meets that will give the bonds of humanity a chance to survive outside the battlefield of politics, terrorism and fundamentalism.”

Looking back on the last year, and speaking to politicians here in Delhi, I am skeptical…’

Here’s the video I reference. But read the whole post, and comment, at Untold Stories.

Video: The Phantom Dog

By , 19 January, 2010, No Comment

I’m back on BloggingHeads today, this time talking up my work in Pakistan with Zeke Webster (alias: Don Zeko) of the blog Discord. We cover counterterrorism and counterinsurgency in general, US counterterrorism/counterinsurgency in South Asia, what Pakistan is really thinking, and the rights of South Asian women. Though they just posted this to BHTV, we filmed in mid-December, when I was in Karachi, and before the last wave of attacks in Pakistan and in the U.S. Some of this is outdated, but hopefully it still informs and entertains.

Comment here.

*Title Character is revealed at 10:28, 24:05 and most hilariously, at 42:00.

A Spoonful of Sugar

By , 17 January, 2010, No Comment

I’ve got a piece in this week’s edition of Forbes on the real crisis in Pakistan—the systemic failures of government, particularly on economic issues. My case study is the mismanagement of the nation’s sugar supply:

The sugar crisis has its roots in the fragmentation of Pakistan’s sugar sector. Growers, millers, wholesale distributors and retailers each have their own regulatory overlords offering protectionist perks and their own cartels to defend such gains. Though this structure goes back to the 1950s, recent policy decisions and the worldwide spike in prices of commodities like sugar have aggravated its effects.

…Economic problems provide rallying cries for opponents like Sharif and radical insurgents eager to bring down the government, while a weak and dysfunctional state contributes to economic distress. In the case of sugar, whose consumption in Pakistan is approaching developed-country levels, the danger is acute: In 1969 a sugar shortage helped bring down the rule of military dictator Ayub Khan.

Read the piece in full (and comment!) here.

The Failure of Institutions

By , 26 December, 2009, 2 Comments

Another round of reader requests led to the following reflections on 44’s latest moves on two issues near and dear to me: health care and climate.

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A Subcontinental Water-Fight

By , 18 December, 2009, No Comment

I’ve got a short item in this week’s Newsweek on control of Afghan water:
What alarms Pakistan most is the possibility that India will gain control over the water from two Afghan rivers that flow into the volatile Pakistan border regions, where water shortages could inflame local insurgencies. Indian investment in Afghanistan has doubled since 2006, to $1.2 billion, and up to 35 percent of that is going into canals for local irrigation, as well as hydroelectric dams that will supply power to Iran and Turkmenistan, India’s gateways to Central Asia and the Gulf.

Read and comment here and see the write-up on my project at the Columbia J-school website.