Rolling out the Red Carpet

I welcome you to my blog and hope that you will like the tour. Please leave your footmarks with comments and feedback. This will through and through enhance my knowledge and profundity of thought. Enjoy! Asif J. Mir

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Nothing for it but . . .

Ever since independence technology has sneaked in tardily. Paradoxically, these years have produced equally strident laments concerning the state to which Pakistan’s education has sunk. The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people.

When information technology was approaching in the sixties the US changed the school curricula for preparing students for the future. Contrarily we continue to turn our eye from the need to adopt new technologies and consequently our students are not being prepared (IT students included) to live in a competitive world.

We have managed to survive without adoption of IT for forty years. It will be impossible to continue to exist even for a day if we failed to adopt the approaching technologies. For instance Nanotechnology—examining the world at a millionth of meter and utilizing the ability to manipulate our universe at a molecular or atomic perspective—has united scientists across developed world in the belief that the worlds of medicine, computers, biotechnologies and eventually all manufacturing will never be approached in the same way again. We can’t afford to respond as laggards and follow the same doom which ancient civilizations faced. They perished for resistance to new technologies.

In ancient Greece then, all of the energy sources in use today, with the exception of nuclear power and hydroelectric power (both used exclusively to produce electricity) were known, available, and in limited use. Why then did it take so many centuries for energy sources and technology to come together to produce the Industrial Revolution?

From ancient Greece into the early Renaissance technological development was not only frowned upon, it was downright discouraged. People with money did not invest in it. It was socially unacceptable for the elite to involve themselves in what they considered a degrading activity.

The Greek philosophers, for all of their delving into how the world was made up and how things worked, had a strong aversion to the development of technology. They called it banausikon, meaning, fit for mechanics. It was considered a filthy business beneath the dignity of any intelligent, thinking person. Aristotle held that industries that earned wages degraded the mind and were unworthy of the free man. He would not stoop so low as to attempt to verify by measured observation his reasoning concerning physics or dynamics. As a result, some bad science went unchallenged for almost 2,000 years.

The Museum and Library at Alexandria, established in 290 BC by the rulers of Egypt, was a research facility that attracted scientists from around the known world. Researchers would use valves, expanding gases, solar thermal power, cams, screws, pulleys, levers, springs, siphons, and cogs—the basics for an industrial revolution. They developed double-action pumps and a compressed air cannon. It was there that Hero demonstrated a steam reaction turbine in 60 AD. The Library at Alexandria could have been an ancient model for Silicon Valley, but the research did not lead to improved manufacturing processes, better machines for industry or agriculture, or even for increasing wealth. Rather it was used to amuse royalty or to amaze worshipers in temples.

A valid argument can be made that metallurgy, manufacturing processes, and transportation facilities were too primitive to allow for exploitation of energy and technology at that time. But, absent the social barrier to technological development that existed, it is likely that the great minds, the available wealth, and the power concentrated in the likes of Alexander the Great, and the Roman Emperors could have laid the groundwork for a much earlier development and diffusion of technology.

We are accustomed to resist technological change with full force. We not only refuse to recognize it; we close our eyes to evade it. The attitude that we demonstrate confirms our nasty characterization as a nation of laggards.

Embracing technology is a laudable objective for which our society must aspire. It should provide a classic demonstration of the principles of the Technology Adoption Lifecycle and attempt to explain the pros and cons of investing in new technology. It must transform itself as innovators, early adopters, and not as laggards on a technology adoption timeline.

We should inculcate education of technology at every level of learning. If we claim to know more about how people learn, if we have better tools for facilitating learning, why do so many studies of technology in education show no significant difference from traditional methods? Why are we producing graduates less able to cope with the issues facing them?

Making matters worse, the criteria for success have changed. Our institutions were designed not for an industrial society. Now we've entered the Information Age. Increasingly, even blue-collar jobs require critical thinking, rather than monotonous task performance. To meet these demands, our graduates need different competencies than we typically provide. Intuitively, one would expect technology to be a powerful tool for meeting these new requirements.

We are entering a world in which jobs are requiring technological competency--a world in which they must continue to update their occupational and technological skills in order to be successful. We must enable them to become technologically competent. We must take advantage of the capacity of technology to enhance our traditional classroom presentations and to engage our students in active learning.

Pakistan’s decision-makers must focus on new challenges and issues instead of waiting for emergencies to react. They need to focus more on policy than management issues. They need to be knowledgeable about what rest of the world is doing to achieve change. They should know that change and implementing technology often go hand in hand. The key to success in both is a thorough, inclusive planning process. The disregard of new technologies by ancient civilizations offers us a choice: to embrace new technologies or perish.(

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Child Labor

We often hear about goals of education relate to ‘meeting our children’s needs,’ ‘responsible citizenship’ and ‘equipping students for the future.’ Yet, what do such goals mean when millions of our children are forced to work? How much actual attention is given to the circumstances of this segment of our future? How much consideration is given to the needs not only of this generation but future generations? How seriously do we care about human values when we see around innocent child laborers selling newspapers at traffic lights, serving tea at kiosks, or weaving a carpet? Is this the future we are talking about? How might we enhance the quality of our responses to unmet poor children’s needs? How might we begin to contribute more effectively to building cultures of peace and sustainable futures? No easy answers.

That the shameful practice of child labor should have played an important role in the Industrial Revolution from its outset is not to be wondered at. The displaced working classes, from the seventeenth century on, took it for granted that a family would not be able to support itself if the children were not employed. The children of the poor were forced by economic conditions to work, as Charles Dickens, with his family in debtor's prison, worked at age 12 in the Blacking Factory. In 1840 perhaps only twenty percent of the children of London had any schooling, a number which had risen by 1860, when perhaps half of the children between 5 and 15 were in some sort of school, if only a day school (of the sort in which Dickens's Pip finds himself in Great Expectations) or a Sunday school; the others were working.

Child labor is a pervasive problem. Children work for a variety of reasons, the most important being poverty and the induced pressure upon them to escape from this plight. Though children are not well paid, they still serve as major contributors to family income in Pakistan. Schooling problems also contribute to child labor, whether it is the inaccessibility of schools or the lack of quality education which spurs parents to enter their children in more profitable pursuits. Traditional factors such as rigid cultural and social roles in Pakistan further limit educational attainment and increase child labor.

There are 19 million working children in Pakistan, 7 million below the age of 10 and 12 million between the ages of 10-14. Everyday sun sets by shoving over 100 children into the labor market. The number of child workers under 15 years is estimated to be not less than 8 million. Punjab accounts for 60% of the total child labor. More than two-thirds of child laborers are working in the agricultural sector. Of 20 million bonded laborers 7.5 million are children and 1.2 million children are bonded in the carpet factories. Nearly 250,000 children working in brick kilns are bonded laborers, driven into a miserable state by the fact that their entire families have been 'pawned' to the owners by virtue of their having pledged their labor in return for some money taken. Children are sometimes kidnapped to be used as forced labor.

The newly emerged affluent class in urban cities employs some 6.7% of female child workers in domestic help. These domestic workers generally have to work for 15 hours a day, seven days a week.

Bonded labor, a contemporary form of slavery according to the UN definition, unfortunately holds strong in certain sectors in Pakistan, such as brick manufacture, construction, sports goods manufacture and carpet-weaving.

Demand for child labor is so high that children are often sold by desperate parents. They are then forced to work long hours, day and night, unable to attend school, and often subject to abuse and malnourishment. This perpetuates a cycle of poverty since most of these children never get the education and training needed to obtain a livable wage.

As a peace educator, human rights activist and a father of seven year old son, I am the first to admit that we have done nothing to halt child labor and just about 19 million child laborers continue to work in Pakistan. What inconsequential the government has done is measly cosmetics. This is just to show to the West that child labor is not involved in the production of export oriented goods. We have done nothing to remove the horrific and reckless conditions that push children to child labor. Rather than working together to help build a better world, in which poor children have the possibility to live, to laugh, to play, to share, to care and to transform into responsible citizens, we may fatalistically accept a foreclosed future. Rather than building intergenerational partnerships, the well being of children today and of successive generations may be stolen or colonized through our lack of quality responses.

We can, we must, and we should stop the exploitation of children. In 1999, when the member states of the ILO unanimously voted to adopt Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, the world community made a commitment to stop the suffering of millions of children. It was recognized that ending the commercial exploitation of children must be one of humankind's top priorities. It was accepted as a cause that demands immediate attention and a high priority action. Caught in a nightmare that never seems to end, a significant part of Pakistan’s future endures the worst forms of child labor. More than just words and passing resolutions, child labor is a part of the reality of our world today. No one will say that children should suffer. No one will support that children should work 14 hours a day. But who will step forward to stop this? (

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Change, change

Why can't things just stay the same? I shouted angrily at the TV news anchor and threw a pillow at the screen and clicked it off with a snort. Suddenly a hissing noise arose from the corner of the room and a white, shimmering mist filled the air. I stood in shock as a tall, wrinkled old man emerged. He was my distant uncle, a grizzled fellow with a long flowing white beard and was saintly dressed from head to toe in white. His eyes twinkled with mischief as he flashed a gap-toothed grin. “Hi, I can take you to a place where people don't have to deal with change and things stay the same all the time.”

Before I could say a word, uncle asked me to simulate a graveyard and look at the polished gravestones stretched far out to the horizon. He said, “Here’s a place where things stay the same and people don't have to deal with change. Life is change,” the aged butch said with a chuckle as he leapt to the top of a headstone. “It's one of nature's mighty laws.” Eons ago, I had this conversation with this old chum.

After I started thinking about change I thought the single biggest change management failure of the 20th century was the old Soviet Union. With highly centralized planning, the politburo tried to tightly control the lives of an entire block of nations. There were to be few surprises and activities that weren't in the official plan. Bureaucratic organizations often try to do the same thing. So do many static, low growth individuals. We need to be on guard against our own rigid thinking and hardening of the attitudes.

The faster the world changes around us, the further behind we fall by just standing still. If the rate of external change exceeds our rate of internal growth, just as the day follows night, we will surely be changed. To the change-blind with stunted growth, it will happen suddenly and seemingly out of the blue.

Change forces choices. If we’re on the grow, we’re embracing many changes and finding the positive in them. It's all in where we chose to put our focus. Even change that hits us in the side of the head as a major crisis can be full of growth opportunities — if we choose to look for them.

We don't always get to choose the changes that come into our lives. But we do get to choose how to respond. Crisis can be a danger that weakens or destroys us. Or crisis can be a growth opportunity. The choice is ours. Which ever we chose — we're right about that crisis. We make it our reality.

Change is life. Successfully dealing with change means choosing to continuously grow and develop. Failing to grow is failing to live. Life is the sum result of all the choices we make, both consciously and unconsciously. If we can control the process of choosing, we can take control of all aspects of our life. We can find the freedom that comes from being in charge of ourselves.

Accepting responsibility for choices starts with understanding where our choices lie. There is a long list of things we can't control, but may have a major impact on us as individuals or as clusters. These include economic and political trends, technological changes, shifts in consumer preferences and market trends, as well as catastrophes wrought by human beings (war, terrorism and etc) and so-called Acts of God, such as earthquakes.

The best approach to dealing with things that cannot be changed is to accept them. When the doo-doo starts to pile deep, we ought not just sit there and complain; we ought to grab a shovel. We may not choose what happens to us, but we do choose how to respond – or not.

Choosing to make changes is hard. It's so much easier to blame everyone else for our problems and to use this as an excuse for doing nothing. We must not give away our power to choose. In his bestseller, The Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck writes, “Whenever we seek to avoid the responsibility for our own behavior, we do so by attempting to give that responsibility to some other individual or organization or entity. But this means we then give away our power to that entity, be it fate or society or the government or the corporation or our spouse. It is for this reason that Erich Fromm so aptly titled his study of Nazism and authoritarianism, Escape from Freedom. In attempting to avoid the pain of responsibility, millions and even billions daily attempt to escape from freedom.”

It takes real courage to accept full responsibility for our choices – especially for our attitude and outlook. This is the beginning and ultimately most difficult act of leadership.

We must engage ourselves into lively debates about those things over which we have the power to act. We can easily classify them as belonging to three categories: No Control; Direct Control; and Influence. It's rarely black and white. For example, we often underestimate the influence we might have in our functions – or in the world at large. Each time a man stands up for an idea, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

We're either part of the problem or part of the solution. There is no neutral ground. Strong folks make the choice to be part of the solution and get on with it – no matter how small their ripples of change may be. (

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Compulsive worship at the altar of consumption has brought humanity to the edge of an environmental abyss—depleting resources, spreading dangerous pollutants, undermining ecosystems, and threatening to unhinge the planet’s climate balance.

Endless economic growth driven by unbridled consumption has been elevated to the status of a modern philosophy. Contemporary economies are capable of producing huge quantities of goods at very low cost. This leads both producers and consumers to regard more and more products as little more than commodities that can be discarded relatively quickly rather than items that embody valuable energy and materials and that should be well maintained and designed for long life spans.

From the standpoint of global justice and equality, the solution cannot be a system of consumer apartheid that upholds western binge habits but denies the poor a decent standard of living. Instead, the rich need to curb their outsized material appetites.

To support the move toward a less consumptive economy, consumers and producers need to pay close attention to the full lifecycle of products. This means they need to concern themselves not just with the characteristics of the product itself, such as how much energy its use may require, but also with the materials and production methods used to manufacture the product and the kinds and types of wastes generated in the process. In addition, both consumers and producers need to consider how effectively goods actually deliver wanted services and comforts, how long products last, and what happens to them once they reach the end of their useful life.

A range of tools is at the disposal of governments, companies, and individual consumers to make progress toward the overall goal of a less consumptive economy. To make a difference, however, these efforts need to be scaled up considerably, and political and structural barriers to change must be struck down.

Most material flows in industrial economies—including waste materials from industry, carbon dioxide and other emissions, and soil loss from farmlands—serve no useful purpose whatsoever and never actually pass through the hands of any consumer. Dealing with these hidden flows will require downsimaterial, zing some of the most destructive activities, such as mining, smelting, and logging. Improving energy and materials efficiency, boosting recycling and reuse, and lengthening the lifetime of products can accomplish this, so that there is far less needs to extract virgin raw materials. But there is also ample space for reducing the environmental impact of the goods and services delivered to consumers—including through dematerialization, clean production, and zero-waste closed-loop systems.

It is much more likely that resource consumption will be minimized and the generation of wastes and emissions avoided if manufacturers factor environmental considerations in from the very beginning when they design products, develop production technologies, and select materials.

Around the world, a growing number of governments are adopting extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws that require companies to take back products at the end of their useful life. These typically ban the landfilling and incineration of most products, establish minimum reuse and recycling requirements, specify whether producers are to be individually or collectively responsible for returned products, and stipulate whether producers may charge a fee when they take back products.

The goal of EPR is to induce manufacturers to assess the full lifecycle impacts of their products. Ideally, they will then eliminate unnecessary parts, forgo unneeded packaging, and design products that can easily be disassembled, recycled, remanufactured, or reused. The EPR approach has spread beyond packaging to encompass a growing range of products and industries, including consumer electronics and electric appliances, office machinery, cars, tires, furniture, paper goods, batteries, and construction materials.

Durability, repairability, and upgradability are essential to lessen the environmental impact of consumption. For easy refurbishing and upgrading, a “modular” approach permits access to individual parts and components, which allows them to be replaced easily. By working to extend and deepen useful product life, companies can squeeze vastly better performance out of the resources embodied in products rather than selling the largest possible quantity. Although fewer goods will be produced, there will be greater opportunity and incentive for companies to maintain, repair, upgrade, recycle, reuse, and remanufacture products, and thus greater business and job potential throughout the life of a product.

Governments and communities can strike a better balance between private and public forms of consumption by expanding organized sharing of facilities and amenities. Government action is also indispensable in overcoming the immense structural impediments to lower consumption levels and to more public forms of consumption. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in transportation: low-density, sprawling settlement patterns translate into large distances separating homes, workplaces, schools, and stores—rendering public transit, biking, and walking difficult or impossible. Improved land use planning, environment-oriented norms and standards, and the creation of a reinvigorated public infrastructure that allows for greater social provision of certain goods and services will help ensure that consumers are not overly compelled to make consumption-intensive “choices.”

Another key area where government action is needed is consumer credit. The savings rate in most countries is falling, while household debt is on the rise. Credit card spending is also expanding rapidly among emerging middle-class consumers. Governments could help consumers by offering advantageous credit terms for certain efficient, high-quality, durable, and environment-friendly purchases. Governments can also design policies that offer tax rebates for the best-performing products, while taxing those that fall short of standards.

An important tool that governments can wield is procurement. By buying environmentally preferable products, government authorities can exert a powerful influence on how products are designed, how efficiently they function, how long they last, and whether they are handled responsibly at the end of their useful lives. Well-designed purchasing rules can drive technological innovation and help establish green markets.

Prominent among the measures governments can take are recalibrating tax and subsidy policies that encourage greater consumption, pursuing pro-environment procurement rules, and establishing appropriate product standards and labeling programs. (

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Business Principles

The development of the business principles is a first stage for developing and raising the standards of practice in countering bribery. The fair business principles provide a practical tool to which companies can look for a comprehensive reference to good practice to counter bribery. Business principles are becoming an essential tool in the future for businesses and the companies of today should encourage using them as a starting point for developing their own anti-bribery systems or as a benchmark.

I had heard and even observed how the Indian businesses add the extras to win export orders. For toting up luster to the evenings of the visiting business partners particularly from Gulf States, they fix up their visits to discotheques and nightspots. They also maintain luxury flats outfitted with floozy beauties for making the stay of the business guests a unique affair.

Unfortunately, such unethical practices have sneaked into our system via some (not all) Pakistani businesses. That’s what I personally experienced when once as member of a foreign business team visiting Pakistan and staying at a hotel in Karachi, a Pakistani knowing that a Pakistani was member of the importers group, tried unethical tricks to win business contracts. He called from the lobby and told about the undeserved and undesired gift he brought for me.

Years ago in a Lahore-Islamabad flight a passenger seated next to me told that he was visiting Islamabad about a tender business. He was confident that he would win the contract. When I asked about the source of his confidence he pointed to two girls seated in the rear and said, “Those butterflies (exquisite women) will make it happen.”

Most of Pakistan’s private sector contributes to election campaigns of this candidate or that. Interestingly sometimes some companies sponsor candidates of two opposing political parties. The idea is to get unjustifiable favors after the horse wins.

There can be endless list of such companies, which are ready to do anything to get business favors.

It is no mystery that a lapse in business ethics or even the appearance of one can significantly harm the reputation and business of a company. Once a company is suspected, accused, or found guilty of corporate wrongdoing, it often becomes subject to the scrutiny of governmental agencies, the corporate community and the general public.

Private sector organizations must now take account of increasingly stringent domestic and international regulatory frameworks. There is growing corporate awareness of the risks posed by bribery, particularly in the light of scandals, and the public is expecting greater accountability and probity from the corporate sector.

Emphasis needs to be laid on business principles for enterprises to prohibit bribery in any form whether direct or indirect. They should also commit to implementation of programs for countering bribery. These principles are based on a commitment to fundamental values of integrity, transparency and accountability. Firms should aim to create and maintain a trust-based and inclusive internal culture in which bribery is not tolerated.

Thus an enterprise’s anti-bribery efforts including values, policies, processes, training and guidance will become tools of future corporate governance and risk management strategies for countering bribery and unethical practices.

As part of civil society, at macro level, Federation of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Pakistan, should work out a framework reflecting size of the companies, business sectors, potential risks and locations of operations. This should, clearly and in reasonable detail, articulate values, policies and procedures for preventing bribery from occurring in all activities under their effective control.

Such programs should be consistent with all laws relevant to countering bribery in all the jurisdictions in which an enterprise operates, particularly laws that are directly relevant to specific business practices.

At micro level each enterprise should develop programs in consultation with its employees, trade unions or other employee representative bodies. It should ensure that it is informed of all matters material to the effective development of the program by communicating with relevant interested parties.

While developing its program for countering bribery, the companies should analyze which specific areas pose the greatest risks from bribery. The programs should address the most prevalent forms of bribery relevant to each firm but at a minimum should cover areas such as bribes, political contributions, facilitation payments, gifts, hospitality and expenses.

A company should prohibit the offer, gift, or acceptance of a bribe in any form, including kickbacks, on any portion of a contract payment, or the use of other routes or channels to provide improper benefits to customers, agents, contractors, suppliers or employees of any such party or government officials.

It should also prohibit an employee from arranging or accepting a bribe or kickback from customers, agents, contractors, suppliers, or employees of any such party or from government officials, for the employee’s benefit or that of the employee’s family, friends, associates or acquaintances.

The enterprise, its employees or agents should not make direct or indirect contributions to political parties, organizations or individuals engaged in politics, as a way of obtaining advantage in business transactions.

Each company should publicly disclose all its political contributions, charitable contributions and sponsorships. It should ensure that charitable contributions and sponsorships are not being used as a subterfuge for bribery.

The enterprise should prohibit the offer or receipt of gifts, hospitality or expenses whenever such arrangements could affect the outcome of business transactions and are not reasonable and bona fide expenditures.

The board of directors, CEOs and senior management should demonstrate visible and active commitment to the implementation of the business principles.

The business organizations should assert elimination of bribery; demonstrate their commitment to countering bribery; and make a positive contribution to improving business standards of integrity, transparency and accountability wherever they operate. Business principles are going to evolve reflection of changes in anti-bribery practice as well as the lessons learned from their use and application by business.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bureaucracy and Change

While new technologies, new paradigms of governance, and new management structures are being put forward the bureaucracy of Pakistan is driving into the future using only rear view mirror.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, change is everywhere. The reality of yesterday proves wrong today, and nobody really knows what will be the truth tomorrow. Social, political and economic change has come fast like a small boat dancing on the waves. People feel that they do not have any influence In the mainstream of this environmental milieu, people of Pakistan are detesting bureaucracy, from inside and outside: red tape, punctiliousness, delay, extra social overhead, unresponsive monopoly of authority; professional deficiency; and obsolete policy planning.

Below the politically appointed ministers is the civil service. Efforts to reform and modernize the traditional civil service were never made to improve the professional competencies of senior civil servants. The prevailing unanswered issues demonstrate that the training acquired by government officers at NIPA or Pakistan Administrative Staff College is ineffective, redundant and unproductive. Thus the need to reform has fallen behind its expansion in size and functions, making Pakistan an over-administered society. All governments pared back the state's control over the economy but failed to restrain the growth of the state bureaucracy and allowed its standards and efficiency to decline.

Our bureaucracy tries to fulfill government strategies, which had been formulated years ago, under totally different baseline conditions. Service quality is often not more than an empty phrase. The competence of our bureaucracy can be measured from the fact that it could not workout a policy for urbanization. Consequently, luckless consumers continue to be treated worse than one-time colonial rulers. Everyone has tales of dealing with bureaucrats who seem utterly unsympathetic to real problems and explain why the rules don’t allow a solution.

Our bureaucracy has utterly failed in using creativity in policy making. Thus, it could not generate new ideas for issues like unemployment, economic development and poverty alleviation. Management creativity is about using simple techniques to find innovative solutions to prevailing problems. And creativity, which is extraterrestrial skill to our bureaucracy, isn't just nice-to-have. In a fast change, furious public administration, it's a matter of survival.

Change happens. And while we can't control much of the world changing around us, we should know how to respond. We can choose to anticipate and embrace changes or resist them. Resisting change is like trying to push water upstream. Our bureaucracy is recognized as the one that resists change. It's much harder for bureaucracy to admit to its own change resistance.

Pakistan’s bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status. (Status Quo Ante Erat is, literally, state of things as it was before, meaning the present current, existing state of affairs. "Maintaining the Status quo" usually connotes to "keep things the way they presently are").

There are some problems with bureaucracies: red tape, duplication, and waste. Red tape is the existence of complex rules and procedures that must be followed to get something done. Duplication occurs when two government agencies seem to be doing the same thing, such as when the Customs Service and the Narcotics Control Board both attempt to intercept illegally smuggled drugs.

Our bureaucratic structure has failed owing to lack of management scientists, competent economists, and outstanding professionals. Brain drain is another reason. No institution has ever attempted to develop a national agglomeration of competent managers. All academic institutions are ineffective.

Today's bureaucracy continues without an object, multiple layers of unneeded staff, endless reports with little value, and gridlock. The basic managerial models and practices within government are behind those used today. The system itself facilitates entrenchment, mediocrity, decay and inertia. Given these assertions as premises it should be explored what can be learned and translated from the private sector's organizational structures and practices to cause a renaissance in bureaucracy. Organizational schema as well as leadership and managerial practices can be explored for their potential to contribute to bureaucracy.

The amount of information and data is doubling every few years. Even in poorer economies Intranet is being used for inter-department data transfer, files exchange, and information share, but our bureaucracy is far from the fundamental concepts of Management Information Service. In this situation of sheer chaos, suddenly computer network offers a new order. When the world has largely benefited from the fruits of computer use, a question might be asked: do our government managers know computer basics?

The bureaucracy of Pakistan should move away from rule governance to value-based management. Value-based management seeks to give employees more freedom when carrying out their job functions. In a time of radical change, increased public expectations and many new tasks, the bureaucratic structure needs to be able to provide a flexible service. Rules and procedures, which are far too rigid, can prevent the public obtaining a service that matches their needs and wishes. But if value-based management is to work, a common set of values is required.

The goal - or vision - for value-based management should be the set of values adopted by Pakistan’s civil bureaucracy. These values require that Islamabad, as the capital and influential center for South Asian Region, must act as the driving force behind human, cultural and economic development. It is imperative that our bureaucracy can provide services, which transforms it to a role model.

We need to inculcate professionalism, expertise, competence and systems to make our civil services, meet the realities of the 21st century. This is high time to part ways from poor governance, inertia, lack of knowledge that spawned a culture in which wasteful expenditures, leakages of resources and low efficiency are the norm. Sound policies cannot see the light of day until our institutional capacity is strengthened and reoriented. Change in the brass tacks of our bureaucracy provides a way into the future. (

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Globalization & the Poor

The urbanization of poverty is being propelled by a tremendous increase in the transnational movement of people and capital. The rapid transfer of money and jobs to cities and countries where cheap labor can be found has fueled by a race to the bottom. For the urban poor who are impacted by this race, there are no winners, and the losers will most likely find themselves among the projected two billion people who will be living in slums by 2030.

Hardest hit by globalization are women and children - the most vulnerable of urban dwellers. Poor women are becoming increasingly marginalized as the feminization of poverty manifests itself in many parts of the world.

The positive aspects of globalization, including greater longevity, increased literacy, lower infant mortality and wider access to infrastructure and social services, mask the unfortunate truth that these benefits are not being shared equally. The effects of globalization on cities – both positive and negative – need to be better understood if public policy is to be effective in bettering the lives of those who live in them.

Under globalization, manufacturing activities in cities have been relocated offshore to the developing economies whose lower labor costs, lower taxes and less rigorous environmental protection enable higher profits. The socio-economic consequences of globalization weaken access to basic infrastructure and housing, fuel the creation and expansion of slums, and reinforce the negative environmental and health impacts affecting the urban poor in many cities.

Demographic shifts, including transnational migration and poor integration of ethnic and racial groups, add impetus to these changes. So, too, does the ability (or not) of households and individual people to cope with rapid economic change. Those on the losing end of these changes can easily find themselves confronted with the loss of jobs, and the consequent sale of assets in order to survive, converting them into the new poor, leaving them even more insecure and vulnerable in the face of economic change.

The last two decades have witnessed a transformation of the global economy, which has led to vast economic, social and political realignments in many countries and cities. The trend towards open markets has enriched some countries and cities tremendously, while others have suffered greatly. World trade in this period has grown from about US$580 billion in 1980 to US$6.3 trillion in 2004—11-fold increase. Flows of capital, labor, technology and information have also increased tremendously.

Among the losers in this race are female workers, whose wage levels and working conditions have declined as a result of the dropping of barriers to footloose industries. This same dynamic is evident inside individual cities as well, leaving many people unable to obtain stable jobs and incomes. This leads to changes in patterns of social inclusion and exclusion across cities, often along racial and ethnic lines.

The distribution of the fruits of globalization reflects private-sector judgments about the expected financial returns to these investments, their security, and the economic and political environments in which they occur. Corporations have tended to concentrate direct investment in ten countries, including China, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and Thailand. In stark comparison, the poorest countries have seen no such investment.

The vacuum created by footloose industries is rarely filled by job opportunities for the poor. Rather, any new jobs tend to be in knowledge-intensive industries, many requiring university-level education.

The race also occurs within individual cities, resulting in job losses where large segments of the labor force have to shift from one sector to another. The urban poor are losing jobs and benefits and must now find other income-generating opportunities in the informal sector, which offer no security or benefits.

The loss of secure jobs with secure community roots fosters an informalization of the urban economy, with more people eking out a living in unregulated sectors. Several economic processes converge to informalize employment and other aspects of urban life. The closing of formal-sector enterprises often coincides with the downsizing of ancillary industries and services. As one industry declines – as with light engineering in Karachi - incomes in the city as a whole reduce. Former employees are no longer able to purchase services on the street; hence, street vendors also suffer. Simultaneously, if utility tariffs increase, other enterprises suffer and are forced to reduce their operations or close altogether.

Globalization has set cities against each other in a desperate competition for a share of highly mobile capital and trade. The needs and desires of global capital must be balanced with policies based on the needs of the region’s own inhabitants. Otherwise, any effort to alleviate urban poverty will expire, as meaningless gestures that provide little more than temporary relief – and the gap between rich and poor will continue to grow larger.

Jobs, consumption patterns and opportunities for social mobility are all easily influenced by external factors. This instability can be manifested in both national and local contexts through at least four important channels: patterns of investment, labor markets, prices and public expenditures. Moreover, they occur in different locations within the city, creating patchworks of decay, renewal, and economic revitalization. The challenge for national and local authorities is to identify which kinds of changes are occurring, or better still, which types of changes can be anticipated, in order to consider whether there are measures that can cushion or mitigate these impacts. To do that, changes must be anticipated and capital set aside to deal with them.

While government may feel its budget is severely constrained, it needs to apply discipline to save some of their resources for these future needs. This does not mean borrowing and thereby passing on debts to future generations. It means saving for the future. In reality, this saving is an insurance policy against future unknowns. Having such resources at hand allows decision-makers to face the future more confidently and to smooth out the impacts of volatile changes in the global economy at large. (

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Brain Drain

The future trends explain that the nanotechnology will elongate life spans and thus the West and the Japan is going to have enlarged older population and diminishing youth. To fill in the demographic gap those countries will hire skilled youth from Asia. This will intensify the stream of brain drain from Pakistan. This calls for use of strategic human management and economic reasons as key actions needed to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The term brain drain was popularized in the 1960s with the loss of skilled labor-power from a number of poor countries, notably India. Of particular concern was the emigration of those with scarce professional skills, like doctors, engineers and management scientists, who had been trained at considerable expense by means of taxpayers' subsidies to higher education.

UNESCO defines the brain drain as an odd form of scientific exchange among states because a movement in one direction that inevitably flows to developed countries characterizes it.

Pakistan is suffering from two main problems, one is poverty, which is increasing day by day and the other is increasing rate of crime. Both are result of unemployment. The wrong distribution of wealth due to wrong policies and over-population has made the situation even worst. This paved a way for skilled citizens to go abroad especially, the educated youth.

Other reasons include: they feel that they have a better future, a greater security; will be better off financially, and they feel that they and their children will get better education.

The receiving countries are the winners while the sending countries are the losers. The receiving countries include the US, England, Australia and West Germany. The sending countries include beside others, Pakistan. The rulers of Pakistan who remain indifferent to prevailing problems, and fail to respond to the employment problem creatively, contributes to brain drain.

Pakistanis who completed their studies in Europe and the US are not returning to Pakistan. Since one in three Pakistani professionals will like to live outside Pakistan, Pakistani universities are actually training one third of their graduates for export to the developed nations. We are thus operating one third of Pakistani universities to satisfy the manpower needs of Great Britain and the United States. Stated differently, the Pakistani education budget is nothing but a supplement to the American or British education budgets. In essence, Pakistan is giving developmental assistance to the wealthier western nations, which makes the rich nations richer and the poor nations poorer.

It is the best and brightest that can emigrate, leaving behind the weak and less imaginative. We cannot achieve long-term economic growth by exporting our human resource. In the new world order, people with knowledge drive economic growth. We talk a lot of poverty alleviation in Pakistan. But who is going to alleviate the poverty? Or the uncreative bureaucracy that created poverty? Hypothetically, the most talented should lead the people, create wealth and eradicate poverty and corruption.

In theory, overseas Pakistanis are morally obliged to return back home. In truth, it is unrealistic thinking that that a Pakistani professional will resign from his $60,000 a year job to accept a $3,000 a year job in Pakistan. A more meaningful question will be to ask: What measures can be taken to entice Pakistanis leaving abroad to return home and what can be done to discourage those professionals in Pakistan to remain in Pakistan?

The brain-drain seriously affects the quality and delivery of public and private services there are two obvious solutions (a) make it worthwhile for highly-trained professionals to stay and (b) replace them with competent locals at a rate as fast or faster than their departure brain train.

Another solution is to devise strategies of brain gain. These can take the development of a brain gain network. Pakistan is not effectively encouraging the use of its diaspora in contributing to development at home (e.g., 80 per cent of recent foreign investment in the People's Republic of China came from overseas Chinese). The brain gain network can help in the promotion of joint research and teaching posts, the use of medical specialists in periodic return visits, short-term training assignments and even systematic professional and research collaboration on electronic networks. These could be effective ways of harnessing the skills of some of the distinguished scientists, medics, artists and educators with Pakistani origins living abroad.

With good employers, attractive working conditions, improved telecommunications and the entrepreneurial climate in India today, young professionals are moving back and strengthening the economic sector. Then IT professionals in India are quite often paid in foreign currency at international rates to prevent brain drain and hence exports of Indian software industry is now in the range of $10 billion.

Pakistan’s bureaucracy, rigid hierarchies and frustrating professional fragmentation also pushed people away. Pakistan is a mess, a haze of over-regulated and overcomplicated bureaucracy smothering the rare flames of true entrepreneurial brilliance.

Lack of opportunities compelled me to leave Pakistan in early 80s. Since then I acquired not just high education from prestigious universities of Europe and America, my practice also earned global recognition with rain of medals and achievement awards. Now that I have voluntarily come back, rather timorous of my credentials, government officials are keeping me at bay. The President House vainly tried to get me Consulting jobs at two federal departments. It failed for I was undesirable most probably due to my high credentials. Government managers who have utterly unsuccessful in planning for even paltry matters such as payment of utility bills only creates road blocks for such Pakistanis who want to come back. Thus in a society comprising sycophants and greedy relatives, I am twiddling with no job in hand. Rhetoric aside, one question dominates my mind: does Pakistan have any repatriation policy for such Pakistanis who are globally recognized and who are capable of offering prescriptions for prevailing ills? (