Page 6 - Pakistan Link - March 10, 2017
P. 6

P6  –  PAKISTAN LINK  –  MARCH 10,  2017                                                                                              OPINION
                                         Pakistan Operating in Statistical Darkness


                      n By Shahid Javed Burki
                                                                                                            the size of the urban population, something that may not change even
                                                                                                            after the new census if the definition of what is implied by an urban
           n a series of articles beginning with the one today, I will dis-                                 area is not altered. Some of the obvious urban communities are being
           cuss the need for Pakistan to develop a strong statistical base to                               classified as rural. This is the case, for instance, of the communities on
        Iget better knowledge of the state of society and economy. The                                      the side of the Islamabad Highway, short of the road to the airport.
        world does not know Pakistan well. In fact, neither do the Paki-                                    Definitions need to be changed if they result in such obvious distor-
                    stanis, not even the policymakers who have the                                          tions.
                    responsibility to mind the country’s affairs.                                               Should we make a seri-ous effort to collect that information?
                        What we know about the state of the Pakistani                                       The answer to the question is an obvious yes. How should that be
                    economy is not based on reliable facts. High qual-                                      done? That question will need some analysis of the competence of the
                    ity statistics and information are needed for at least                                  institutions that are engaged in the important tasks of data gathering
                    three reasons. They are indispensable for the mak-                                      and analysis. It might be necessary to engage institutions such as the
                    ing of good public policy. They inform the private                                      World Bank that have the expertise in the area of development statis-
                    sector about the opportunities available in the econ-                                   tics and maintain a vast and accessible repository of what is available.
        omy and about the direction of economic change. Good information                                    How soon can this exercise be done? It will take a while before the
        and data will also help us to correctly place the economy in the global                             needed structure can be put in place but the work should begin im-
        system. The last has considerable importance in the age of globaliza-                               mediately. There are alternative assessment methods available which I
        tion. I am confident that once the size of the national income has been                             will discuss next week.
        correctly determined, it will turn out that Pakistan is one of the world’s
        20 largest economies. This should qualify it to gain a place in the G20,                               Eliminating Nuclear Weapons Globally
        from which it has been excluded.
            I should discuss the question of estimating the national income.                                                 n By Abeer Naz.
        The data on which national income estimates are made are collected,                                                      Karachi
        mostly from carefully designed surveys. This is not done in Pakistan
        to the extent needed. We have little idea about what goes on in several   people and earning more in exports than indicated by statistics. A sig-  oday, there are more than 16,000 nuclear weap-
        sectors of the economy. Agricultural output is based on the informa-  nificant amount of the money that is recorded as “remittances from   ons globally. These weapons of mass destruction
        tion provided by local officials who follow different methods of esti-  overseas Pakistanis” is in fact payment to small vendors who do as- Tthreaten our national security, pose a grave risk of
        mating crop yields. This means that the information coming in from                                  humanitarian disaster and siphon off billions in precious
        one area may not be comparable to that from the adjoining area.  Good information and data will also help us to   economic resources.
            We have a vague idea that the livestock sector has become an   correctly place the economy in the global system.   We must not continue to pour more and more taxpayer
        important part of the rural economy. But we need to know more.   The last has considerable importance in the age   money into these catastrophes-waiting-to-happen. Instead,
        How large is the livestock sector and how many people it employs.   of globalization. I am confident that once the   we should work urgently to eliminate the risks -- and the only
        We know that millions of women work in the sector, several of them                                  reliable, verifiable way to do that is to stop the spread of nu-
        as entrepreneurs. How large is their role and could their productivity   size of the national income has been correctly   clear weapons, secure all nuclear materials, and eliminate all
        be improved, are important questions for the making of good public   determined, it will turn out that Pakistan is one   nuclear weapons: “global zero.”
        policy. There is an impression that the commercialization of the live-  of the world’s 20 largest economies. This should   What we need now is for nuclear weapons countries to
        stock sector may have had a negative effect on the state of nutrition   qualify it to gain a place in the G20, from which it   come together and begin discussing real, time-bound, action-
        in the countryside. As more milk gets picked up by the processors,   has been excluded              able plans to eliminate all nuclear weapons globally. It won’t
        children in the countryside are getting a lesser amount. This may be                                happen overnight, but we can get the process started and be-
        contributing to the stunting of the population.   signments for family members and friends living and working abroad.   gin building a safer, saner world for this generation and all
            We don’t know as much as we should about value added by some   A significant number of them are women working from home.  generations to come. We must not wait for the inevitable di-
        of the modern services such as IT. My impression is that the IT in-  The forthcoming population census should provide us with vital   saster, which could see a major city wiped off the map, before
        dustry is contributing more to the national economy, employing more   demographic data. Just to take one example: We are underestimating   we act.


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