Can Pakistani Diaspora Help in Pakistan's Development?

Nearly 5 million Pakistani emigrants make up the world's 7th largest disapora, according to the World Bank Factbook 2011. Adding the foreign-born children of these Pakistani emigres to the tally pushes the total figure up to about 7 million. The top five nations that the Pakistani diaspora calls home include the United Kingdom (1.2 million), The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (1.2 million), the United Arab Emirates (1.1 million), the United States (700,000) and Canada (300,000), according to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper.

The nations ranking ahead of Pakistan are Mexico at #1, India at #2, Russia at #3, China at #4, Ukraine at #5 and Bangladesh at #6. Both the UK and Pakistan are tied at #7 with 4.7 million emigres, according to the World Bank.

World's Top 10 Diasporas:

Here are the top 10 national diasporas:

1. Mexico 11.9 million

2. India 11.4 million

3. Russia 11.1 million

4. China 8.3 million

5. Ukraine 6.6 million

6. Bangladesh 5.4 million

7. Pakistan 4.7 million

7. United Kingdom 4.7 million

8. Philippines 4.3 million

8. Turkey 4.3 million

9. Egypt 3.7 million

9. Kazakhstan 3.7 million

10. Germany 3.5 million

10. Italy 3.5 million

Diaspora Remittances:

The World Bank's Migration and Remittances Factbook 2011 ranks Pakistan at #11 in 2010 for remittances of $9.4 billion sent home by its diaspora. The State Bank of Pakistan reported that overseas Pakistanis sent home $5.291 billion during six months from July to Dec, 2010, an increase of $761 million or 17 per cent year over year, according to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper.

India tops this list with remittances of $55 billion sent home in 2010, followed by China ($51 billion), Mexico ($22.6 billion), Philippines ($21.3 billion), France ($15.9 billion), Germany ($11.6 billion), Bangladesh ($11.1 billion), Belgium ($10.4 billion), Spain ($10.2 billion), Nigeria ($10 billion) and Pakistan ($9.4 billion).

Per Capita Remittances:

In terms of per capita remittances based the World Bank data, China leads the world with an average of $6,100 sent home by each member of the Chinese diaspora, followed by the Philippines ($4,953), India ($4,824), Bangladesh ($2055), Pakistan ($2000), Mexico ($1904), UK ($1,574), Ukraine ($803) and Russia ($504). These per capita figures are an indication of the wealth of each diaspora and the extent of the brain drain experienced by these nations.

Top Immigration Countries:

With 42.8 million immigrants, the United States is home to the world's largest immigrant population. India and Pakistan also have the distinction of being on the list with 5.4 million immigrants in India at #10 and Pakistan with 4.2 million immigrants at #13. Other nations on this list include Russia at #2 (12.3 million immigrants), Germany at #3 (10.8 million), Saudi Arabia at #4 (7.3 million), Canada at #5 (7.2 million), the UK at #6 (7 million), Spain at #7 (6.9 million), France at #8 (6.7 million) and Australia at #9 (5.5 million).

Examples of Diaspora's Role:

Diasporas of various nations are mutually beneficial to both the sending and the receiving countries. They send home the money to help their families and friends financially. And they often acquire advanced education and technical, professional and managerial skills and contribute to solving problems in their host nations in the West. And given the right political and policy context, the members of the diaspora can also help their countries of origin by using their deep knowledge of their home countries and by offering advanced skills, experience and knowledge acquired in more developed nations.

In terms of development help with the skills and capital of the diaspora for their home nations, there are three examples of fairly old and mature diasporas: China, India and Armenia. While China and India have benefited greatly from their diasporas, Armenia has lagged badly, according to a World Bank report titled "Work Globally, Develop Locally: Diaspora Networks as Springboards ....

Pakistani Diaspora's Role:

In Pakistan's case, growing remittances amounting to 5% of its gdp in 2010 from the nation's diaspora provided an important lifeline for the state of Pakistan in funding its large current account deficit and in helping the individuals and families receiving the funds to supplement their incomes.

Remittances are a source of income for households in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and other provinces in Pakistan, according to a 2010 World Bank report titled "Poverty fell in Pakistan in 2001-08 partly because of remittances". A recent Asian Development Bank study found that foreign remittances constituted 9.4 percent of household income in KP, compared to 5.1% for Punjab, 1.5% for Baluchistan, and 0.7% for Sindh.

Beyond the remittances, can Pakistan also benefit from its growing diaspora like India and China have from theirs? With millions of Pakistanis in Europe and America, many of them highly skilled entrepreneurs and business and technology professionals, Pakistani diaspora can be very helpful to their home country in its business, economic, social, political, educational and technological development. The realization of such great potential will only be possible if Pakistani government's public policy, public-private partnerships and state-to-state relations with the West create the necessary conditions for it to happen. Existing organizations of Pakistanis, such as OPEN Silicon Valley, APPNA, and PakAlumni Worldwide, can be helpful in such an endeavor.



Among the emerging diaspora networks, the effort of South African Network of Skills Abroad (SANSA), established by the University of Cape Town’s Science and Technology Policy Research Center, is worth watching. SANSA aims to promote collaboration between highly skilled expatriate scientists and technologists and their counterparts in South Africa. The target group is alumni of all major South African universities working in the West.

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Comment by Riaz Haq on March 25, 2013 at 9:23pm

Here's a Bloomberg report on remittances helping the poor and keeping Pak economy afloat:

Living in poverty in a mud shack in Pakistan, Mazhar Ali dropped out of school, sold the family’s two buffalo and bought a visa to work in Dubai. The money he sends home is paying for a new house.

“We’re going to build three rooms with bricks and cement, plus a courtyard and a washroom,” said his younger brother Azhar in Larkana, home town of the ruling People’s Party about 300 kilometers north of Karachi. “We will then start marrying one by one, starting with Mazhar sometime this year.”

The family’s change in fortunes reflects a rising trend of rich nations with aging workers tapping poorer ones for labor -- total remittances to developing economies will rise 7.9 percent this year, and reach $534 billion by 2015, the World Bank says. For Pakistan, the income offers a source of stability, with the country poised for its first civilian handover of government in May even amid power shortages, bombings and a Taliban insurgency.

“This is our savior for keeping Pakistan out of the oxygen tent,” Farooq Sattar, former Minister for Overseas Pakistanis said in an interview in Karachi last month before his party quit the government alliance. “It has kept us from a complete economic collapse.”

Almost 10 million Pakistanis work overseas and the sum they’ve sent home has doubled in the four years through June, to a record $13 billion.

The rising tide of funds from overseas contrasts with a struggle by President Asif Ali Zardari’s administration to raise enough revenue to fund programs that would boost domestic growth. Pakistan owes the IMF $7.5 billion by 2015 and is evaluating a possible further loan from the fund as a buffer against shocks, Saleem H. Mandviwalla said in December as Finance Minister.
Falling Rupee

The local currency has fallen on concern loan repayments will erode foreign-exchange reserves, which fell to $7.5 billion in January from $11.8 billion a year earlier, according to the central bank. The rupee traded yesterday at 98.35 per dollar, near a record low, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Pakistan was among the 15 lowest revenue-gathering nations in the world as a percentage of GDP, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s World Fact Book 2012. The South Asian nation recorded the highest budget deficit in two decades in the fiscal year through June as it missed its tax target.

The nation’s fiscal deficit may be 7.5 percent of gross domestic product this year, wider than the government’s target of 4.7 percent, the IMF said in January.

Among the biggest challenges for the government is the need to add almost 4,000 megawatts of power generation to end a shortage that’s causing blackouts for as long as 18 hours a day, idling factories and swelling unemployment. The government said energy shortages cut economic growth last year by as much as 4 percentage points.

Keeping Afloat

“Extreme poverty has not risen as much as it would have without remittances,” Rashid Amjad, a professor at the Lahore School of Economics said in an e-mail. “Most of the remittances are flowing into consumption, real estate, housing and the stock market, and have played a critical role in keeping Pakistan’s economy afloat.”

Pakistan will hold parliamentary elections on May 11, after the outgoing government, led by Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party, became the first democratically elected administration in 65 years of independence to complete its term.
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Remittances that fuel a thriving underground economy may rise further in the next few years as more Pakistanis seek employment overseas, said G.M. Arif, an economist at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics in Islamabad.

---

Some Pakistanis also use the system to avoid paying tax..
...

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-25/pakistan-s-army-of-oversea...

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 24, 2013 at 7:48am

Here's an Express Tribune report on Australia's first Pakistani female in a state legislature:

AUSTRALIA: A Pakistan-born migrant Mehreen Faruqi became the first Muslim woman to enter the Australian state parliament as she was selected by the New South Wales Greens to fill a position in the upper house of the state legislature, Voice of America (VOA) reported on Wednesday.

Faruqi was selected by a postal ballot of party members, from a field of seven in a contest in which only women could run.

She is all set to become part of Australia’s first and oldest parliament in New South Wales in July as the first female Muslim in any of Australia’s state, territory or federal parliaments.

While Muslim groups worry that Faruqi will face problem in merging the teachings of Islam and Greens policies, she believes that faith should have no bearing on Australian politics.

“I see no role that religion plays in government and nor should it. I am not a spokesperson, you know, for religious Islam. There are many other MPs who are Christians and likewise they are not spokespeople for the church,” she stated.

“And, like I said earlier, I joined the Greens because of a really strong position on sustainability, social justice, human rights [and] multiculturalism.”

“She would support things such as gay marriage and that is directly in conflict with the teachings of Islam. I do not know whether she is going to stick to that, how she is going to harmonize between the two,” Keysar Trad, the founder of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia said.

Faruqi studied environmental engineering after she migrated from Pakistan with her family in 1992 and is a professor at the Australian Graduate School of Management at the University of New South Wales.

As the ethnic diversity increases in Australia, analysts expect more participation from minorities in the political arena.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/539848/pakistan-born-first-muslim-femal...

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 12, 2013 at 2:04pm

Here's an excerpt from Dawn Op Ed on foreign remittances holding up reserves:

AT a time when the rupee is under constant pressure because of rapidly falling foreign exchange reserves, the increase in the amount of money sent home by overseas Pakistanis is good news. Remittances have grown 9pc in the first quarter of the present fiscal to $3.9bn — equal to the liquid reserves of the central bank. Although foreign currency earnings of overseas Pakistanis have been feeding the country’s reserves and propping up the rupee for some time now, the importance of remittances has increased recently as exports stagnate and foreign official and private flows dry up. Even an IMF loan has failed to shore up the reserves or revive public confidence in the rupee. In recent days, the latter was hit hard by a weakening exchange rate and capital flight. Most people like to park their savings in dollars rather than in rupees as indicated by the rising volume of foreign currency accounts of commercial banks to $5.17bn — an amount that is substantially higher than that of the official liquid reserves.

http://dawn.com/news/1049075/relying-on-remittances-reserves-situation

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 16, 2014 at 7:58am

The fifth edition of the ICC World T20 which commenced in Dhaka on Sunday, features at least 36 Pakistan born players playing for various teams including Pakistan.

The Green Shirts’ 15 member squad led by Muhammad Hafeez will launch their campaign on March 21st when they take on arch-rivals India.

The remaining 21 Pakistan born players are representing six teams.

Hong Kong has the most number of Pakistan born players, after Pakistan’s squad. Gujrat born Tanvir Afzal and Munir Dar, Babar Hayyat and Ehsan Nawaz of Attock, Haseeb Amjad and Waqas Barkat of Rawalpindi along with Irfan Ahmed, Nadeem Ahmed and Nizakat Khan – all will be representing Hong Kong in ICC World T20 2014.

The United Arab Emirates has seven Pakistan born players in their squad and they’re Khurram Khan, Amjad Ali, Faizan Asif, Rohan Mustafa, Shaiman Anwar, Sharif Asadullah & Kamran Shahzad.

South Africa, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and the Netherlands have one Pakistan born player each in their squads.

Pakistan born Imran Tahir will be representing South Africa, Mudassar Bukhari will be playing for the Netherlands, Sikandar Raza is selected in Zimbabwe’s squad while Gulbadin Naib will be wearing Afghanistan’s jersey in the event.
http://www.thenews.com.pk/article-141316-Thirty-Six-Pakistan-born-p...

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 11, 2015 at 4:01pm

Economist Magazine: In Britain, Bangladeshis have overtaken Pakistanis. Credit the poor job market when they arrived and the magical effect of London
-----------

In many people’s minds, and often in official statistics, the 447,201 people who called themselves Bangladeshi in the 2011 census and the 1,124,511 who identified themselves as Pakistani are lumped together. And the two groups have much in common. Mass immigration for both began in the 1950s. Both are largely working-class and Muslim. Both tend to vote Labour (see Bagehot). Both are concentrated in one business—restaurants in the case of Bangladeshis, taxi-driving among Pakistanis. But their fortunes are now diverging. And that says something about what it takes to succeed as an immigrant in Britain.

Even during the half-term holiday, the library in Morpeth School in Tower Hamlets is busy with mostly Bangladeshi children. Around three-quarters of the school’s pupils are so poor that they qualify for free school meals. A similar share do not speak English as their first language. And yet, last year, 70% got five good GCSEs, the exams taken at 16—much higher than the national average.

Pakistani pupils do not fare too badly in school either, considering how poorly educated and badly off their parents tend to be. But Bangladeshis overtook them more than a decade ago and have pulled farther ahead since then (see chart 1). Some 61% of Bangladeshis got five good GCSEs in 2014 compared with 51% of Pakistanis and 56% of British whites.

That will help their job prospects. Both Bangladeshis and Pakistanis have low employment rates because so many women do not work. But among the young, Bangladeshis are more likely to be studying or in work. And Yaojun Li, a sociologist at the University of Manchester, calculates that Bangladeshis’ average monthly household income, though still low, is now slightly higher than that of Pakistanis.

Bangladeshis born in Britain are also more likely than their Pakistani counterparts to socialise with people of a different ethnicity, according to another study (see chart 2). Both still overwhelmingly wed within their own ethnic group. But among young men, for whom marrying out is easier, 26% of Bangladeshis now do so compared with 17% of Pakistani youths.

The explanations lie partly in the past. Pakistanis—many of them from the rural Mirpur Valley in Kashmir—began to settle thickly in Britain in the 1960s. They often took jobs in the textile mills of the north and the foundries of the West Midlands.

Most Bangladeshis came later. Many men arrived in the 1970s as refugees, but the peak of migration was in the early 1980s, when the women and children turned up. They thus arrived when British industry was on the ropes—which was oddly lucky, suggests Shamit Saggar of Essex University. Though many were working in the rag trade, they had not committed themselves to one doomed industry. Pakistanis had: they suffered greatly from the collapse of British textile-making.

http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21644155-britain-bangladeshis...

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 7, 2015 at 8:09pm

#Pakistan food in #Vienna. All You Can Eat,Pay As You Wish Restaurant Draws crowds in #Austria 

http://www.dawn.com/news/1180531/this-pakistani-restaurant-in-vienn... … 

As immigrant communities grow in cities around the world, Pakistani, Indian, Chinese, Arabian and other exotic cuisines have found their way into the hearts of a diverse range of people.

In Austria, one set of restaurant owners has introduced yet another dimension to the dining experience — the concept of a 'suggested donation' at an eatery.

'Der Weiner Deewan' in Vienna is a Pakistani restaurant based on a pay-as-you-wish concept: diners pay according to what they thought the food, quality and experience of their meal was worth.

Der Weiner Deewan from the street. — Sebastian Schoofs
Der Weiner Deewan from the street. — Sebastian Schoofs

We contacted Afzaal and Natalie Deewan to find out if you can base a restaurant on good karma.

Dawn.com: As the owners, tell us about yourselves.

Natalie Deewan: Afzaal Deewan, a cricket-player, cook and businessman from Mandi Bahauddin, Pakistan, landed in Vienna, Austria, in 2004 as an asylum seeker. There he met me, Natalie, a student in Languages and Philosophy, and we decided to join forces. Deewan would cook and I handled the rest. One year of intensive research later, we opened the Der Wiener Deewan, which translates to the Viennese divan, with the tagline 'Pakistani Food, Essen für alle' (Food for Everybody). It was the first Pakistani curry buffet-restaurant in town.

Dawn.com: How did the idea for pay-as-you-like come about for the restaurant?

Natalie: We wanted it to be a very accessible place, where the two of us, a student and an asylum seeker, as we were at that time, could have been our own guests. The idea of pay as you wish emerged at the very end: it sounded simple, but radical – and funny! People should be invited to choose their own price, according to their satisfaction, the amount they have eaten and their financial means. Deewan was confident people would like his food, so hopefully, they would pay accordingly. We decided to give it a try and see how far we would get.

Dawn.com: How do you manage to make money or break even when you just trust people to pay as much as they want?

Natalie: We give trust and it comes back! We can trust in people’s capacity to think for themselves: if they did not pay at least a fair price and we therefore had to close, where would they find such a good meal for such a cheap price then? We have lots of regular customers who eat several times a week, some even daily, at our restaurant. They want to come again and in order to find the shop open and food ready, they simply have to pay a fair price. It looks like the majority of our guests want us to keep going.

Dawn.com: Is there a minimum amount to be paid per diner, as is the case with most all-you-can-eat buffets?

Natalie: Before leaving, our guests come to the counter and are invited to choose a price that fits. It should be fair and sometimes our take-away boxes (which have fixed prices, ranging from 5 to 10 Euros) serve as orientation. Since we don’t have fixed prices for the buffet, you are not forced to eat all you can to justify an already set price. You can also eat only a small plate or only dessert and then pay a small amount. We just chose to combine two known concepts, all-you-can-eat and pay-as-you-wish.

A view of the restaurant's interior. — Sebastian Schoofs
A view of the restaurant's interior. — Sebastian Schoofs
Comment by Riaz Haq on July 13, 2015 at 6:54pm

#Pakistan gets remittances of $18.4b from diaspora in 2014-15, yearly increase 16.5% 

http://tribune.com.pk/story/920286/pakistan-pockets-remittances-amo...

KARACHI: Overseas Pakistanis sent remittances amounting to $18.4 billion in 2014-15, which translates into a year-on-year increase of 16.5%, according to data released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Monday.

Remittances amounted to $15.8 billion in the preceding fiscal year. Pakistanis based in foreign countries sent home $1.8 billion in June, which is 9.5% higher than the remittances received in the preceding month of May.

Country-wise breakdown

Inflows from Saudi Arabia were the largest source of remittances in 2014-15. They amounted to over $5.6 billion in July-June, up 19% from the preceding 12 months.

Remittances received in July-June from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) increased 35.3% to $4.2 billion on a year-on-year basis. Inflows from the UAE registered the largest increase from any major remittance-sending country during 2014-15, SBP data shows.

Remittances from the United States and the United Kingdom remained $2.6 billion and $2.3 billion, respectively, in July-June. The year-on-year increase in remittances from the US and the UK has been 4.8% and 4.9%, respectively.

Remittances from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, excluding Saudi Arabia and the UAE, clocked up at $2.1 billion in July-June, which is 15.6% higher than the remittances received from these countries in the preceding fiscal year. Remittances from Kuwait in 2014-15 equalled $748.1 million while those from Oman, Bahrain and Qatar amounted to $666.8 million, $389 million and $347.5 million, respectively.

This means the overall share of the oil-rich GCC countries in Pakistan is almost 65%. Many analysts fear remittances from these countries may dwindle going forward as their governments begin to scale back infrastructure spending in the wake of a sharp fall in global oil prices.

Oil and Pakistan

Any major fallout of the oil price slump on the remittance inflows will be detrimental for the Pakistani economy. Absent remittances, a perennial balance of payment crisis would be inescapable, as they cover up usually around 90% of the country’s trade deficit.

“The good news is that despite the oil slump, the GCC is still spending on infrastructure … there are no short-term concerns for remittances inflows into Pakistan from this region,” the SBP said in its second quarterly report.

Saying that the GCC governments’ spending plans have not been affected by declining oil prices due to the large sovereign funds, the SBP noted the status quo may not continue “much longer”.

“A continuous depletion of these reserves would eventually start biting into their fiscal spending if oil prices fail to recover. The pace of Pakistan’s remittance growth cannot remain immune to the oil slump indefinitely,” the SBP said.

Remittances received from Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Japan and ‘other countries’ during June amounted to $110.53 million, up 7.7% from the remittances received from these countries in the same month of 2013-14. The monthly average of remittances during 2014-15 remained $1.5 billion, up from the monthly average of remittances amounting to $1.3 billion received in July-June of 2013-14.

Remittances in the first six months of the current fiscal year increased regardless of the strong wave of political instability that began in August with sit-ins by opposition parties and fizzled out after the attack on Army Public School in December. Overseas Pakistanis sent remittances amounting to $8.98 billion in the first half of 2014-15, showing a year-on-year increase of 15.26%. Remittances had grown 13.7% in 2013-14, which means the year-on-year increase of 16.5% in 2014-15 was notably higher than preceding year.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 8, 2016 at 10:04am

British #Pakistani Sadiq Khan (Labour) widens lead in polls ahead of #MayoralElection2016 in #London election 

http://www.itv.com/news/london/2016-01-07/labours-sadiq-khan-on-cou...

Labour's Sadiq Khan is on course to be the next Mayor of London, according to a new opinion poll.

Khan has widened the gap with his Tory rival Zac Goldsmith since a similar survey in November.

The YouGov poll for radio station LBC puts Khan seven points in front of Goldsmith.

Ukip's candidate is ahead of both the Liberal Democrats and Greens.

Khan's lead extends to a massive 10% if other candidates are eliminated.

A Labour victory in the contest to replace Boris Johnson in May could help secure Jeremy Corbyn's position as party leader.
Khan, the MP for Tooting, polled 31% to Goldsmith's 24%
Ukip candidate Peter Whittle is on 4%
Green's Sian Berry in fourth place on 3%
Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon and former Respect MP George Galloway both polling 2%
The survey asked Londoners how they would vote if the election was tomorrow.

But polling day is four months away and a third of voters (32%) are still undecided, suggesting the election is still wide open.

Labour has moved ahead in the finest to replace Boris Johnson as the next Mayor of London.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 14, 2016 at 7:22pm

#India's 15.6m diaspora is world's largest: UN. #Pakistan's diaspora 6th at 5.9m #Bangladesh's 7.2m 5th largest 

https://shar.es/16Ske3 



United Nations, January 14
India’s diaspora population is the largest in the world with 16 million people from India living outside their country in 2015, according to a latest UN survey on international migrant trends.
The survey conducted by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) said the number of international migrants — persons living in a country other than where they were born — reached 244 million in 2015 for the world as a whole, a 41 per cent increase compared to 2000.
The 2015 Revision, nearly two thirds of international migrants live in Europe (76 million) or Asia (75 million), according to the Trends in International Migrant Stock.
“The rise in the number of international migrants reflects the increasing importance of international migration, which has become an integral part of our economies and societies,” said Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.
“Well-managed migration brings important benefits to countries of origin and destination, as well as to migrants and their families,” Hongbo added. India has the largest diaspora in the world, followed by Mexico and Russia. In 2015, 16 million people from India were living outside of their country, a growth from 6.7 million in 1990, the survey stated. Mexico’s diaspora population stood at 12 million. Other countries with large diasporas included Russia, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Ukraine.
Of the 20 countries with the largest number of international migrants living abroad, 11 were in Asia, six in Europe, and one each in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and Northern America, the survey said. This figure includes almost 20 million refugees.
The survey further said in 2015, two thirds of all international migrants were living in only 20 countries, starting with the US, which hosted 19 per cent of all migrants at 46.6 million, followed by Germany, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and the UAE. — PTI

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 21, 2016 at 12:42pm

Fair allocation algorithm developed by #Pakistan mathematician in #Australia hailed as "major breakthrough" http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/fair-allocation-algorithm... … via @smh


The field of game theory in which they work – fair allocation – has potential to develop computerised conflict-resolution algorithms, the researchers claim.

Haris Azizand Simon Mackenzie published their paper on the Cornell University Library archive site, arXiv.org in April.
Their solution has been described as a "major breakthrough" by Professor Steven Brams at New York University, who has worked on such problems for more than 20 years.

And it all comes down to cake.

Imagine a rowdy kid's birthday party and a cake to cut. Simple right? Nine children, cut nine equal slices.

"My piece didn't get any chocolate curls!" wails some over-entitled brat. It's not just size but the value you place on a slice that counts.

Cake is a metaphor for any kind of divisible good, be it time, property settlement, or computing resources.

And "envy-free"? By this, mathematicians mean no one prefers another person's share ahead of their own.

Solving this problem for two people is simple and is at least as old as the Bible, where Lot and Abraham divided the lands of Canaan (Genesis 13).

One person cuts the cake into what they perceive as two equal slices. The other person chooses their preferred piece and the cutter takes the other. Simple.

But add more people and it gets much trickier.

In the 1960s, John Selfridge and John Conway independently developed a solution for envy-free cake cutting for three people.

By this Selfridge-Conway protocol, if the envy-free allocation is not solved by an initial three-way division, then it takes just three more cuts to solve the problem. You can read about it here.

And there it sat for years. However, in 2015 Dr Aziz and Mr Mackenzie at CSIRO's Data61 and UNSW published a solution for envy-free allocation among four agents. That can take between three and 203 cuts of the cake.

Not to rest on their laurels, Dr Aziz and PhD student Mr Mackenzie have published an algorithm for any number of agents.

The paper is yet to be peer reviewed, however, Professor Brams told the Herald the "results look solid".

In an associated field Professor Brams has developed an "adjusted winner" system of division that he has applied to problems as diverse as Donald Trump's divorce to his former wife Ivana and the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt.

"There could even be applications in your part of the world," the NYU professor said. "It could be applied to the Spratlys Island dispute in the South China Sea."

Professor Brams said that while the Aziz-Mackenzie protocol is too complex for practical application, it is an important theoretical step forward.

Another researcher in this field is Ariel Procaccia at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He told the Herald: "I was convinced that a bounded, envy-free cake-cutting algorithm [did] not exist. So the breakthrough result of Aziz and Mackenzie is nothing short of amazing. It is a beautiful piece of mathematics."

Professor Procaccia hopes the research will inspire new solutions to solving fair-division problems in the real world.

Dr Aziz said: "We hope that our new algorithm opens the door for simpler and faster methods of allocation. One day, problems such as allocating access to a telescope among astronomers or the fair distribution of scarce water resources could be made very easy."

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