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Pakistan's Informal Sector Drives Consumer-Led Economic Boom

Car sales increased 14 percent in February from a year earlier. Cement sales are rising with growing housing demand for increasing population. Lucky Cement, Pakistan’s biggest publicly traded construction materials company, is expected to post record earnings this year. Rising farm prices of bumper crops are pumping hundreds of billions of rupees each year into Pakistan's rural economy.

Contrary to government statistics of a stagnant economy, packed shopping malls and waiting lines at restaurants tell a different story-- the story of growing discretionary incomes of Pakistani consumers today.

So where is the disconnect between these two opposite views of Pakistan's economy? Naween Mangi of Businessweek answers it in her piece "The Secret Strength of Pakistan's Economy". She attributes it to the fast growing informal sector of the nation's economy that evades government's radar, illustrating it with the story of a tire repair shop owner Muhammad Nasir. Nasir steals water and electricity from utility companies, receives cash from his customers in return for his services and issues no receipts, pays cash for his cable TV connection, and pays off corrupt police and utility officials and local politicians instead of paying utility bills and taxes.

Here's an excerpt from Mangi's Businessweek story:

"The rhythms of life in the underground economy remain largely undisturbed. After work, Nasir and his friends sometimes hire a rickshaw to head to the beach or to a religious festival. The driver, part of the flourishing local transport business, doesn’t turn on the meter because he doesn’t have one. On his way home, Nasir stops to buy cooking oil, wheat flour, and sugar at a small grocery store that isn’t officially there. Out of about 1 million shops, up to 400,000 are grocery stores, and most of them are not registered and don’t pay taxes, according to Rafiq Jadoon, president of the City Alliance of Markets Association. In the evening, Nasir unwinds in front of the television. He watches an Indian movie transmitted by a local cable operator to whom he pays a monthly fee—in cash."

The estimates of the size of Pakistan's underground economy vary from 30% to 50% of the official GDP of just over Rs. 18 trillion (US$200 billion). Businessweek's Mangi claims that the government is losing as much as Rs. 800 billion (US$9 billion) in taxes from the informal sector...nearly enough to wipe out Pakistan's current fiscal deficit.

In my view, there are two major problems that arise from the underground economy described by Mangi. First, the massive tax evasion fosters Pakistan's dependence on foreign aid which comes with strings attached and infringes of national sovereignty. Second, the widespread theft of electricity is largely responsible for the huge circular debt and the ongoing power shortages that affect all aspects of life and scare away investors. The sooner the government and the people realize the severe downsides of the underground economy, the better it will be for Pakistan.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Rural Consumption Boom in Pakistan

Pakistan's Tax Evasion Fosters Aid Dependence

Poll Finds Pakistanis Happier Than Neighbors

Pakistan's Rural Economy Booming

Pakistan Car Sales Up 61%

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

Land For Landless Women in Pakistan

Pakistan's Circular Debt and Load-shedding

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Tags: Consumers, Economy, Informal, Pakistan

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 12, 2012 at 9:34am

Here's a News report on 15% YoY growth in Pakistan auto sales:

Sales of automobiles in the first nine months (July-March) of the current fiscal year increased 15 percent to 128,576 units, compared to 111,852 units same period last year, according to the data released by the Pakistan Automotive Manufacturers Association (PAMA).

According to the data, in the third quarter (Jan.-March) of this year, automobile sales increased 7 percent to 46,632 units from 43,753 units in the correspondent quarter last year. When compared with the second quarter of this year, sales in the third quarter showed an impressive growth of 22 percent.

Pak Suzuki Motor Company (PSMC) continued to depict strong sales showing a growth of 32 percent in the July-March period to 81,360 units compared with 61,693 units in the same period last year. Analysts attribute strong growth to the yellow cab scheme announced by the Punjab government. In March 2012 alone, PSMC sales stood at 11,198 units, up 16 percent from same month last year and 12 percent from February 2012.

On the other hand, Indus Motor Company sales growth remained subdued during the period under review. The company sold a total of 38,858 units compared to 37,259 units in the same period last year, up by 4 percent. In the third quarter, the company sold 14,792 units against 14,851 units in the same period last year.

Samina Kanji, an analyst at BMA Research, a 15 percent year-on-year growth in auto sales is primarily due to the yellow cab scheme of the Punjab government. On the other hand, motorcycles and three wheelers sales increased on month-on-month basis and sales in March stood at 70,671 units as compared to 65,011 an increase of 5,660 units, the data showed. Total sales of farm tractors decline to 6,229 units as compared to previous month sales of 8,906 units. Sales of trucks and buses sales in March stood at 379 units as compared to 304 units in February 2012.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-3-102452-Auto-sales-show-15pc...

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 22, 2012 at 5:34pm

Here are excerpts of a Bloomberg piece by Indian journalist Pankaj Mishra on Pakistan's "unplanned revolution":

However, I also saw much in this recent visit that did not conform to the main Western narrative for South Asia -- one in which India is steadily rising and Pakistan rapidly collapsing.

Born of certain geopolitical needs and exigencies, this vision was always most useful to those who have built up India as an investment destination and a strategic counterweight to China, and who have sought to bribe and cajole Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment into the war on terrorism.

Seen through the narrow lens of the West’s security and economic interests, the great internal contradictions and tumult within these two large nation-states disappear. In the Western view, the credit-fueled consumerism among the Indian middle class appears a much bigger phenomenon than the extraordinary Maoist uprising in Central India.
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Traveling through Pakistan, I realized how much my own knowledge of the country -- its problems as well as prospects -- was partial, defective or simply useless. Certainly, truisms about the general state of crisis were not hard to corroborate. Criminal gangs shot rocket-propelled grenades at each other and the police in Karachi’s Lyari neighborhood. Shiite Hazaras were being assassinated in Balochistan every day. Street riots broke out in several places over severe power shortages -- indeed, the one sound that seemed to unite the country was the groan of diesel generators, helping the more affluent Pakistanis cope with early summer heat.
Gangsters with Kalashnikovs

In this eternally air-conditioned Pakistan, meanwhile, there exist fashion shows, rock bands, literary festivals, internationally prominent writers, Oscar-winning filmmakers and the bold anchors of a lively new electronic media. This is the glamorously liberal country upheld by English-speaking Pakistanis fretting about their national image in the West (some of them might have been gratified by the runaway success of Hello magazine’s first Pakistani edition last week).

But much less conspicuous and more significant, other signs of a society in rapid socioeconomic and political transition abounded. The elected parliament is about to complete its five- year term -- a rare event in Pakistan -- and its amendments to the constitution have taken away some if not all of the near- despotic prerogatives of the president’s office.

Political parties are scrambling to take advantage of the strengthening ethno-linguistic movements for provincial autonomy in Punjab and Sindh provinces. Young men and women, poor as well as upper middle class, have suddenly buoyed the anti-corruption campaign led by Imran Khan, an ex-cricketer turned politician.

After radically increasing the size of the consumerist middle class to 30 million, Pakistan’s formal economy, which grew only 2.4 percent in 2011, currently presents a dismal picture. But the informal sector of the economy, which spreads across rural and urban areas, is creating what the architect and social scientist Arif Hasan calls Pakistan’s “unplanned revolution.” Karachi, where a mall of Dubai-grossness recently erupted near the city’s main beach, now boasts “a first world economy and sociology, but with a third world wage and political structure.”

Even in Lyari, Karachi’s diseased old heart, where young gangsters with Kalashnikovs lurked in the alleys, billboards vended quick proficiency in information technology and the English language. Everywhere, in the Salt Range in northwestern Punjab as well as the long corridor between Lahore and Islamabad, were gated housing colonies, private colleges, fast- food restaurants and other markers of Pakistan’s breakneck suburbanization....

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-22/pakistan-s-unplanned-revol...

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 24, 2012 at 4:23pm

Here's a Daily Times report on Pakistani presentation at a World Bank forum in Washington:

Pakistanis continue to defy economic and security odds with unprecedented democratic reforms, economic recovery and vitality of civil society and march forward in key areas of development.

This was stated by top Pakistani officials at a World Bank forum, where international experts acknowledged that this wide-ranging resilience - which is ignored in the global media - is a major cause of hope and optimism for future of key South Asian nations, according to a message received here on Tuesday.

Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman, speaking at the panel discussion on ‘Pakistan: The Untold Story’ highlighted the fact that the Pakistanis are determinedly grappling with challenges as the people and their elected representatives strengthen democratic institutions, vital to development of the country. Ambassador Robin Rahpeh, US Coordinator for Non-Military Assistance to Pakistan, Nancy Birdsall, President of Washington think tank Center for Global Development, Mohsin Khan, a leading Pakistani economist at the International Monetary Fund and Professor Anatol Leieven, writer of Pakistan: A Hard Country, also spoke about Pakistan’s inspiring performance in various fields of endeavour and reforms that the country needs to step up its development. World Bank Vice President Isabell Guerrero moderated the discussion. The finance minister, who led a team of economic managers to the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-World Bank meetings, said he draws inspiration from the strong character of the founder Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and ordinary Pakistanis who face off daily pressures of life and continue to contribute to the development of their country. He said it would take Pakistan a combination of measures - including focus on human development, steps towards sustained high levels of exports and an appropriate mix between the roles of government and the private sector - would help Pakistan tide over difficulties and move forward as a stable economy.

“Underlying all this will be the role of institutions and most remarkable feature in Pakistan right now is the strengthening of the democratic and civil society institutions including the parliament, court, media, the State Bank of Pakistan, Securities Exchange Commission are free and working autonomously.”

He pointed out that overseas Pakistanis have great confidence in their country and are remitting unprecedented amounts back home.

Ms Rehman, spotlighting some of the Pakistani achievements that are not reported in the global media, told the gathering of experts that Pakistan offers a great deal of resilience and hope.

“A historic shift is taking place, institutions are being built in Pakistan, there is movement towards a democratic accountable structure of the government, among the untold stories in the last four-and-a-half-year is that for the first time Pakistan’s democracy is witnessing a peaceful transfer of power, we finished Senate elections recently and the parliament has been empowered.” Pakistan, she said, wishes to live not just as a responsible country but wants to see its people live as global citizens. Pakistan is renegotiating its social contract with its own people. She also cited enactment of a series of laws and constitutional amendments that empower the provinces, ensure protection of women’s rights. She said martyred prime minister Benazir Bhutto remains an inspiration for women’s rights.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\04\25\story_25-4-2012_pg5_9

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 24, 2012 at 5:06pm

Here are excerpts of a WSJ Op Ed by Pak finance minister Dr. Shaikh:

For more than a decade, Pakistan has partnered with the United States to combat the extremism and militancy that threatens the stability of our region and the world. This fight has taken an enormous human toll on our people, with over 37,000 civilians killed and more than 5,000 police and soldiers lost. In addition to the enormous human tragedy, this struggle has directly and negatively impacted our economy and the development of our nation.

We have witnessed the loss of more than $100 billion of foreign investment, a tightening of our financial markets, and a freeze on the progress of many social programs. But that trend has now dramatically reversed, and there is an emerging story of a new Pakistan strategically located at the crossroads of the world's most dynamic economies, ready to take its place as a critical emerging market.

We have a consumer base of more than 170 million, a young and educated work force, and a culture of entrepreneurship. The opportunity for our economy to grow is immense. People in the West may not be aware, but the positive change that is sweeping Pakistan as we speak has profound economic and political consequences for the future.
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...over the last four years, the Pakistani government has taken difficult but important steps to get our economy back on track. This year real growth in gross domestic product is likely to reach 4%, nearly double last year's rate. During the first nine months of fiscal year 2012, tax collections have surged by 24%, remittances from Pakistanis abroad by 21% (to $9.7 billion), and our exports by 5.5% over last year's base of $25 billion.

Inflation and consumer prices were down in March, easing pressure on small and medium-size companies. The Karachi Stock Exchange KSE100 Index now stands at 14,000, having been at 6,000 in 2008. Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves increased to $18 billion in 2011, the largest in history, and our financial obligations are declining. In 2015, Pakistan's annual repayment to the International Monetary Fund will be a quarter of its 2012 obligation.

Six months ago, Pakistan granted Most Favored Nation trading status to India, a paradigm-shifting policy change driven by the business sectors on both sides of the border. With its complete implementation and the concomitant reduction of India's nontariff barriers, this decision has the power to reconfigure the region's economic landscape and dramatically increase its stability. Today, bilateral trade between India and Pakistan stands at $2.7 billion per year. Business chambers in both countries predict that figure could quadruple to $10 billion by 2015.
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Investing in any emerging market has its challenges, but Pakistan is poised for growth. For the first time in our history, a democratically elected government will complete a full five-year term next year. Our judiciary is independent and upholding the rule of law. Our military is working with our civilian government to protect our borders and keep militancy and extremism in check. Our civil society is expanding, and our media are robust and uncensored.

Business contracts have been consistently honored and the return on investment for many investors has been enormous. And though the last decade has taken a toll on our economy and our infrastructure, our resilience is evident and turning the tide. We are building infrastructure and expanding our energy capacity, we are modernizing our agriculture sector, we are a leader in telephone access, our textile sector is one of the largest in the region, and our information-technology companies are some of the best in the world.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303592404577363903670...

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 27, 2012 at 9:05pm

Here's a News story on WB panel & Pak's resilient economy:

LAHORE: Pakistan’s economy is resilient and growing with some phenomenal growth in remittances and informal economy, but the people are reluctant to invest due to many reasons including energy crisis.

This was the crux of a panel discussion held under Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheilkh at World Bank headquarter a few days ago. International experts on Pakistan’s financial and social issues were present at the event.

According to the panellists Pakistan being the second largest country of the South Asian region a great potential to explore.

The World Bank Vice President for South Asia Isabel Guerrero posed two questions to the panel: What inspires you about Pakistan and what is the one shift needed to change the country for the better?

“The grace of the people of Pakistan amidst adversity inspires me,” Shaikh responded to the first question, and many of the other answers also cited Pakistan’s resilience in the face of multiple crises. Shaikh noted, “Countries that invested in their people, exported their products, and found the right balance between the public and private sector get ahead.”

Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development, said a “culture of philanthropy” has helped Pakistanis embrace displaced people and respond to these challenges. She said the country is similar in this regard to the United States, as well as in its tradition of religious moderation.

Mohsin Khan, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute cited the growth of the middle class - now 70 million out of Pakistan’s population of about 175 million - the informal economy, remittances from Pakistanis overseas, and the rural economy as encouraging factors.

“The most interesting factors are $75 billion consumer spending - almost 40 percent of the country’s GDP; a booming informal economy; and a 70 million strong middle class population out of 175 million total population are amazing numbers when we think about Pakistan as a poor country,” he remarked.

Mohisn said around 1.5 million motorcycles and half a million cars are registered each year in Pakistan. Toyota Camry has a price tag of around 35,000 dollars in the US, while in Pakistan it costs 100,000 dollars, “and you will see too many these sort of cars running on the roads, exposing the resilience of the (Pakistani) economy.”

He said that opinion about Pakistan going down the drain was wrong in a scenario when country was getting $12 billion annual remittances, $4 billion private transfers and $25 billion exports despite the fact that the industrial sector was producing at 50 percent of its capacity due to energy crisis. He said people were reluctant to pump in this money into the economy due to various reasons. Mohsin appreciated that Pakistan’s migrants had improved their skill level so they were getting higher wages than past so that remittances were growing.

Robin Raphel, senior advisor for Pakistan at the US Department of State said: “The war next door in Afghanistan, the 2005 quake, floods in 2010, recession - Pakistan has coped with all these things.”

Other speakers focused on the growing strength of Pakistan’s democracy, while noting the need for stronger political and governmental institutions.

“There is a historic and strategic shift happening in Pakistan,” Rehman said. “A choice has been made ... that we wish to live not just as a democratic country but as responsible global citizens.”

Anatol Lieven, a professor at King’s College in London, said the most pressing change Pakistan needed to make was to collect more taxes, and Shaikh said revenue collection has increased 25% this fiscal year.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-3-105322-World-Bank-panel-see...

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 23, 2012 at 9:40am

Here's a Washington Post piece on American fast food restaurant chains in Pakistan:

Anti-American sentiment may have reached historic highs in this country, but for many Pakistanis, the indignation does not extend to their bellies.

Just over the past few days, Islamabad inaugurated its first Hardee’s restaurant and its first American-style sports bar. In recent months, McDonald’s not only reopened its only restaurant in the capital but also added a home-delivery outlet. Those businesses join existing burger joints and other American fast-food restaurants such as Pizza Hut, KFC and Domino’s Pizza.
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After opening its first Pakistani restaurant in Lahore in 1998, McDonald’s now counts 21 outlets across the country. Hardee’s launched the first of its four restaurants in Pakistan a year and a half ago and plans to open a total of 25 within five years.

Nowhere is Pakistanis’ love of American fast food more apparent these days than at the newest Hardee’s. A few days after a much-hyped opening attended by U.S. Ambassador Cameron Munter and his wife, lines of customers still extended outside the doors. Nawaz Sadiq, manager for development and training at Hardee’s, said the outlet has served an average of 5,000 to 6,000 customers a day so far.

“The Pakistani market is very much brand-conscious,” Sadiq said. “Pakistani people are against America because of its policies, but at the same time, people want quality.”

Unlike in the United States, fast food here is among the more expensive eating-out options. At 390 Pakistani rupees, or about $4.50, a Big Mac is out of reach for most people. Consequently, many customers are part of Pakistan’s highly educated class and have spent time in the United States, or have at least more favorable opinions of the United States than most of their countrymen.
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But for Mohsin Masud, owner of the brand-new restaurant 3rd Base, security is not a major concern. Masud, who spent time in the United States and Canada, said he opened his sports bar because he couldn’t find good hamburgers in Islamabad. The restaurant, which has a Facebook page, also specializes in steaks and chicken wings. But one standard sports-bar item is conspicuously absent.

“The only thing missing is the beer,” Masud said, because it is impossible for Muslims in Pakistan to obtain an alcohol license.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia-pacific/american-fast-food...

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 16, 2012 at 4:05pm

Here's a Daily Times report on motorcycle industry in Pakistan:

Pakistan motorcycle industry sector is vibrant, flourishing and exemplary, as it achieved 95 percent localisation through latest technology transfer, billions of rupees investment and hundreds of thousands of skilled workers.

The sector progressed tremendously so far due to consistent policy of the government, while it gave protection to local investors to expand its businesses locally as well as globally.

The sector is apparently standing on its feet as it is not only able to meet the local demand but also capable of exporting various models to various countries, resulting in becoming a strong foreign exchange earning arm of the country.

Motorcycle production in Pakistan has increased in past 12 years. It has increased from a mere 100,000 units at the start of the century to around 2.0 million this fiscal. No other industrial sector has shown high and sustained growth during the past one decade. In fact Pakistan has emerged as global leader in production of 70cc motorcycles. He said that now even new 125cc bikes are also being exported.

However the proposed abrupt change in policy has badly shaken the confidence of investors and local manufacturers, following Board of Investment (BoI) ill-conceived initiatives to incentivise a Japanese bike maker to re-enter the Pakistani market at zero rate.

The plan to allow a new investor to import all motorcycle parts at zero duty will be negation of the previous policies and will encourage all original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to bypass vendors and parts made locally, a representative of OEM said. The U-turn of policies will be worrisome and against the interest of the country and future industrialisation, he added.

Pakistan needs foreign investment! However, the country should not be so desperate in attracting investment by catering to unit specific investment proposals so as to destroy its most vibrant sectors where existing domestic and foreign are already investing. Such a case is that of the motorcycle industry.

The projection of this bike maker as a new investor conveniently ignores the fact that the same brand was being produced and marketed for decades in Pakistan and was forced to wind up on failure to compete with either other brands especially the Chinese bikes. Industry experts are dismayed at the constant pursuance to grant special status to this OEM on its re-launch and even more so by insisting that a supposed, and highly misleading, $150 million investment figure will be made.

The local industry, based on the projection of increase in demand, has already embarked on capacity enhancement plans and by the end of current fiscal year will have invested around $100 million out of which a size able amount is already invested while plans for rest are already submitted.

The proposal given to the government reflects that the OEM’s investment is hardly a couple of million dollars in the initial years. The remainder is merely a commitment to reinvest the tax so saved in the form of exemptions granted, when all other motorcycle manufacturers have readily agreed to pay high duty on the import of parts that are not being produced in Pakistan.

Another surprising aspect in this regard is the government wants to allow the Japanese manufacturer to import parts from anywhere but most probably from China. The claim that the new investment would bring new technology is an eyewash as the existing players have all introduced latest Euro 2 engines into the market without any special incentive.

Current players are even willing to import hybrid and EFI based engine without special incentives.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\07\17\story_17-7-2012_pg5_12

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 24, 2012 at 10:17pm

Here's a report on Pakistani banks extending credit to agriculture sector:

Five large banks collectively disbursed agri. loans amounting to Rs 146.3 billion or 103.7% of their annual target (Rs 141 billion) in fiscal year 2011-12, higher by 4.3% as compared with Rs 140.3 billion disbursed during the preceding fiscal year (FY2010-11). National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), Habib Bank Limited (HBL), MCB Bank, Allied Bank Limited (ABL) and United Bank Limited (UBL) have surpassed their annual targets by achieving 106.0%, 103.5%, 103.3%, 102.8% and 100.7% disbursement respectively. Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) disbursed Rs 66.06 billion or 94.2% of its annual target of Rs 70.1 billion while Punjab Provincial Co-operative Bank Limited (PPCBL) by disbursing Rs 8.5 billion or 112.1% has surpassed its annual target (Rs 7.6 billion) during FY 2011-12.

Fourteen Domestic Private Banks as a group achieved 112.5% of their target (Rs 54.1 billion) by disbursing agri. loan of Rs 60.9 billion. The Bank of Khyber, Bank Al Habib, Faysal Bank, Soneri Bank, NIB Bank and Askari Bank have surpassed their annual agri. credit disbursement targets by achieving 174.6%, 147.6%,136.7%,132.4%,104.1% and 100.4 % disbursement respectively while other remaining banks could not meet their annual targets.

Five Microfinance Banks as a group disbursed agri. loans of Rs 12.1 billion or 99.3% of their annual target of Rs 12.2 billion during FY 2011-12. It may be pointed out here that the banks had been missing the agri. credit disbursement targets since 2008-09. Achievement of agri. credit disbursement target during the year ended June 2012 was extremely difficult in the backdrop of continuous declining trend in the overall Private Sector Credit and high agri. Non-performing Loans (NPLs) of major banks due to devastating floods of 2010 and heavy rains of 2011 in Sindh province. However, SBP adopted a multi-pronged strategy and made all out efforts in achieving the target of Rs 285 billion allocated by ACAC. The efforts of SBP officials not only helped banks in achieving their target but also surpassing it.

These efforts included swift settlement of crop loan insurance claims, close co-ordination with provincial revenue departments to facilitate the One Window Operation in agri. intensive districts for timely completion of revenue formalities, holding of farmers' awareness and financial literacy programs at grass root level, and follow up of targets with the top management of banks and their agri. Heads. The contribution by SBP BSC field offices in monitoring the regional targets was also greatly helpful.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN AGRICULTURE

Food is the first priority of the mankind which offers potentially enormous resources in agriculture to cater to the food requirement not only of the country but of the countries in the region. At the moment the oil rich Arab countries are confronted with food security problems and looking for investment in agriculture lands abroad.

On the other hand Pakistan's principal natural resources are arable land and water. The value of land cannot be over estimated that precious asset is available in Pakistan to turn the lot of the poor if properly organized, developed to optimize benefits of this natural gift. Foreign Investment in agriculture under certain parameters protecting national interest can turn around the rural economy in Pakistan

In Pakistan land About 25% of Pakistan's total land area is under cultivation and is watered by one of the largest irrigation systems in the world. Pakistan irrigates three times more acres than Russia. Agriculture accounts for about 21.2% of GDP and employs about 43% of the labor force. In Pakistan, the most agricultural province is Punjab and Sindh where wheat and cotton are the most grown. However rich lands with honey and milk are still awaiting for development both in Sindh, and Punjab.

http://www.equities.com/news/headline-story?dt=2012-07-24&val=3...

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 25, 2012 at 5:14pm

Here's a Dawn story on Pakistani retail boom:

Isn’t it great that we in Pakistan finally have a mall which houses international brands such as Next, Nine West, Splash, Monsoon, Accessorize among other names? The retail boom is in full swing no matter what the economists say. Proof: Mango’s launch which brought out top models, stylists as well as your everyday shoppers.

Though its doors have been open to the public since June, its media launch (managed by Catalyst P.R. aka Frieha Altaf) was just held recently. Okay, so coming back to the basics, I love LOVE loveeeee shopping BUT I am an even bigger lover of a good bargain. IMAGINE my disappointment when a pair of heels (hideous ones by the way) at Nine West were for Rs.13,000! I had convinced myself that Mango will fair no better. I was pleasantly surprised…to an extent.

The thing is that these brands are RETAIL brands, NOT designer brands, as some may think. The price points cannot be “unaffordable” as they have to appeal to the general public. Right? Where Mango had their summer clothes (which I loved!!!) there was winter wear as well! Hmm, isn’t it still summer and isn’t winter like MONTHS away? Winter in Karachi won’t be until end of November (if we are lucky), so what is the point of having SWEATERS smack in the start of one of the hottest summers we have had? What is that? Yes, that’s a puzzle even I couldn’t figure out! There were cute tops and accessories, bags and shoes, scarves, fun summer maxis and jeans – all the good stuff. What Nine West or Monsoon lack in affordability, Mango makes up for it. Comparatively, Mango is much more affordable than the rest of the retail counterparts which have come to town. Next, though was one of the first retail brands to open its doors in Karachi and Lahore, has the inventory which can easily be classified as, say it with me “ANCIENTT!!!” They should just pack up or change their management. Note to Management of Next, WAKE UP!!

Coming back to Mango, jeans were ranged between Rs.4,000 and under Rs.6,000 – Gold Star for Mango! The summer maxis however, were above 13,000! Five thumbs down! Over all, the accessories were relatively affordable as well as current. Noted fashion designer Sadaf Maletarre said and I quote “It’s great to have Mango in Pakistan.”

Top model Fayezah Asad Ansari said, “It is brilliant that Mango has opened up in Karachi, though for a retail brand I wish the clothes were more affordable.” This concern was also shared by stylist Beenish Pervez. “The clothes are fantastic, that being said they are not as affordable for everyone.”

I have to agree and disagree with my fellow fashionistas. It’s excellent for these brands to open their door here which is perfect for people who cannot travel abroad and shop. They finally have an avenue to have what people who travel abroad have had for years… however, people who travel do know what is in the stores in London, New York, Toronto, Dubai etc. and can quickly asses what is new and what was in stock last season. For them, it is pointless to shop here anyways.

http://dawn.com/2012/07/09/retail-boom-in-full-swing/

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 7, 2012 at 7:57am

Pizza Hut withdraws all-you-can-eat Ramadan deals in Pakistan, reports Telegraph:

Pizza Hut has withdrawn its all-you-can eat Ramadan offer in Pakistan prompting howls of fury from thousands of hungry Muslim families used to breaking their fast with plate after plate of deep pan or thin crust.

Instead the chain said it wants to reduce "gluttony" by limiting customers to a single regular pizza in its Ramadan Fiesta offer.

In previous years Pizza Hut restaurants would be packed for the evening meal of Iftar, as diners starving from a day of fasting would fill their bellies with pizza after pizza for as little as £7 – a figure industry analysts said was unsustainable.

Furious fast food fans have taken to social media to complain at the new, cheaper deal, which is still advertised as an "all-you-can" offer.

"Pathetic and a misleading deal. It's only one regular pizza with bottomless Pepsi, not all you can eat," said one post on Pizza Hut Pakistan's Facebook page.

Imran Khan, a student and regular customer at a branch in Karachi, said: "The place was always packed in the evening. For a lot of people it had become a Ramadan tradition so this change is very sad."

Marya Khan, of Pizza Hut Pakistan, said the offer was more in keeping with the spirit of the holy month of Ramadan.

"The former all-you-can-eat format served as an unrestrained invitation to gluttony and waste, colliding with the very spirit of Ramadan," she said.

"For those who do not consider Iftar deal as a means of just gorging after sunset, then the new Ramadan Fiesta offered by Pizza Hut is a well-balanced and valuable deal to enjoy finest pizza at a value price."

Pizza Hut in Pakistan was one of many fast food restaurants to have benefited from a move away from the traditional Iftar meal of spiced fruit salad, chickpeas and dates.

As an alternative, many people are turning to Chinese buffets or burger joints although pakoras – vegetable or chicken fritters - remain the most popular way to break the Ramadan fast, according to a recent survey by Gallup Pakistan.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/9458500/Piz...

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    Pakistani-American Dr. Asad Qamar of APPNA Among Highest Paid Doctors in America

    Dr. Asad Qamar, a graduate of Lahore's King Edwards Medical College, received $18.2 million in payments from US Medicare program in 2012, making him the second highest billing doctor in America. Dr. Qamar is a member of APPNA, Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent in North America. He was a candidate for the presidency of APPNA in… Continue

    Posted by Riaz Haq on April 11, 2014 at 10:37am

    Pakistan's Umar Saif in Silicon Valley

    Umar Saif was invited by Organization of Pakistani-American Entrepreneurs (OPEN) to an event yesterday at the Palo Alto offices of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pitman Law Firm  in Silicon Valley to talk about the state of technology in Pakistan. The event was appropriately titled: "Presenting Umar-The Force Behind Plan 09- Pakistan's Leading Incubator For… Continue

    Posted by Riaz Haq on April 8, 2014 at 10:30am — 1 Comment

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