Policy & Development

Pakistan Debt Crisis of 1998: Fueled by Nuclear Power and Political Instability

Economics, Public Policy

On May 28, 1998, Amidst a turbulent domestic political environment and against the international community’s advice, Pakistan responded to five nuclear arm tests conducted by India with nuclear arms tests of its own – this exacerbated Pakistan’s already precarious situation and pushed it over the edge into crisis mode. As suggested in the Middle East Economic Digest, “Pakistan has put national pride ahead of economic prudence by testing its nuclear devices.”

International Aid, Economic Sovereignty, and the Washington Consensus


At yesterday’s OPEN DC event Shaukat Aziz (former PM and FM of Pakistan) answered an audience question by talking about how IMF funding causes nations to give up economic sovereignty – this was a great point, and a very timely one given today’s economic ‘crisis.’  Aid from international financial institutions comes with rules, and currently, those rules are largely based on the ‘Washington Consensus‘ guidelines for economic growth.  Unfortunately, as economist Dani Rodrik presented in his recent book (‘One Economics, Many Recipes’), these western-built guidelines for growth may be obsolete, and at best, can use a few edits.

Some nations have received so much aid from international financial institutions that their debts have had to be pardoned…more than $40 billion in foreign debt was totally written off in 2005 for 18 nations (14 of them African).  When countries are spending most of their money on repaying debts – and forgoing critical domestic improvements – they’re terminally screwed.  It’s called foreign ‘aid’ – loans granted to spur growth by organizations like the World Bank and African Development Bank – but aid turns into a burden as it instantly becomes debt.  This is where the head scratching starts… Continue reading …

China and the United States: Trading Places (communism, capitalism, policy)

Economics, Public Policy

Globalization.  It’s still the reason for much animosity towards the world’s eight ‘major industrialized democracies,’ also known as the G-8.  And while the U.S. has historically been one of the most criticized nations it is increasingly finding itself on the receiving end, as a great place to make fast and easy money.

The rules are changing as the US begins to Nationalize failing businesses and China Privatizes state-owned organizations.

China’s Newest Import to the US: Landlords
US Citizens face a slew of regulations and restrictions when it comes to purchasing property in China – good real estate in China is expensive and the value of the US dollar is relatively low.  On the contrary, it is substantially easier for foreigners to purchase property in the United States.  In fact, New York City and Washington D.C. topped the list of the best cities for real estate investment published in 2008 by the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate (AFIRE).

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Police Use Taser on Hispanic Homeowner and Female Relative, Four Electroshocks, Excessive Force, Caught on Video

Current Events, Public Policy

A joyful baptism celebration at a Hispanic household in Woodbridge, VA was abruptly interrupted by police who reportedly barged in requesting immigration documentation from the homeowner – the night ended with the tasing (shock with taser gun) of two adults and their subsequent arrest. Relatives of the man and woman that were arrested claim to have caught this all on video. The incident occurred on July 25, 2009.

This story is still very much in development, I heard it on the way to work this morning while listening to the local Spanish-language radio station, El Zol. Relatives of the man and woman who were arrested came on the morning radio show to tell their story. Continue reading …

Banning the Burqa: France’s President Sarkozy Sets the Stage

Current Events, Public Policy

Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, publicly stated (June 19) his disapproval of the burqa/niqab,  stating that it is not welcome in France and renders women “prisoners behind a screen.”  His statements have set the stage for a possible nationwide ban – this ban would obviously apply to everyone in France…but reasonably speaking, it only targets the Muslim population, which makes up between 5-10% of the total population (64 million). Continue reading …

Cuba's Reforms, Solidarity in Latin America, and Declining US Influence

Public Policy

Visit CubaRaul Castro has officially been president of Cuba since February 25, 2008, when his brother Fidel Castro stepped down from the post for good. Just before retiring from his presidential post Fidel ensured his nation that “this is not my farewell” – and even today there is no doubt that Fidel’s influence remains significant, if not compulsory. That said, Raul Castro is making a lot of changes to the the way Cuba operates – we’re witnessing a slow departure from communism and the simultaneous introduction of capitalism into Cuba’s economy – quite similar to the situation in China.

Domestic Reforms.
Some recent changes include the legalization of cell phone usage throughout Cuba, increasing the amount of state land available to private farmers, and the allowance of some citizens to seek title for their homes. Perhaps one of the most impressive moves was today’s announcement that Cuba is abandoning the egalitarian ‘same wage for all’ scheme – now all workers will be entitled to compensation based on skill and performance – an essential component of free market capitalism.
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What’s Killing Children? Diarrhea – Policy, Sanitation, and Handwashing

Global Development, Public Policy

Global Handwashing Day, October 15, 2008. A brilliant idea being implemented by the right organization, the United Nations. With diseases flourishing and spreading at a rampant pace throughout the developing world this initiative comes at a most critical moment.

In the U.S. and other ‘developed’ nations diarrhea is something we treat with over the counter (OTC) medications and very rarely seek medical attention – the problem just goes away and one returns to ‘regularity.’ Well, this is not the case in the third-world, where diarrhea is a real threat – it’s a fatal disease; in fact, it is the second most common cause of death for children under the age of five. Globally, about 2 million child deaths (children under five) occur every year. (UNICEF)
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DC Single Container Beer Ban, Even-handed or Unfair

Public Policy

Several wards in Washington DC have finally decided to pass legislation that bans local stores from selling single containers of beer. This means that residents will not be able to walk into their local shop and purchase a bottle of beer – instead they’ll have to buy a multi-pack. Community leaders that support this ban are hoping to see a decline in curb-side drinking and a huge litter reduction. It should be noted that retailers can appeal and gain exception to the legislation if they have a good enough reason.
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Pakistan, Motivation to Succeed, and US Intervention

Global Development

There is no doubt that the US has been earning itself a poor international reputation…and this most recent decade of bad PR has definitely helped to negate just about everything ‘good’ the US has sponsored throughout the world. For example, USAID is one of the main reasons behind the success of two of Pakistan’s most elite business schools, including the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). It is also the source of funding for efforts to improve maternal health and water quality – just two of the terrible ailments that keep the bulk of Pakistanis at the very bottom of the pyramid.
©Shahnawaz Zaidi @ Flickr. Workers sitting in front of a closed factory...
There are many potential reasons for the current dilapidated state of the nation, in fact, the left, right, conservative and liberal populations often have overlapping theories. Each political party selects facts that appreciate their respective agendas, whether it’s the sixty years of overwhelmingly out of touch rule, a consistently increasing percentage of poverty (currently at least 25%), or the shameful 50% adult literacy rate – all ideas seem to point to a consistently increasing divide between the upper class (ruling class) and lower class (majority).
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The Failed States Index for 2008 | Pakistan Rejoins the Top 10 & Impoverished African Nations Remain 'Failed'

Global Development

An interesting change in the Failed States Index (published by The Fund for Peace) is #9 Pakistan. Pakistan was at #13 in 2007, from a quick analysis of the index it is clear that a huge economic downturn is the main reason for Pakistan’s move to a premier position amongst the Top 10 failed states. There are no surprises in the top 10 for 2008 as they are the usual suspects…as a matter of fact the top 10 have remained pretty much the same since 2006…Haiti left the Top 10 in 2007 and Guinea got pushed out simply because of Pakistan’s horrible year.

Here’s the Top 10 (No surprises here!):

1. Somalia
2. Sudan
3. Zimbabwe
4. Chad
5. Iraq
6. D.R. Congo
7. Afghanistan
8. Cote d’Ivoire
9. Pakistan
10. Central African Republic

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