Development happens in cities (URDU)

June 9, 2017

Popular discourse holds that rural development is imperative for accelerating growth. USAID too seems to hold this belief and has put most of its billions that were dedicated for growth towards the development of agriculture. Yet the results of all this effort to develop agriculture have been disappointing.

Anjum and I assert that development is essentially a city phenomenon. And that the failure of Pakistan development strategy is the inability of the economics profession to understand cities and their role in development.

So listen and please increase your research and debate in this area.

In doing so do read the Framework of economic growth and some of our work on cities that you can find on the web.

Remember to cite what you read and listen. So cite Soch Bichar if you find it useful.


Pakistan and Austerity (URDU)

May 23, 2017

It is important to understand “austerity” which is a major controversial subject in Europe.

Our contention is that we have not understood how we are unthinkingly following a policy of “austerity.”

This “austerity” policy has relied on excessive and arbitrary taxation that falls more heavily on the poor, refused to rationalize expenditures and relied heavily on debt. This combination of policies has been kept in place to principally postpone reform and keep outmoded structures alive.

The combination of ‘austerity’ policy and postponement of structural reform has reduced productivity, growth and employment alive. 

Please listen and learn.  We need more research in austerity policy. Those interested should listen carefully and write papers on austerity. But please cite SOCH BIOCHAR.


Budget is coming (URDU)

May 19, 2017



Listen to this conversation with Wajid Rana--former Finance Secretary-- and learn about the budget.

Don’t waste time with those silly pre-budget seminars. Listen to the realities of the budget, fiscal policy and management from people who have been involved in the budget and will speak the truth.

Understand the budget during budget season


Should we revise your GDP upwards every 5 years (URDU)

May 10, 2017

Economists love to show off numbers and their favourite mantra "evidence based policy," where evidence is numbers no matter how they are made and what they mean. 

Do remember numbers without thought, theory and context are useless.

Recently FM Dar announced that based on advice from some government favoured economists GDP numbers will be revised upwards with the help of the World Bank. Why? Why would the World Bank do this? Would they fund the same economist who suggested it to do the needful? 

GDP numbers were revised upwards in 2006 and 2012. Should they be revised upwards every 5 years? Does this not show that there is a larger problem with statistics? If there is, should just a World Bank report prepared by a consultant do? 

Rebasing GDP has implications everywhere. What are they and what is likely to happen.  This is an important subject and we should discuss it widely. So, should the government before just handing out work to the World Bank. Perhaps the government should first do its own study through the FBS and discuss it locally.

Perhaps some of you should start taking this up for research and discussion.



Understanding our history (ENGLISH)

May 7, 2017

We speak to Ayesha Jalal, well known Pakistani Historian, Chaired Professor at the famous Fletcher School and the author of many books including "The Sole Spokesman".

We discuss the history of Pakistan the get a glimpse of Ayesha's path-breaking research. This allows us to understand how the politics and society of Pakistan developed. Ayesha gives us several new perspectives and raises several questions, thoughts and hypotheses that need further research and debate.  

She also recommends several ideas for research not just for historians but also economists and social scientists.

I am particularly looking forward to reading her book recommendations. 

Pleas listen and comment.


Governance and Development URDU)

April 29, 2017

Salman Shah, former Finance Minister, professor and TV personality speaks candidly of how policy is made and governance is broken in Pakistan. 

For those interested in Policy and economic thinking this show will be very interesting. 

For those preoccupied why Pakistan does mot progress here an insiders' views of how badly policy is made.  

For researchers, time to think about examining real live issues that are mentioned here beyond surveys and regressions. 

For donors, please listen to some of our best on Soch Bichar! This too is evidence. Perhaps better than that culled by a distant academic flush with funding and replicating RCTs and regressions without context and history. Only insiders like Salman and I who went into government can tell you how policy is made and implemented.  


Economic Bullshit (URDU)

April 9, 2017

Anjum was upset about the recent spate of very optimistic articles in Wall Street Journal and other mainstream media that talked about the next land of opportunity called Pakistan. He wrote a sharply critical piece in Dawn entitled "Economic Bullshit" talking about reality and such strange (possibly bought) journalism. Perhaps this is why President Trump talks of “fake media.”

Interestingly enough, while media is turning positive, the IMF and the ADB have issued a few warning statements talking about lack of reform and possible brewing challenges.

It is disturbing when analysts and so called experts appear whimsical and inconsistent in their projections, switching from making warnings to being cheerleaders frequently. It undermines confidence in policy, the role of experts and the economy. 

In this episode, we discuss this issue and how these analyses are made, their use of data and evidence.


Economics of the Trump phenomenon (URDU

April 5, 2017

Anjum is very concerned about the rise of Trump and what it means for the world. So, we took up this subject to discuss the new interplay of globalization and the re-emergence of nationalism.

 Interesting and thought provoking discussion if you want to learn about emerging economic issues. 


Soch BIchar Radio show every Thursday 4.30 PM Fourth episode Employment

April 5, 2017

Soch Bichar radio show has now been on air for 4 weeks.  

Here is an episode discussing the most important issue of 'employment'.

Many poor people told me that this disucssion touched them to the core.

Please listen and comment.  

The curious case of Reqo Diq (URDU)

March 30, 2017

Reqo DIq has appeared in the news yet again.  This project has been in process for the last 18 years at least. It has had several twists and turns with several renewals, contractors changing hands, and little government inquiry or information of the decision-making process. The media turns its attention to it only when some major news breaks. These is no investigative journalist who knows anything about this project.

The way our media is structured few anchors as well as writers are dedicated journalists so information on a complex subject as Reqo Diq is very hard to get.  In any case mining contracts are not easy to understand. Nor are mining companies saints. Their stories of pillage of underdeveloped countries are legend now with many movies reporting on them.

Recently, Pakistan government lost their battle against Barrick the mining company involved in Reqo Diq.  Damages to Pakistan will now follow.

Several anchors rushed to talk say Pakistan should award the mining company the lease on a huge mining tract without a fight. Their reporting was very inaccurate. Clearly, they knew little about the case. 

In this episode, we talk to Samar Mubarakmand who is our world-famous nuclear scientist. Samar was also a member of the Planning commission who dealt with Reqo DIq. He has followed the case, even appeared in arbitrations and the supreme court (where the mining company claim was rejected).

While Samar Mubarakmand role in the case has been controversial in the media, we must recognize his competence and his knowledge of Reqo Diq and listen to the facts laid out by him carefully. 

I would urge my media friends to listen to this episode carefully understand the facts and then make up their mind. Rejecting our own knowledgeable people is not a sign of a developing society.


Local government (ENGLISH)

March 24, 2017

Local governments are an important issue that Pakistan is struggling with.

Today we talk to Mayraj Fahim an international lawyer specializing in cities and local government practices around the world. 

We discuss local government experiences in history and around the world.

We also discuss local government issues in Pakistan.


University and Research Culture in US (URDU)

March 10, 2017

Ammar Malik is a recent PhD from GMU and Naveed Iftekhar after many years of working with Min Fin in Pakistan in now in a PhD program in University of Delaware.  

We had a great conversation on how students from countries like Pakistan should approach studying abroad especially in the US. 

They discussed

  • what it is they gained from their stay in US university.
  • How to get the best out of university in the US.
  • How to take advantage of what is offered here.

The important issue of university and research culture came up. Inevitably it led to a contrast with university culture in Pakistan and some discussion on how things could be improved. 

This is an important podcast for all in universities to listen to. 


Climate Change (URDU)

March 6, 2017

We take up this important subject with Adil Najam Who you have met before. Adil is the Dean of Pardee School in Boston University.  

Fascinating discussion. 

Adil framed the debate very well examining technical and economic issues. He also discussed why the dialog has turned antagonistic and political.

Yet the fact is climate change is real.

We discussed solutions to the problem most of which are at the global level.

However, all countries must however respond to the challenges presented by climate change. And those responses may not be simple but will require a lot of thought as well as research.

So, do listen and learn. Lots of ideas. 



Is the Census being done Right? (URDU)

March 1, 2017

Dr. Zahid Asghar of Quaid i Azam University talks to us about the Census. 

Why doesnt it happen on time?

Why is it necessary?

What is the coverage? 

Is all information being collected?

What are the definitional and statistical issues?  



Getting Policy Right- a proposal (ENGLISH)

February 27, 2017

Khalid Malik who you met when discussing Chinese growth is back with a proposal that could help develop policy ownership for equtiable development. 

Listen to it to understand how better policy can be made and owned in Pakistan. 

He draws on his extensive development experience to put develop ideas for development and then suggests an approach on how to adopt them.

An absoltuely 'must listen' to those itnerested in debate.



Social Entrepreneurship, Philanthropy and the Aman Foundation (English)

February 24, 2017

Foundations and social entrepreneurship are very important methods by which wealthy individuals give back to society. 

In Pakistan, there are several NGOs which are very vocal about social policy. However, most of these are funded by donors following mostly international agendas. 

In Pakistan, relatively few independent foundations have been set up. Just as most businesses are family-run, wealthy families prefer to run their social ventures (eg., hospitals, schools and universities) as family ventures.

Arif Naqvi has achieved an enviable position in the financial world. He has one of the largest Private Equity Fund in the Middle East with well over 10 billion under Fund Management. He is now among the wealthiest Pakistanis in the world.

But what is more admirable is that he and his wife Fayeza Naqvi have set up Aman Foundation in Karachi. This is an important first in Pakistan for 4 reasons

  1. They have put in $100 million of their personal money into the foundation which I think is the largest single donation made by any individual in Pakistan.
  2. They are also running it with professional management and not as a family venture.
  3. They are operating it as social entrepreneurship venture.
  4. They are trying to make it a platform for other foundations to join them. (Gates Foundation has already initiated work with them)

In this episode, we talk to the CEO, Malik Ahmed Jalal who has a an excellent financial markets background, including being a veteran of Goldman Sachs.  

While Jalal informs us of the conceptual foundations of the Aman foundation, its operations and achievements and its plans, what would probably be most interesting to the audience here is that they would like economists/social scientists to help them improve their working with research. 

So, listen to this and see if you are interested in researching how health and education can be delivered through social entrepreneurship. 



“Law and Economics” and Pakistan (English)

January 28, 2017



The importance of institutions to economic development and growth. What is needed now is far more research and debate on what sort of institutional reform is required to achieve Pakistan's desired growth acceleration and development.

This is an initial podcast in the subject of law and economics and the implications of this subject on the required institutional development.

Hopefully this will spark a new area of research.


Debt, Austerity and Taxes (English)

November 12, 2016

Every few days we have a conference on debt, taxes or stabilization.  Pakistan seems to be obsessed with stabilization and collecting more taxes even if it means killing growth.  And we have killed our growth and productivity potential through this discourse.

Sadly, this analysis has been inspired by donor funding which has diverted all of Pakistan intellect to thinking only revenues and poor quality fiscal adjustment a clear path to low growth and productivity. This is what is called austerity in the West. 

Research and debate in Pakistan is funded in this direction.  Very little research is done on growth and reform. Nor are there any conferences on that subject.  Pakistani intellect is incapable of challenging the austerity narrative of donors.

Here I argue for growth and against austerity and hope more of you will review this topic and discuss it.

Pakistan needs to change its strategy from giving excessive weight to stabilization through excessive taxation and poor choices in fiscal correction. Giving priority to growth will lead to wiser choices.

It is time that we started looking at avenues for enhancing our growth through reform. That is the only way of achieving a sustainable and quality stabilization. 



Pakistan’s Economic Narrative and Policy (ENGLISH)

November 6, 2016
“Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back” John Maynard Keynes.


Let us look at the prevailing economic narrative and see if we are following some 'academic scribbler of the past?"


What is the prevailing economic narrative of Pakistan?
Is it consistent with our needs?
Is it based on solid foundations of modern thought?
Why don't we have an honest debate on it?
Is this economic narrative leading to bad policy choices?
Is this the reason why progress eludes us?

Understanding Policy (ENGLISH)

November 6, 2016
I find that the term policy is loosely used in Pakistan. Economists and policy analysts need to understand what policy is?


How it is distinguished from programs and projects?
How it is made?
How implemented?


Here I take an initial stab at it. Hope to keep revisit this topic in the future.


Your thoughts comments and questions will be very helpful