How land is so central to the economy of Pakistan (URDU)

June 20, 2017

In my book "looking Back" I had noted that land is the principle means of rent-seeking in Pakistan. It seems that land-grab has defined much in this country. 

Here Anjum and I discuss this important subject.

See what you think.


It is the constitution, stupid! (URDU)

June 15, 2017

The civil-military divide is a subject of continuous discussion. Democracy doesn’t seem to take root as politicians seek unaccountable power and fail to develop any respect for institutions. Debate in the media and our academia is limited to wishing for both the army and politicians to behave.

Few look at the constitution that is supposed to frame democracy. Pakistan’s constitution was hurriedly framed using the Government of India Act of 1935 with little regard for constitutional principles and local context. It seems that without amending this constitution to develop adequate checks and balances, better election system for improved representation, more detail on institutions and how they are run, as well as a well-defined local government system, democracy and good government will elude us.

Here we take this important subject up with Bakhtawar Soofi a young lawyer who writes in papers and has freshly studied this subject.

The constitution is too important a subject to be left to lawyers alone has been emphasized by several major economic thinkers. The constitution provides the backdrop to economic activity. And many economists such as Hayek, Buchanan and Mueller have written about it.

The constitution is a subject on which many disciplines should be brought to bear. So, we invite all of you to devote some attention to debating and researching the constitution.

The current debate that excludes the constitution is barren. We need to move towards understanding the constitutions and incentives it sets for politicians, institutions and the players in the economy. 


Policy and budgets (URDU)

June 12, 2017

We discuss policy and Budgets with Shahid Mahmood Head of research in Prime Institute.

He has worked in government and with donors and is actively engaged in research.  

His insights into the budget process and policy in Pakistan are worth listening to if you are interested in economic policy.

He asks

  • why should we have budgets if we don’t intend to follow them?
  • How do we do policy?
  • What is the role of the budget and policies undelying it. 

Please listen and enjoy.

His book recommendation at the end is excellent.

Please listen to Soch Bichar, debate it , cite it and spread it to your friends. 


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.