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Showing posts from January, 2012

India's Debt Up, Forex Reserves Down

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India’s total external public debt has risen to $326 billion while foreign exchange reserves have dropped to $293 billion, according to the RBI data reported by the Indian Express newspaper.

The Reserve Bank of India is concerned over the increasing shift from equity to debt to fill India's widening current account gap. The latest available data indicates that foreign debt inflows in January so far have amounted to $3.21 billion versus $1.7 billion through equity inflows.

Recent $1.1 billion bail-out of Reliance Communications by state-owned Chinese banks is the clearest indication yet that the situation is also becoming dire in India's private sector with its mounting foreign debt.

This is not the first instance of Chinese banks coming to the aid of an Indian company. Last November, Sasan Power, the project company for the Sasan ultra mega power plant and a subsidiary of RComm affiliate Reliance Power, completed a $2.2 billion refinancing, including a $1.114 billion 13-year tr…

High Environmental Pollution in India and Pakistan

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With a score of just 3.73 out of 100, India ranks as the worst country for the ill effects of toxic air pollution on human health among 132 nations, according to a report presented at the World Economic Forum 2012. India's neighbors also score poorly for toxic air pollution, but still significantly better than India. For example China scores 19.7, followed by Pakistan (18.76), Nepal (18.01) and Bangladesh (13.66).



In the overall rankings based on 22 policy indicators, India finds itself ranked at 125 among the bottom ten environmental laggards such as Yemen, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Iraq while Pakistan ranks slightly better at 120. The indicators used for this ranking are in ten major policy categories including air and water pollution, climate change, boidiversity, and forest management.

These rankings are part of a joint Yale-Columbia study to index the nations of the world in terms of their overall environmental performance. The Yale Center for Environmental L…

Arfa Karim's Inspirational Legacy as Youngest Software Pro

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Arfa Karim Randhawa passed away at the tender age of just 16. Inna Lillah Wa Inna Elaih Rajeon!

Born in 1995, she achieved celebrity status after becoming the world's youngest computer expert at the age of 9, passing a tough series of Microsoft tests designed for software professionals. Her success brought her an invitation to Microsoft headquarters in Seattle, where she met its chairman, Bill Gates, and discussed her idea for a self-navigating car in 2005.



She spent the last month of her short life in a Lahore hospital after reportedly suffering an epileptic seizure and cardiac arrest. Two weeks ago her prognosis appeared to improve. In recent weeks, Microsoft stepped in to help provide expert medical care.

Todd Bishop, a Seattle-based newspaper reporter covering her Redmond visit, wrote about her as follows: "She made an impression through a combination of charm, flattery and boldness uncommon for someone her age. For example, during Arfa’s meeting with Gates, she presented h…

Pakistan Leads the World in Low Cost Texting

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Pakistan's 152 billion text messages and Rs. 40 billion in texting revenue in 2009-10 put it among the top-ranking nations for sms traffic, says a report produced by Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA).



The main driver for growth of texting in Pakistan has been its low cost compared with voice calls, a key reason for many users, including illiterate phone users, to be attracted to using text messages to communicate, according to a study done by Alex Gilchrist and Jim Linton Williams of the UK-based Popular Policy Engagement Lab. They start by asking literate relatives and friends to read text messages to them, and sometimes ask them to type messages for them as well. Gradually, they also learn to read and type text messages themselves.



Education:

A recent Brookings Institution paper titled A New Face of Education: Bringing Technology into the Classroom in the Developing World compared the effective use of cell phone text messaging in Pakistani schools with the failure of O…

Pakistan Ranks High on Philanthropy

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"Righteousness is not that ye turn your faces towards the east or the west, but righteousness is, one who believes in God, and the last day, and the angels, and the Book, and the prophets, and who gives wealth for His love to kindred, and orphans, and the poor, and the son of the road, beggars, and those in captivity; and who is steadfast in prayers, and gives alms." Quran 2:177
More Pakistanis gave to charities and the country saw the "largest jump in the rankings globally of 108 places, moving from 142nd to 34th in 2011", according to World Giving Index 2011. The report compiled by Charities Aid Foundation points out that "the floods did not lead to Pakistan's twenty-six percentage point rise in its World Giving Index score" because the survey was conducted before the 2010 floods.

World Giving Index Rankings in South Asia



The United States is ranked as the most generous in the world for charitable giving. Sri Lanka, ranking 8th in the world, leads ph…

IBL to Raise Quality of Education in Pakistan

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Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand.

Improving quality of education is just as important as broadening access to it for Pakistan to reap full demographic dividend of its young population. Inquiry-based learning is an important pillar of the efforts undertaken by Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) and The Citizens Foundation (TCF) to improve quality of education.



Inquiry-based learning is a method developed during the discovery learning movement of the 1960s. It came in response to a perceived failure of more traditional rote learning. Inquiry-based learning is a form of active learning, where progress is assessed by how well students develop experimental, analytical and critical thinking skills rather than how many facts they have memorized.

Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) has initiated “La Main a La Pate” – an Inquiry-Based Learning program in Pakistan with the support of the French government. First launched in France in 1996, the program is ai…

Solar Power in Pakistani Homes, Schools and Factories

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“I use the solar light for cooking at night. We save money because we had to buy candles and kerosene before. We also use it to charge our mobile phones.” Marvi, Yousaf Babar Village in Sindh, Pakistan

About 250 schools and 12,000 homes in Pakistani villages have so far been lit by solar lights. The program is funded by the UK's Department for International Development (DfID) to help flood-affected people in rural Sindh and Punjab.

Plan International Pakistan and the Punjab education department have rebuilt 400 schools destroyed by floods, and implemented solar panels in 250 schools that did not have electricity. In addition to the solar panel installation, the DfID funded project also provided water and sanitation, school furniture, school paper, schoolbags and uniforms, sports equipment and health education for 54,000 primary school children.

The solar lights cost about $15 each and give sustainable, free light for up to 10 hours after each charge, and can last for up to five yea…

World Class Education at Karachi Business School

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Cambridge University's Judge Business School and Karachi Education Initiative are launching Karachi School for Business & Leadership (KSBL) in 2012.

Karachi Education Initiative, which is providing the initial core funding for KSBL, is a non-profit group of leading industrialists and businessmen of Karachi. The group has committed to raising a permanent endowment fund to support the education of deserving students at KSBL, as well as for the provision of resources, facilities and buildings required to create a world-class institution.



The school is headed by Dean Robert Wheeler III who has served at the Pennsylvania State University, University of Texas at Austin and Georgetown University in key positions like assistant dean and director of MBA program. Spread over three acres, the main campus of KSBL is now under construction on Stadium Road in Karachi. The construction phase will be over in July 2012 and the first group of students will be admitted in September. Initially, KS…

Resilient Pakistan's Year 2011 in Review

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“You tend to hear the worst 5% of the Pakistan story 95% of the time.” Pakistani Entrepreneur Monis Rahman

Most of the reviews of Pakistan's Year 2011 fit the above description of how Pakistan's story is told by foreign and domestic media engaged in the 24X7 news cycle.

So let me get the worst 5% of the story out of the way before telling you the rest of the 95% of it.

The Worst 5% of Pakistan's Story in 2011:

Pakistan added to the list of multiple serious crises of energy, economy, education, security and the worst ever governance by adding one more--a civilian-military conflict created by the hubris, incompetence and corruption of the ruling Peoples' Party leadership. This ongoing crisis now threatens to discredit and derail democracy yet again with the rapidly declining popularity of the Zardari-Gilani government and growing favorability ratings of the Pakistani military and its leadership.

Now the Rest of the Pakistan Story in 2011:

Politics:

1. The current PPP-led coal…