Kazim Alam

The writer is a business reporter for The Express Tribune.

Bhutto’s economic policies were disastrous for Pakistan

In his article published in the May edition of Newsline, an independent monthly news magazine, economic journalist, Muhammad Ziauddin, says “a levelling phase” began in Pakistan with the advent of the Bhutto era, which forced the “22 families to flee the country with their loot.” He adds that the “phase of levelling inequality” was cut short quickly by General Zia and a new phase of cornering the wealth of the nation by a few hundred was launched. He and other left-of-centre writers like to glorify the Bhutto regime – why else would anyone call the six years of economic ruin and destruction “a levelling phase”? I recently spent some ...

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Poverty and population growth

Sceptics may call it statistical trickery, but economic data confirms that global poverty has indeed been falling for the last three decades. According to the Poverty Reduction and Equity report of the World Bank, which was updated in April, the percentage of people living in the developing world on less than $1.25 a day (in purchasing power parity terms) was 52.2 per cent back in 1981. The figure dropped to just 20.6% in 2010. In other words, 1.2 billion people were impoverished in 2010 in the developing world as opposed to 1.9 billion in 1981. However, far more people would have ...

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Investing in underdeveloped sector

Usual jokes about private equity resurfaced on social media as soon as the news of former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, joining Solamere Capital — a private equity firm his son set up in 2008 — emerged on March 6. Romney’s unsuccessful bid for the White House last year is attributed, in large part, to the Democrats’ ‘propaganda’ against private equity as well as Bain Capital, which the former presidential hopeful co-founded and led as CEO until 1999. So what is it that makes private equity professionals so bad in the eyes of American liberals? A simple answer would be that they ...

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Talking business

I once interviewed a brilliant young man, who started a business with a total investment of Rs800 and achieved the annual turnover of one million rupees in less than three years. He was in his early 20s and had a degree in business studies. But when I asked whether his business paid taxes and was a formally registered entity, he said he had so far managed to steer clear of all government offices. Their registration procedures are tedious, he told me, and he’d rather build his business than waste time standing in queues outside government offices. So what’s the exact number ...

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Capitalism: A blessing in disguise

The word ‘capitalism’ — or sarmaya darana nizam’ — has always had an unpleasant ring to it in Urdu language newspapers. That’s probably why one rarely finds a politician in Pakistan praising capitalism. Even our public intellectuals tend to carefully add qualifiers such as economic justice and social equity while calling for a free-market economy. However, shouldn’t the centrally planned economic system, rather than capitalism, stand discredited after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991? After all, capitalism has lifted millions of people out of poverty since its concluding triumph over socialism two decades ago. A cursory look at ...

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Takaful: Rules of Islamic insurance

With the recent launch of Takaful rules, 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission Pakistan (SECP) has allowed conventional insurance companies to roll out Takaful, or Islamic insurance, products through window operations. Irked by the SECP’s move, existing Takaful operators went to court and got a restraining order over the implementation of the new rules from the Sindh High Court on August 2. Takaful operators say, the decision to allow conventional insurance companies to launch Islamic products will “distort” the segment, as window operators will conduct the Takaful business “in a manner against the principles of Sharia”. Insurance is undervalued in Pakistan. ...

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US ties are not dispensable

Supporters of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council are bent on blocking Nato supplies. Rubbishing the possibility of any backlash from Western governments in the form of hostile trade policies and international isolation for Pakistan, they say the US is already a sunset superpower and that Pakistan should foster stronger trade ties with China and other emerging powers. According to critics, two fully-fledged wars in the last decade have shaken the economic foundations of the US. However, when the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were at their peak, its war-related expenses amounted to $125 billion a year, which is not even one ...

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The life of a business reporter

“Journalism is writing,” columnist Aakar Patel once told me, saying I should write more to justifiably be called a journalist. I was then a sub-editor on the Op-Ed desk of The News. After spending four years on that job, I knew I had become lazy, self-satisfied and highly opinionated – characteristics of a typical sub-editor. So I decided to become a business reporter after coming back from a one-year break that I took to do a Master’s degree in Journalism. If you think a business reporter’s job is a piece of cake, try having a direct conversation with a businessman. Ask him about his ...

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Food business: Branded versus unbranded

One of the most successful CEOs in Pakistan’s corporate history once remarked that promoting corporate farming brazenly in a country like ours was ‘criminal’ because it was likely to hurt the livelihood of people associated with agriculture, dairy and livestock sectors. Of course, his opinion matters and can’t be dismissed as the rant of a so-called leftie. However, I’m not sure if protecting the source of livelihood of a select few at the expense of the overall market efficiency should be a preferred alternative either. We’re all driven by self-interest, and my interest as a consumer who lives in an ...

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March 3, 2012

Bailing out Radio Pakistan

In his letter to the editor of The Express Tribune on February 28, Radio Pakistan Director General Murtaza Solangi defended the proposed tax of 2% on mobile phone users on every recharge to make public radio financially stable. If the additional tax was unacceptable, Solangi said, people should come up with counter-proposals for Radio Pakistan to stay afloat. Solangi says: “At the end of the day, the choice is either to have a public broadcaster — as the rest of the world does — or shut it down. If it needs to be retained, then people need to tell us how.” First ...

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