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  • tahminashafique 5:19 pm on September 4, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    The success of this 6th Summit lies on the various stakeholders and supporters. But this has been only possible due to the hard work of the young and dynamic team of IPS Sri Lanka and the volunteers. They truly made this summit a success. Kudos to you all!

  • tahminashafique 3:41 pm on September 4, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    “Man is a great land animal and he has made a big mess of it. In the sea the situation is not great but certainly we have not managed to mess it up as much yet. So at sea, the situation, I would say is better.”- Raja Menon, Securing the Indian Ocean. In 60-minutes.

  • tahminashafique 3:30 pm on September 4, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Fix politics, if you really want to fix economics. Let not just talk about economics in an isolated manner. Lets link it up with politics. Unless we do that, there is nothing to achieve. Call the next summit “an integration” or “engagement” summit and bring the political agenda on this table! A great statement by S.D Munin. “In 60-minutes”

  • tahminashafique 3:23 pm on September 4, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    “Policy is a process, and it is not handed down to us. It is formulated and it includes think tanks, civil societies and they need to come up with ideas. Forward looking ideas. There is no point in complaining about governments all the time!” Nadeem Ul Haque


  • tahminashafique 2:56 pm on September 4, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , innovation, SME   

    Googled out! 

    I must say, it is truly fascinating this afternoon as we see Ann Lavin, Director, Google, Asia Pacific speak about their work and ties it with innovation and entrepreneurship. We all know google, through our gmails, through google search, through our smart phones and in every little way possible in our lives. But, what does google really do? How is it connected to economics? How does it play a role in entrepreneurship which characterizes South Asia.

    Google’s business model is a fascinating one, they make all their money not from the services they provide chiefly, but majority of their income comes from advertisements. Their advertising programs, which range from simple text ads to rich media ads, help businesses find customers, and help publishers make money off of their content. They also have interesting cloud computing tools for businesses that save money and help organizations be more productive.

    In terms igniting entrepreneurship and innovations, bringing forth business solutions, google provides a variety of tools to help businesses of all kinds succeed on and off the web. These programs form the backbone of google’s own business even though we are clearly not very aware of this; they’ve also enabled entrepreneurs and publishers around the world to grow theirs.

    Within South Asia, google has done some interesting SME solutions work in India. Well, time to get connected, time to be innovative since there is no alternative to this for making it out there. Maybe a start would to start “googling” and find out about google and SME work!

  • tahminashafique 2:16 pm on September 4, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , SME development   

    SMEs- Let get Smarter, shall we? 

    Professor Rehman Sobhan asked a thought provoking question this afternoon- we have been talking about SME development and the problems facing SMEs for decades now. “What was being discussed 55 years ago, is still a point of discussion,” he said.

    It is true, the number of studies and projects under the banner of “Barriers of SME development” are countless. And we can all gather to discuss about registration issues, operational issues, access to finance, quality of labour, skills development, investments and more. There is no end to this discourse. But, perhaps it is time to address this issues in smarter ways.

    What can we do in smarter ways? Perhaps, not come up with a long list of mega plans and pick out arena which cannot be achieved against the backdrop of our business environments. Perhaps a start could be structuring processes, initiating business advisory services, initiating processes of linking micro level businesses. What are we really good at?

    If our governments are not going to be working on a mega implementation of our national SME strategies, industrial policies, can we perhaps begin to advocate for smaller outcomes such as setting up business advisory services- initiating a process of instilling basic business ideas in micro levels such as accounting, planning, marketing. Food for thought.

  • tahminashafique 10:51 am on September 4, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: civil society, , , private sector development   

    The Engine of our Growth 

    Guest Post by Tahmina Shafique, WB-SAES Youth Delegate from Bangladesh

    In South Asia, private sector remains to be the engine of growth. The dynamism, entrepreneurship and contribution that private sector has shown, at the backdrop of a complex governance structure, is nothing short of a heroic story. Private sector has battled in a field which is characterized by numerous regulatory, governance and technical challenges.

    The region is stifled by red tape, badly governed and certainly lacks a business enabling environment. So this private sector has battled through these very odds and really come out. If we look at real contributions, be it in terms of our GDP, employment, production levels- it is evident that their contribution has been significant.

    But, the story of private sector is also a complex one. The complexity lies in the fact that private sector is characterized by stark dualism. Approximately, 90% of the workers remain to be in the informal sector. So, a large portion of what we call the private sector in the region is really the informal sector and this includes the micro enterprises, which are not within the remit of our analysis often. So, while we speak about private sector development, and plans for improvements, it is important to address the issue of bringing this large informal sector under the fold of the analysis and bringing them in the forefront. Unless this large informal segment is addressed, growth may not necessarily sustain.

    While it true that the private sector remains to be the engine of growth, increasingly there is also an immense need to ensure that they are productive, and more importantly, the concept of responsible business is instilled within their operations. It is really time for this private sector to embed business ethics within its operations and embrace the concept of responsible business- this obviously is not an easy feat and must be pushed forward by key stakeholders such as the associations and civil society.

    As we speak about need for policies, it is fully agreed that the more urgent issue is the appropriate implementation of key policies such as competition policy, industrial policies and others which are already in place. One of the interesting areas that also came through in discussions of this session was the need for appropriate investment promotion strategy that can actually attract investments within the region. The region does not seem to have a body or a strategy to ensure this- will better cooperation and integration in the coming year push this idea to the forefront? It was also reiterated that the region needs to open up to the global value chain, which in a way, some countries have done so in some sense.
    But it is also important to note that the region also needs to be able to compete within an enabling and competitive domestic market before moving to the global competitive world.

    It is for time to tell how reforms will finally take place and how strategies will be brought forward for better regional private sector integration. The task ahead of us is immense, and perhaps each party the civil society, the governments and the private sector itself, must own their roles in the true sense and bring forward the transformation that is really required.

  • tahminashafique 7:00 pm on September 3, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Gender disparity   

    Still a man’s world! 

    Guest Post by Tahmina Shafique, WB-SAES Youth Delegate from Bangladesh

    A session to address gender disparities in the economic context held this afternoon, had approximately 70% women participation and the very few men! Well, there we go with disparity!

    One does not need to go into details of the massive levels of gender disparity that exists in South Asia. It is prominent in every sphere of our lives. Despite representing about 50% of the total population in each country in the region, and having achieved much progress, we have not been able to break that boundary. Participation of women in all levels have been significantly slow and a battle that we continue to fight.

    So, as we continue to speak about growth, inclusive growth, we must bring about the issue of gender disparities. One may argue that this is of course a given. But, in the context of South Asia, given the backdrop of a traditional social structure that deems women secondary, such an economic summit must bring the issue of gender disparity on the forefront. How does South Asia as a region achieve that higher growth without gender parity?

    This afternoon’s parallel session on “Mind the Gap” questioned exactly this. Numerous studies revealed during this session, stated that massive levels of inequality exist and need urgent attention. Inequality exists in the household decision making process, labour force participation, education, and more. Participation in parliaments and politics remains to be significantly low. Turns out gender inequality index remains to be low even in a country such as Sri Lanka, which battled to be out there in terms of gender parity from the 70s. Despite the improvements in education levels, it seems that the demand for jobs remains to be low to cater to the growing number of woman. The types of jobs and legislation are still written from a man’s perspectives.

    If we take the case of Bangladesh, private sector is a thriving sector. It has been, by and large the driver and engine for economic growth. If we look at the thriving sector RMG, approximately 80% of the workers are women. But, wait a minute, all of these women are employed at the lowest levels. Move to the supervisory or managerial roles, their participation is insignificant.

    Our development agenda and goals do focus on gender parity and gender mainstreaming. But one thing that we have been unable to move away from this obsession with representing women as the recipient of growth, a “trickle down” effect of growth, or being the poor, minority segment.

    The truth is, we are not minority in any possible shape or form. We represent 50% of the population. So why are we not moving into mainstreaming women in the economy to achieve growth, instead of making them a side-kick or the victim who has benefited from growth?

    If we are to continue this discourse on gender equality, than we must begin this in practices. Civil society needs to play an active role in ensuring that each levels of distribution system looks at inclusion and means of inclusion of women.

    Economic concepts cannot be looked at in an isolated manner. It needs to linked with economic aspects.
    If the societal values need to be looked at, it needs to start from home. It needs to start from education. It is within the children that we need to instill the values that are not characterized by patriarchy. It is here that the value systems develop and it is here how the view of a woman and her worth is shaped within our homes and societies.

    This gender parity battle has been fought for way too long. And this battle for prosperous economic growth cannot be won in a man’s world. Turn it around, and it all might just start shifting.

    (Editor’s note: You might be interested in a related article earlier published on this blog that recaps more research and information on the gender disparities in South Asia – ‘Mind the Gap’ – https://southasiaeconomicsummit.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/mind-the-gap-addressing-gender-disparities-in-south-asia/)

  • tahminashafique 3:20 pm on September 3, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Inclusive Growth: A Dream or a Possibility? 

    Guest Post by Tahmina Shafique, WB-SAES Youth Delegate from Bangladesh

    It is an interesting afternoon in the SAES 2013- Inclusive growth is the key focus of discussion.

    Over the past decade, the Asia region has successfully reduced income-based poverty and improved living standards for all, including the poor and those vulnerable to poverty.

    A significant portion of Asia populations live on less than $1.25 per person a day and another significant portion are vulnerable to poverty ($2). Despite various critical challenges, the poverty incidence in the region has further declined over the last years.

    In terms of economic benefits and access to social services, large numbers of people are being left behind or left out. In our region, economic inequality has increased in the past decade. Without steps to address these disparities, the risks this trend poses – including social instability – will continue to grow.
    It is in this context that “inclusive growth” has emerged as either a desire or a necessity. The topic embraces both income and non-income dimensions of well-being. The talk on this, is on the table.
    But, this concern for inclusive growth, or a growth pattern that includes all income strata, is not new at all. What is different is the urgency for achieving greater inclusiveness – and the sudden realisation that without it sustained growth will not be possible in the future.

    Various people speak about various dimension of this concept. First, they state, that there is a direct relationship between growth and poverty reduction. The idea is that when growth is more inclusive, poverty is reduced much more.

    The second concept is that political stability and peace is positively correlated to inclusive growth, meaning, political stability is significantly promoted when there is inclusive growth.
    Third concept, which is being discussed among key stakeholders in South Asia is the confidence that inclusive growth leads to growth in itself.

    All of the above are rationale and logical concepts. It is a reality. As we continue to live in a more globalized world, within the context of resource constraints, it is evidently difficult to ensure participation and economic growth.

    But if we are to look at the reality within South Asia- perhaps the objective of inclusive growth should not be equal outcomes regardless of the efforts, an approach that can hurt the incentives for growth.

    Instead, inclusiveness means levelling the playing field, getting rid of special enticement for lopsided development, and making the effort to engage every segment of the population.

    For example, the key should be on expanding on the existing record. When we speak about access to basic education, perhaps it is time to focus on the relevance and quality education and the linkage with skills that meets the corresponding demand. Real outcomes need to be reached more realistically. All our capacity building and development approaches now needs to take a close look at the exact needs, exact linkages and desired outcomes.

    But, the bigger questions remain- inclusive growth entails massive transformations; can South Asia make this a reality? Transformation of stringent characteristics that defines South Asia as a region, is a hard one to break through. Will South Asia be able to bring about improved infrastructure, governance, human capital and much much more?

    Is South Asia ready to take up the challenge to break through the extreme barriers and bring about inclusive growth? If so, who will drive this? Will the governments, civil societies, private sector really bring this change?

  • tahminashafique 10:37 am on September 3, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Financing and Coping with Climate Change 

    Guest Post by Tahmina Shafique, WB-SAES Youth Delegate from Bangladesh

    As the storm gathers in the distant dark sky, Mojirun Khatun looks at what used to be her home – a little bamboo shack on the edges of the river Jamuna in Gaibandha. Hardly anything is left. The flood has robbed her of whatever belongings she had, even the kitchen utensils. All she is left with is a little polythene bag and the dry bread in it. Nature has never been kind to her. In the past ten years, Mojirun Khatun, now 45, has moved from one char (silt shoal) to the other. ‘Every time there was a storm or flood, I had to move out. I have so far lived in 30 different chars in my life,’ she says. ‘My family has suffered greatly but we have never given up, although it has become so much more difficult in recent years.’


    Floods and storms are regular phenomenon in Bangladesh. Every year the country, which is almost the size of the US state of Ohio but has a population of 160 million, is visited by flood and storm of varying intensity. In the past few years, there seems to have been an increase in both their intensity and frequency. Hot on the heels of back-to-back floods, cyclone Sidr hit the south-western coast, accompanied by a tidal bore. As of November 21, the official death figure stood at 3,167, with hundreds of people still missing in 15 coastal districts. Hundreds of thousands of people have been made homeless. Telecommunications and electricity supply were disrupted for at least 36 hours after the cyclone made its landfall.

    Bangladesh is not an isolated case.

    All across South Asia, natural disasters is a common phenomenon. Evidence does suggest that these disasters have increased in propensity. It is increasing becoming evident: Climate change is here, and it is real.

    Increasingly, the impacts of higher temperatures, more variable precipitation, more extreme weather events, and sea level rise are felt in South Asia and will continue to intensify. These changes are already having major impacts on the economic performance of South Asian countries and on the lives and livelihoods of millions of poor people.

    The impacts result not only from gradual changes in temperature and sea level but also, in particular, from increased climate variability and extremes, including more intense floods, droughts, and storms.
    South Asia is well known for its resilience. For its people who continue to fight natural disasters each time and start over. In terms of adaption and mitigation plans and policies, much has been initiated within the region. For example, in Bangladesh, we have come up with the national adaptation plan, and moving forward with a 100 year delta plan. But, what perhaps remains to be a challenge in the region is effective implementation.

    Today’s plenary touched upon these very issues, and the possible arenas that needs to be focused upon.

    As pointed out in the plenary, perhaps it is also time for the region to address these issues in a strategic and coordinated manner.

    What are the financing options in this regard? There is the SAARC Development Fund, multi-lateral funding agencies and private sector. Has South Asia initiated and coordinated efforts appropriately to acquire these? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Even if funding has been acquired, has there been a significant improvement in mitigation strategies?

    Market based instruments such as CDM has not been utilized appropriately. The participation of the region, with the exception of India has been incredibly poor. This has been particularly due to lack of capacity- this is where perhaps, the regional cooperation can assist in the process. Private sector which represents a significant portion in the region has a massive role to play also.

    More than anything else, it is perhaps time to move the plans and policies which South Asia has done so well, to real implementation!

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