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

    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 3:23 pm on September 4, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: SAES 2013   

    “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


  • AHAzeez 2:42 pm on September 3, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , farming, india, punjab, SAES 2013, slash and burn, sri lanka, water   

    Tree Hugging at the SAES 2013 

    Guest Post by Abdul Halik Azeez, WB-SAES Youth Delegate from Sri Lanka

    Climate change, I knew that the region suffered from it, but never knew exactly how or where, and why it mattered. It was one thing to know about climate change as an abstract concept, and entirely another to understand its impact quantitatively and qualitatively in my immediate surroundings.

    The biggest impacts are obviously felt in the agricultural sector. The backbone of many of the economies here. The rise of rainfall and temperature are the main culprits of upheaval here. For example in a study conducted in the region of Punjab researchers found that 95% of farmers had noticed a long term shift in temperature and said that climate change was visibly impacting their crop.

    Agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan, says Dr. Abdul Saboor, climate change has caused increases in maximum and minimum temperature causing adverse impact on crops and higher demand for irrigation, impacting mostly the poorer segments of the farming community. Politically this segment has the least influence, and so long as no one that ‘matters’ is seriously impacted by climate change in a visible way, it’s likely that governments will continue turning a complacent blind eye to the issue.

    Dr. Saboor says that crops that can withstand increased levels of heat must be produced. Climate change plays its favorites, some crops benefit while other suffer. Rainfall benefits while temperature variations can destroy. Invariably however, the observed evidence points to more negative affects of climate change than positive.

    In India for example, increased rainfall helps a faster pace of groundwater restoration, but the increase in temperature reduces it at a much higher pace. India is the highest consumer of groundwater, as opposed to surface water, in the world. Using the subterranean source for 60% of its irrigation requirements and a whopping 85% of its drinking water. 30% of India’s groundwater is already overexploited, i.e. being used up faster than it can be replaced by natural processes, and that number is set to increase to 60% soon.

    Farmer’s attempts to get at sinking groundwater reserves has resulted in more and more wells being dug, with less and less water distributed among those wells. The government has given electricity subsidies, but this has contributed to inefficiency as the cost of water extraction is very high. Which leads to the richer farmers having a better chance of getting water, again problematizing the situation of the poorer farmers.

    Closer to home in Sri Lanka, Slash and Burn agriculture is significantly impacting climate change. Slash and burn agriculture, while sounding like something Guns and Roses might sing about, consists of your traditional chena carved out of the jungle. In Sri Lanka it is also associated with the elephant human conflict, a bloody series of death and massacre that probably has no rival for violence now that the Eelam war is over. Some 300-500 million people in the world engage in slash andburn growing. In sri Lanka it is very popular in the dry zone particularly in Monaragala. Deforestation contributes to some 12-20% of greenhouse gas emissions, and disturbed forests upsets the state of carbon sequestration.

    Around 17% of the jungles of Monaragala have succumbed to the invasions of chenas between 1983-1999. Dr. Prabath Edirisinghe did a study that showed 52% of households engage in slash and burn planting as opposed to traditional farming. Their behavioral traits are pretty interesting and telling. S&B farmers control more land than regular farmers and make much more money out of farming. Traditional farmers though, show less of a tendency to put all their eggs in the farming basket and engage in other employment that boosts non farming income, much higher than that of the S&B farmers.

    S&B farming tends to also vary on a number of factors. There is less of a tendency to engage in it in households of older average age. If there is someone regularly employed in the family, there is less of a tendency to engage in it. Dr. Edirisinghe very interestingly connects slash and burn agriculture to factors like alternative employment and education. The message is that if better educational and economic opportunities were available, lesser families would seek out slash and burn agriculture as a means of making money.

  • AHAzeez 2:31 pm on September 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , equality, SAES 2013, Washington Consensus   

    From the Washington Consensus to a Colombo Consensus? 

    Guest post by Abdul Halik Azeez, WB-SAES Youth Delegate from Sri Lanka

    (Azeez blogs at http://abdu.lk, Research Product Head, Frontier Research Sri Lanka)

    This morning Pakistani economist Akmal Hussein talked about how mainstream economics/capitalism teaches that inequality is essentially an un-avoidable by product of growth. He said that equity is not only a measure of social justice but can also be a powerful driver of growth. You just have to open the lower and middle classes to opportunities to grow, giving you a much bigger base.

    Great sentiments, I agree 100%. But how easy is it to talk about equitable growth while many countries in South East Asia are facing a ‘neoliberalize or die’ situation? And indeed, are enthusiastically jumping in the very same capitalist bandwagon that facilitates this systematic inequality. India for example is notorious for facilitating corporate expansion. It is, in fact, one of the most characteristic features of its growth. I think the tendency is to hope that equity will come after wealth is achieved, but if the West is any example, a semblance of equity within one’s borders is only achievable by impoverishing peoples beyond it.

    Earlier still Ahsal Iqbal Chowdhry, Federal Minister For Planning in Pakistan, spoke bold words about the ‘failure’ of the Washington consensus, and even mentioned discarding it for a Colombo consensus, whatever that may mean, hopefully achievable starting today. But seeing as the most powerful economy in the region got its early nineties boost by the very same Washington Consensus, has it really ‘failed’ in that sense? What would India have been if it wasn’t bailed out? If it wasn’t invested in heavily by Western corporations?

    I’m not defending the Washington Consensus, far from it. It has indeed created a lot of harm by seemingly creating growth, but it is ironic that it is this very growth that we celebrate, and hope to convert into something that is fundamentally against its nature. The Washington consensus ‘worked’ because it was essentially hegemonistic. It is the patronage of the powerful to the weak, and beggars cannot choose luxuries like equity.

    Will Choudhry’s imagined Colombo Consensus incorporate some similar form of hegemony? Assuming it can even shrug of its Western counterpart as easily as he makes it sound. Indeed can South Asia with all its deep running conflicts, ever form a collective without some entity dominating?

    Perhaps the fear of outside interference can enlighten the region to the benefits of mutual cooperation. But it has already incorporated many elements of Chowdhry’s ‘Washington Consensus’, perhaps too many to think of turning back without completely destroying and remaking itself. Perhaps in retrospect, it is telling that both speakers were Pakistani?

  • anijat 12:48 pm on September 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 2014 Afghan Presidential Elections, Afghanistan, Challenges of Connectivity, Energy and Mineral Resouces, Political Transition, SAES 2013   

    South Asian renaissance… 

    Guest post by Aarya Nijat, WB-SAES Youth Delegate from Afghanistan

    “Nepal is heading for renaissance… and we should be thinking in terms of South Asian Renaissance.” Dr. Jagadish Pokhrel from Nepal.
    So is Afghanistan heading for a renaissance and if yes, what version of a renaissance it is?

    The first special panel included a series of talks by the representatives of SAARC Countries, including Afghanistan. Mr. sham Bathija responded to the following questions with the following content:

    Questions: How does Afghanistan feel about being a SAARC member? How have you benefited as a SAARC member? Reflections on the challenges faced by the country as landlocked country, issues of connectivity through Pakistan, India and the rest of the region.

    Mr. Bathija: (Said and I quote, to the best of my note taking capacity)

    “Everyone is familiar with the past 30 years of conflict that Afghanistan has been through… Regional cooperation is very important to us, which is why we have joined all regional organizations such as SAARC, ECO, etc. Afghanistan has been at the cross road of civilizations… We are building up and facilitating trade, transport and customs…We would like to see our regional involvement particularly in economic integration even further…Afghanistan as you know is blessed with enormous amount of natural resources such as oil, gas, what not, but Afghanistan doesn’t have the capacity to explore these resources… so others should explore us (our resources) cause we lack human resource and technical capacity to do so… on the question of how we have benefited… well we are new to SAARC. Afghanistan is not very well connected unfortunately, from trade to investment and energy. We recently signed the AF-PAK agreement with Pakistan… and I read a book given to me a Pakistani friend called “Trunk Road from Kabul to Kolkata” so lets make that dream come true…but we haven’t benefited on preferential trade benefits…our export base is weak…30 million population of Afghanistan calls for manufacturing hubs from the region…next year is the political transition and the president will hopefully hand over power to the next… so we invite South Asian investors… we are sitting over trillions of dollars of natural resources that must be explored for the benefit of Afghanistan and the region.”

    Responding to Dr. Bathija’s remarks, the moderator Mr. Farooq Sobhan said: “We look forward to smooth transition in 2014… The more successful we are in integrating Afghanistan in to the South Asian network, the better it is, not only for Afghanistan, but also for the region… the TAPI pipeline, mineral resources of Afghanistan offer a ray of optimism, but challenges remain.”

    My reflections:
    (This is a depersonalized reflection, only on the content of the panel talk given by the representative of the Government of Afghanistan.)

    The rhetoric of 30 years/ 3 decades of conflict adds context to the debate of Afghanistan’s role in South Asia, but it is also old and routine now; we have to move past and beyond this, at some point if not now. This is great that we have membership of just about all regional networks, but what role we play in these forums and how we promote Afghanistan’s stance there is the main question, on which no remarks were made. The expression of interest in increased Afghan role in economic integration is great but should have been accompanied with some practical recommendations on how and why. We have natural resources and we would like the whole world to come explore them, but we should offer more than just an invite; how the Afghan government plans on monitoring the exploration process, how we are going to ensure accountability and transparency, or how are we doing as an EITI member (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative) would have been some questions worth pausing upon.
    Challenges remain, indeed.

    Aarya Nijat
    Youth Delegate

  • tahminashafique 12:47 pm on September 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Development, , Economic Integration, Infrastructure, SAES 2013,   

    Region at Cross Roads: Towards a closer South Asia 

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

    South Asia represents a thriving trade and economic hub. While GDP, industrial output, and consumption have soared across the region over the past decade, power, water, and transport systems have struggled to keep pace. Despite significant growth, the reality is that South Asia is a region at a crossroads. Its continued growth relies on deeper regional cooperation and integration from a policy perspective, and market-driven intervention by businesses that aspire to expand their footprint across the national borders. This expansion is significantly restricted by weak regional trade cooperation and corresponding infrastructure support to enable this to happen.

    Improved trade cooperation and significant integration depends deeply on the policy makers and governments. Perhaps the key is also to look beyond historically complex relationships and look at the region with a more open mind and in a more strategic long-term manner. Like the panel experts this afternoon stated, integration is no longer an option, it is a necessity for the region, at this point.

    Another significant area that needs to be perhaps examined carefully is the understanding of growth. Across the world, including our very own South Asian countries, GDP has remained to be a strong indicator for success. All of the countries such as India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and others have seen impressive numbers and “sustained growth”. But, GDP is a complex arena- it measures income, but not equality, it measures growth, but not destruction, and it ignores values like social cohesion and the environment. It does not measure household economy, capital depreciation, economic facilities, governance and others, all of which are major characteristics of the region.

    In Bangladesh, for example, we have seen impressive and sustained GDP of 6%, but it remains to be significantly constrained by poor infrastructure, low levels of trade, regulatory and governance issues. The question comes here, should we continue to be comfortable with the “sustained and impressive” growth rates or look beyond this indicator?

    A second area of discussion which came strongly in the expert panel discussion of SAES 2013 was the issue of connectivity- infrastructure needs.

    Over the years, attempts have been made in improving infrastructure systems within the region through transport corridor planning, infrastructure improvements in the areas of water, transport, power and others. Further planning is in place through Public-Private-Partnership options among others, but the question remains- how can we ensure that these infrastructure facilities are in planned appropriately, financed in a manner which can be dealt with in the long term, implemented effectively and managed for improved development and integration within the region?

  • AHAzeez 12:32 pm on September 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , SAES 2013, Weather   

    Colombo, Weather and the SAES2013 

    Guest post by Abdul Halik Azeez, WB-SAES Youth Delegate from Sri Lanka

    Washed out streets and a clean Colombo welcome the start of SAES2013. A literary metaphor for a fresh beginning? Perhaps. But also an ominous symbol of one the themes of the conference. The weather in Colombo hasn’t been normal for years now. When I was a kid, the monsoon was like clockwork, April was always hot, August was rainy, and December offered slight relief from the repressive humidity.

    Over the last year mostly, and the year before that somewhat, Colombo has felt more like a mildly warmer version of the Central Hills. Not that I’m complaining. I hate the humidity, and now I just need some mosquito repellent to grab a good night’s sleep on most nights. The reprieve gave way to a month or two of absolute scorchers, but that is a price I’m willing to pay. I like the new Colombo weather.

    However, this post is not about weather, at least not in the conventional, hi-how-are-you-doing-its-very-hot-no? kind of way. Climate change, the likely culprit of Colombo’s newfound coolness (a very relative term still), is a major problem for the region. And a topic that the South Asian Economic Summit (SAES 2013) where I’m sitting at right now, is quite concerned about.

    The unpredictability of monsoons, while mildly inconveniencing the city’s cubicle warriors with cumbersome umbrellas, plays havoc in the region’s agricultural sector, the rise in sea level threatens low lying islands, the melting of ice caps in the Himalayas threatens norms of water flow and while Colombo may have been benefitted with a welcome bout of cooler weather other parts of the region have feced extended spells of debilitating heat. Besides, of the sea level rises that stroll along Galle Face could soon turn into a wade. All these changes affect millions of lives and threaten the already struggling development processes of the region.

    The carbon neutral conference happening in Colombo right now is talking about how to address this and many other problems. It’s easy to be cynical in adventurous discussions like the ones taking place today, especially being in a region bogged down by political corruption and policy blindness. Economists and policy wonks can talk and talk but you and I know that when it comes to implementation it always boils down to what the politicians stand to gain on the ground.

    But ideas are important. Ideas, if powerful, can eventually trickle through the political processes, even those as mired as the ones in S. Asia, and create some change down the line. People here are talking about regional integration, investment promotion, collective agricultural initiatives, regional transportation and energy management etc. All very adventurous stuff for countries with long histories that are used to justify enmity just as much as to justify friendship.

    The conference live streams at http://www.ips.lk/saes2013/index.php/saes-broadcast. Join the discussion on Twitter on #saes2013.

    • Sanjana Hattotuwa 3:57 pm on September 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Halik,

      Great to hear that the conference is carbon neutral. How has the carbon footprint been offset, do you know?


    • AHAzeez 3:08 pm on September 4, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Sanjana, not really too sure of the mechanisms involved, participants have been invited to voluntarily to contribute by making payments to the offsetting fund too. The event is ‘carbon neutral certified’ however, so its legit.

  • tahminashafique 10:28 am on September 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , SAES 2013,   

    Towards inclusive and sustainable growth of South Asia 

    Guest post by Tahmina Ashafique, WB-SAES Youth Delegate from Bangladesh


    A group of young men clad in traditional Sri Lankan attire danced inside the Oak room, which was followed by traditional lighting of a unity candle- and this marked the inauguration of the Sixth South Asian Economic Summit this year. Held in Cinnamon Grand in Colombo, Sri Lanka, the summit has brought together a wide range of stakeholders from the eight SAARC countries. The stakeholders consist of representatives from key think tanks, academic institutions, policy institutes, and international agencies. Perhaps the key highlight of this summit is the inclusion of a group of young leaders who will be engaged in analysis and dissemination of the key discussions. This is certainly a move away from the traditional closed-door civil society talks and opens up the platform for engagement of young leaders in these cooperation initiatives.

    The summit is most relevant at a time when there is an urgent need for increased synergies among the South Asian countries. A region that is thriving and growing at the back drop of its rich culture, traditions, economic activities and overall increased growth, faces numerous challenges. Arenas such as poverty, gender parity, food security, climate change, and various other factors remain to be areas that need to be focused upon in a more strategic and sustained manner.

    It is within this context, that the summit aims to focus on what they call “The BIG FOUR”. This includes harnessing human capital potential, managing water resources, food security and climate change, addressing intra-country growth disparities, and finally building competitiveness of the private sector.
    In the next three days, attempts will be made to highlight the significance of the above and discuss ways for positioning the region to achieve sustained and inclusive growth in the future.

    Stay tuned with us, as we go through these thematic areas and provide you with updates, questions and provide you with some food for thought.

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