Archive for November 1st, 2016

How IMF is dictating economic terms to Pakistan?

November 1, 2016

Ashraf Mahmood Wathra, Pakistan Central Bank chief shares insights about IMF’s program in Pakistan given in 2013.

He says this is the first time in Pak history that IMF program has been completed:

…..Pakistan – faced with a balance of payments crisis – embarked upon the IMF’s External Fund Facility Program in September 2013. At that time, the economy was mired in persistent energy deficiencies, declining development expenditures, rising inflation, and meager foreign exchange reserves. As a result, the country’s economic potential was on the decline and investor confidence was badly shaken. There was a need to reform policies and systems which could be instrumental in reversing the meltdown and add to the well being of Pakistanis.

I believe that the Government took the right step to enter the IMF program at that crucial juncture. Furthermore, its sincere efforts and commitment have been instrumental in driving the program to a successful completion. Indeed, the Government and State Bank of Pakistan have worked hard together to achieve this goal, and restored the much needed stability and stakeholder confidence in doing so. Before I go on to highlight the achievements of this Program, let me make two things clear: One, no IMF Program is an easy program. This explains why Pakistan has never in the past completed an IMF program. The fact that we have completed one also shows the seriousness towards reform. Two, having completed the IMF program, one should not be complacent about what remains to be done. Specifically, on the continuous consolidation of the macroeconomic stability gains we have made and the reforms that remain to be done.

What does IMF want in return? Similar things. Control of Fiscal deficits and Inflation, central bank autonomy and MPC, banking reforms etc:

Let us briefly look at some evident achievements made during the program.

Under the program, establishment of an independent Monetary Policy Committee and publication of minutes of the Monetary Policy Committee meetings, besides enhanced SBP autonomy, is expected to bring further transparency in monetary policy decision making. In plain words, these reforms provide us with a superior and structured decision–making technology. Similarly, strengthening of the internal operations of SBP, improvement in capital adequacy of banks, enactment of Credit Bureau Act, amendments to Anti Money Laundering Act, promulgation of Deposit Protection Corporation Act, and amendment to Financial Institutions Recovery Ordinance, are the major reforms that would increase financial sector resilience against any domestic and external shock. Indeed, these reforms directly address bank runs and related financial crisis.

 Further, amendments in Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act to enhance fiscal prudence, removal of Federal Board of Revenue’s powers to grant exemptions through issuance of Statutory Regulatory Orders and removal of tax exemptions are critical reforms that will go a long way to support a sustained increase in tax revenues. These reforms and range of other actions taken by the government have produced concrete results. These have not only helped the country to build the foreign exchange reserves and provide stability to foreign exchange market – a direct consequence of the program, but also supported a sustained increase in tax revenues, lower fiscal deficit, and a significant reduction in direct fiscal borrowings from State Bank of Pakistan.

 Hmm. The program is so similar across countries.

Pakistan has faced so many economic crisis in recent years. One wonders why they keep getting into war zone with India with such poor economic situation at home…

How Gothic buildings got associated with Halloween and the supernatural

November 1, 2016

Peter Lindfield a Post-Doctoral researcher at University of Stirling posts on this association:

If you want foreboding old buildings that dark lords and werewolves are bound to frequent, look no further than Britain’s enviable Gothic architecture. From Strawberry Hill in London with its twisting corridors and glaring pinnacles, to ruined abbeys and cathedrals such as St Andrews and Jedburgh, darkness seems to thrive in these places – the perfect location for a Halloween party if you’re lucky enough to be invited.

What is often not appreciated is that this style had two distinct periods of glory, with a long time out of favour in between. And it’s not just their tall spires and endless corridors and gargoyles that brought these structures supernatural associations. The dark reputation they gained in their wilderness years helped, too.

Gothic was in its pomp in medieval and Tudor Britain. Famous examples include Salisbury cathedral in southern England, Caernarfon castle in Wales and Melrose castle and Brodie castle in Scotland. The style was used by church, state and universities, Oxford and Cambridge especially. It was certainly not associated with terror in this period – more with the potential perils of sin and Purgatory, or the rigours of academia.

Gothic waned in the 17th century, replaced by the round-arched and rationalised style of Classicism. Imported from the continent and inspired by ancient Greece and Rome, the new style came to prominence in London public and private works such as the Banqueting House, Whitehall and The Queen’s House, Greenwic Classicism continued to spread in the 18th century, while Gothic came to be seen as barbaric. It was intentionally connected with the Goths by critics who favoured Greek and Roman architecture. These included the Renaissance artists Raphael and Vasari, and Georgian intellectuals such as John Evelyn and architects like Isaac Ware (Ware would later introduce certain Gothic elements into his work). These people often argued that when the Goths sacked Rome in the fifth century, they destroyed “proper” Classical architecture and introduced a backward, coarse style – Gothic – in its place.

In the first half of the 18th century in particular, almost all the major architects promoted Classicism. As the Scottish minister and writer Alexander Gerard put it in 1759:

the profusion of ornament, bestowed on the parts, in Gothic structures, may please one who has not acquired enlargement of mind … where refinement is wanting, taste must be coarse and vulgar.

Worse still in those days, Gothic was associated with the Catholics. Catholicism in the 1700s was viewed with suspicion and concern, thanks partly to the Jacobite risings. Both were considered a threat to the Hanoverian and Classical order – never mind that the great medieval abbeys spared destruction in the Reformation had been put into the service of the Protestant church.

Interesting scary bit..

60 years of Karnataka..

November 1, 2016

Today is the 60 years since formation of Mysore state. The state was renamed as Karnataka in 1973.

Here is a list of 60 facts about the state. Also Ram Guha says the state is  blessed by history, geography and culture, but cursed by politics..

You have written extensively about India after Independence, and given a score card on how the nation has fared. If you were to do a similar exercise about Karnataka at 60 years, what would you say?

I maintain that this state is blessed by geography, history and culture but cursed by politics. If you take history, it’s been 200 years since there’s been any major violence in Karnataka; since Tipu’s wars. Kerala has seen communal violence. Tamil Nadu has seen the Sri Lankan issue, anti-Hindi riots, and Andhra Pradesh has seen lots of communal and naxal violence. Karnataka is blessed by geography. It’s incredibly beautiful. It has a long coastline, amazing biodiversity. We are blessed culturally, too, because we are a tolerant people. Our literary traditions are so rich. Karnataka has eight Jnanpith award winners. What’s interesting about them is that one of them was Marathi-speaking, another spoke Konkani, one Tamil and so on…

How are we cursed by politics?

I am too young to remember Nijalingappa but in the last 50 years, the only two good chief ministers we have had are Devaraj Urs and Ramakrishna Hegde. If you compare us to other southern states, we are unlucky in the quality of our governance. Kerala has a long history of focus on social reforms, gender equality. In Tamil Nadu, corruption is not absent but systems work much better. Health, education, electricity, infrastructure are better there. It’s difficult to lay blame. There might be historical reasons for it. It could be that Karnataka was formed from four parts; so merging these different administrative systems might have complicated matters. Our culture is still vibrant, diverse. Entrepreneurship is thriving here. But we are truly cursed in terms of governance.

Why do we have this political deficit?

I think that’s mainly because four parts were brought together to form Karnataka. All of Tamil Nadu before Independence was under the British, except for the small state of Pudukottai. So there was continuity from 1947 onwards. K Kamaraj was a very good chief minister. Also, the two-party system was established in Tamil Nadu from the beginning. The whole state had a cohesive administrative structure because they inherited it from the British. In Kerala, the Left/communist movement led to cohesion. In Andhra, there was just Hyderabad and the British districts.

The political deficit applies to most States in India.

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