News Day 1

23rd Annual General Meeting and Conference of the Pakistan Society of Development Economists (PSDE) inauguration

Pakistan Society of Development Economists 23rd Annual General Meeting and Conference was inaugurated today at Marriott Hotel, Islamabad at 9.30 am . Engr. Dr Akram Shaikh, Chancellor, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, and Deputy Chairman Planning Commission inaugurated the conference. Dr Rashid Amjad, President Pakistan Society of Development Economists and  Vice Chancellor, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics presented his presidential address on ?Environment and Natural Resource Management: Issues and Challenges?. A large number of scholars, academics and distinguished Economists attend the meeting. The conference was co-hosted by DFID, ENGRO, SANDEE, FES , and NBP.

The President of the Pakistan Society of Development Economists Dr Rashid Amjad congratulated PIDE staff on awarding 10 Ph. Ds and one M Phil yesterday, to mark the Golden Jubilee celebration of its existence. While presenting his presidential address on ?Environment and Natural Resource Management? he emphasized the subject ?Critical Importance for the long term sustainability of economic development and for the sustainability of the human race it self.

He suggested that there is a need to find ways in which the Pakistan economy can adjust to the pressure of rising commodity and oil prices by putting in place and incentive structure which ensure efficient use of our resources, when valued in world prices, as well as provide safety net for those adversely affected. Secondly, he pointed out the increasing polarization in a two-tier economy characterized by widening income equality in the fate of high level of poverty and social explusion. The challenge is to put in place economic and development policies that lead to the creation of productive, remunerative, and decent jobs. Third, he emphasized the need to ensure that the current high level of investment in knowledge, education, and technology, resulted in increased productivity, competitiveness, and sustainable high growth. Fourth,  he also highlighted the need to face up to the pressures of increasing global competition by restructuring the productive sector of the economy, and to find new leasing sectors to replace those that are loosing competitiveness. Finally, Dr Rashid Amjad suggested that we need to come up with more refined and new indicators of economic development and progress as the existing one seem alien to most people and divorced from the economic reality that they face every day around them.

Dr Rashid Amjad concluded his address with the following recommendations:

  1. He suggested to the new government to set up a High Level Commission on Climate Change to be headed by the new Prime Minister, have as members Ministers of key economic ministries, the Planning Commission and experts in the field. PIDE would be willing to serve as the secretariat to this commission.
  2. PIDE is planning to strengthen its research program on the Environment and Climate Change as well as start from Autumn 2008 a Masters program in Environmental Economics for which we have started making preparation.
  3. PIDE intends to start a graduate program in Environmental Economics soon. The program is to train the economists in analysis of issues of environmental and resource economics, evaluation and evaluation techniques to address the issue whether natural resources are asset or burden and the significance of these resources in sustainable economic growth of countries like Pakistan .
  4. PIDE training program also plans to strengthen its capacity in this area especially in holding training on ?Environmental Impact Assessments? for all level of government, NGOs and the private sector.
  5. The economist should develop their independent  think tank, so that situation could be assessed independently.

Chief Guest Engr. Dr Akram Sheikh, Chancellor, PIDE and Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission while addressing the conference congratulated the PSDE organizers for their successful organization of this conference. He said that the theme of the conference: Environment and Natural Resource Management: Issues and Challenges is very important subject not only for Pakistan but at the international level also because our planet can not sustain its present and future population numbers, if the current global trends of consumption continue in the attitude of business as usual. We have witnessed the effect of this most acutely in the last couple of years, with major increases in prices of most food commodities, minerals and metals, and of course fossil fuels. Globally, the amount of land on which we grow our food has been shrinking every year, and has actually fallen to less than half of the hectares per capita used for grain production fifty years ago. The sheer scale of the problem becomes clear when we add degradation of water, land  and usable energy resources to the equation. At the national level our country has not managed its water resources with care and is right on top of the list of water stressed countries, with water availability falling from 5000 cubic meters per capita in 1951 to 1100 cubic meters in 2066, due to rapid population growth. Inequities in the water distribution are also of critical concern. World-wide, nearly 70 percent of all available freshwater is used for agriculture, as against 90 percent in Pakistan . This larger percentage further speeds up the deterioration of freshwater quality through agrochemicals (fertilizer and pesticides). Discharge of untreated industrial effluents has serious negative impact on the environment and human health through water borne toxins and diseases. Growing urbanization will further add to the burden of managing municipal and human waste. The situation is accentuated by the looming climate change. Its impact and capacity to de-stablise the geographic spread and location of human habitat is only just beginning to be understood.

Our vision for Pakistan in 2030 is an efficient, competitive, and sustainable agriculture system which will ensure food security, rural livelihood, and will contribute to the economic development of Pakistan . We must therefore change and improve the way we draw up our strategies for acquisition, generation, and conservation of energy. Apart from cleaner energy production and more efficient devices, we need to make our buildings more energy efficient. We have to quickly put in place mass transit systems in major cities, which accelerate the deployment of wind and solar energy which can provide more than 5 percent of the electricity supply needed in 2030, as incorporated in the energy security plan.Dr Akram Sheikhs said that conservation, natural resource management, population planning, combating poverty, social sector development, all these and more are part of the solutions we need to promote. Environmental issues could neither figure systematically in planning and policy documents, nor into the projects and programs approval processes. Investment in natural resources was also not generally oriented towards their sustainability. In response to these concerns several environmental related policies such as National Conservation Strategy 1992, Environment Protection Act 1997, and Environment Policy 2005 were approved, in addition to tribunals and other institutional frameworks to deal with pollution issues.

However, a global holistic, integrated, consultative and coordinated approach is needed to control the threats faced by all the countries. The philosophy of produce first and clean up later will not work. We must also look at other options to protect our environment. These includes proper resource pricing, community involvement, clearly defined property rights and resource ownership, improved economic alternatives for the poor, economic empowerment of women.

Earlier Dr Rehana Siddiqui, Secretary, OSDE, presented the society?s annual report. She thanked the participants, guest, speakers, PIDE staff and policy makers for their participation in the conference.

Dr A. R. Kemal also spoke on the occasion. He pointed out that due to degradation of environment, poverty increases in those areas. He also said that the degradation of environment extremely subsidises the taxes and especially increase the cost of production. Dr A. R. Kemal suggested that environment friendly techniques should be introduced

After the inauguration two panel discussions were held and one Invited Lecture and seventeen papers in the regular session were presented and discussed.

In the afternoon session, the first panel discussion was chaired by Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, Chief Executive office LEAD PAKISTAN.  Mr Sheikh said that there is huge environmental cost which has not only affect health but also affect the economy through  different channels. He however, appreciated PIDE?s efforts which provided an opportunity to us to sit together in sharing information regarding this challenging issue. The understanding of the climate related issues help to formulate public policy that aims at improving health in our society.

Dr Arshad Mahmood Khan Executive Officer Global Change Impact Study Center , Islamabad , highlighted the importance of climatic change today which came through many decades. While giving the brief history of climatic change and its effect on human life, he pointed out four major climatic concern such as: increase in variability of monsoon, more rapid increase in melting of glacier, reduction of water reservoir and food insecurity. He further said that increase in deforestration and health risks are the challenging problems because of depleted technology, limited access to knowledge and lack of institutions.

Syed Ayub Qutub, PIEDAR, NGO, talked about the topic of Natural Hazords and Climatic Changes. He discussed the natural hazards in Pakistan which include frequency of deaths, person affected, extreme temperature events, land slides, floods, windstorm, epidemic, and earthquakes. He said that several millions of people are affected by these natural hazards. He proposed that choice theory and cost benefit based decisions should be taken to prevent these hazards and the tools should be used to make economic decision regarding the conception of these disasters.

Usman Qazi, Program Officer, UNDP exphasized on choice theory and cost benefit analysis regarding natural disaster. He discussed methodology which analyze the climatic and natural disasters. He gave profile of 2001 flood in Lai Rawalpindi and provided figures on number of death affectees and losses in monetary term. He concluded that cost benefit analysis of risks reduction is  very well practical to deal with climatic issues.

The PIDE conference will continue tomorrow on 13th of March 2008. Two Invited Lectures will be delivered and there will be one Panel Discussion. In the Technical Sessions four papers will be read and discussed on ?Financial Reforms? on the theme of Trade and Economic Growth, four papers will be read and discussed. Four papers will also be discussed on ?Valuation of Resources?. In Educational Gender session five papers will be discussed.

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