The Zeitgeist Politics

Global Politics with a focus on The Middle East

Posts Tagged ‘India

Pakistan on the UN Human Development Index

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Pakistani flood victims aboard US Mairne helicopter during humanitarian relief efforts in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Image credit: Flickr user DVIDSHUB

Apologies for the lack of posts, dear readers (yes, both of you), but I’ve been rather busy. Personal update – I’ve moved to Hong Kong and started a new job. I’m now a staff hack for a financial magazine, so my trade is going to be equities, fixed income and currency wars rather than political inequity, fixed dictators and military wars. Never fear, I shall endeavour to update this blog as frequently as I can, which will hopefully not be too infrequently. My first topic since my hiatus is a rather pithy one – the UN Human Development Index.

While I’ve always been highly sceptical about sweeping indices that rank states on opaque definitions based on broad categories (my thoughts on the “Failed States Index” can be found here), I do generally consider UN indices to be a bit more interesting. Don’t ask me why, this isn’t based on any well-researched comparison of the UN versus the think tanks, perhaps I’m just an old-school multilateralist and tend to trust the UN a little more than I should. The UN relies on a number of international agencies for its data, making it incredibly difficult to meaningfully analyse the way the index is created.

But regardless, humour me and let’s consider the latest UN Human Development Index. Let’s at least pretend that its findings can be of some use to us. The report says not to compare rankings to previous reports because different indicators and calculations have been used, which makes it difficult to interpret the report in any meaningful way politically, or in terms of year-by-year development, but perhaps we can make some geopolitical comparisons.

With reference to Pakistan, one trend factor that we can look at is a comparison with other countries in the region. The obvious comparisons are of course to India (119), Bangladesh (129) and Afghanistan (155), and while Pakistan outpaces Afghanistan rather handily, this should not be seen as any kind of victory.

Afghanistan is a war zone without a functioning central government. Say what you want about army offensives, terrorist attacks in major cities and the ineffectiveness of Zardari’s government, Pakistan is not Afghanistan. I am even less an expert on Bangladesh than I am on Pakistan, so it’s difficult to make a real comparison there. However, there’s no doubt that Bangladesh, as an even younger nation than Pakistan, has made great strides.

The most tempting comparison to make is, of course, the traditional rivalry – Pakistan and India – but by no means is it a perfect one. It is notable that despite Pakistan’s geopolitical position with a 10 year long war next door, a damaging domestic insurgency and a less effective central government, it only appears 6 places behind a country often considered to be China’s most direct competitor in rising power status. Moreover, it is notable that Pakistan has a higher life expectancy at birth than India and a higher mean in years of schooling.

India is a much larger, more diverse, more populous and more stable country, much of that owing to factors beyond both its, and Pakistans, control. These factors play both to India’s advantage and its disadvantage, but judging from them, and they are incredibly broad factors, I’d say Pakistan is doing reasonably well given the many outside threats that hold it back.

This is no reason for Pakistan to rest on its laurels though. The country still lags far behind Sri Lanka (91) and is embarrassingly outpaced by impoverished, unstable countries like Equatorial Guinea (117), Timor Leste (120) and the Solomon Islands (123). Pakistan is only one spot above Congo (126).

To be contrarian, and play devil’s advocate to my own post, you can take these with a grain of salt. Numbers tempt us into a web of assumptions but the reality is, given the rather opaque way in which this index was created, it’s hard to draw any meaningful conclusions from a one or two rank difference. One conclusion that I’ve made, based on little hard data but a feeling in my gut, is that Pakistanis have much to celebrate and much to bemoan. The relative successes listed above can perhaps be attributed to the ongoing willpower, resilience and determination of the Pakistani people in the face of many challenges. However, if Pakistan is to realise its potential, it needs to empower its civil government and institutions through a viable democratic process, the eradication of corruption and meaningful infrastructure development. Unfortunately, with the devastating floods, the grinding poverty, the decade-long war next door and the spiralling violence, these things appear to be far easier said than done. We can only pray.




Written by alexlobov

November 8, 2010 at 2:16 am

Indian Labourers in Dubai to get a new Code of Standards

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photo credit -

photo credit -

Well we’ve been a little obsessed with the Goldstone Report over here recently, which is all fine and dandy really because it’s kind of a big deal. There’ll be more to come on it but now for something slightly different.

The cause of migrant rights in the Gulf is a long standing one and there has been a lot written recently about the exploitation of migrants and the adverse working conditions under which they labour. For more of a background on the issue, I suggest you visit Mideast Youth as they do a lot of work and have some great information about the issue.

Having lived and worked in the Gulf myself, it’s an issue that I’ve come face to face with on numerous occasions, and the disparity between rights and lives of migrant workers in the Gulf is really quite confronting.

However, it seems changes may be afoot, as Abu Dhabi’s the National reports:

A set of minimum standards covering working and living conditions is to be introduced to protect Indian labourers from exploitation, and companies that breach them face action from the UAE and Indian governments.

In the Emirates, offending employers could be fined, banned from hiring expatriate workers or have their businesses downgraded.

While these changes are being worked out by the Indian and Emirati governments, meaning they will only be enforced on behalf of labourers from Indian (and not labourers from other countries such as Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Thailand, etc.) it is still an important step forward.

India’s ambassador to the UAE, Talmiz Ahmed, explains that these standards are not focusing on wages, or attempting to implement a minimum wage system, but rather more focused on living conditions:

“You may get good wages, but if you are living in squalid conditions, without air conditioning, eating inferior food or having to do long hours of compulsory overtime, you won’t be happy. So, living and working conditions are as important for me as minimum wages.”

There isn’t any word in the article when exactly these conditions will come into force or, indeed, how stringently they will be enforced. However it seems any implementation this year is unlikely as:

The embassy is looking for a company to prepare the software for the programme in time for it to be presented at the next conference of Indian ambassadors in New Delhi in November.

Mr. Ahmed also notes that increasingly, due to the economic downturn’s adverse effect on Dubai, more Indian labourers are leaving Dubai and heading for Abu Dhabi.

Written by alexlobov

September 19, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Join the pink underwear protest in India

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Those of you that are familiar with Indian “popular politics” and the related shenanigans of various Hindutva organisations will, along with peppering your sweethearts with love, be checking Indian newspapers with vigour on Febuary 14th to see what carnage/misery/humourous protesting has occurred. I don’t want to treat the matter lightly, in many cases it can get quite serious and has done so in the past.

In the leadup to V-Day we have already had a major event occur in Mangalore where a bunch of goons from a small group called the Sri Ram Sena ran into a pub and decided to beat up some women, Chris Brown style:

Reports say that 40 activists barged into the pub, found the girls and boys in what they called “objectionable positions’ and attacked them. The girls were chased and thrashed, slapped and kicked. They were tripped while they were running away while trying to escape. In the television reports, one could see at least one girl being tripped, resulting in her falling flat on her face.

This is, of course, nothing new in India, but it is completely reprehensible nonetheless. A group has arisen on Facebook titled A Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women, which at the time of this post has 29,855 members including males & females of various nationalities. The group promises to send the Ram Sena a pink chaddi (pair of lady’s undergarments), a novel idea but hopefully not one that will excite the young men and thereby not achieve its objective (as pointed out on Sepia Mutiny)

The underwear protest has been gathering serious press and in addition:

The Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women, which was formed on Facebook last Thursday, has also exhorted women to “walk to the nearest pub and buy a drink” on Valentine’s Day.



I joined the Facebook group in support and so should you (and check out the blog). Those murderous hindutva bastards must die (or at least go to prison)

Written by alexlobov

February 12, 2009 at 7:57 pm

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