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14 October 2010


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Thank you Ms Clinton. It is about time. There seems to be a lot of talk about tax and land reform these days in Pakistan. Recently a party that is mainly Karachi based introduced a bill for land reforms(a token bill, it has no chance in a parliament dominated by feudal class).
You would be surprised how much support Ms Clinton's call for taxing rich will garner amongst Pakistanis on principle alone(even if they don't like US generally).

On another note, Pakistan is the best place for tea party people. No taxes, no government control and easy access to fire arms of all sorts.


"At the same time she is undoubtedly correct in telling the wealthy and the ruling in that bedeviled country that if they wish to be taken seriously they must act seriously.  pl"

I must disagree. The West has no obligation to donate if it doesn't want to. But pakistan's domestic problems are not her business. Especially when speaking in public.



"The government must require that the economically affluent and elite in Pakistan support the government and people of Pakistan."

Without wishing to engage in a discussion of politics, the obvious retort by Pakistanis to Clinton would be that the same advice applies equally to America.


"Pakistan collects only about a tenth of its GDP in taxes, one of the lowest rates in the world..."

There's an eye opener. Apparently their rich people don't support their own society either.

Lysander, whether one is at the soup kitchen or the IMF handout line one still to listen to what is said; whether you do anything about it is another thing. Once American troops are out of Afghanistan the US will have as much interest and obligation to Pakistan as we did to the Mujahedeen who fought the Soviets.


Farooq wrote:

"On another note, Pakistan is the best place for tea party people. No taxes, no government control and easy access to fire arms of all sorts".

Congratulations Farooq, you have captured the essence of America's teabaggers.

William R. Cumming

Almost 20% of Pakistan arable land was impacted by the flood.

This "Act of God" has given an opening to Pakistan's various anti-government groups. The country is a product of WESTERN indifference during most of its history. This is just another example.



You 'forget' one very important fact -- Pakistan has nukes , and Afghanistan and the Mujaheddin do not. The U.S. will maintain 'interests/obligations' with Pakistan as it is in U.S.'s National Interests.



On other thing, what I'm worried about and I hope that Sec-O-State Hillary is paying attention to -- Japan. The Japanese are looking hard into scrapping the current treaty with the U.S., and have their own nuclear weapons force. If the U.S. is unable to convince Japan otherwise and the Japanese do go nuclear, expect S. Korea and an entire domino effect of most of Asia. A nuclear stand-off between Japan/India and China/Russia, is not a pretty picture. And given that Japan has born the brundt of a nuclear attack, they won't hesitate to 'level' any nuclear force that may decide to attack Japan in an nuclear way.

Sec-O-State's eyes need to be on Japan, cause if she isn't careful she'll see Asian nuclear dominoes before she can get the 'O-SH*T' words out of her Sec-O-State's mouth.



I should have been clear. The US interest in either group is our national interest, in the case of the Mujahedeen they certainly should have understood they would not be on the payroll at the end of either the war(against the soviets) or with the change in US administrations. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, that does not mean we should pay extortion while their own moneyed class does little for their own society.



There is little we can do whether Pakistan's moneyed class does or does not for their own. We can 'encourage' them, but that is about as far as we can go. Pakistanis are not stupid, they can and will 'off' their daddy warbucks if the stuff gets too deep for them. That is where 'incentive' for the moneyed class then comes into play, to 'survive/live', or perish at the hand of some really pissed off people.

Norbert N, Salamon

Last I heard, both China and Iran has contributed to Pakistan since the floods. China also has other interests in Pakistan, not nercessaryly in the interest of the corrupt [partially by USA contribution] ruling moneyed elite.


A few points to all and sundry:

1) Pakistan has several problems, I'm sure. Those problems are best understood by the people of Pakistan and THEY are in the best position to solve them.

2) The US also has its own problems and its own monied class and they can force the government (meaning the taxpayer) to pay trillions to them if the need arises (as we saw in 2008) I don't hear Pakistani officials lecturing us about this problem.

3)High government taxes do not create wealth. In fact, they aren't even very efficient at redistributing it. Since invariably the billionaire classes have the greatest influence over the government, they will control where the money flows.

4) Say what you will about Pakistan, but at least it is not stealing its people's wealth to maintain a gigantic global military presence.

5) Pakistan seemed to be doing better in the 90s when it was ignored by the US than it is now, having gained America's close attention.

Just some food for thought.

Patrick Lang


I agree and we should withdraw from south Asia and leave them to their fate. pl


"we should withdraw from south Asia and leave them to their fate. pl"

Yes, BUT, the conundrum...
SE Asia is too close to the world's largest oil reserves to just ignore them...no?

different clue

If SecState Clinton's warning had been delivered behind closed and soundproof
doors, the embarassment-factor could have been avoided. In which case, the warning would have been a valuable and worthwhile warning whether or not the landowning classes cared to hear it. Perhaps she delivered it in public in hopes that the public embarrassment might shame the landowning classes into hearing it?

I remember hearing on BBC
reports about how certain levees were breached in order to spare certain other areas behind unbreached levees. That could be justified to save a major city. But some of the flooded-out poor have been accusing rich landowners of breaching levees to spare their own plantations by drowning the micro-holdings of thousands of poor people. If that turns out to be true, that practice will occasion even more peasant bitterness against the feudals than if it were discovered to be false.

During the early-stage flooding I heard a very interesting segment on BBC.
They were talking to a Pakistani emmigrant to Brittain who is now a civil engineering professor at Oxford or something at Oxford's level. This professor said something very interesting which I had
neither known nor thought of. The Indus River drains one of the fastest rising geologically active areas of the world (the Himmalayas). It carries the
highest sediment-load of any river in the world. Over the last 60 or so years, so many water-diversion projects have been
built along its length, and so much water has been/is being drained from the river
that the river no longer has
enough water to keep the sediment suspended and flowing downstream. The sediment falls to the bottom of the river bed which forces the bed upward.
This forces the river level upward which forces people to respond by raising the levees. He seemed to imply that the Pakistanis have built themselves into the corner of having an elevated river perched high above the level of the surrounding land and just barely restrained by levees.
It sounds like a wildly accelerated version of our own Lower Mississippi Basin,
which is perched above New Orleans, for example. Is Pakistan in any position to change its whole approach to river management before rebuilding its riverside civil infrastructure? Because if they rebuild the infrastructure (bridges and so forth) along the same elevated river, they will face the same problem with the next flood and the next flood and the next flood after that. (And global warming will guarantee more such mega-raindump superfloods).

I have heard that the Bangladeshi authorities are moving toward a flood-tolerance model in the face of inevitable future floods.
One wonders if the Pakistani
authorities might find something worth considering in Bangladesh's approach to river and seaside management?

different clue

. . . did I say "our own Lower Mississippi Basin"? Surely I meant "our own Lower Mississippi River..."



I agree whole heartedly.

Lysander, Pakistan was certainly better off in the '90s.. As to taxes and wealth creation, a whole lot of billionaires haven't created wealth either, they've manipulated a transfer of it from the taxpayer. (The financial industry as a whole as well as the likes of Erik Prince, who's Blackwater industry income is overwhelmingly government contracts, and he's not alone, though I believe this ties into your #4 point.).I think the Daily Show's take on the Mortgage Bankers Associations "Strategic Default" is a prime example of this, as well as the moral hypocrisy of the financial industry and some economists, such as Larry Summers:

Greywolf, those in SE Asia will surely sell said oil at the market price, unles they decide to 'go Gault'.


Iraq was all about Israel security, and Afghanistan is turning into the same same. Leave Israel to its own devices and watch how quickly they fall. Only trouble is, so many innocents in the Middle East would suffer from Israel's bully behavior if left unattended. Then there is the flip side of the coin, If we the U.S. left Israel to its own devices it wouldn't be long before the Middle East neighborhood had had enough and took it to Israels doorstep, and I would wish them well in that endeavor knocking the Israeli bully to the curb.


different clue,
Bangladesh was East Pakistan at one point in time. I think a flood, without much help from Pakistan, helped propel them to their present state. Thanks for the informative post.

William R. Cumming

Hey Different Clue! Your comment on the post was right. Human occupancy of the INDUS flood plain ignored flood hazards and levee impacts. And apparently USAID signed off on assitance without much technical evaluation of long term impacts. Thanks for the heads up. By the way is the INDUS longer than the Mississippi?


Pakistan debt payments:

"Some countries, including France, Japan, South Korea and China — all members of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan — have received more money from Pakistan than they have given in response to the flooding. France received $62 million in debt payments in the first nine months of the last financial year, more than 15 times its direct contribution to the flood response. Japan received $111 million, more than five times its contribution to the response. South Korea received four times as much, and China three times as much."


Lysander wrote: Pakistan seemed to be doing better in the 90s when it was ignored by the US than it is now, having gained America's close attention.

The bureaucrats at the Asian Development Bank differ from this opinion, but what do they know?

"Pakistan Public Debt: A Brief Overview", by Emma Xiaoqin Fan, Asian Development Bank, April 2007, says:

"Pakistan entered the 21st century with serious financial problems. Public debt exceeded 90% of its GDP, over 600% of its annual revenues, and debt servicing accounted for over half of current revenues. In 2001, Pakistan was the only country in South Asia to be classified as a severely indebted country by the World Bank. Due to the inability to service external debt there were two consecutive rounds of debt rescheduling by Paris Club members and one from the quasi-London Club between 1998 and 2001. Pakistan had to seek exceptional financial arrangments from the International Monetary Fund in January 1999, after facing a severe balance of payments crisis. The outcome was the result of persistent and rising fiscal deficits, stagnant export receipts, declining worker remittances and large current account deficits.

The Pakistan economy has experienced a turnaround since 2000. Growth has accelerated and most macroeconomic indicators have improved. Public debt indicators have also shown significant improvement. ..In fact, FY2005/06 is the fifth successive year that the public debt to GDP ratio has improved. This is also the first time in more than two decades that the ratio has fallen below 60%."




"In Pakistan, fiscal deficit has been rising in recent years, standing at 7.6% of GDP in 2008. In November 2008, the Government of Pakistan signed a $7.6 billion, 23-month Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF to support the country’s stabilization programme and help the country remedy balance of payments difficulties. Fiscal performance improved substantially in 2009 due to more stringent fiscal policy. The budget deficit came down to 5.2% of GDP. While performance on the revenue side was not very encouraging, the fiscal improvement in 2009 was largely based on reduction in oil subsidies and development spending which is likely to impinge on the medium-term growth rate. The Government needs to improve the tax base and raise the very low tax-to-GDP ratio in order to reduce the fiscal deficit to sustainable levels. The tax burden can be made more equitable by spreading it across different sectors of the economy, particularly services and agriculture. "


"# As budget deficits are a major cause of public debt, every effort should be made to maintain a primary surplus in the budget. A high budget deficit in Pakistan in recent years is a cause for concern. Therefore, the pace of government revenue growth through the strengthening of tax administration and broadening of the tax base must continue to rise so that the country’s debt-carrying capacity can increase. Debt sustainability becomes an issue of growing concern when the growth of government interest payments exceeds that of government revenues.

# Strengthening tax administration is crucial. Tax rates are not low in South Asia, but inefficient tax systems and corruption keep revenues low. A simpler tax system, with fewer exemptions, less discretion and better compliance, should be a focus. Improving documentation of the economy will also help. Greater use of information technology could strengthen tax administration."

different clue

William R. Cumming, thank you for the kind words. I am just a lay observer who tries to think about what he reads and hears.

I am not sure we should think of the Pakistanis as having made a bad choice to live in the floodplain and thereby suffering from their bad choice. Mankind has lived in floodplains since the dawn of time and especially since the dawn of agriculture. The arable land is in the floodplain. The water is in the floodplain. Millions of Americans live in our own floodplains right here. The advice we gave Pakistan was the advice we were following our own selves. The lowest Mississippi is, after all, perched above the floodplain between elevated levees.

The problem comes from industrial-age approaches to river basin management. They are beginning to cause such side effects as to force a re-think here and there. The Great Flood of 1993 (the year of rain without end) began some of that rethinking here. After it had finally receded, the Clinton Administration pushed to have some of the most chronically re-flooding
land bought from private owners and returned to wildland floodplain status.

Pakistan is way more densely populated than we are, and along the middle and lower Indus I think it is basically semidesert on either side of a floodplain.
So there is no where for the people to live except in the floodplain. (If any Pakistanis reading this find
my ignorance so wretched as to need correcting, feel free). So the question might be: is there a better safer way to live within a floodplain rather than to elevate an ever-rising perched river between ever-climbing levees? Even if there is, I am not sure how
Pakistan could put 40 million flood-plainers in storage somewhere while Pakistan makes basic changes to the system before returning the floodplainers to the changed management system.

In a perfect parallel-universe world I suppose the floodplainers would all have elevated flood-refuge islands built to retreat to with enough provisions for themseves and their animals for a couple or few weeks of flooding. Thousands of such flood-refuge islands for the thousands of rural districts and divisions all along the river. (The towns and cities would have Dutch Quality SeaWalls all around themselves.) That way, they would not need to fear a flood and they would not need to restrain the river between levees. Every annual flood cycle the
river could spread out over
its floodplain with its load of high fertility Himalayan silt. Every flood-retreat cycle, the river would leave that new annual deposit of high-fertility silt behind as it returned to its non-flooded bed. The people would then return to their de-flooded re-mineralized fields for another cycle of agricultural production before the next fertility-restoring flood.

But since we live in the world we live in, I have no idea how Pakistan might introduce such a regime even if they wanted to. So they are locked into a vicious death-spiral to nowhere with their ever-rising river between its ever-rising levees. Even in this imperfect world, they might want to study what Bangladesh is doing (so I have heard) about creating flood refuge islands for people to retreat to during floods.

(Wouldn't it be ironic if it turned out that Dr. Jinnah's dream is alive and well and living in Bangladesh)?

different clue

And, ummm...I will just guess, on the basis of no knowledge at all; that the Mississippi River is longer than the Indus River.


Good info, different clue. The rulers of ancient civilizations were those who could predict and manage floods or rain cycles. I'm beginning to wonder if modern governments can manage sh*t.

Old Man River--3,902 miles
Indus--1,976 mi


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