What the ’81 census reveals

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE situation of women in Pakistan as it emerges from the findings of the 1981 census is still rather bleak. True, the sex ratio, female literacy rate and female labour participation level have registered some improvement over what was recorded in the previous census in 1972. But progress has been so slow in terms of percentages, and the population growth rate so high, that in absolute numbers there are more illiterate women and more women out of the labour force today than there were in 1972. When compared with other countries the position of women in Pakistan emerges as even more dismal.

Continue reading “What the ’81 census reveals”

Population planning: key to all-round betterment

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE ONE factor which has proved to be a major impediment to the socioeconomic development of countries in the Third World is population explosion.

It has now been conclusively established that Governments which have been incapable or unwilling to slow down the population growth rate in their countries have failed to bring about much of a change in the quality of life of their people — whatever be the growth recorded in the sectors which are taken to constitute the indices of economic progress. Conversely, failure to promote the socio-economic development of people results in a high population growth rate.

This was the message to emerge from the seminar on women, children and population held in early November at Jakarta, cosponsored by UNICEF, U’NFPA, the Press Foundation of Asia and the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association. The seminar in which media representatives from seven South and South-East Asian countries participated also had another message to convey. The status of women and children in a society largely determines the rate of population growth, just as an effective population policy has a direct impact on the lives of women and children. It needs no profound thinking to understand the interrelationship between the two.

Social status

Policies directed towards raising the social and economic status of women have a deep bearing on the fertility rate of a country. Thus, a higher literacy level, better health care and employment opportunities for women inevitably lead to lower infant mortality rate (IMR) and a greater willingness to space children and limit the family size. Conversely, a vigorous family planning programme which aims at reducing the number of children a woman gives birth to also helps in improving her status by raising the level of health and nutrition of her family and opening up opportunities for education and employment for her and her children.

These factors are very closely interrelated as is obvious from the statistics pertaining to literacy rate, life expectancy at birth, infant mortality rate, female participation in labour force and crude birth rate (CBR) in any given Third World country. It has generally been observed that the better educated the women are, the lower is the infant mortality rate, the higher is the life expectancy at birth and the lower is the crude birth rate. This trend is indicated clearly by the data given for the seven Asian countries for 1981 (these are the countries which were represented in the seminar).

Perhaps the most instructive fact to have emerged from the seminar is that the traditional basic indicator of the health of a country’s economy, namely, the GNP, is not really the key factor in determining the quality of life of its people. Thus, among the countries listed above, Sri Lanka has a per capita GNP of 306 dollars as compared with 350 dollars for Pakistan and yet Sri Lanka has a much lower CBR and IMR and higher life expectancy and literacy rate than Pakistan. Political will

U’NICEF has formulated this concept in terms of the PQLI — the Physical Quality of Life Index which takes into account three elements: the rates of infant mortality, literacy and life expectancy at age one. The PQLI is calculated by giving equal weight to each of these indicators. It is significant that many countries with a high GNP per head have a low PQLI. For instance, Brazil is much richer than Sri Lanka in terms of GNP but Brazil’s PQLI rating is 65 as compared with 80 for Sri Lanka.

In other words, it is now clear that the quality of life of the citizens of a country, which is the real indicator of economic development, depends not on its resources alone. The more crucial factor is the political will and social commitment of the Government and the soundness of the policies it adopts on education, health, population planning, women and children.

An integrated approach, however, is essential if progress is to be made in checking population growth. It is an exercise in futility to seek to reduce the crude birth rate through policies which are directed towards one sector but completely ignore the others. While equal importance needs to be given to every aspect of development of women and children, sufficient emphasis should also be placed on family planning. In Indonesia, the Government has chalked out a programme for the development of women and children which should have a widespread impact on society. It is called GOBI-FF. The acronym stands for growth monitoring of the child, oral rehydration therapy, breast feeding, immunisation, family planning and female education.

populationCollectively, these should boost the health and education level of women while reducing infant mortalitv rate. But the most significant aspect of the programme is that it focusses sharply on family planning. A concerted effort is being made at all levels to make people aware of the need of limiting their family size and spacing their children. This is done through a vigorous family planning programme which aims at informing and educating the people, providing contraceptive services and training personnel. This emphasis on family planning has begun to pay dividends. The crude birth rate per thousand has been brought down drastically from 47 in 1955-60 to 37 in 1975-80 to 32 in the eighties.

Seen in the light of the experience of other Third World countries. Pakistan’s record in family planning stands out as being really dismal. The population growth rate is said to be 2.8 per cent which is on the higher side (the Third World average is 2 per cent). According to UN estimates, the total fertility rate (the average number of children a woman can expect to give birth to) in the Third World is 4.64. In Pakistan it is 5.9. The crude birth rate here is also alarmingly high at 41 per 1,000 as compared with the average of 33 per 1.000 in the other developing countries.

Pakistan’s record

The broad thrust of the Population Welfare programme in Pakistan is correct because it seeks to improve the social, economic and health conditions of women and thus reduce fertility rates. But what is sadly lacking is sufficient emphasis on the clinical aspect of family planning without which no progress can be made in actually cutting down on the crude birth rate. The shyness which has marked the Government’s approach to family planning is not quite understandable. There is greater need for frankness in the Government’s approach to the family planning side of the population welfare programme. A discreet stance has not really paid off because it has not created the social environment necessary for educating the people and motivating them. The message of family planning must be conveyed to the people through the Radio, the Television, the Press and also the Mosque as is being done in Indonesia, a Muslim country like ours. The entire Government leadership has to show the political commitment to make family planning acceptable to the masses.

Source: Dawn 20 Nov 1983

 

The story of high targets, low performance

By Zubeida Mustafa

EDUCATION planning in Pakistan has traditionally been lopsided, with the priorities misplaced. There has been too much emphasis on higher education, while the primary sector has, by and large, been neglected. Consequently, education has been like an inverted pyramid balanced on a narrow base.

The basic weakness in the government’s education policy lies in its reluctance or inability to allocate sufficient funds to this sector. Hence resources have had to be spread thin. Thus in 1982-83 Pakistan spent only 1.5 per cent of its GNP on education. Continue reading “The story of high targets, low performance”

Population growth: Official programmes misdirected

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE KEY factor which will, in the final analysis, determine Pakistan’s economic and social progress in the coming years is the size of the country’s population and the rate at which it grows. In view of the present population explosion in the country, it is difficult to hold out much promise on this count.

The official population planning programme, which will complete two decades of its existence in 1985, has so far made not much of an impact on the demographic scene. The rate of population growth in this country is one of the highest in the world. In 1901 the area now comprising Pakistan had a population of 16 million. This doubled itself in 50 years, the 1951 census recording a population of 33 million. Continue reading “Population growth: Official programmes misdirected”

Wrong approach to primary education

By Zubeida Mustafa

WHERE is a Pakistani child at the age of 8 12 years being led to provided he is among those 50 percent who go to school? By the time he is eight—the age at which Dr Montessori, one of the greatest educationists of the century, thinks a child is ready to go to junior school — a Pakistani child has already been attending school for three years , even more if he began his studies at a nursery school. His activities have already been restricted by the rigours and discipline of a regular school at a time he should have been free to be active and explore the world for himself.

If he happens to go to a Government or nationalised school, he would in all probability be one of a class of 80 or 90. His teacher would never get to know him during the course of a year and worse still he would not be learning much while being confined to the restrictive environs of the classroom . Continue reading “Wrong approach to primary education”

Why are our students not avid readers?

By Zubeida Mustafa

SOME students were once asked why they read books — that is books other than their course books. Their answers were quite varied: to kill time; to increase their knowledge; because they were asked to do so by their teacher; to fulfil their social needs; to develop their personalities. Very few said that they read for pleasure. When young people are not reading books voluntarily or because they derive a sense of satisfaction from it, it is not strange that they are not forming life-long reading habits.

Obviously when a person feels under a compulsion or pressure to read, he will abandon is books as soon as he no longer feels the need for them. While a number of young people are reading books as a duty, there are a number of others who are not reading at all, their prescribed texts excepted.

A National Book Council survey conducted in 1981 found that 20 per cent of the students questioned said that they did not like to read. Even those who read, devoted most of the Continue reading “Why are our students not avid readers?”

Slow acceptance of a major breakthrough: Computerised calligraphy

By Zubeida Mustafa

IT IS now eighteen months that computerised Urdu nastaliq calligraphy has been in use in the country but it has yet to produce the impact on Urdu printing it could have been expected to. Only one machine is currently being used in Pakistan to bring out an Urdu daily from Lahore.

Why this delay in response? Not that the inventor, Mr Ahmed Mirza Jamil, has not Continue reading “Slow acceptance of a major breakthrough: Computerised calligraphy”

Woes of the printing industry: Need for duty cuts, cheap newsprint, incentives

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE TWO major problems facing the printing industry in Pakistan are the high cost of production and the poor quality of service provided. Identifying these two factors which determine the state of the industry today, Mr Ahmad Mirza Jamil, the outgoing Chairman of the Pakistan Association of Printing and Graphic Arts Industry (PAPGAI), points out that if the industry is surviving in the country it is because printers are operating in a seller’s market. The dismally low literacy rate, the poor reading habits of the people and the scarcity of low-priced books and literature are key indicators of the state of the publishing and printing industries in Pakistan.It is not surprising to find these industries in a poor state.

In a society where education is at a discount, the elements which go into the making of education also tend to be ignored. As compared with the publishing sector, printing is better off because it caters to multifarious needs other than those of the publishers and stationers. The printer gets a substantial part of his business from the orders he receives for the printing of labels, cartons, pharmaceutical literature (which the majority of consumers cannot read), invitation and greeting cards and calendars. There is urgent need to look into the problems of the printing industry not only to promote the cause of education and literacy. But also because printing is one of the major industries in the country.

According to Mr Jamil, it employs nearly 300,000 people and is the second largest industry in terms of manpower employment after textiles. In Karachi alone there are some 3,000 printing units. If nothing else, the size of the industry itself warrants that it be given due attention.

 A service industry

Printing is essentially a service industry, says Mr Mirza Jamil. But unlike other services, nearly 70 to 85 per cent of the sales proceed go towards meeting the cost of raw material. Hence it is difficult for a printer to reduce costs unless he is provided paper, ink, box board, graphic films and other such items at lower prices.

Mr Jamil feels that the government’s policies have not been very helpful in this respect. Import duties and sales tax on the raw material used in printing are exorbitantly high and, with the gradual appreciation of foreign currencies vis-a-vis the Pakistani rupee after its delinking from the dollar, the landed cost of imported machinery, paper and other raw material, as also the duties and taxes levied have shot up immensely.

Giving a few instances, Mr Jamil points out that in June 1981, the import duty on printer’s ink was 40 per cent on the c&f value. Over and above this there was a sales tax of 10 per cent which meant an actual tax of 54 per cent on the c&f value. In January 1982 the sales tax stood at 20 per cent and an import surcharge of 5 per cent had also been imposed. As a result the actual taxes went up to 73 per cent on the c&f value.

Tax burden

 In January 1983 a year after the delinking of the rupee when a dollar was valued at Rs 13, the duties and taxes on ink in effect amounted to 95 per cent on the c&f value as it was in January 1982 — an increase of 76 per cent over the June 1981 rates. Board grey on which there is an import duty of 50 per cent, a sales tax of 10 per cent and a surcharge of 5 per cent, now yields revenues amounting to 91 per cent of its cost in June 1981. The taxes on machinery and spare parts amount to 76.7 per cent, on graphic films to 58.5 per cent on printing plates to 76.7 per cent and on paper board to 46- 120 per cent depending on the c&f price of paper. In view of the fact that the cost of paper alone makes up a substantial part of the cost of the finished product (70 per cent in the case of books), the heavy imports on this item used in printing has not helped the cause of the industry.

We have been retrogressing. In the early fifties, printing machines could be imported free of import duties. Today they carry an import duty of 40 per cent, a sales tax of 10 per cent and a surcharge of 5 per cent. Under present conditions, the local manufacture of raw material for the printing industry also has not helped. Thus 75 per cent of the printing ink used in the country is locally manufactured and it is given preference because it is readily available. But it is more expensive than the imported stuff because the import duty, sales tax and excise duty on the ingredients of the locally manufactured ink are so high that it costs more than the imported ink.

Similarly, the locally produced paper is unsatisfactory in quality and in spite of the heavy duty on imported paper, the local paper cannot really compete in price with the imported one.

 A damaging device

A damaging move taken by the Government was the imposition of sales tax on some d products in June 1981. This was done through the device of rescinding the Government notification of June 1951 which dealt with sales tax exemption. A new notification was issued which listed a few items such as account books, exercise books, maps, charts, stationery, cartons and calendars on which exemption was to be granted. All other goods were subject to sales tax. Since all the raw material used by the industry is already subjected to sales tax, such tax on the finished product virtually amounts to double taxation.

Mr Jamil notes that it is next to impossible for the printing industry to claim refund of sales tax, since the evidence of the sales tax paid on the raw material cannot be produced. Few printers import their own raw material. On a representation made by PAPGAI in October 1982, however, the government agreed to maintain the status quo in the matter of sales tax on finished products until a final decision is taken.

Mr Jamil hopes that the 1981 notification will be withdrawn. The other problem faced by the industry is the absence of quality. This Mr Mirza Jamil feels is to be attributed primarily to the scarcity of trained personnel and the absence of competition. Although services account for barely 15 to 30 per cent of the cost of printing, it is the key factor in determining the quality of the finished product.

Training in skills

 Mr Jamil compares the printing technician to the artist. Just as the quality of an artist’s drawing can either enhance the worth of a piece of paper or reduce it to scrap, similarly the printer’s skill determines the worth of a printed piece of paper. And yet Pakistan has no up-to-date training school for printers. The only facility available is at Lahore, but here Mr Jamil complains obsolete machinery is used to train students in outdated techniques.

Repeated representation by PAPGAI to the government to open training centres in up-to-date methods have produced no response. As a result, most big presses provide on-the-job training to their technicians. But according to the outgoing Chairman of PAPGAI, this has proved to be a costly process. The trainees initially lack the knowledge and skill to handle the machinery so that breakage and wear and tear are much more than normal. Moreover, the “Dubai Chalo” trend has hit the printing industry as much as other sectors and the most slcilled and best trained technicians tend to migrate to the Middle East.

How to improve quality?

 How can quality be improved? Mirza Jamil suggests that the Government should help to establish training schools for printers. The import of printing plants should be allowed free of duty so that those who wish to train technicians are not discouraged by the high cost of the machinery. PAPGAI itself has started a free correspondence course to train technicians. This will certainly help but will not suffice. Increasing competition can help to improve quality says Mr Mirza Jamil.

Although many printers would not agree, he insists that operating in a seller’s market the printing industry can get away with shoddy work. If the cost of machinery and raw material were to be considerably reduced, it would provide the incentive to new entrepreneurs to enter the field, thus giving rise to the much needed competition necessary for efficiency and quality. This would also create the compulsion for those in the printing industry to introduce modern management techniques and use the appropriate equipment for a particular job, which is not the case at present.

 Suggestions

 The outgoing Chairman of PAPGAI has specific recommendations to make. A commission should be set up to investigate the state of the printing industry and to fix standards of production. The levies on printing machinery and raw material be reduced or eliminated altogether. Facilities be organised for the training o{ technical hands. And finally, to encourage educational publishing, newsprint be imported duty-free for books and special printing machine be imported for the printing of textbooks.

Unless the printing industry is promoted as a low-cost concern, inexpensive books and reading material cannot be made available to the people. And when the tools of learning are beyond the reach of the common man, literacy and education tend to become the privilege of a few. The case for promoting the cause of low-cost and quality printing is a strong one.

If PAPGAI has failed to make an impression on the government it is not surprising. It does not constitute a powerful lobby since its present membership is just a fraction of the total number of printing • plants in the country. Since many of the printing presses are small concerns, they tend to be so occupied with their own management and operation that they have no inclination to participate in PAPGAI activities.

Source: Dawn, February 27, 1983

 

Woes of the printing industry: Need for duty cuts, cheap newsprint, incentives

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE TWO major problems facing the printing industry in Pakistan are the high cost of production and the poor quality of service provided. Identifying these two factors which determine the state of the industry today, Mr Ahmad Mirza Jamil, the outgoing Chairman of the Pakistan Association of Printing and Graphic Arts Industry (PAPGAI) points out that if the industry is surviving in the country it is because printers are operating in a seller’s market. The dismally low literacy rate, the poor reading habits of the people and the scarcity of low-priced books and literature are key indicators of the state of the publishing and printing industries in Pakistan.

It is not surprising to find these industries in a poor state. In a society where education is at a discount, the elements which go into the making of education also tend to be ignored. As compared with the publishing sector, printing is better off because it c to multifarious needs other than those of the publishers and stationers. The printer gets a substantial part of his business from the orders he receives for the printing of labels, cartons, pharmaceutical literature (which the majority of consumers cannot read), invitation and greeting cards and calendars. There is urgent need to look into the Continue reading “Woes of the printing industry: Need for duty cuts, cheap newsprint, incentives”

Publishing industry’s travail : Book production a high risk business

By Zubeida Mustafa

 BOOK PUBLISHING is a high risk business in Pakistan, says Mr Shams Quraeshi of Mackwin & Co. who has been in the book trade since 1947. Returns are slow in coming, hence not many people with capital to spare wish to invest in it. They would rather opt for an industry with quicker and guaranteed returns.

Even banks regard books as poor risk. Thus one can get a bank loan of Rs 80,000. against paper reams worth Rs 100,000. But as soon as the paper is converted into a book, no bank is prepared to accept it as security to advance a loan.

Malik Noorani, whose Maktabe-i- Daniyal has published the works of Faiz, Mushtaq Yusufi and Josh, considers himself to be lucky if he breaks even. “You have to be an entrepreneur, gambler and philanthropist to be a publisher. You also need a Qarun ka khazana and Ayub ka sabr,” sums up Mr Noorani, “I do not have the first, though I have the second.”

He admits that he manages to sell off all the books he publishes because he prices them abnormally low, which would not be feasible were he not subsidising his publications from his income from the sale of law books through the Pakistan Law House, which he runs at the Pakistan Chowk. In law books it is a seller’s market, Continue reading “Publishing industry’s travail : Book production a high risk business”