CERP Leadership Hosts a Talk at ISAS, Berkeley

14 Mar 2019

CERP's leadership came together at the Institute for South Asia Studies (ISAS), University of California, Berkeley for a riveting discussion on Evidence-Based Economic Policy in Pakistan on March 8, 2019.

The discussion revolved around the importance of research in designing effective economic policy and how CERP is playing a pivotal role in evidence-based decision making in Pakistan through research, survey, analytics, teaching, and advisory.

The panel consisted of Maroof A. Syed, President  & CEO, CERP, Atif Mian and Asim I. Khwaja, Members of the Board, CERP, Saad Gulzar, Research Fellow, CERP and Christina Brown, Graduate Student Fellow, CERP.

Dr. Atif Mian started the discussion stating the significance of research institute like CERP in Pakistan and how it serves as a platform for individuals who want to work on problems of social and economic importance. On the importance of research in context to the progression of society, he said ‘Research is a process for society as a whole to move forward, flourish and question in a constructive way.’ He then explained his area of research in macroeconomics and how macroeconomic variables effect the policy landscape in a country by giving an example of Foreign Direct Investment in a developing country.

The discussion moved towards CERP and how it deploys evidence in all its programmes, Mr. Maroof Syed highlighted CERP deploying research in a way that is scalable. ‘We started to build around our research verticals keeping the mission at the core i.e. to deepen the culture of evidence in Pakistan. We want to improve decision making through our research and through our other verticals,’ explained Mr. Syed. He then further informed about how CERP is using data and analytics to strengthen decision making for Pakistani firms and the way it has helped to scale our impact. He mentioned that (under CERP’s BCURE programme) around 2400 CSS officers in Pakistan were trained - equipping them with practical skills and frameworks to effectively apply data and evidence.

Outlining the education sector in Pakistan, Ms. Christina Brown focused on how the introduction of private schools creates competition for public schools. ‘In Punjab, at least 40% of the kids attend private schools and in low-income families, at least a third of the kids attend private schools,’ she shared. Ms. Brown said that these statistics make education research in Pakistan altogether a different setting.

With his research interest in the political economy of development and comparative politics in South Asia, Dr. Saad Gulzar briefly discussed his research project on local government in Pakistan. Saad has been working with the members of the provincial assembly, of KPK, to find out how politicians interact with citizens on day to day basis and how this process can be improved.

Detailing the different projects executed with the Excise and Taxation Department Punjab, Dr. Asim Khwaja talked about the ongoing research in taxation and civil service reforms in Pakistan. Summarising his talk Dr. Khwaja said, ‘a lot of research that we are beginning to do is more to understand the problem you are focused on and we try and use our methods to jointly solve them.’

Mr. Syed concluded the talk by informing the gathering, ways in which they can engage with CERP. This was followed by a Q&A session where audience asked the panel about various issues facing Pakistan such as brain drain, income inequality, distribution of wealth and the existence (and role) of think tanks in Pakistan.