Monthly Archives: March 2007

Global Trade in Higher Education

Countries continue to negotiate on a new global trade agreement as part of the functioning of the World Trade Organization. In addition to GATT, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, talks are also taking place on GATS, the General Agreement on Trade in Services.

On aspect of GATS deals with the provision, and consumption, of higher education across borders. The US government is willing to make American higher education services more accessible to other countries. However negotiations could conceivably also result in educational institutions in other countries easily being able to offer services to US students. All in all, this should be a good thing – or so one would think. Alas, nothing is ever that simple.

Some American education associations are protesting the US move saying in essence that compliance with GATS rules could result in a difference in the treatment of public and private colleges in the US and also adversely affect the regulation of higher education institutions by states. In a letter to the US trade representative, Susan Schwab, the associations expressed concern that “a U.S. commitment in the higher education services sector could ultimately undermine all of our institutions’ time-honored autonomy with respect to important prerogatives, including the approval of credit transfers”. Even state officials are protesting; the governors of Maine and Iowa also wrote to the US Trade Representative expressing reservations about the impact of GATS rules on higher education in the US.

An educational association official quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education said “Some bureaucrat at the World Trade Organization could be making decisions that overturn the judgment of the U.S. Congress or state governments,”. Would you have expected to hear this kind of statement in connection with issues in higher education? Does it sound familiar?

Apparently the US Trade Representative has not yet formally replied to the educational associations’ letter but a spokesperson for her provided assurance that the US offer for trade in higher education services would not harm US education policies and services.

Meanwhile another group, the National Committee for International Trade in Education , is advocating the enhancing of global trade in education. Its efforts are supported by some educational institutions such as Jones International University, a for-profit institution that provides online education and serves non-US markets. Other US-based for-profit higher education institutions and testing companies seeking to expand into the international market also support the US proposal.

The tussle between the supporters and detractors of trade in higher education service is likely to continue for a while, and not just in the US. It is quite likely that groups in other countries will also get involved. I wonder if we will see public spectacles like the protests associated with GATT talks. I think I’ll continue to follow this topic so stay tuned for more reports.

(Some of the material in this post draws upon an article by Andrea Foster in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Volume 53, Issue 30, Page A29, March 30, 2007)

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Business climate in Pakistan

A couple of interesting reports on the business climate in Pakistan these days. (Thanks to PAL-C for providing information about and links to these reports).

First, despite the ruckus accompany the suspension of the Chief Justice in Pakistan, the financial services firm of JP Morgan has this to say about the investment climate in Pakistan and Musharraf’s position:

“• Investment climate impact: We believe that investors need not be apprehensive of the situation that has been created. President
Musharraf’s painstaking efforts to bring the country economically to where it is today are not likely to be eroded by this one step. It is, after all, an election year and we are likely to see a few ups and downs politically. We would still recommend that investors focus on Pakistan’s improving economic fundamentals.”

Acceptance of SJC decision
President Musharraf has categorically stated that he will accept whatever decision the SJC takes. He has also stated that once the hearing of the CJ is over and the SJC gives its decision, he will publicly explain on national television the details of the entire incident.”

This is the link to the report provided by PAL-C.

Second, Pakistan’s country profile in a report from the World Bank on doing business in South Asia in 2007 gives it a reasonably good evaluation (2nd overall in South Asia and in the upper half of countries globally – figure at top of page 45).

The ease of doing business in various cities of Pakistan is ranked (ca April 2006, Table 2.7) as follows:
1. Karachi
2. Faisalabad
3. Sialkot
4. Lahore
5. Peshawar
6. Quetta

Again, this is the link to the report provided by PAL-C.

Note, both of the links provide partial reports, not full copies.

Are video games bad for your driving?

There are several pieces that I have been meaning to write but just haven’t found time to do so. I also don’t want to disappoint those of you who drop by to have a look now and then. So while posts on water shortage, ethical issues faced by academics in dealing with security, and the shortage of engineers are in the offing, here is a fun litle piece that I am simply reproducing from the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus Blog.  (This is the permalink to this piece.)

March 19, 2007

Driving Under a Different Kind of Influence

The next time you’re stopped at a red light, and a young driver knocks into your car from behind, take pity: He may just have played too much Grand Theft Auto or Mario Kart. People who play driving-themed computer games like those are much more likely to take risks on real roads, say researchers at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich.

In the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Experimental Psychology, the researchers report that Grand Theft Auto players are uncharacteristically aggressive drivers and that the game made men, but not women, take more risks when using a driving-simulation program.

But the studies, also reported in the Telegraph, have a certain chicken-or-the-egg quality about them: Do video games really encourage reckless driving, or do they just appeal to the kind of drivers who might be fairly aggressive anyway? —Brock Read

Religion and the Environment

“Why have religions been so late in responding to environmental issues, and what are the obstacles to their full participation?”

This is the question raised by Mary Tucker and John Grim in a recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Religions, having the strong influence that they do in shaping society, have a role to play in responding to current environmental problems.

Religions definitely define positions on homicide and suicide and should now respond to ecocide and biocide. Tucker and Grim and point out that the environmental crisis has a moral dimension and religious sensibility should be able to respond to that. Furthermore humanity’s joint residence within the ecosystem means that there is an opportunity, indeed a need, for inter-religious dialog to promote a cooperative social response to environmental degradation.

There is activity within the religious community on issues related to the environment. It ranges from community projects dealing with protection of local environmental resources because of motivation by religious principles to publication of scholarly works studying connections between religion and the environment. In some countries such as Iran and Indonesia environmental policies explicitly draw upon religious principles.

Much information about environmental work driven by religious views is available at Harvard University’s Forum on Religion and Ecology. Tucker and Grim are coordinators for this forum and also visiting scholars at Yale University’s Institution for Social and Policy Studies.

Seminar: Sustaining Economic Reform in Pakistan, March 21

Announcement received from PAL-C

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“SUSTAINING ECONOMIC REFORM IN PAKISTAN”

Wednesday, March 21, 2007, 12:00-2:00pm

Kenney Auditorium, 1740 Massachusetts Ave NW
The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University

Co-Sponsored by the Pakistani American Leadership Center (PAL-C) and the SAIS South Asia Studies Program

This event will explore business and investment opportunities in Pakistan, the prospects for increased investment in Pakistan and its consequent impact on political and social development, and the possibility of a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) and a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Pakistan and United States. These questions will be considered within the context where the U.S. remains by far Pakistan’s leading export market – accounting for about one-fifth of total exports – while a stable, economically thriving Pakistan is vital to U.S. strategic interests. It is the second in a series of events at SAIS on “Fresh Perspectives in Pakistan.”

12:00-12:30pm Lunch and Registration

12:30-2:00pm Panel Discussion

Panel: Adnan Hassan (The World Bank), Gary Clyde Hufbauer (Institute for International Economics), Esperanza Gomez Jelalian (S-Pakistan Business Council), (moderator) K. Alan Kronstadt (Congressional Research Service)
 

Adnan Hassan is Senior Advisor in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer at the World Bank and he recently was the moderator at the recent Euromoney Pakistan Investment Conference in Islamabad, which was attended by foreign investors, by Pakistan’s Prime Minister, and by leading businesspersons.

Gary C. Hufbauer is currently the Reginald Jones Senior Fellow at the Institute for International Economics, Washington D.C., and is the co-author of a recent study on “Sustaining Reform with a USPakistan Free Trade Agreement.”

Esperanza Gomez Jelalian serves as Executive Director of the U.S.-Pakistan Business Council (USPBC), the leading private sector association of U.S. companies with business and investment in Pakistan.

K. Alan Kronstadt has been a Specialist in Asian Affairs for the Congressional Research Service in Washington, D.C., since 2002, where he researches and writes on U.S. relations with India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka for Members of the U.S. Congress and their staffs.

RSVP to Jenika Kaul at southasia[at]jhu.edu, with “Econ Reform” in the subject, and with your contact details and affiliation.