Karachi : Economic growth in Wild Wild West of Pakistan [Further reading links on dynamics of violence in Karachi]

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I have always believed that stock market is not the barometer of an economy or general well being of population. A few big players or institutional players can manipulate it and the effects may not trickle down to general population. In US case, a rising stock market has the impact of increasing confidence of the people thus resulting in more investments which leads to more employment etc and thus a virtuous cycle may start. However, the same is not the case in Pakistan where Karachi stock exchange has been generating significant returns for last two years but the misery of people and their general well being is not improving.

This is what Bloomberg said in November 2012:

Pakistan Stocks Best as Violence Ignored: Riskless Return

Pakistan is handing equity investors the world’s best risk-adjusted returns as terrorist attacks, power blackouts and a war with Taliban insurgents fail to curb gains in consumer spending that sent profits to a record high.

The KSE 100 Index, the benchmark for Pakistan’s $43 billion equity market, rose 7.3 percent in the past three years when adjusted for price swings, the top gain among 72 markets worldwide, according to the BLOOMBERG RISKLESS RETURN RANKING. Pakistan had lower stock volatility than 82 percent of the nations including the U.S. (SPX) Over five years, Pakistan’s risk- adjusted returns ranked eighth.

We all know how the economy spiralled downwards in last 5 years of PPP government but if we are to go by Karachi Stock Exchange 100 index, we were the 8th best performing market (mind you, on risk adjusted basis) in the world.

This from yesterday’s DAWN. (DAWN has a tendency of changing its website addresses frequently so if the link becomes dead, please let me know in comments and I will try to update it]

Equities yield staggering 52pc return

(June 29, 2013) For the investors in equities, it is time to celebrate. He who may have invested Rs10 million in the Pakistan stocks on July 1 of last year, would have additional Rs5.2 million in the kitty.

It marks a mouth-watering return of 52 per cent in a year unmatched by any other asset class. During the year, the benchmark KSE-100 index added staggering 7,204 points to settle at the dizzy height of 21,006 points on Friday, the last trading day of the year.

Stock market is not the only growth story. The extortion racket is also growing at an breakneck pace. From Reuters

Pakistan’s commercial hub faces growing extortion menace

Businesses in Karachi are facing a surge in extortion demands from criminal gangs, forcing many owners to delay new investment or to relocate their families to escape the sense of insecurity gripping the urban heart of Pakistan’s economy.

The worsening law and order situation in Karachi, which generates 25 percent of Pakistan’s economic activity, presents one of the many challenges new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif must overcome to fulfill promises to set Pakistan on a path to faster growth.

An expanding middle class is fuelling consumer spending but extortion is hurting confidence among thousands of family-run firms that form the backbone of the economy.

With the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan due to start in July, a traditional time for extortionists to come calling, Karachi traders and shopkeepers are braced for what police say will be a record year of demands.

“The extortion racket has blown out of all proportion with the previous year,” said Ahmed Chinoy, chief of the Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), a Karachi body set up to help police by providing crime statistics and technical support.

The growing demands reflect the shifting dynamics of a city of 18 million people where new challengers, including Pakistan’s Taliban movement, are locked in an increasingly violent, neighborhood-by-neighborhood battle for control.

Professionals, not just shopkeepers, are also targets.

When Javed Hanif, a doctor, answered his cellphone in June the caller reeled off a list of Hanif’s personal details: his work in a government hospital, the registration number of his car, and preparations for his son’s wedding. The man demanded 500,000 Pakistani rupees.

In spite of the climate of fear, business sentiment is not universally bleak. Retail is booming in Karachi, symbolized by the opening of a flashy modern shopping centre called Dolmen Mall Clifton in 2011 which showcases international brands such as Debenhams and Fatburger.

There is a class of people, I wouldn’t say they are immune, least bothered by increasing lawlessness. They are rich, reside in gated or posh communities, live for conspicuous consumption and to cater to their needs such flashy international brands are coming to Pakistan.

Despite all of the above, population growth rate of Pakistan has not staved off. If things do not improve, the large youth population will be a ticking time bomb. However, for now, they represent a huge, increasing in size and lucrative consumer goods segment. With population moving to urban centres, though it represents a growing segment of consumer goods now, it is taking the creaking infrastructure of cities like Karachi to breaking point.

Consumer goods: P&G sets eyes on expanding Pakistan operations

Changing demographics support growth

“One of the factors driving our growth is the enhanced ability of semi-rural consumers to participate in the economy,” Sabzwari said. “If you compare the urbanisation rate in Pakistan with other developing countries, you will see that we are getting urbanised faster than others,” he pointed out.

A growing middle class and the overall demographics of the population are critical factors driving consumerism. “We have millions of consumers entering independent disposable income space in their lives every year,” Sabzwari pointed out. Pakistan is one of the top countries adding 20-year-olds to the world, and these are the people establishing new families and helping market sizes grow. “Market size here grows in terms of volumes, without taking the pricing into account,” he explained.

All of the above news items point out to fast growth happening in Karachi. But we still haven’t touched upon the fastest growing sector: Target killing. The growth in this murderous business has been phenomenal. If one is in Bori (jute or gunny bags in which dead bodies are occasionally found) business, the prices would have skyrocketed leading to lucrative profit margin.

100pc rise in number of killings over past five months

June 29: Nearly 100 per cent increase has been witnessed in the number of killings across the city during the first five months of the year as compared to last year’s corresponding period, it emerged on Saturday.

While 750 people had been killed between January and May last year, as many as 1,450 people were killed in the city over the past five months, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Now only if we could establish a murder or target killing stock exchange in Karachi like in Somalia for Piracy, the benefits of this growing business can be distributed to common population. From Wall Street Journal

Today’s Pirates Have Their Own Stock Exchange

The world’s first pirate stock exchange was established in 2009 in Harardheere, some 250 miles northeast of Mogadishu, Somalia. Open 24 hours a day, the exchange allows investors to profit from ransoms collected on the high seas, which can approach $10 million for successful attacks against Western commercial vessels.

While there are no credible statistics available, reports from various news sources suggest that over 70 entities are listed on the Harardheere exchange. When a pirate operation is successful, it pays investors a share of the profits. According to a former pirate who spoke to Reuters, “The shares are open to all and everybody can take part, whether personally at sea or on land by providing cash, weapons or useful materials. . . . We’ve made piracy a community activity.”

Think about it, this could be the first target killing or murder stock exchange of the world.

Below is link dump of studies of violence in Karachi. Must read if you want to understand the dynamics of violence in Karachi.

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