LAHORE: Lahore School of Economics organized its first two-day International Conference on Applied Development Economics with the aim to highlight the on-going research in Pakistan, both by researchers residing in the Pakistan and abroad on key issues of relevance to economic development and poverty alleviation in Pakistan.

The conference held on 12-13 September 2018 at the Lahore School’s Burki Campus provided an opportunity to local researchers to obtain feedback on their existing research from an audience of experienced researchers in their field.

The first day of the conference started with welcome remarks by Dr Shahid Amjad Chaudhry, rector Lahore School of Economics while Prof Imran Rasul, Prof of Economics at the University College London delivered the plenary address.

In his address, Prof Imran Rasul focused on new research on Bangladesh and Pakistan that aims to broaden the agenda on understanding how to optimally design social protection programs for the poor and whether such programs should entail providing transfers in kind or in cash.

He observed that asset transfer reduction reduced engagement in casual wage labour and increased work in capital-intensive sectors as well as labour supply hours.

The session on Microfinance and Enterprise was chaired by Prof Imran Rasul (University College London) while session on Political Economy was chaired by Dr. Azam Chaudhry (Lahore School of Economics). The session on Gender was chaired by Fauzia Viqar (Punjab Commission for the Status of Women; PCSW).

In their papers Muhammad Meki, from University of Oxford and Farah Said from Lahore School of Economics focused on investigating demand for innovate microfinance products with hard and soft commitment devices and provided promising evidence for the potential of shared-ownership microfinance contracts to help stimulate investment among growth-oriented microenterprise owners.

Speakers in this session included Mahreen Mahmud (University of Oxford), Katherine Vyborny (Duke University) and Zunia Saif Tirmazee (Lahore School of Economics). All the papers received valuable comments from the discussants that included Hadia Majid (LUMS) and Ayesha Ali (LUMS).

The day two of the conference progressed with the sessions on firm capabilities which was chaired by Johannes Boehm from Paris Institute of Political Sciences.

In this session Ali Choudhary from State Bank of Pakistan addressed the issue, “why do banks not lend in rural areas?” The findings suggest that banks suffer from an inability to enforce contractual terms rather than an inability to select good borrowers.

Maryiam Haroon from Lahore School of Economics using unique firm level panel data, empirically investigated the effect of various sources of agglomeration externalities (localization, urbanization and competition) on firm level productivity, costs and prices.

Maryam in her finding suggest that agglomeration externalities operate through competition in reducing labor and raw material costs and not through specialization.

Johannes Boehm from Paris Institute of Political Sciences presented his work using micro data on Indian manufacturing plants, he shows that production and sourcing decisions appear systematically distorted in states with weaker enforcement.

The second session of the second day titled State Capacity and Local Institutions was chaired by Theresa Thompson Chaudhry from Lahore School of Economics.