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Global Go To Think Tank Index (GGTTI) 2020 launched                    111,75 Think Tanks across the world ranked in different categories.                SDPI is ranked 90th among “Top Think Tanks Worldwide (non-US)”.           SDPI stands 11th among Top Think Tanks in South & South East Asia & the Pacific (excluding India).            SDPI notches 33rd position in “Best New Idea or Paradigm Developed by A Think Tank” category.                SDPI remains 42nd in “Best Quality Assurance and Integrity Policies and Procedure” category.              SDPI stands 49th in “Think Tank to Watch in 2020”.            SDPI gets 52nd position among “Best Independent Think Tanks”.                           SDPI becomes 63rd in “Best Advocacy Campaign” category.                   SDPI secures 60th position in “Best Institutional Collaboration Involving Two or More Think Tanks” category.                       SDPI obtains 64th position in “Best Use of Media (Print & Electronic)” category.               SDPI gains 66th position in “Top Environment Policy Tink Tanks” category.                SDPI achieves 76th position in “Think Tanks With Best External Relations/Public Engagement Program” category.                    SDPI notches 99th position in “Top Social Policy Think Tanks”.            SDPI wins 140th position among “Top Domestic Economic Policy Think Tanks”.               SDPI is placed among special non-ranked category of Think Tanks – “Best Policy and Institutional Response to COVID-19”.                                            Owing to COVID-19 outbreak, SDPI staff is working from home from 9am to 5pm five days a week. All our staff members are available on phone, email and/or any other digital/electronic modes of communication during our usual official hours. You can also find all our work related to COVID-19 in orange entries in our publications section below.    The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) is pleased to announce its Twenty-third Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) from 14 – 17 December 2020 in Islamabad, Pakistan. The overarching theme of this year’s Conference is Sustainable Development in the Times of COVID-19. Read more…       FOOD SECIRITY DASHBOARD: On 4th Nov, SDPI has shared the first prototype of Food Security Dashboard with Dr Moeed Yousaf, the Special Assistant to Prime Minister on  National Security and Economic Outreach in the presence of stakeholders, including Ministry of National Food Security and Research. Provincial and district authorities attended the event in person or through zoom. The dashboard will help the government monitor and regulate the supply chain of essential food commodities.

Inclusive Economic Growth.

Pension Reforms Agenda of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Partner/Donor: Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED)

Duration: January 2021 – December 2021

Project Lead: Dr Vaqar Ahmed


Before the onset of COVID-19, the budgetary position of the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) was already less-than-ideal. The pandemic has further constricted the fiscal space. The KP government is experiencing shrinking fiscal space, mainly due to:

i) shrinking GDP,
ii) reduction in federal transfers to KP,
iii) increase in pension payments, and
iv) increase in social protection spending.

In this regard, SEED is providing technical assistance to KP in the area of fiscal and governance reforms. In particular, SEED’s support to KP includes technical assistance to the Finance Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Revenue Authority (KPRA), and Excise & Taxation (E&T) in identifying options and developing proposals for increasing revenue and reducing public expenditures on government pensions; motor vehicle tax; sales tax on services; urban immovable property tax; and exploring the possibility of introducing carbon tax for green financing.

In this context, pensions’ liabilities represent a long-standing drag on the provincial balance sheet and the annual budget. Since 2009-10, yearly pension expenditure has climbed from 03 per cent of the provincial budget to nearly 10 per cent in 2019-20. The pension bill has grown nearly 10 times larger from Rs 7.17 billion in 2009-10 to Rs 69.91 billion in 2018-19, outpacing the growth of the salaries’ bill, federal transfers and even the overall budget over the same period. Pre-COVID estimates predicted that growing pension servicing costs would squeeze out development spending in the years to come. However, the pandemic has accelerated this shift by up to 3-4 years, which means development spending could be completely crowded out by pension costs as early as 2030.

SDPI is collaborating with SEED to conduct an online meeting on public sector pensions in Pakistan. The objective behind is to bring together government officials and independent experts to highlight fiscal policy challenges presented by the growth in public sector pensions (which are not funded) and to evolve reform options based on evidence from national and international experiences. The federal and provincial governments are currently developing fiscal policy solutions to manage their respective pensions’ liabilities and this online meeting is intended to inform this process.


• To launch an advocacy and stakeholder engagement campaign for a change management of KP government
• To produce a policy paper on pension reforms

Project Outcomes: SEED will be leading policy advocacy efforts to raise the profile of pensions as a major fiscal problem and shape public discourse to create a constituency for reform efforts. This will include work on political economy through change management/advocacy & driving public discourse and developing an integrated reform package and policy paper.

COVID-19 support to Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of National Food Security & Research

Partner/Donor: FCDO – Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Duration: Aug. 2020 -Feb. 2021

Team lead for Food Security Dashboard feasibility study: Dr Abid Q. Suleri

Team lead for SMEs related work: Dr Vaqar Ahmed


SDPI is currently working with support from Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) to assist the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of National Food Security and Research in assessing COVID-related losses to export-oriented Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with the objective to prepare a crisis management food security plan to cope with the negative effects of COVID-19 on food security and food supply chain.

As literature suggests, 1% decline in global demand leads to 1.2-1.5% decline in Pakistan’s overall exports. The prolonged lockdowns as a result of the pandemic outbreak have impacted exports through disruption in supply chains, border closure to nonessential trade, and limited market for exports due to fall in demand. There is, therefore, a need to arrive at a better understanding of transmission channels through which COVID-19, low global demand, and volatility in oil and energy markets will impact Pakistan’s exports of goods and services and how the government can support SMEs to better deal with the challenges emerging out of the pandemic.

The study includes both the traditional and non-traditional export industries.

Likewise, the Ministry of National Food Security and Research has sought SDPI’s help in preparing a response plan to ensure food security amid various scenarios of smart lockdown, which has the potential to affect the already grim situation of food security and Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) for the continuation of agri-operations to avoid any supply shocks or disruption in food supply chain.

Scope of study

The study will provide an assessment of the data available for setting up a national data facility for essential food commodities vital for achieving food security and maintaining food supply chains across the country to manage supply and demand to avoid any untoward situation.

SOPs for agriculture sector

The study suggests how the safety of people working along the food supply chain from COVID-19 transmission can be ensured. This will guide on setting SOPs on COVID-19 safety which can be adopted by producers and processors.

Project Outcomes

Intervention – I

  1. SDPI’s own work hints at balancing interventions (e.g. through fiscal stimulus) across small, medium, and large exporters and make special provisions for new and potential exporters. COVID-19 crisis provides an opportunity to rethink current structure of incentives and design response in a manner that not only promotes level playing field but also helps spur innovation.
  2. We expect that evidence-based suggestions to refine response, relief, and recovery for trade sector could result in improved knowledge available with the Ministry of Commerce; help feed in to any changes to existing trade, tariff, and investment policies; and support changes in export promotion strategies, including trade diplomacy.
  3. The objective of our research, outreach, and policy engagement is to strengthen both demand-and supply-side. In the interest of strengthening public accountability, we will present our draft findings to members of parliament’s Standing Committees on Commerce and Industries. The goal is to sensitize them regarding pressure on current trade eco-system and future priorities.

Intervention II:

  1. Production of a detailed study on the structure for central data facility: It aims to analyze and monitor food supplies and demands to better support policymakers about food shortages, bottlenecks in logistics and controlling food prices. The aim is to compile list of indicators on which data is available which could inform on stocks, needs and future requirements at the district level. It will provide government with much needed information about supply and demand as well as whistle blowing threshold.
  2. Study on rapid needs assessment for a select crop system: This will help prepare SoPs for producers and processors. For sustained agricultural production, it would be essential to prepare and train producers as well as processors on how to use procedures without jeopardizing their lives and livelihoods. This assessment will also help design future awareness campaigns to minimize disinformation about food shortages.

Saving Lives and Livelihoods by supporting Food Security, Small and Medium Enterprises and Universal Social Protection Mechanisms to coup with COVID 19 Impacts in Pakistan

Project Partner/Donor: IDRC

Project Duration: 36 Months

Team members: Thematic Team Leads 1. Dr Abid Suleri Team Food Security. 2. Dr Vaqar Ahmed Team Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and 3. Dr Sajid Amin Team Social Protection

Project Introduction: This project has a multi-sectoral thematic focus and looks to support the Government of Pakistan, in the wake of COVID-19, in maintaining essential economic activity, and protecting workers and smaller producers. Key elements of this project include documenting evidence on COVID-19’s impact, evidence-based input informing response strategies during relief and recovery phases, and strengthening local research with the focus on food security, small to medium enterprises (SMEs), and social protection systems.

Project Objectives:
Short and Medium Term: 
– Exploratory Research for evidence of impact
– Preliminary assessment of data/evidence
– Evidence generation for setting up a food security dashboard
– Mapping and assessment of govt. response to COVID 19
– Meta analysis of existing literature to gauge global best practices for respective sectors
Long Term:
– Gearing towards evidence-based recovery  strategies
– Consolidation of lessons learned from previous phases
– Multipronged advocacy and outreach strategy
Cross-cutting Objectives:
– Media engagement for research findings dissemination
– Creation and strengthening of existing platforms for dialogue between public and private stakeholders

Project Outcomes:
– To propose policies for ensuring food security and economic recovery, which are inclusive in job creation and aligned with SDGs’ priority agenda of federal and provincial governments.
– To produce consolidated research on effectiveness of government stimulus plans in the above-mentioned areas.
– Through advocacy, sensitize policymakers on the issues of policy concerns and setting priorities for investment in the upcoming and the following annual budgets.

Digital Trade Integration Pakistan

Project Partner/Donor: UN-ESCAP

Project Duration: 5 months

Team members: Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, Maaz Javed, Rabia Tabbasum, Asif Javed

Project Introduction: ESCAP with the help of ECA and ESCWA is working on a DA 11 project of “Measuring, monitoring and improving performance in regional integration within ECA, ESCWA and ESCAP regions” its main focus is to strengthen the capacity of selected developing countries to measure, monitor, and improve their performance in regional integration within Africa, Western Asia, and the Asia-Pacific regions. The implementation in the first phase of this project has highlighted that particular attention to integration into the digital economy is needed for the regional integration process to be successful in the 21st century. According to ESCAP’s DigiSRII, Pakistan’s performance is among the poorest with respect to digital economy integration because of which Pakistan is selected as one of the targeted countries to implement the second phase of this project.

In addition, because of COVID-19 pandemic countries has realize that regional coordination would be an important means to support national efforts in dealing with health crises. Therefore, country-specific policy recommendations would also need to be developed to ensure that the regional integration policy of Pakistan will support the country’s achievement of SDG 3 (Good health and well beings).

Project Objectives: The objective of this exercise is to prepare a national action plan and organize a national consultation workshop to assist Pakistan to achieve a successful and sustainable regional integration, with a particular emphasis on digital-trade integration.

Project Outcomes: In consultation with the Director, Trade, Investment and Innovation Division and Chief, Trade Policy and Facilitation Section, the SDPI is carrying out a national study on digital-trade integration of Pakistan by collecting, analyzing data, information required to support the preparation of a national action plan for a successful and sustainable regional integration of Pakistan and organizing a national consultation workshop.

Focus Group Discussion: High-level focus group discussion is arranged by SDPI in consultation with relevant stakeholders on Digital trade in Pakistan: challenges and opportunities.

Macro Economy and Political Analysis

Project Partner/Donor: JICA

Project Duration: Jun 02, 2020 to Mar 31, 2021

Team members: Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, Asif Javed

Project Introduction: The project involves preparing the quarterly reports based on macro-economy and political analysis. The focus is to review and analyze the basic figures and causes on important events and development in the particular three months. The review and analysis include;

  • Real sector: economic growth, inflation, domestic and foreign direct investment, savings and industrial situation.
  • Fiscal policies: impact of and response to shocks, and sustainability issues and public debt.
  • Monetary policy: financial sector and exchange rate.
  • External sector: current account, trade account, capital and financial account, international reserves and external debt.
  • Progress of structural reform under IMF.

Analysis of the political scenario includes;

  • Newly related policies including to economic activities.
  • Political relations with surrounding countries.
  • Development in regional cooperation programs (CAREC, CPEC, SAARC)
  • Newly committed projects from donor agencies.

Project Objectives:  The basic objective of the project is to present a quarterly analysis of the ongoing economic and political situation. The analysis is based on recent data and policy actions. The focus is to examine the change in macroeconomic indicators and the political scenario and its affect on the economic growth.

Project Outcomes:  The quarterly reports present an updated overview of the economic and political situation which demonstrates the growth trend and change in policy actions. The quarterly reports cover the changing economic and political scenario and how it affects the overall macroeconomic situation of Pakistan.


Analysis of Regulatory and Institutional Response by Federal and Provincial Governments of Sindh and Balochistan During Covid-19 and Policy Options to Augment Emergency Response and Revive Rural Economy

Partner/Donor: European Union (EU), International Trade Center (ITC), Growth for Rural Advancement and Sustainable Progress (GRASP)

Starting Date: 2020

Team Members: Dr Vaqar Ahmed, and Ms Mahnoor Arshad

Introduction: The International Trade Centre (ITC) is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations (UN). It is the only development agency that is fully dedicated to supporting the internationalization of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). ITC’s mission is to foster inclusive and sustainable economic development, and contribute to achieving the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

ITC is implementing the EU funded ‘Growth for Rural Advancement and Sustainable Progress’ (GRASP) project which aims to contribute to the reduction of poverty through development of rural MSMEs in selected districts within two provinces of Pakistan: Balochistan and Sindh. GRASP will focus on selected product lines within livestock and horticulture.

GRASP will take a holistic approach to building MSME competitiveness in agribusiness value chains starting from a deep understanding of markets and working back through the value chain to enable MSMEs and ultimately producers to create and capture additional value.



The following objectives are to be achieved under the proposed study:

  • Develop a chronological list of events that were undertaken by the government at federal level and provincial level in Sindh and Balochistan targeting MSMEs to cope with the pandemic
  • Assess institutional efficiencies and capacities with regards to their response to the pandemic particularly PDMAs (Sindh and Balochistan), NDMA, and Livestock, Industries, Agriculture, food, finance and health departments of the two provinces
  • Analyze adequacies of response by the above mentioned departments and sufficiency of regulatory regime governing their responses
  • Effect of sufficiency or insufficiency of regulatory and institutional responses and deployment of resources and interventions on small holder farmers and MSMEs
  • Identification of way forward and specific interventions for institutional and regulatory sufficiency to deal with similar situations and revival of rural economy at federal and provincial levels ( recommendations on immediate and long term regulatory and institutional reform)

Most recently, due to Corona pandemic the MSMEs, small holder farmers and general public of the country was hard hit due to slow down of economic activities and consumption patterns. In order to deal with pandemic different public sector organizations responded with relief and rehabilitation efforts to contain the adverse effects of pandemic however these were perceived by many neither sufficient nor timely. Many federal and provincial government organizations were at the forefront to provide necessary support and guidance on protective measures to the general public, MSMEs, small holder farmers etc, Accordingly, there is a need to analyze the effectiveness and sufficiency of institutional support, institutional capacities, and regulatory regime and devise a set of interventions with a view to be better prepared should a similar pandemic occur in future.


  • Institutional capacity strengthened and business environment improved for rural MSME development
  • Agribusiness service providing MSMEs (run by Male/Female) and their BIOs are capacitated to enhance primary production and quality.
  • Commercially operating MSMEs Male/Female) are trained in appropriate environmentally sustainable technologies value and enhance marketed volumes

Status: Ongoing

Supporting export competitiveness amid COVID-19 in Pakistan

Partners: FCDO; Ministry of Commerce; SMEDA

Project Duration: August 2020- Jun 2021

Team: Vaqar Ahmed, Syed Shujaat Ahmed, Asif Javed, Adil Nakhoda, Muhammad Saad Qureshi


The Ministry of Commerce (MoC) and SDPI are collaborating closely to assess Covid-related loss to current, new, and potential exporters. Due to lack of time and resources there are no survey-based analyses by sector and we have varying estimates of such losses. We do know through recent econometric studies that a 1% decline in global demand is leading to a 1.2 – 1.5% decline in Pakistan’s overall exports. The pandemic outbreak and prolonged lock downs impact exports through: disruption in supply chains, border closure to nonessential trade, and limited market for exports due to fall in demand. Therefore, there is a need to arrive at a better understanding of transmission channels through which Covid-19, low global demand, and volatility in oil and energy markets will impact Pakistan’s exports of goods and services.
The responses designed by the public sector and central bank do well to cover some risks of private enterprises which could be covered so that employment loss can be minimized. However on-going debates argue that the design of such relief packages also need to take into account how these enterprises particularly small and medium sized exporters could protect and possibly win back their market share abroad as trade normalises. In view of the above mentioned, SDPI continues to motivate the MoC, Ministry of Industries and Production, and their affiliate departments, most notably Export Development Fund, Trade Development Authority of Pakistan, and Pakistan Institute of Trade & Commerce to look in to designing a rapid response for small and medium sized exporters, working in both traditional and non-traditional export industries. We also see this as an opportunity to keep the design skewed to favour start-ups, innovative and creative enterprises.
Likewise, Ministry of National Food Supply and Research (MNFSR), provincial Food and Agriculture Departments as well as Agriculture Universities and Research Institutes are working with SDPI under the umbrella of National Food Supply Council established by the National Security Division, Government of Pakistan. The MNFSR has requested SDPI support in preparing a response plan to ensure food supply amid various scenarios of smart lockdown and SoPs for continuation of agri-operations to avoid any supply shocks or disruption in the food supply chain. SDPI has already prepared SoPs for harvesting of wheat with the provincial governments however to deliver an evidence-based action plan for ensuring food supply SDPI requires support in terms of data from the sub-national governments, district administrations, and other relevant agencies and resources in the agriculture ecosystem. The Minister for Food Supply has requested SDPI to host the secretariat and convene meetings of the Food Supply Advisory Committee, at least until the recovery phase of Covid-19. SDPI team is expected to extract actionable advice from each of these committee meetings Chaired by the Minister.

This proposed research, outreach, and policy engagement initiative takes cue from the above mentioned and aims to highlight the impact of Covid-19 on select export segments, and the agriculture sector. Our suggestion stresses upon the need for rapid information, improved evidenced (based on micro data) to frame policies which strengthen firm-level resilience and coping strategies.

Air Pollution

Air pollution has become major challenge when it comes to citizen’s health. According to World Health Organization (WHO) outdoor (ambient) air pollution causes 4.2 million pre-mature deaths annually whereas 3.8 million deaths are caused due to indoor air pollution. As per estimates 91% people breathe air which exceeds WHO’s permissible limit. South Asians countries are also vulnerable to the impacts of air pollution. Countries like India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, and Saudi Arabia face highest death toll due to bad air quality and this mainly include children under age of five years. Air pollution also causes heart stroke, respiratory illness, eye irritation and lungs problem in growing children, women and people of older age. According to New Delhi based surgeon air pollution is causing cancers in young females of less than 40 age.
Smog is also affecting developing countries badly. It is impacting economy, education of students as school and colleges remain close, causes accidents due to visibility issues and impacts air operations (delayed flights)
According to Punjab Smog commission, smog is caused by vehicular emissions (80%), brick kilns (20%) and other sources include industrial emissions
Pakistan is not alone for devastating impacts of bad air quality. Since air pollution is cross boundary issue therefore developing countries should collectively device a plan to tackle this issue together.

  1. Preventing NCD deaths through better air quality. Draft v 3, 11.6.2018, World Health Organization.
  2. Deaths from Air pollution Worldwide. 2018. State of Global Air
  3. Safi M. 2017. ‘Half my lung cancer patients are non-smokers’: toxic air crisis chokes Delhi. The Guardians.
  4. Shabbir M. 2018. Smog: A transboundary issue and its implications in India and Pakistan. Policy brief number 67.

Pakistan Economic Cooperation with Afghanistan and Central Asia

Partners: IM Sciences Peshawar, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Commerce, Afghanistan Information Management Services

Duration: September to December 2014

Locale: Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Team Members:

Dr Vaqar Ahmed,Dr yasir Kamal, Saad Shabir, Nohman Ishtiaq, Sameem Akhtar, Asif Javed,Wahab Farooq, Sadika Hameed


  • Economic opportunities and major challenges in post 2014 Afghanistan and their impact on Pakistan and other actors in Central Asia. The term ?actors? here is not limited to states or their institutions. We are also interested to look into the efforts of multilateral organizations and the private sector in the region.
  • Review estimates from recent studies highlighting expected changes in Afghanistan-Pakistan commercial and transit (commercial & non-commercial) trade flows following ISAF drawdown in Afghanistan.
  • Review current arrangements and future possibilities of strengthening bilateral trade arrangements/agreements between Afghanistan and Pakistan.


This project is being initiated at a point when both governments (Afghanistan and Pakistan) have vowed to pursue trade and investment cooperation and link these efforts with the wider politico-economic developments in Central Asia. These developments include recent initiatives such as CASA, CAREC, Heart of Asia Process, New Silk Road Initiative and upcoming SAARC and ECO summits.

In the post NATO exit milieu, any disturbance that deteriorates the political relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan will result in: reduction of the formal bilateral trade, reduced commercial transit, possible increase in IDPs and refugees flowing from Afghanistan to Pakistan, and a rise in terror threat to the Pakistani population neighboring Afghanistan. As we will show latter that many have come out of chronic and transient poverty as a result of increased trade with Afghanistan, however under the scenario where NATO cargo is finished and there is a reduction in formal trade (if any) this population is poised to slip below the poverty line. It is against this idea that we aim to analyze the impact of Afghanistan transition on the economy of Pakistan, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in particular.


  • Eield survey for data collection conducted in all provinces.
  • Seminar held.


  • Illegal means, negligence of government and poor infrastructure is becoming an impediment in the way of free flow of trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • Closure of trains to Chaman increased the time and cost of production, as traders ?have to rely on road network, which is not yet developed properly.
  • Customs house at Chaman lack basic facilities such as electronic scanning; ?Not enough space is available there to facilitate a large number of trucks at a time.
  • Business community ?demands that the government, besides improving law and order situation in the country, should improve relation with Afghanistan ?so as to strengthen economic ties ?with the neighbouring country.

Economy of Tomorrow South Asia Forum

Partner: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

Team: Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, Muhammad Adnan, Muhammad Hamza Abbas, Safwan A. Khan, Danish Hassan, Syed Shujaat Ahmed, Wasif Naqvi and Mahnoor Arshad

In the wake of economic, ecological and social challenges across countries and continents, a consensus is building for the need of new models to lead societies onto a path of sustainable economic growth. Reaching consensus on the new models requires deeper understanding of economic discourses and the political economy of reforms in countries, regions and at a global level. In this context     SDPI in collaboration with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) through its offices in Asia and Europe started the Economy of Tomorrow (EOT) project by bringing together economic thinkers from the two regions to exchange ideas for building up the schematics of an economic model for a socially inclusive, financially sustainable and ecologically dynamic growth to produce conditions for a good society with full capabilities for all, as well as suggest ways and means to promote a public and policy agenda for the newly required development path.


To identify an alternative development path and form discourse coalitions for its implementation


SDPI in collaboration with FES organized a pre-budget meeting in Islamabad with the objective to present proposals from extensive consultations held across Pakistan under the ‘Economy of Tomorrow (EoT) Programme’. Our proposals brought together inputs from the private sector, consumer and labour interest groups, development partners and overseas investors. The event also included launch of the book on “Growth and Inequality in Pakistan” authored by the EoT Programme Convener, Dr. Hafiz A. Pasha, former Federal Minister and United Nations Asst. Secretary General. The book presents a comprehensive reform agenda for inclusive economic growth and advocates for working towards socio- ecological sustainability as the precondition for robust development in Pakistan.

Findings: For findings please visit


Status: Ongoing