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Fellow profile: Javed Younas

20150523_165437-1-1-1Javed Younas is SAI’s Aman Fellow for the fall semester. SAI recently spoke to Younas to understand what he is focusing on during his semester at Harvard.

“I study the consequences of terrorism in developing countries,” says economist Javed Younas, the current Aman Fellow at SAI. “The situation in Pakistan over the last many years has moved me to do more research on these issues.”

With a Ph.D. degree in Economics from West Virginia University completed in August 2007, Dr. Younas has previously been a Visiting Scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and held a faculty position at Central Michigan University. He is at Harvard on leave from his current posting as an Associate Professor of Economics at the American University of Sharjah, UAE.

While at Harvard, Dr. Younas will focus his research on two areas: 1) The connection between education and political violence, and 2) the perspectives of the recipient country in situations where donor countries provide grants and loans.

“Foreign assistance is provided in two parts: loans and grants. Both can have a different impact on the spending behavior of the recipient country,” he explained, speaking to SAI in his office at Harvard.

“There is an old debate in Pakistan about why foreign assistance in the country isn’t working. Is it because foreign governments are serving their own agendas? Why is foreign aid not effective in creating development of people? This applies not just to Pakistan or the other South Asian countries but broadly to all developing countries that receive aid, especially in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.”

Grants “create perverse incentives,” he says, because they are basically gifts that do not require repayment. Secondly, “politicians in the recipient country don’t feel really obliged to spend it for public good or in the most efficient way. They feel less accountable to the people”.

Donor countries monitor the outcomes far more rigorously when they give loans that the recipient country is expected to repay with interest. The downside of loans of course is that they increase the debt burden of the recipient country.

Dr. Younas is looking into the relationship between poverty in the recipient country, and the amount of loans versus grants it receives. “Does being poor mean you receive more grants, less loans?” he asks. If so, that can have welfare consequences for the poor recipient countries.

What is needed is concrete research into what happens when loans are converted into market-based loans of credits — are those credits more effective in creating infrastructure or development of public goods?

The other question he is examining while at Harvard is whether education and income have any causal relationship with terrorism and political violence. This is something on which there has been little research so far, says Dr. Younas. “The reason is because most of the research is focused on, or has been done, using national-level macro data.”

He aims to use micro level data on Pakistan to examine this relationship. “What I’m trying to see here is whether there is a connection between the type of education and political violence in Pakistan – whether English-language education decreases political violence because people are more progressive and tolerant of other cultures and values,” he says.

Pakistan, he points out, has multiple dichotomies in its education system  – government schools, private “English-medium” schools, segregation with separate girls’ schools, as well as Islamic religious institutions known as madrasas.”

Dr. Younas will be mentored by Asim Khwaja, Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, during his semester at Harvard.

Javed will deliver a SAI seminar on December 3, 2015. Details to follow.

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