Thursday, January 12, 2012

Agriculture in Pakistan

The time period from late November to late March in the farmlands of Pakistan is quite exhausting and fruitful at the same time. Being a son of one the most fertile lands of this beautiful country, I know and have experienced how anxious and enthusiastic are at this point and time of the year. In other words, this scenario could be similar to the National Geographic’s ‘The Deadliest Catch’. It’s just that it is being done on land rather than the sea.

Sugar cane is a crop which is cultivated and taken care off throughout the year with utmost precision. It gets ready to be shipped to the sugar mill after one year. This crop takes lots of effort, money and man-hours to be spend in the sugar cane fields to get this crop ready in making of sugar.

So after one year when this crop is finally ready to be shipped over the sugar mills, the ultimate objective of the farmer is to not delay the crop anymore. Sending the crop to sugar mill is an expanded exercise. A labor consisting of men and women is gathered. The cost of labor is ascertained beforehand. The crop is cut and shifted on the huge trolleys. And they are sent off the sugar mills.

These fertile farmlands of Pakistan are, without any doubt, have the highest amount of lease in the country. Normally, a lease per acre is ranging from 25,000-40,000 rupees in the rest of the country. However, our lands are being leased from 75,000-to over 100,000 rupees. Sometimes, it is quite hard to believe even for farmers from other areas of the country. Plus there is no shortage of water in this area. We are located around one of the best canal system in Asia, if not the world. Having plenty of water for agriculture, we can quite easily get three to four crops per acre, if the farmers want. Only sugar cane is an annual crop. Other crops, like cotton, wheat, maize etc last three to four months each year. 

However, due to high cost of farming in Pakistan, these farmers are trying to reduce the overheads in this business. The costs of fertilizers, diesel, electricity, and labor have increased several times. Even though the selling prices of crops and total yields have also gone up in the recent years, still, the overheads are far higher than the total produce sold. Calamities like last year’s flooding in Pakistan have also to be put in the picture to keep the perspective of agriculture in this country. Flooding, crop diseases, shortages of certain crops at the prime of their usage like wheat in the winter and sugar in the summer, load shedding, availability of diesel and other fuels needed for agriculture, the availability of the fertilizers at the time they are needed, and the water shortages in winters should also be kept in mind as weaknesses and threats in this business.   

70 percent of the Pakistan’s population lives in the rural areas. Agriculture is still the biggest industry and providing food and shelter to most families in the country. In my view, it is a very respectable way of making a living in this country.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Living Debt Free (ii)

There are things in life which we dearly want. And there are things which are absolutely necessary in life. And it is important to find a balance between the two.
Once out of college, it is difficult to start a life, manage the finances and meet the expectations. But life is a marathon race, not a short sprint. Time is of the essence. Slowly but surely, things get better. Trying to get ahead of the race by any means possible will have unexpected consequences. Initially, it seems awfully long time to see how large a life everybody else have but things may not be looking so bright on this side. While everybody else is driving off-the-lot brand new car, I am still driving several years old college car. Also, there are other things socially which I can’t afford in my salary, while everybody else is living large and enjoying the life.

 So, in order to gain the social status which I cannot afford, I will try to take extra financial burden. Using credit cards freely, leasing or financing an expensive car and buying a big house which would be difficult for me to manage at this time of my life. Even though I have a pretty good starting salary, I am now responsible for undue financial burden. Sometimes, that could be too much to take for a young person so early in life. These could result in some unexpected professional and psychological outcomes.

Being through this phase of life, I have seen time and again, that as the time progresses and an individual can keep the priorities straight, life gets comfortable. All of these things come with time. As long as the individual is pretty focused and committed and keep a positive outlook in life, things get better with time. 

Living and keeping things simple in life outweigh any other type of life style. Other life styles come in short periods in life and they phase out with time. Individual get in and out of those phases, sometimes they would want to erase that particular period from their lives. But simpler lifestyle is everlasting and fresh. 

Living debt free should be the ultimate financial goal of an individual. Because of this debt, the person would be so tied up that all the priorities in life would be mixed up. This debt would make you do things which you would have not thought of doing in life. Don’t get bogged down with what other people are doing or saying. Do what you want and live the way you want. If you have the means, enjoy your life and if you don’t, still enjoy the life within the means. Do not get frustrated with what others would say if you don’t meet their expectations. Keeping things simple would help a lot in this case. 

All in all, nobody wants to live on borrowed money. That’s just fake. You are living in a balloon and it could be burst anytime. You want to have solid ground underneath and you want to be standing on your own feet.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Living Debt Free (i)

How does the word ‘slavery’ sound these days? I think it is pretty pathetic to learn that slavery is going on even these days. In real terms, this modern slavery is free of chains and shackles on ones hands and feet. However, it has taken in the form of ‘debt’. This debt, which we take out to buy big and fancy items, to meet the social demands. This debt could be in the form of credit cards, leasing, financing and mortgages.
There are certainly new gadgets in the market which make us to buy them whether we need them or not. There are also pretty nice automobiles on the road which look exactly the vehicle which I could have been dreaming for a while. And not to forget, the house of my dreams, which I would want my grandchildren to have, after I have long gone. That is why we overwhelm ourselves financially, that we must spend more than we earn. And that is why we have to take out debt to meet our ‘instant gratification’ demands.  

There are some debts which are better than others. One of them is buying a home. Getting a mortgage for a home, is a possibility that will last longer than, say, purchasing a car with a debt. Also, a home has a chance to appreciate in the long term. An automobile generally depreciates as soon as it is driven off the lot. Instead of purchasing a home, an individual would have to pay either way for living. It could be a motel or an apartment. The individual would only be paying rent each month without having to recover anything at the end of the renting period. On the other hand, owning a home can at least give a chance of paying off the whole thing at the end of certain time frame. So, may be down the line, one could hope to recover something in the end. 

Purchases made for merchandise like clothes and other perishing items with the credit cards are very short lived. Also, the interest on credit card purchases is far higher than the home mortgages. So, it is pretty na├»ve to think that charging credit cards would do any good to you. 

All in all, the goal should always be to live ‘Debt Free”. The general rule of thumb is to live ‘within your means’. However, it is pretty difficult to avoid the ‘urge’. But once you get in the cycle of debt, then the individual must sacrifice more to get out of this cycle. In order to make the monthly payments, one cannot leave the job, take an extra day off, do the things of his liking at the time of his choice etc. So, getting paid at the end of each pay cycle becomes crucial to make the monthly debt payments. 

So, basically, one is tied to his job to pay for the debt. Initially, the job was taken for the profession, and now it has become a way to pay for debt. Therefore, chains and shackles have been put on for the rest of the job period. You must show up for the job because you need money to pay for debt and everything. And that is how the purpose of life takes a turn.