By Fareeha Qayoom
There are only two self-evident rules in the jungle (read any culture). One, majority is always wrong and two, if you can’t beat them, join them. (No, no, this is not a philosophy lecture nor an introductory paragraph in your average jungle survival guide! Though, these two rules can equally apply to any corporate or concrete jungle out there depending on your viewpoint!) For some weird reason, I am always in the minority (and therefore, always right!) and to survive the jungle, have to always have my exit plan organized and parachute ready for take-off. Unfortunately, I do not have an exit plan for surviving in Pakistan! (Are you in the same boat?)
Apparently, the past economic “growth rates of 7-8 percent were due to consumer financing, a model which is not expected to work long-term, especially in a low-income country like Pakistan,” according to loads of leading economists and one particular economics student! Hmmm. Well, whatever – my economics degree only taught me that most economists may have loads of theories to explain micro and macroeconomic policy but in practice, they can’t account for ‘je ne sais quoi’ the pesky ‘human’ factor that comes along and skews all their theories to one side – so they usually end up adding disclaimers like ‘conditions apply’ for this theory to work in practice. My point being – if the majority doesn’t plan to migrate from this country, which they don’t (they will never get the visa!) then they have to make this economy work! In other words, we have a huge population that produces goods and consumes goods. So we have a market of buyers and sellers. As long as there is demand and there is supply, we have a deal. If we have a deal, then somebody in our economy always has money. If we recycle our money smartly instead of taking it away from our kitty and putting it in somebody else’s kitty, (for example, the Dubai property market to make a killing!), we can keep employing people. If we keep employing people/creating jobs, we keep creating consumers, so what’s the problem with consumer culture? It’s fine, as long as they spend money in our economy. (Doesn’t China precisely exploit the world’s consumer culture to churn out money for herself?)
We need to come up with a plan which enables us to cheaply produce goods that we can consume as cheaply! It doesn’t require a degree in economics! We just require a large dose of reality check! Hey, calling all local investors! If you don’t know where to spend your money to make a killing – why don’t you hire some fund managers?! Pakistan has huge spending potential going on the population numbers alone!
Nobody cares about the middle class anymore! No manufacturer, designer or retailer is concentrating on creating goods for the middle class. Why is that? The rich can exit this country any time and therefore, do not require your input to buy anything, thank you very much – be that, the designer label clothes, accessories, food, cars or houses. So why don’t you go back to the drawing board and create products (and services) that are moderately priced and can be manufactured in-house, targeting the ‘real’ Pakistanis? In other words, products and services for people who have roots in this country?
Hello, is somebody listening?! Hey you! Why don’t you cut the cable connection? Give me that remote! You are too busy watching the ‘breaking news’ soap opera on TV. (May be I need to start applying for visa after all? What do you think? Malaysia? Australia? Canada?) Well, even though I enjoy talking to myself,
gotta go, more later!
This article was originally published in the print edition of Valuemag, May 2009, issue 10, under the section ‘From the editor’s desk – May 2009’