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That was some speech. Kudos! To venture a guess, all the books about the best speeches in history, well if not the best, the most impactful, will need to be revised. The speech was impactful enough to be discussed in a column which at its core is absolutely apolitical!

And it would not have been easy.

On the other hand, finding faults, even with a speech which must have taken a lot of guts to deliver, is easy; the speech was too long, Kashmir was only mentioned at the end, why were overseas accounts mentioned, should have been in Urdu, should have worn Pakistani green-better yet a green three piece suit, should have oiled and brushed the hair, did he clip his nails, and so on so forth.

It is very easy to say that the speech and all the related efforts, and the hype created there around, is an effort to distract attention from the economic crisis.

BUT seriously?! Are they proposing that as an alternative, the speech should have been about how we are in an economic mess and beg everyone in the UN for more money, rather than raising the Kashmir issue!?

As we say in our profession, it is easy to find faults with the best control system in the world and compliance thereto; and easier even to find faults with any stream of transactions; somewhere in all the details, it is only human, to err.

But while finding faults is easy, to eternally focus on form rather than substance, is insane.

My latest epiphany might potentially change medical science; insanity is contagious!

Beyond the speech, the economy is an even easier target to find faults with. Primarily because this is a science where theories are proven via models that are based on assumptions which have no relevance whatsoever with the real world; and since 99.99% are clueless about how an economy actually works, but for some inexplicable reason believe that they are economic wizards, anything goes.

It is easy!

It is very easy to say that the government has done a miserable job of managing the economy till now- twelve months are more than sufficient to steer the economy, the previous government cannot be blamed for all that is going wrong; economic policy has no direction; the IMF program has never worked; and we wasted precious time going to the IMF. Remarkable is it not? And whatever happened to the millions of jobs that were to be created and houses that were to be constructed. And where is the US $ 200 billion that was to be brought back to Pakistan?

It is very easy to argue that the Federal Board of Revenue will not meet its revenue target-historically it does not have an encouraging track record; the economy is in a recession; and targeting the informal sector will further aggravate the recession. What were they thinking, taxing the real estate sector has essentially destroyed further land development and has adversely impacted growth.

It is very easy to assert that finance ministry will not meet its budgetary targets-we have never ever managed to say within a budget; with the rupee continuously depreciating and with interest rates going up debt servicing will be significantly more than budgeted; and how will there be growth without a development budget?

It is very easy to start a rumor that the Central Bank is towing the IMF line- after all the top man did work for them; rupee should not have been depreciated since it has no impact on exports; higher interest rates can never control inflation; higher interest rates will drive away capital investment; foreign controlled banks will make more profits since now the government will be forced to borrow from them.

It is very easy, in fact even easier, to suggest solutions without getting into the how- exports need to be doubled; we need to attract foreign direct investment; we need to create employment; we need to build a rocket for moon landing.

And with all kinds of statistics and economic indicators, including the impostor GDP, floating around, it gets even easier to pick and choose a ratio or statistic to argue anything under the sun.

What is not easy are the solutions, since economic decisions can, and generally do, have multiple and conflicting consequences. As an example, increasing taxes on imports will bring them down, but may well simultaneously bring down custom duty collection; so what is better? What do you do, reduce the current account deficit or collect more taxes and reduce the fiscal deficit? And these are only the known consequences; the unseen consequences can be far more consequential.

To my mind, none have managed to perfectly fine tune an economy in the modern history of mankind.

Which is why, arguably, I would rather prefer to write a column, or host a talk show on television, rather than being in the shoes of those who are actually running the economy- albeit the challenge! The real gladiators are those who fight in the coliseum; hats off to them and best of luck to them in their efforts for finding the solutions.

For the time being, let's stick to being a coffee table Einstein, simply, because it is easy.

(The writer is a chartered accountant based in Islamabad. Email: syed.bakhtiyarkazmi@gmail.com)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019


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