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White House

BATTLEGROUND USA!

What a difference a week and the intervention of mother nature can make! Even after the second and third debates, both of which he dominated, the third quite convincingly, Obama was still unable to stem the “Romney-surge” that developed menacingly against him in early Oct after he had seemed to sleepwalk through the First US Presidential Debate. Even though he put his campaign officially “on hold”, the God-given opportunity for Obama to simply do his daytime job acting Presidential allowed him national visibility beyond compare, “Sandy” hamstrung Romney from equivalent primetime campaigning for three crucial days when he badly needed to maintain his momentum. Hurricane “Sandy” did considerable material damage in many of the States it made landfall, politically it slowed down the Romney tide. More importantly, during times of crisis Americans always unite behind their President.

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Mixed Signals on the Economy

For sheer optimism, turn to Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. And why not? When he took over as the nation’s account manager, the foreign exchange kitty was bare and IMF was on a fang baring relationship with Pakistan, mainly because of the nuclear blast but also because of the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) issue and the fact that Islamabad was failing on collecting revenues as well as controlling expenditures. More important there was foot dragging on the institutional reforms IMF desired. Reading correctly the vibes emanating from the White House (courtesy of old IMF and Washington hand State Bank Governor Mohammad Yaqub), troubleshooter Ishaq Dar counselled the PM to hang tough and sack the negotiating team consisting of Advisor Finance (Hafiz Pasha?) and Secretary Finance Moeen Afzal. He then took over the Ministry of Finance in addition to his own duties and lo and behold, the White House’s arm-twisting of the IMF resulted in the long-delayed package for Pakistan being agreed to and the first tranche released. Once the logjam broke, money flooded in and the result saw a strengthening of the Pakistani Rupee on the open market. Nothing succeeds like success and Ishaq Dar has been on a roll since negotiating the minefields with aplomb and confidence, sometimes getting carried away in his use of gender to describe achievement. To his credit he not only explained but also apologised quickly to put the incident behind him, even though his detractors are trying best to keep it alive in order to embarrass him.

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