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Archive for March, 1988

The economics of togetherness

Disparate economies have a natural propensity to blend, particularly in this world of hard economic choices. Given good faith and a sympathetic understanding of each other’s dilemmas, bilateral relationships between nations are apt to be increasingly bound by commerce, ties which are far more pragmatic and lasting rather those based on ideological symmetry. Though the approach must be decidedly practical in the place of motivated logic, pursuit of the singular aim of economic betterment through mutual trade tends to be more achievable in the modern world. Mr. Mushahid Hussain has recently been to Bangladesh and the sum total of his observations is that there exists tremendous goodwill for Pakistan among the general mass of the Bangladeshi people, despite the trauma of 1971. This great silent majority exists in Pakistan also, a yearning that the horrible mistakes committed by a motivated minority on each side has not been able to erase. It is time therefore, that in the name of millions of poverty stricken people in both the nations, our leaders proceeded beyond the paper agreements, cut across aimless rhetoric, and translated economic theory into mutually profitable practice.

The tragedy is that a structure for expansion of mutual trade in the form of a Special Trade Agreement between the two nations does exist as signed by their respective official Trading Corporations. There also exists a clear modus operandi to execute this agreement but it has floundered on a combination of bureaucratic apathy, sheer petty-mindedness and deliberate malfeasance. People who had no concept of trade came to the helm of affairs and their motivation was individual greed and/or narrow minded prejudice, the nett result being the virtual destruction of a tremendous concept, one that went beyond normal trade advantage to the realm of economic emancipation as conceived by our forefathers 48 years ago, almost to the day, in 1940.

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A friend for all seasons

Once in a long while, it is time to eulogise such men who deserve to be praised. This praise should stem neither from any reason for sycophancy or out of contrived motivation but should be an expression of sheer respect for natural merit, both in performance as an individual and as a human being. That the person happens to be an American and a friend of Pakistan makes it all the more a privileged pleasure to write about it. One has need of good friends and God alone knows Pakistan has need of all and each true friend. In the words of George Santayana, “One’s friends are that part of the human race with which one can be human.” One such friend is Morton Zuckerman, US citizen by right of birth and Pakistani by heart. More than anything, destiny has played a part in his singular attachment to Pakistan and his contribution can be measured not only in the many millions of US Dollars that he has recovered in various legal claims for Pakistan over a span of more than four decades but also in the unbending faith Pakistan has in him to protect Pakistan’s interests in the US of A. For his part, it has been a relentless crusade,complicated by various obstacles, both seen and unseen, over many seasons. One doubts that many Pakistanis would have heard about this remarkable American and his love for Pakistan, a relationship which has remained sacrosanct through the vicissitudes of over 40 years, a roller-coaster ride through which Morton Zuckerman has remained for Pakistan, a friend for all seasons.

Besides being the Standing Legal Advisor to the Government of Pakistan in the USA, Mr. Zuckerman is also the President of the US-Pakistan Economic Council, Inc, a non-profit organisation designed to promote and strengthen mutual ties between Pakistan and American business and industrial communities. With most of its members drawn from elite business circles of both the countries, regular discussions are arranged for the circulation of information on the current economic environment. This has contributed to better understanding of each other’s laws and other conditions peculiar to two disparate countries.

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The Ides of March

After the gyrations of the world economy beginning on Black Monday in October 1987, the world is passing through a relatively calm period. Stocks and shares have rebounded to their previous high levels and the US dollar has hardened against the Japanese Yen and Euro-currencies. All this has been possible due to international cooperation on an unprecedented scale. By the help of massive purchases of US dollars the West Germans and Japanese have halted and reversed further slide of the US dollars against their currencies. Due to the improvement of US export/import figures, the US dollar has been bolstered on the long road to respectability. The markets are no longer volatile though a deep suspicion remains dormant within the whole edifice. There is expectation that after 2 months and right upto the final run-up to the US Presidential election, the US dollar may weaken by as much as 10%. One can only hope that the money soothsayers are wrong because as Daniel Webster has said, “A disordered currency is one of the greatest political evils.”

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The Ides of March

After the gyrations of the world economy beginning on Black Monday in October 1987, the world is passing through a relatively calm period. Stocks and shares have rebounded to their previous high levels and the US dollar has hardened against the Japanese Yen and Euro-currencies. All this has been possible due to international cooperation on an unprecedented scale. By the help of massive purchases of US dollars the West Germans and Japanese have halted and reversed further slide of the US dollars against their currencies. Due to the improvement of US export/import figures, the US dollar has been bolstered on the long road back to respectability. The markets are no longer volatile though a deep suspicion remains dormant within the whole edifice. There is expectation that after 2 months and right upto the final run-up to the US Presidential election, the US dollar may weaken by as much as 10%. One can only hope that the money soothsayers are wrong because as Daniel Webster has said, “A disordered currency is one of the greatest political evils.”

Political stability contributes to investor confidence in the economy and March 1988 has been a welcome month for Pakistan. In an outstanding exhibition of political sagacity, PM Junejo invited all the major opposition leaders to a first-ever dialogue on any one subject. That it happened to be the No. 1 priority, Afghanistan, only lent greater importance to the conclave. As the Afghanistan situation normalizes, Pakistan’s economy will have to adjust itself to the changed circumstances, particularly the slackening of western economic – and military aid. As it is, the situation is likely to change from bad to worse as the various factions slog it out among themselves for supremacy. More likely, yesterday’s government is likely to end up as tomorrow’s rebels and the see-saw will continue, without the Russians this time and as such without supporting western aid in various forms to help us through the lean patches.

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Development of an image

Images are extremely important in the field of commerce, particularly in the first world among very discriminating consumers. So much so that the Archbishop of Canterbury lamented, “I do not read advertisements — I would spend all my time wanting things” Dreams are woven in the media around consumer products aimed at product recognition, brand -acceptance, origin, confidence and quality-satisfaction. The advent of high technology has made sales promotion into state-of-the-art expertise, the media enhancing image-making into the sales of everything from mattresses to missiles. In the words of Stephen Leacock, “Advertising can be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.” Product promotion has developed to the extent that the candidates for the coming US Presidential elections are being exposed to the mass public like soap, a can of beans, jeans or whatever. The cost of all this hoopla has escalated simultaneously with the biggest “war chests” purchasing maximum media time thereby having an unfair advantage over the cash-strapped hopefuls. The media exposure has tilted the balance so decisively in some cases that the US Congress has recently been filibustering over the urgent need to put a “cap” on campaign spending to achieve some parity in the election process. The exploitation of the media for promotions has in itself turned into a fine art for acquiring the maximum ratings (percentage of visual audience). Hard sell and soft sell are now compounded by negative publicity, which in fact takes the kid gloves off and reduces the issues to war by some other name. To quote John W Hill, “ the purpose of public relation in its best sense is to inform and to keep minds open, the purpose of propaganda in the bad sense is to misinform and to keep minds closed.”

In the realm of origin — confidence, a peculiar blend of sales promotion eulogising quality maintenance and credibility is required, prudently exploited to good advantage. Many light years ago, the nascent Japanese industry, engaged in copy-catting mainly electronic goods, could not shrug off the derogatory “Made in Japan” epithet. By sheer dint of exceptional quality, Japan has turned this epithet on its head, making its detractors, mainly derisive US consumers, pay for its present produce through their noses and at the cost of US industry. This has been an amazing turnaround, being emulated at the present time by the four TIGERS of Asian economy, mainly S. Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. In each case, in varying degrees, quality has taken gradual precedence over quantity and origin association is no longer a bad word. In the words of Lawrence J. Peter, “ an ounce of image is worth a pound of performance.”

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