Think 'pos­i­tively,' and live

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - Hus­sain H Zaidi

Poverty in Pak­istan has come down, be­cause the sale of au­tos in the do­mes­tic mar­ket has gone up, says the spokesper­son-in-chief of the rul­ing Pak­istan Peo­ple's Party. Only a ge­nius could have dis­cerned the sub­tle con­nec­tion, hid­den to or­di­nary mor­tals, be­tween the drop in poverty level and the rise in car pur­chases. If noth­ing else, we can boast of a ge­nius in an oth­er­wise medi­ocre so­ci­ety.

The spokesper­son also main­tained that, in­stead of be­wail­ing that a cer­tain per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion lived be­low the poverty line, we should re­joice in the fact that a part of so­ci­ety was well above that thresh­old. Again, an out­stand­ing ex­am­ple of a per­son who can tran­scend the cus­tom­ary way of think­ing to see the pos­i­tive side of things - a glass half full rather than half empty - a rare virtue in a dull, pes­simistic so­ci­ety. At a time when the coun­try is pass­ing through a crit­i­cal phase - with ter­ror­ists on the ram­page and the econ­omy in a shambles - and pub­lic morale has nose­dived, ro­bust op­ti­mism is what the doc­tor or­ders.

In point of fact, the peo­ple's present predica­ment can largely be at­trib­uted to their ir­re­deemable habit of neg­a­tive and de­featist think­ing: look­ing, for in­stance, only at the debit side of the govern­ment's bal­ance sheet rather than its credit side, of dis­count­ing the ac­com­plish­ments and count­ing the dis­il­lu­sion­ments, of down­play­ing the achieve­ments and over­play­ing the fail­ures.

Why do we point out that 30 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion is mired in ab­ject poverty? Why don't we say that 70 per cent of the peo­ple are out of it? Why do we al­lege that the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of politi­cians are cor­rupt and un­re­li­able? Why don't we ad­mit that at least some of them are men and women of in­tegrity and char­ac­ter? Why do we com­plain about the largescale un­em­ploy­ment? Why don't we ac­knowl­edge that not all the labour force is un­em­ployed? What do we raise hue and cry over the fact that the gal­lop­ing in­fla­tion has made life mis­er­able for the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple? Why don't we con­tent our­selves with the fact that these peo­ple are still alive? Why do we be­wail the ab­sence of the rule of law in the land? Why don't we take pride in the fact that at least there's a pop­u­larly elected govern­ment in the coun­try? Why do we point out the ram­pant tax evasion in the econ­omy? Why don't we ad­mit that suf­fi­cient rev­enue is col­lected to run the ad­min­is­tra­tion? Why do we main­tain that most of the na­tional in­sti­tu­tions are in de­cay and deca­dence? Why don't we ac­knowl­edge that some of them are still strong and vi­brant? Surely there is a strong case for op­ti­mism and pos­i­tive think­ing, and surely the spokesper­son can serve the nation even bet­ter by writ­ing a book on how to think pos­i­tively, con­struc­tively and creatively.

The power of pos­i­tive think­ing apart, what can we make of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween poverty and auto sales?

Since brevity is the soul of ex­pres­sion and the ge­nius is a per­son of few words, the PPP spin doc­tor didn't waste words in ex­plain­ing the in­stant re­la­tion­ship. This leaves us or­di­nary mor­tals at best in a po­si­tion to con­jec­ture as to how the in­crease in car sales is an in­di­ca­tor of a drop in poverty level.

To be­gin with, it costs a lot to buy a car and the fact that the prod­uct's sale is on the in­crease in­ti­mates that the peo­ple's pur­chas­ing power has gone up. The pur­chas­ing power be­ing a func­tion of in­come, one can safely con­clude that the in­come level has risen. Since an in­verse re­la­tion­ship holds be­tween in­come and poverty lev­els, a hike in auto sales re­flects fall in poverty. Sim­ple logic, in­deed!

An­other ex­pla­na­tion can be this: a boom in car busi­ness cre­ates jobs, and job cre­ation is an im­por­tant in­stru­ment of in­come gen­er­a­tion and thus poverty al­le­vi­a­tion. The more vi­brant the auto busi­ness, the larger the num­ber of jobs cre­ated and the greater the num­ber of peo­ple who cross the poverty line. Again, sim­ple logic.

Hence­forth, we have an ex­cel­lent in­di­ca­tor of the changes in the poverty in­dex: vari­a­tion in the trade vol­ume of au­tos and other ex­pen­sive con­sumer goods. If the sale of such goods is go­ing up, the poverty in­dex is mov­ing down­wards, and vice versa.

Some may ob­ject that ex­pen­sive prod­ucts such as au­tos are bought only by the af­flu­ent sec­tion of so­ci­ety and that in­crease in auto sales, es­pe­cially at a time when the econ­omy is in a crunch, in no way in­di­cates that the men­ace called poverty is on the wane. Rather, it may be an in­di­ca­tor of widen­ing in­come dis­par­ity.

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