The Financial Express

Thinking through the mess

| Updated: August 19, 2021 22:13:40

Thinking through the mess

Governments, economists and scientists appear to have lost the plot. Vision, goals and objectives require strategies informed by realistic thinking. Whether as a business or a state these are the ingredients that are must-haves. As important is the resources, knowledge and skills that translate them into policies and planning, taking into account ground realities. The world and country wait for both short, medium and long term measures to overcome global and national turmoil in all aspects. The tricky part is to negotiate the slippery slope along which lie the shenanigans of geo-political ambitions, political goals and the very heart of economy that has been ripped out. Progresses made by developing countries, lack of ability of others, ambitions of the wealthier nations and the crying needs of the hour are difficult to balance. Incremental thought and more of the same is unlikely to work. The people for whom economies exist have undergone change both physical and psychological. The individual is far more circumspect about the 'I' factor previously created by a combination of economic progress and business strategy. The 'we' trumpeted by politicians and economists have metamorphosed into dark right nationalism and an overall disbelief in governance planning. The 'We' and 'I' factors have become oppositely orientated and ominously, inward looking.

Scientists, to whom everyone looked at during the pandemic have chopped and changed advice for the public to the point of utter confusion. Governments have failed in providing support, sustenance, facilities and promises causing people's confidence in them to badly erode. The not seeing eye to eye between governments and scientists has been inexplicable. To make matters worse, economists have drifted, waxed on the macro without explaining the resultant impact on micro economics. That's the danger when everyone tries to be strategic and no one explores the downward policy and planning.

Economist M M Akaash was a Chatra Union leader in his education days. His left-leaning thoughts, even as he teaches are clear and succinct tinged with the inevitable changes between then and now. He identifies the lack of informed output and a balancing act between government, corrupt sections of the bureaucracy and business as being behind the lukewarm decisions that are being taken. Stressing the individuality of the three organs of state, he is quick to add that they have to work together rather than depend on each other. Businesses usually have Plan B and sometimes Plan C as a buffer to a failing or faltering Plan A. Backing these up are crisis plans and communication with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. These too, are based on crises scenarios drawn up based on known perceptions.

After the 2008 Global Meltdown, countries put together their crisis plans. Separate groups worked on recovery roadmaps. A decade later, all such plans have been thrown awry in the face of an unseen foe that has no definition. It has taken more than three million lives and put over 42 million at risk. Lives have changed, most inexorably. Staring us in the face is a reality of a world steeped in crippling debt and a generation thrown rudely out of the education system. The hereto unknown impact or not on individual health will largely define the alacrity with which the world will resume. Nations catching up with developed economies have begun to falter. The plight of the have-nots that the world was already blinded to, can look forward to little, even lesser than before.

Yet such is the work of dubiousness and conscience, that wars can continue, annexation plans stay on course much of it through creation of economic dependence.

Bangladesh is beginning to be impacted directly by some of these crisis plans. The World Bank proposal to fund integration of the Rohingyas as our citizens is the most blatant open suggestion that their repatriation is no longer under consideration. The lukewarm response to a road show by the Securities and Exchange Commission for investment is another indicator. Investments as a whole will come at a bigger cost than just interest. Aid or investment in return for 'favourable' considerations has been in the air for sometime. Sri Lanka is effectively bankrupt with debts overarching any economic activity that it had to reach out to its neighbours for loans at more reasonable terms. Their debts outrun foreign exchange reserves. There are others out there, struggling from before the crisis and needing tranche after tranche of liquidity infusion just to survive. Argentina, Guatemala, Greece and Ukraine are just examples of countries that have for all purposes lost their sovereignty to obtain debt financing. With developed nations raking up borrowings almost as much as their GDP, the falling back on recuperating through consumer spending sounds hollow. Unemployment has and will soar in the coming days and years.

It's time for a bigger, all-encompassing crisis Plan development bringing together political scientists, firmly grounded economists, psychologists, social scientists, grounded health professionals, businessmen from large and small enterprises and politicians to chart a course.

The ultimate decision lies with the politicians. In governance they alone decide whether they will take on informed input of specialists overriding political rhetoric. The future is now and about to change dramatically.

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