Perception: A way of understanding or interpreting something
Economic perceptions play a far important role in any country’s economy than most economic indicators. Economies are not full of economists. Economies are comprised of everyday normal individuals. Doctors, lawyers, nurses, mechanics, hardworking labor to a PhD in finance. But the percentage of the PhD or Masters In Finance is so miniscule that they remain insignificant when it comes to comparison with the general public.
There are two types of perceptions in any political economy. One: that is controlled and information is time released and based on what the public wants to hear. In other words, fudging of numbers and manipulation of perception leading to mass behavioral control. Think of The Soviet Union 30 years ago. Or think of any GCC Monarchy of today where information about finance and economy is absolutely controlled and selectively released.
The other economic perception building comes from translating the economic indicators into a simple to understand language along with concrete steps on the ground for a common man to understand. People do not care about The Current Account Deficit or Foreign Reserves figures. They do not even know how they are calculated and what the effect of it is on their own lives. Anybody can use them to scare someone or excite them. Economic indicators are always like “The Glass Half Full” or “The Glass Half Empty” based on the personality of the economist looking at those figures.
A pessimist will find a fault even in the biggest of economic turnarounds. If you give him 10 indicators that have improved, he will point towards the 11th one which hasn’t. When the 11th one improves and you bring it to his attention, he will speak of the 13th and the 14th. This war of pessimistic economists and optimistic economists has been going on since the past 230 years in the West.
The war between public perceptions of economic conditions and the public attitudes towards economic conditions is one of the most crucial ones when it comes to reviving or growing an economy. PUBLIC ATTITUDE towards an economy is absolutely fixated upon the public’s understanding of the economic matters.
It is like a doctor coming out of the operation theatre and telling the patients’ family, “I don’t think he will survive the surgery” as compared to “the surgery was successful but the patient now needs to follow strict instructions of the doctors to survive.”
How you manage the perception is the key factor when it comes to growth or a slowdown. Economic slowdowns also happen when fear is promoted as a perception more than the reality and economic growth also takes place when economic indicators are honestly and in simple words conveyed to the common man in a country.
Pakistan has suffered from both. Fear based perception building of our economy and exuberance based manipulation of our basic numbers. All because of political motives. It needs to stop.
This government has failed in my view in one thing the most. Perception building and perception management. Minister of XYZ is talking about economy. Minister of ABC is talking about Petroleum and Minister of Whatever is appearing on the evening talk shows about economic matters.
Why cannot the Ministers have enough courage to say, sorry, this is not the portfolio I am managing, please ask the relevant minister about this question.
This way, misquotations will not happen. Only ministries relevant too money finance and taxation or economic matters will be dealt with by certain ministers. Nobody else. A bimonthly press conference needs to be held informing about the economic progress in simple words. How will it affect the normal person’s life, should be the theme of the press conference.
All economic indicators, macro that is, are coming in line with the goals. If they are not managed when it comes to perception building, all the excitement can be turned into chaos again. Why ? Because us Pakistani buy negativity billion times more than progress.
Let’s sell them the truth based on positivity. Good bad or ugly, whatever the truth is, let’s give it to them in simple words. Let’s kill the speculations that can ruin the best of economies.
Let’s be united. Let’s put Pakistan first and our parties somewhere up on the burner in some remote corner.