The following article has been published in Daily Nation, dated 12th January 2015
(E-Paper (Print Edition): http://nation.com.pk/E-Paper/lahore/2015-01-12/page-9)
Economic Impact of Celebrity Marriages
By: Omer Zaheer Meer
Cricketer turned philanthropist turned educationist turned politician and a national hero Imran Khan’s wedding with current-affairs TV host Reham Khan captured the imagination of the entire Pakistani nation. While his political opponents were trying to play below the belt, his supporters were celebrating. Though some criticized the timing of the wedding, which in the first place is a private matter, overall the national mood was one of jubilation. The media loves anything related to Imran Khan and his wedding was given unprecedented coverage with hype created by days of speculation followed by most of the prime time across channels being dedicated to the news of the marriage of the most-cherished national celebrity.
It’s simply amazing to observe how some people wrongly believe and propagate that being in a leadership position warrants non-human tendencies or inclinations. What is often missed in such petty arguments is the fact that a satisfied personal life leads to a better professional one be it political or any other field. Anyhow this is not the main topic under discussion today. Although the above-mentioned wedding has been analyzed and discussed from various perspectives, the economic impact of such high-profile marriages is still largely an unchartered territory. This largely ignored aspect will be the prime topic of the rest of this article.
Any modern economy is driven by the overall confidence of the stakeholders including consumers as well as the investors. Good law and order situation, political stability, fiscal prudence, growing foreign reserves, e.t.c. all basically contribute towards building the confidence in an economy. There are also some lesser explored avenues that enhance confidence in economies. Celebrity marriage is one of them.
First of all, national economies are driven by the contribution of the individuals, couples and institutions in the society, hence the concepts of GDP, GNP, e.t.c. Celebrity marriages (particularly like the Imran-Reham Khan ones) create an over-all “feel-good” factor in a nation. This translates into increased consumer confidence, keeping all else equal. Moreover this further strengthens the institution of marriage which itself generate a lot of economic activity particularly in South-Asia due to the various traditions as well as due to long-term financial implications as explored later in this write-up. Such widely-publicized celebrity weddings are common in the west and other developed economies. However in Pakistan, on one hand there are few true high-profile celebrities and on the other hand they prefer to exercise their right to keep their marriages private making high-profile celebrity weddings a rarity.
Celebrity marriages also strengthen the institution of marriage in a society which carries lot of economic positives for national economies. In addition to a married couple’s personal financial situation, a marriage impacts the general economy too. Married people normally accumulate money, thereby enhancing the overall savings in an economy which are used to contribute during the recessionary economic cycles. With the responsibilities of marriage, couples start giving due importance to financial planning too. They save and spend on large purchases and investments in a more financially prudent manner which is not normally the case with single persons. Synergy of resources of the married couples also creates larger pools of resources as well as motivated labor/investors, which all leads to increased economic participation and output. The spending on houses, children, investment properties, e.t.c. are the important things that keep an economy spinning and are propelled by marriages.
Another important aspect is that the philanthropic activities are undertaken by most of such high-profile couples. Imran Khan’s philanthropic work ranges from the field of medical (Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre) to education (Namal University). Similarly Reham Khan has shown interest in the field of educational philanthropy. The interest and excitement garnered by the high-profile celebrity marriages can also be harnessed to further philanthropic causes which not only provide social good but also economic stimulus depending on the magnitude of the project(s). This is evident from the positive way in which Imran Khan & Reham Khan had launched appeal for masses to contribute towards Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital instead of sending them wedding gifts. With this let us congratulate the newly-wed couple and wish them as well as the country peace, prosperity and a better future.
The author is Director of the think-tank “Millat Thinkers’ Forum”. He is a leading economist, chartered financial analyst, qualified accountant and anti-money laundering expert with international exposure who can be reached on Twitter and www.myMFB.com @OmerZaheerMeer or firstname.lastname@example.org