Imran-Reham Khan Wedding & Economic Impact of Celebrity Marriages

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)

(Online: http://nation.com.pk/business/12-Jan-2015/economic-impact-of-celebrity-marriages)

Economic Impact of Celebrity Marriages

Prof Dp

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 omerzaheermeer@hotmail.co.uk

PTI, PAT vs PML-N: Sagacity in short supply

The following article has been published in the Sunday Edition of Pakistan Today, dated 24th August 2014
(For online version: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2014/08/23/featured/pti-pat-vs-pml-n-sagacity-in-short-supply/ )

(For Published Version, Page 9:   http://issuu.com/abidoon/docs/dna_issue_38/9?e=3820687/9038422 )

PTI, PAT vs PML-N: Sagacity in short supply

Take the third umpire’s advice seriously

Prof Dp

By: Omer Zaheer Meer

The author is a Director of the think-tank “Millat Thinkers’ Forum”. He is a leading economist, qualified accountant and anti-money laundering expert with international exposure who can be reached on Twitter and www.myMFB.com @OmerZaheerMeer  or omerzaheermeer@hotmail.co.uk

A small problem that could’ve been resolved easily has been turned into a national crisis. It’s often said that to understand complex issues one should go back to the root-cause of the problem. The current political crisis began with Imran Khan’s very reasonable demands of investigating four selected constituencies for rigging and taking corrective action for the shortcomings. The government logically asked for same number of PTI won constituencies to be investigated too and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) readily agreed to that. Unfortunately there had been no concrete development on the issue since which has led to the stance of PTI getting much more stiffer with the ultimate demand now of PM Mian Nawaz Sharif’s resignation and mid-term polls under a reformed Election Commission after the alleged “culprits” of rigging in 2013’s General Elections are punished.

The government on its part was worried that if there were any issues to be found in the four constituencies, it may lead to the calls for mid-term polls as the legitimacy of the set-up would be called into questions. However the crisis has lead to exactly that situation and this could’ve perhaps been averted had the Government took positive actions before. What’s been interesting is the changing narrative of the incumbent Government which claimed that it was not authorized to and cannot open up the four constituencies after Chaudhary Nisar, the Federal Minister for Interior agreed to open up “40 constituencies” in National Assembly. However as the crisis peaked, the same Government proposed asking Supreme Court for forming a commission to investigate the allegations of rigging while there were also proposals of bringing “Ordinance” to open up the four constituencies initially selected for audit and verification by Mr. Imran Khan’s PTI.

Certain quarters claim that atleast some of the four key ministers, Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Mr. Ahsan Iqbal and Federal Minister of Defense Khawaja Asif did not wish to let their “victories” be examined and as such used their influence to push the PMLN Government to a harder line by selling the above narrative within PMLN in order to ensure their own seats were not in danger.

It wasn’t as if the pressure of the campaign re four constituencies by PTI was sufficient to bring matters to the current boiling point. If we recall, things were actually looking quite comfortable for PMLN Government until that fateful incident of Model Town slaughter. Operation “Zarb-e-Azb” was announced, differences with Military Establishment were substantially reduced, public opinion was against protests during such an important operation, PTI had already announced cancellation of its Bahawalpur Jalsa while Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) was about to do so. Than somewhere, someone decided to “teach a lesson” to Mr. Qadri and set an example for opposition as accepted in less straighter words by ex-Minister for Law (Punjab) Rana SanaUllah during television programs. However the operation on Minhaj-ul-Quran cum PAT secretariat to remove barriers backfired and gave blood of unarmed civilians to the opposition. From there on, the anti-government movement gained momentum culminating into “Azadi” and “Inqilab” marches.

That momentum should make one wonder that how the opposition lost the steam going into the marches. PAT was always going to be the determined religious cult beefed up by the Minhaj associated youth and workers. It was PTI who was deemed the bigger player, the game-changer on its own. However over the past eight days what we’ve witnessed, though unprecedented in terms of the determination and zeal shown by PTI supporters, has left many surprised by a less than expected show of power by PTI. So let us examine what exactly went wrong?

Firstly the administration was ill-planned and organizational communication minimal if any. The arrangements were redundant. Several PTI’s office bearers left Islamabad on 15th owing to a lack of even basic arrangements, non-presence of party representatives/organizers and no-communication from party as to the expected arrival of the main procession led by Imran Khan. A prime example of the mismanagement was that despite the extreme weather forecast, the organizers didn’t bother to arrange for even a basic and cheap item like umbrellas which would not only have protected the participants from elements but also provided shade and sense of safety without the need to hold sticks. Furthermore post the infamous intra-party elections, the losing party workers who are in majority as only one of the five to ten contestants won, feel disgruntled. This majority was not taken on board or reached out to. As a result they didn’t attend or work for the success of the “Azadi March” nor did they ask their supporters to do so.

Against all mainstream analysis and despite all the internal setbacks and unprecedented failure of march organizers, Imran Khan’s own determination, resilience and charisma has done wonders in not only getting a very decent number of supporters out but motivating them enough to stay on the streets for an unprecedented eight days till now. Most of the analyst believed that PTI’s supporters were too soft to stay on roads for long and that too in extreme weather conditions. However the determination of highly motivated PTI cadre has been no less than PAT’s religious zealots.

This whole situation, however, has serious implications for the country. The pride and stubbornness of the Government has resulted in missing key moments for resolving the conflict. For fourteen months PTi kept asking for audit of just four constituencies which was ignored, the deadline by Imran Khan during Ramadan was also brushed aside and more foolishly instead of capitalizing on an initially weak show by PTI on arrival in Islamabad, PTI by mocked by key ministers of PMLN. PTI has since gained much of the lost ground. Khan has now repeatedly stated that he won’t accept anything sans PM’s resignation while PM is as likely to resign as Imran is of backing off his own words. The negotiations ended in cruel joke when Government suddenly decided to put up containers back and IG Islamabad was transferred for allegedly refusing to use force on protestors.

While PMLN rightly states that majority of the parliamentary parties are on its side, this stalemate virtually melting down the economy cannot go on forever. If this situation is not resolved amicably, the army will intervene which may even lead to wrapping up of the whole system. The responsibility for such a disaster would lie more with the incumbent government as not only it has the power, authority and responsibility but also more on stake than the protesting parties. It should therefore act more magnanimously to accommodate rather than ridicule PTI and PAT. Letting loose its own workers would only exacerbate the situation more. As the “third umpire” recently said let sagacity and maturity prevail.