Yes it is a big deal.
Yes it means an enormous amount to go through what we are going through.
No, this does not mean that life in Pakistan will come to a standstill, that your interests will be hijacked or held hostage or that we will not deliver on our contracts or deadlines or proposals.
Post the announcement and the news and the black out, we left our 3 toddlers at home, drove all the way across town to the other side and met up with an old friend for a quick get together with the FAST ICS class of 1991-1992 at a local diner. Fourteen people were scheduled to show up, all fourteen showed up. We even had one 8 year and one 10 year old join the group. Out on the road you couldn’t tell this was no ordinary night.
I hope you appreciate the significance of the above paragraph. For a second we thought we should stay at home and be safe. But then we said, what about tomorrow? How long can you hide inside?
This was not an insensitive party or celebration! No we are not hopelessly in-different or cynical. We are just being practical. For us life goes on, this is not the first time we have gone through this experience. It is now a part of our national psyche. We have seen these so called national events of monumental significance all the way from 1953 to 1999. At least once every decade, sometimes even more.
It is a sad day, quite depressing, I haven’t done jack for the last 24 hours but it is not the end of the world. The show will go on.
And no the internet is not down. I have also been posting all night since yesterday and have full access to everything which includes commentary, news, updates, etc. I am still getting emails from all across the world and chatting with my sister on MSN in Washington DC right now. She actually gave me a blow by blow account of the big speech last night since I didn’t have the heart to listen myself.
The phone lines are up and running, so are cell phones and SMS service. We had that up yesterday, we have that up now.
What does this mean money wise and on the financial front?
Despite the fact that I am really mad at Shaukat for letting things get to this stage he is a very competent private banker and finance minister. We also have a fairly competent team in the Exchange and Debt Management Group as well as a group of outstanding Bankers at the Central Bank. Money wise we have 16 Billion US in the bank, a (till yesterday) manageable current and capital account deficit and growing exchange remittances. The economy runs at US$300 billion dollars a year on an all inclusive basis, twice that on a purchase power parity basis and is still fueled by domestic demand. You cannot shut that down with a piece of paper.
This is not 1998 or a repeat of the Nawaz Sharif folly. The investment front will take a hit as far money from the West is concerned. But our primary Telco and financial services investments came from the Middle East, China and Far East. I don’t think they are going anywhere, any time soon. If they can invest money in Vietnam and Sri Lanka (no offence intended), they can just as well invest in us.
The other big unknown is economic sanctions. As long as we don’t get hit by those (which I don’t think we will given the geopolitical situation in the region and this being an election year in the US), the financial impact of this move will be significant but with limited short term consequences. Longer term I don’t know. If the GDR offerings go through, we don’t get hit by a rating cut, if we can still tap the Euro Bond market (I am not sure), then we will be ok. But I don’t know.
What does this mean work wise?
I am going to work on Monday and my team of 35 colleagues and peers will show up. MIT is running two workshops on operational excellence and global sales strategy and they are on. The MIT BAP final for Tuesday evening is on. The PASHA CEO Forum lunch at Sakura tomorrow afternoon is on. The Business Assistance Program’s meeting with PASHA CEO’s and the non-local gora MD is on. Our follow on meeting to sort out the mess due to the Ceaser Tower’s fire last night is on. My weekend delivery for a local client is on. Our trips to Bangkok and Singapore are on schedule.
Life goes on. Depressing yes… Hopeless no…