Maswood Alam Khan
The question that most of the people all over the world are today boggling at is: What would the economic prognosis for 2012 be? The safest answer, as said by Annie Lowrey, an economic policy reporter for The New York Times, is: “It’s not going to be very good, but it’s also not going to be very bad.”
In 2010, most economic forecasters were predicting a good year ahead. But 2011 turned out to be another disappointment for stock investors and home sellers, and a discouraging time for job seekers. Many fear that the trends seen in 2011 will continue into 2012 all over the world and people will be gripped by the fear of double-dip recession looming large over the horizon of the western world. Unemployment rate is still high and people will have to live in constant fear of losing their jobs.
Now, as 2012 begins, some economists are optimistic about the future of the United States. Many financial analysts are seeing a brighter picture. A recent Associated Press survey of leading economists showed a consensus estimate of 2.4 per cent GDP growth in 2012. That would top 2011, when growth ran at an estimated 2.0 per cent. If the consensus forecast were to come true, the growth would be strong enough to whittle down the unemployment rate. Nevertheless, 2012 is a tough year to predict because of political and foreign wild cards.
As for Europe, the weak banks will continue to have problems, which could spill over in the U.S. The outcome of European debt crisis is still unpredictable. European leaders may come up with ways to manage their problems. In the best case scenarios, the debt mess may linger as a long-term headache, but won’t get out of control. The worst case scenarios are dire. Economists generally say there may be a 1 in 5 chance that the situation will blow up, with some European governments defaulting on their debts. That could trigger a collapse of the banks. Government defaults and bank failures could spark a chain-reaction meltdown that could spread financial chaos around the world.
The world will see big political changes with leadership shifts in China, Mexico, Russia, Europe, Egypt and particularly the Middle East in 2012, says David Rothkopf, a contributor to Foreign Policy Magazine. “We’re halfway through the initial wave of these [Middle Eastern] revolutions,” says Rothkopf.
Another unknown is the Chinese economy, which has been slowing. Over the last couple of decades, China’s annual growth rate of around 10 per cent has helped prop up the global economy. But its manufacturing activity is shrinking, as economic strife in the key European and US markets hobbled demand for the Chinese goods. Plus, now the housing sector in China is looking troubled, and that threatens their continued expansion. Chinese growth in 2012, as experts are predicting, can be expected to hold up at not more than 8.0 per cent.
In Bangladesh, the government is claiming that the country will achieve a growth of 7.0 per cent. But most pundits are expecting a growth in the neighborhood of 6.0 per cent, provided Bangladesh can successfully implement the Taka 460 billion Annual Development Programme (ADP) as envisaged for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011-12. Given the poor performance as to fiscal management in the FY 2010-2011 coupled with soaring inflation, huge borrowings from the banks, unusual rise in government subsidies, sharp fall in foreign aid, lesser infusion of credit into the private sectors and depreciation of Taka against US dollar in the bygone year it may not be a surprise if we see the growth at less than 6.0 per cent in the coming year. Before it is too late, Bangladesh should take lessons from Greece if we want to avert an economic disaster that befell Europe and now is the time for the Bangladesh government to take austerity measures like reducing subsidies in the loss-making state-owned enterprises, even if such measures prove to be politically unpopular.
As for political scenario in Bangladesh, I can bet my bottom dollar that many people who had voted for a candidate in the last parliamentary election will largely turn away and tend to look for someone else in the next parliamentary election who would deliver a better deal for a better future of Bangladesh. People, for an example, who have been eking out their living on the bank of the River Titas at Brahmanbaria would undoubtedly hate to vote for someone who they will find has been supporting the suicidal scheme of erecting embankments right on the bed of the river only to facilitate Indian lories to pass through in the name of transit, thereby triggering flood and causing irreparable damages to their properties and livelihood.
The tough measures being taken against political opponents, unprecedented hobnobbing with India at the expense of national interests, corruption and irregularities indulged in by political cronies, politicizing the institutions—including some constitutional entities—that are supposed to remain apolitical, attempts to unfairly influence the future elections and mismanagement in the energy and transportation sectors will not augur well for both political and economic scenarios in Bangladesh in the year 2012.
In the early 1970s, I made quite a name for myself as a palmist. People would say I had the gift of making friends easily for my ability to predict what was happening to someone’s fate by a cursory glance on one’s palm and face. Surprisingly, many of my predictions came true. But I have not been practicing palmistry or physiognomy since 1980s after I was warned by my mother that such practice of mine of foretelling the future is sacrilegious.
This morning, as I was playfully looking at my own palm in an attempt to peer into my future I was amazed to see that there has not been any significant changes in my life-line and also my fate-line. It seems the day is perhaps not far away when I would meet my fate as I had predicted many years back about my own life. Still, I don’t know what is awaiting me! I am not prepared to predict. My crystal balls are not working well.
We want to know how this year 2012 will unfold for all of us. “Knowing” is the mind’s desire. Our mind asks: “Why is my life so hard? How will I cope with the future since I have no clue what is coming up? Will I win a lottery that will make me a millionaire? Will I live long enough to see the year 2013?” Questions like these leave our mind saddened, for the answers lie outside of our realm. Our restless mind-our questing mind-wants to know how to live a meaningful life without the doubt. We are eager to know what awaits us in future because we believe we have greater goals to achieve. We hate to be stuck on the present, when we believe that nothing spectacular is going to happen to us on the present-day. We dream big, and hope that someday we will be able to do something gigantic, without even realizing that what we have achieved today was our dream yesterday. We crave to chase what Rabindranath Tagore epitomized as the ‘golden deer’. We cannot take mystery of things, we are eager to unfurl all the solutions the earth has to unknot.
M.A. Khan writes from Maryland, USA e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org