Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is presiding over a breakfast cabinet meeting. There is nihari, siri paya, halva puri, cholay, and lassi. And there is informality in the air. All of a sudden the head of government doubles up in laughter, nearly choking himself on a morsel of puri that a split second ago, he had deposited at it rightful destination.
The source of his merriment is a headline that screams from the pages of Express Tribune newspaper of that day.
After having a fulfilling laugh, he foists the newspaper and waves it around for the assembled to see, still guffawing, “Yes, Imran is a cricket player and of course what does he know about economics and finance. … Hee hee hee. See now he is saying that if gets into office, he will spend taxpayers’ money on the poor!!! On the poor! I mean! Think!
“Chaudhry Sahib! Chaudhry Nisar Sahib, Imran was your school-fellow at Atchison College. At least help him understand basic economics! I am sure our Dar Sahib will gladly accompany you to visit him. Both of you can impart him some education in economics.
“I needn’t remind you that I was finance minister of Punjab when our beloved General Mohammad Zia ul Haq Sahib was ruling. It was my brilliant performance in this ministry that I later served as chief minister of Punjab in the 1980’s for two consecutive terms.
“We all know about President Reagan, and his fantastic economic policies. In fact, even today ‘Reaganomics’ is used to refer to his economic policies. It was a simple formula that called for widespread tax cuts, decreased social spending, increased military spending, and the deregulation of domestic markets. I think Reaganomics can be explained as laissez-faire. Am I right, Dar Sahib? Yes, I remember reading this term in my first year economics class. In fact, first, I was a little confused that what laces, I mean shoelaces have to do with economics and finance. Hee, hee, hee!
“A friend of mine living in America has sent me a short article on “trickle-down economics”, which, he says, is also referred to as “trickle-down theory.” This is no nonsense theory means that providing economic benefits to those with upper-level incomes will ultimately benefit society as a whole, through the extra wealth being invested into the economy and therefore creating jobs that provide wealth for lower-income earners and with that wealth in turn being spent back into the economy. Yes! Indeed, very simple!
“In view of the politics of that time, the Reagan Administration had to popularize this theory as ‘supply-side economics’.
“Dar Sahib, isn’t this the way we are running the economy of our beloved country? Why go far. Just take a look at our family, Jati Umra estate! You know how many people are employed there as security, as gardeners, cleaners, maintenance workers, household help. Just see how many have jobs taking care of our cars!
“What about the apt example of my brother. Asif Ali Zardari. May God bless him. He is a financial genius, if you just see how he has grown a share in Karachi’s Bambino Cinema into a multibillion-dollar international real estate and investment portfolio. Just consider the two Bilawal Houses he has, the first in Karachi and now in Lahore. Now count the number of people working these two accomodations in security, gardening, cleaning, maintenance, and household help. How many have jobs taking care of his cars!
“I mean this is the real world, money trickling down from the rich to the poor. In fact, Dar Sahib, your finance ministry needs to introduce some more trickle-down projects. We can certainly win the hearts and minds of the poor.
“And now this makes me laugh at this headline again!
“May be Chaudhry Sahib and Dar Sahib you ask your offices to arrange a visit to Imran within this week! He certainly needs help. What I am really surprised is that a friend in London told me that at Oxford, Imran was studying philosophy, politics, and economics. Really! Economics!
“I don’t think so he was studying much. He must be spending more time on keeping his position as captain of the Oxford cricket team! And as I am told that he was often seen giggling with Benazir Bhutto! That takes time too! I could never make the late Mohtarima giggle, not even make her smile. May God have mercy on her soul. Ameeen.
“Just ask our fast bowler, what benefit a country gets from spending on the poor? You give them money and at the most what they will buy, a little more food, and made by a new pair of flip-flops!”