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The Nasheed Government needs to come down to economic reality

The parliamentary election is over. The Attorney General is sacked. The euphoria has not quite died down. There are parliamentary seats to be contested and political arguments to heat up. Yes, the near term political scenario is definitely not for calm weather. The eyes and minds of the Maldivian people are still stuck on the political radar. But what of the economic reality?

The world is in an economic mess. Some of the biggest banks of yesteryears are just memories now. The books of big, and I do mean BIG, corporations who have never had a bad year, let alone a bad quarter, is full of red ink. Homes are being foreclosed. Jobs, in the millions are being lost. Academics and officials agree that US, EU and will have negative growth this year. Even while China and India will still register positive growth, albeit in a modest manner, it is estimated that the World Economic Output will register negative growth this year. The first time since the Great Depression.

This is big, huge, massive, colossal.

There is no way that our economy is not going to be negatively impacted in this context. Not in this globally entwined world economy of today. Not when our largest GDP contributor is tourism- a business that is wholly and irrevocably tied to the perception of how people are feeling about themselves and their future. Whether people feel good enough to take a vacation. Whether they feel enough confidence about the future to spend some money on a recreational activity that could well be postponed until times are better.

Forget about perceptions and feelings, official statistics already show that there is a decline in tourist arrivals this year. The Monthly Economic Review by MMA for April 2009 reports 13% decline in tourism arrival and bed nights for April 2009 when compared to April 2008 and a cumulative 11% for the first quarter of 2009 when compared to first quarter 2008. And let’s not talk about swine flu and its impact at all.

Meanwhile fishing has not been good for three years and counting. In fact it could be said that we did not even have the traditional fishing season that normally accompanies the easterly monsoon. Export earnings from fishery export has decreased from 40 million US $ in first quarter 2008 to 18 million US $ (a reduction of over 50%) in 2009 in first quarter 2009. And 2008 was not a good year at all.

Yet, the Nasheed government has completely ignored these economic doldrums. Any mention of economic related news is in the spirit and context of ‘we do not have money to do that project because the government of maumoon ….’.

Meanwhile governments and international agencies are scrambling to slow down and reverse the economic decline. Pump money into the economy and help failing banks. Re-introduce credit into the economy such that the economy may, again, start functioning. In effect, to re-start national and global economic engines. All over the world governments are waking up their people to the economic reality of today. Even in the recent Indian Elections, Congress’s main talking point, was that the country needs a stable government to implement economic reform. And the people listened. People are wise after all.

Yet here, in the Maldives, the Nasheed government has tried to totally ignore the economic reality. Hush it up and lock it down.

Maybe Nasheed and his cronies are so patronizing that they feel that the common man will not understand what is happening or that the common man does not want to hear about it. If so, it is a foolish and stupid thought. The common man understands. The government may resort to printing more money when it runs out. The common man has to do with what he has.

Maybe it is even worse. May be the Nasheed government does not actually understand what is happening. Or if they do, they do not know what can be done. So, unable to come with any solution, except of course blaming the past, they are trying to hush it up. Wishing it will go away. But these economic issues are not the stuff of nightmares. They do not go away if you keep your eyes deliberately shut for a long time. Wishing it would go away, is not answer.

The people, all over world, have proven time again, that they are wiser than politicians. They need to be told of what is happening and what is to come. The government needs to come clean.

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