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February 07, 2008

The Punjabi Tiger?
Posted by Adam Blickstein

Across America this past Tuesday, 22 states participated in a massively important, historic, democratic primary where well over 20 million citizens from opposing parties peacefully went to the polls . And how did our stock market react? The Dow Jones lost nearly 370 points, and the S&P 500 is down 8.9 percent for the year, the worst year-to-date performance in its history. It could be worse. I mean, we could live in a country, say Pakistan, where electoral strife, continued violence, and the assassination of a major political figure drags our entire economy into the mire. Right? Wrong.

Since the start of 2008, Pakistan's stockmarket is actually the top performing market in all of Asia, last week's Economist suggests. That's right. Pakistan. Better than Japan's. Better then Hong Kong's. Better than next-door neighbor and the anointed next economic powerhouse India.  Credit for this financial fortitude in the face of political turmoil can in part go to former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, an ex-Citibank executive who left the government last November. This week's Forbes has an interesting interview with him where he suggests that per capita income has doubled over the past eight years, amongst other things. Of course Pakistan still has significant economic, social, and political problems to resolve, but this has to be at least a small glimmer of hope for an otherwise unstable nation. And while a small measure of economic success doesn't excuse the actions of an anti-democratic regime, it does help paint the broader picture for Pakistan, especially ahead of the February 18 parliamentary election.


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