Banks, finance ministers, and vaccines – this week in Pakistan’s business and economics twitterverse

The fall-out from the senate election, why financial inclusion for women is more than painting things pink, and more

Multi-layered, multi-dimensional, and all kinds of confusing, the Twitterverse is a complicated venn diagram of criss-crossing interests, niches, and mutuals that is difficult to navigate on a good day for the most seasoned of Twitterati. 

This week, in Pakistan’s business and economics Twitter-sphere, financial inclusion for women, and the possible fallout of the Senate election on the Pakistan Stock Exchange were hot topics. Also in the eye of the social media storm were Pakistani banks, and former Finance Minister Miftah Ismail, who coming out of a strong week of personal achievement in which he was lauded for shutting down a sexist question from a television host, went on the offensive against the economic policies of the incumbent federal government. 

This week’s Profit social media roundup also includes one thread on LinkedIn, an often ignored platform in terms of social impact, where Gallup Pakistan’s Bilal Gillani stirred a hot debate by claiming that one of the reasons for the slow uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine in Pakistan was that Chinese products have bad brand perception, and the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine would see a much better reception in Pakistan. 

Profit’s reporter Ariba Shahid analyses the business and economic highlights from Pakistani Twitter this week.  

  1.   Financial inclusion for women

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This particular conversation was stirred when the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pakistan’s twitter handle posted a simple question as part of a series of questions they have been posting on their social media to try and stir important conversations. This week, the question was, “What roles have financial inclusion & technology played in reducing structural inequality in the country?”

In response, @OSmanSiddiqi, who holds a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard, points out instances of Pakistan lagging behind the world in female financial inclusion through charts and numbers. Adding to the conversation, Profit columnist and economic commentator Ammar Khan (@rogueonomist) adds his two cents over how it is not at all “Asaan” to open up a bank account as a woman. The discussion goes on to talk about how making something look pink does not make it accessible to women. This is a point that the Governor of the SBP recently agreed to in an earlier webinar discussing female financial inclusion. While some individuals have come up with successful instances of being able to open an account, the thread serves as a reminder that it is not always “Asaan” to do so.

  1.   Miftah Ismail

For a very brief moment, Miftah Ismail became a darling of ‘woke’ Twitter last week. While the bar is set agonisingly low, it was refreshing to see a man that has held powerful office act as an ally. The adulation and glowing reviews on Images would only be a moment, however, and soon it would be back to business for Ismail, who took the incumbent PTI government to task for “running up the largest deficits and public debt in our history.” 

While the PTI has borrowed and is running massive deficits, Ismail needs to be reminded that a significant amount of money that the government is borrowing is used to service off its existing debt, which includes both the principle amount and the interest. It is also important to note that roughly 70% of the cumulative fiscal deficit experienced during the PTI government is due to interest payable on debt previously borrowed. While these facts stand, Ismail is right as he points out that governments in the past have done the same job of paying off the previous government’s debt. 

  1. #Chaltanaheinhai  

#Chaltanaheinhai is quite the hashtag. What is obvious is the fact that Sohail feels that banking stock prices are not a true representative of the actual potential banks have, especially considering the fact that these are safe bets. Banks in Pakistan are not risk takers, they prefer lending largely to the government and big names. This means their money is safe and so is your investment in their stocks. However, one can’t ignore the fact that the banking sector is resilient to change and needs the biggest push to get with the times – which it really needs to. 

As news of former Prime Minister Yousafe Raza Gillani winning the Islamabad Senate seat hit twitter, a number of people started making jokes about how the PSX would crash the next day. This is just one example of those jokes. You see, immediately, the thought is that since Gillani won, Prime Minister Imran Khan has defectors in his ranks and thus the government is unstable. But how much instability is there really? After all, Hafeez Sheikh losing to Gillani is a strange moment considering Gillani used to be his boss. Clearly Prime Minister’s, Senators and politicians come and go, but the economists hang around, and so does the sense of political instability and makes the government’s status as a ‘going concern’ pop into one’s mind.

5.

  

While there is no discussion in this thread, it is important to note that Pakistanis have often in the past been wary of Chinese goods so it only makes sense that they’re wary of the Chinese vaccine. Generally, Pakistanis are more than happy to buy Chinese goods when they are small consumer items. However, whenever China starts to offer bigger items like cars, the walls go up and Pakistanis become cautious. And the vaccine is definitely more monumental than a car. And why not? Gilani is correct that the Chinese makers of the vaccine are not known for their cutting edge research which may result in some uneasiness. 

Ariba Shahid
The author is a business journalist at Profit. She can be reached at [email protected] or at twitter.com/AribaShahid

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