Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bulls and bears; foxes and eels?

Countries looking to burnish their international economic credentials crave record-breaking stock markets. So, when General Musharraf determined that economic growth would be the cornerstone of his rule, his minions went out and conjured up the shiniest stock market in the world. But emphasis on records and not regulation, on form and not substance, had wrenching consequences for the small investors, who were lured by the mirage of impossibly high returns only to have their worlds implode when the powerful and the mighty engineered a spectacular collapse in March 2005.

The then-chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Dr Tariq Hassan, identified powerful brokers responsible for the scam, but was unceremoniously shown the door when it became apparent that he was going to take action against the brokers. Dr Hassan later publicly accused the prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, of protecting the culprits. Public pressure, however, led to a commission being formed to probe the market crash and issue a report of its findings. That report is now ready, but the government is trying to bury it by stealth and parliamentary subterfuge. The message to the people is clear: money matters; they don't.

No comments: