By Dr Muhammad Babar Chohan
April 9, 2019
The massacre of fifty Muslims in Christchurch, by a white supremacist, is undoubtedly a lugubrious incident in New Zealand’s history. However, the way in which the Labor Party government, led by the Prime Minister (PM) Jacinda Ardern, handled the crisis deserves best accolades. In terms of economics, she was successful in redefining the soft determinants of economic growth from several angles such as showing complete solidarity with the Muslim minority, promoting a sense of togetherness, safeguarding New Zealand’s image as a tolerant country and completely disassociating her government from the terror ideology of the pusillanimous invader.
She successfully demonstrated emollient practical wisdom by wearing headscarf, reciting the Holy Quran in Wellington’s Beehive alongside maximizing her contacts with the bereaved Muslim community in the country. These soft determinants give rise to three main esoteric themes that can affectively maintain and increase the economic growth rate of a country in the wake of an unforeseen socio-religious crisis such as the Christchurch incident: handling religious beliefs, solidarity with minorities and socio-religious tolerance. These themes also corroborate the World Bank’s ease of doing business indicators such as ‘protecting minority investors’.
Looking deep into these inchoate themes, it is not hard to understand that sanguine perceptions play a pivotal role in defining the soft determinants of economic growth of a country. The countries with tarnished perceptions about religious tolerance may not be able to foster their economic growth rates in the long run.
The politico-economic doctrine of the PM Jacinda has effectively countered the ineffable negativity created by the Christchurch attacker by practically demonstrating the above three themes. She indeed created a counter-discourse with full force with a view to enervating the disastrous economic impacts of the tarnished perception about the Kiwis. As far as the practical economic implications of Jacinda’s doctrine are concerned, New Zealand was not only able to rarefy the perception crisis but also succeeded in convincing the world that the country is still safe for the minorities.
This dimension is particularly crucial because it will help New Zealand maintain first position on the Ease of Doing Business front. Had Jacinda not affectively obviated the religious perception crisis in New Zealand, it would be hard for the country to maintain top position on the front of ‘protecting minority investors’ indicator while doing business. Jacinda’s sagacious doctrine has indeed protected New Zealand’s long term economic and business interests by appreciating collectivism and religious pluralism.
The white strip in our flag represents religious plurality. It is actually the ambrosial beliefs (rights of people) that positively respond to economic growth because they mark the basis for belief in God and Hereafter. This suggests that religious diversity, tolerance and socio-cultural cohesion in a country determine the traits enhancing its economic performance
In their 2003 paper titled “Religion and economic growth across countries”, Harvard University’s Barro and McCleary analyzed the relationship between religion and economic growth. Using beliefs and church attendance as dependent variables, they found that economic growth responds positively to the level of beliefs, particularly in heaven and hell, and negatively to the church attendance. In my opinion, Barro and McCleary’s findings appear to lay greater focus on rights of people (beliefs) than rights of God (church attendance) for increasing economic growth. In other words, the findings appear to support the economics of collectivism and religious diversity. Jacinda’s doctrine also seems to follow this approach wherein New Zealand’s economic interests were safeguarded by protecting the minorities’ investments and economic contributions.
The socio-religious crisis in New Zealand could be viewed as a case study for other similar crises such as the reportedly forced religious conversion of two Hindu sisters in Pakistan. The entire process through which this case is dealt with is extremely vital for the foreign investors to establish a perception how minorities are treated in Pakistan. The PM Imran Khan’s timely intervention on the issue truly deserves appreciations. However, in order to undo the ripple effect of the Hindu girls’ abduction and forced conversion saga, more visible steps are needed with a view to clearly convey a message to the world that minorities are safe in Pakistan. For this purpose, Jacinda’s doctrine can affectively be replicated in Pakistan.
Once the message is effectively conveyed to the world, it will itself strengthen Pakistan’s ease of doing business indicator ‘protecting minority investors’ thus elevating the country’s overall business ranking. It could be deduced that religious diversity is Pakistan’s economic strength. The white strip in our flag represents religious plurality. It is actually the ambrosial beliefs (rights of people) that positively respond to economic growth because they mark the basis for belief in God and Hereafter. This suggests that religious diversity, tolerance and socio-cultural cohesion in a country determine the traits enhancing its economic performance. While beliefs, according to Barro and McCleary, are principal output of the religion sector, church attendance measures the inputs to this sector. This suggests that more church attendance may exhaust more resources by the religion sector. Therefore, the rights of people appear to respond more positively to economic growth than rights of God. The same philosophy was followed by the Prime Minister of New Zealand.
Dr Muhammad Babar Chohan is Additional Commissioner, FBR, holding a PhD inEconomic Planning from Massey University, New Zealand.