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     Volume 8 Issue 72 | June 5, 2009 |

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One Off

Profit, Profiteering and Greed!

Aly Zaker

I conduct a talk show in one of the local channels. Oops, you might think 'so what'? Everybody does it these days?? Or you may have naturally deduced that I am using this very prestigious space given to me by the Star Magazine to advertise my so-called talk show. Believe me, that is not the intention. In one of my recent shows, the issue of the world economic melt down came up for discussion. I had two guests in the show. My special guest was a senior banker and my other guest was a younger banker. I said, as an introduction to the show that perhaps, what we know as, the trickle down economics, or supply side economics, or Reaganomics was responsible for the fateful consequences of today's recession in the Americas or the West. The plastic money was given a free run, people went for a shopping binge on credit, and the banks collapsed under the burden of liquidity deficit. I said that the so-called uni-polar world in the US had to revert back to bi-polar practice when the US government had to come to the rescue of the slide-down of the financial organizations in the Wall Street. At this point in time I thought that I had crossed my line and ventured in to unknown territory. Perhaps I talked a little more than I was competent for. Perhaps I had over simplified the issue. To my utter surprise my special guest was not even willing to go in to all the analyses and said it was a simple case of profit, profiteering and grid that had brought about a total anarchy in the financial institutions in the West that had caused the financial conditions the whole was in today.

Profit in the English lexicon means gain (making money), advantage (gaining advantage) etc. It is also euphemistically described as surplus, excess, bottom line etc. Profit has never been a dirty word. Perhaps not even in the socialist economy. There the profit was meant for the State only. Now, the socialist empire had crumbled and profit was allowable everywhere even for individuals. The meaning of profiteering is: to make excessive, unfair or illegal profit. This creates an artificial supply of money that may make the beneficiaries and the people at large, what is known as profligate (wasteful, extravagant, and spendthrift). So from 'profit' when an economy, or more importantly in cases like ours, individuals begin to indulge in profiteering is when greed takes over. This is the most devastating thing that may happen to a nation. The present U.S government has been able to address the issue by infusion of money in to the system and by use of measures that would act as deterrent to such activities. While talking about the state of economic health of the developed countries, I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable about our own. We don't even realise where we are or what we should be doing if such a calamity were to visit us. We leave it to the mercy of natu-ral and intrinsic corrective measures to mend our ailing economy or at best look for relief by default. Like, well our economy will not be affected by the melt down because or RMG sector, our largest foreign exchange earner, will not be adversely affected by it. Why? “Because we send clothing that are for the down market segment and are considered essential commodities.” Or things like, “our wage earners are employed in such jobs that are considered by their employers as essential.” So we dream about being in suspended animation of a 'status quo'. Come what may, we will never be affected. Perhaps such complacency is what we ought to be careful of. So far I have not touched upon the 'greed' aspect in terms of our society, a society which is still in a formative stage of development. We have seen how an organised institution of greed has pursued our society since its birth. This is the reason why we take two steps forward and are dragged three steps backward. Now when the high and mighty have been hit by the indiscretion of the system 'up' there, may be, it is not wrong to assume that we are in an exceedingly vulnerable situation without any system 'down' here.

What is more important for us is the fact that we, in our greed toward the worldly possessions, become lackadaisical in our attitude. And this leads us to brash behaviour. Ostentation comes naturally to some of us. We have seen that in such a poor country like ours, not too long ago, a BMW show room was emptied in a matter of days upon the first arrival of these expensive cars. Mercedes Benz, with a Rolls Royce, Hummer and Porsche thrown in the group, became the most sought after fashion in our Dhaka society. Brazenness to the point of vulgarity has become the order of the day. We do not realize that this syndrome that is reflective of the famous saying, “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” is also true of our society or, at least, some in our society. We speak of the Per-Capita Income (PCI) or the Annual Growth Rate(AGR) without realizing that this is an average of unrealistically high income a very well of man and that of a very common man, may be a landless peasant who toils in the rice fields of Bangladesh! Therefore, PCI or AGR do not necessarily reflect the reality that prevails in our society. Why only us? It does not even speak the truth of the much vaunted fast developing economies like China or India. The truth of the matter is that we must, 'we' meaning those of us who contribute in building opinion or money, should to think and act realistically and act accordingly.

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