Thursday, October 21, 2010

Perceiving Wealth and Its Players

We are often taught by our elders the value of saving what little we have. Sikit-sikit, lama-lama jadi bukit is the credo, suggesting the virtue of patience, discipline, and consistency in building wealth. This credo is then strengthened with various mathematical formulas and indices, showing how our money will grow and eventually reaches the coveted one million amount and hence, counting ourselves among the millionaires.

The credo maybe true, but is only limited to personal finance of the ‘commoners’ and many millionaires. But, as for multi-millions and billions of Ringgit/Dollars transactions, which is the event reserved almost exclusively in macroeconomic situation, we need a whole different mindset to grasp what it means to achieve a financial goal.

In endeavoring billions-worth economic project, the consideration lies not only in financial profitability of the project. Many other factors are also considered such as the impact on the national economy as a whole, acceptance from the public, environmental and ecological changes that may occur, potential political adversities, intra and inter-level competition of participating economic players, international influences, and not the least, the legacy (or notoriety) forever attached to the project and its builders.

Therefore, it is fallacious to measure the weight of such project solely with fiscal measures. Other forms of measurement, tangible and intangible must be taken into the calculations as well.These other forms of measurement can be as cryptic as Adam Smith’s invisible hand: unseen yet consequential. Power in political, social, and economic form may be a reliable measure to evaluate the outcome of such project.

By knowing who is who: motivations, academic, professional and family background, net assets, and networks of these economic players, both individuals and institutions can determine how powerful these players are and their potential impacts on the project. Ideals and ideologies behind the tangible art of building may become next that may describe from what philosophies, doctrines and beliefs regarding the value of a material the project is based on. This will open visions towards the type of civilization taking shape in light of such endeavors.

Unlike in personal finance where individuals may be squarely blamed and punished for their financial mismanagement and infidelity, in national (or macro-) finance, it is harder to do so. Often, the economic players are guised behind the institutions they serve as the institutions act as their persona to decide and act, and hence taking responsibilities to all those decisions and actions. It is true in some cases where the topmost leader of an institution may be held accountable for their deeds and misdeeds. But often, external inquisition will be diluted with institutional forces, vertical and/or horizontal that save the players from blames and punishment.

Orthodox logic on savings, investments, borrowing, lending, and spending is at best referential to making economic decisions in such grand project. The decision is no longer based on what the economy has and what it is able to do. Instead, the decision is based on what the economy may have and what rewards the project may bring, assessed as current worth of the endeavor. This leads to handsome borrowing practice, a practice assuming current debts will be compensated with potential multiplicity in volume of future rewards assessed in current paradigm.

Borrowing has become a spree, not a necessity, which results in the justification of profiteering in capital and its representative by institutional and omnipresent lenders, presented as prodigies of wealth. Savings is collectively and detachedly treated in this economic decision, by taking account more the unit-number of currency (-ies) gained instead of the savers and their purposes of savings.

As a result, a notion of healthy economy is depicted when savings reaches a certain level and not more or less than a certain level with less consideration on what is healthy of the savers’ purposes. Notions of guaranteed and hefty returns are promoted, while the mechanistic workings of the systems are obscured with jargon known only to the initiated, leaving the blithe mass nodding in their whims.

In the frame of something mega, the margin is of little concern. Hence, the delicate intricacies of decisions derived from households of the micro-level economic are either modified, ignored, or lead to affirm the macro-interest. Suddenly, the private household must prioritize their economic motivations and preferences according to need of such grand project. Marketable talents with qualifications become tags to simplify those choices among the many discounted niches.

What then is perceptible to decipher what it means to be cognizant of the workings of wealth? Perhaps it is the more judicious pondering of the passing hours and real labors that breed real, not personified, wealth for deserving hands. Yet, for all their fleshly desires many men brood for wealth. But as for many beautiful things it seems, wealth will cloak itself in many forms of veils hidden in plain sight.

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