The wait for year-end has begun

If you have come over here to read something remotely funny, I have a better option for you: Drop this and start following newspaper reports on the government’s sincere and solemn efforts to tame inflation. No humour writing, when I say this I also include the very many lines from the Indian Constitution, can come even close to matching the thigh-slapping amusement that inflation and government in consonance provide.

Just sample this from today’s paper: Reacting to the surge in food inflation, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee expressed serious concern and said ‘…these are weekly figures, let us wait for monthly figures’. So there you have it, from no less a person than the country’s finance minister, the major initiative from the government to tame the rampant food prices is to —- pay careful attention here as this is about a major policy decision —- wait for the month-end. Or else, you can also say the government is giving some time for the inflation to learn how to behave.

But I can appreciate Pranab’s logic: The news is bad enough. So at least give it in the form of a joke. I, for one, am not complaining. I find it very reassuring that I live in a nation whose finance minister is adept at stand-up comedy.

Anyway, I think I have an even better plan to counter the galloping prices: Abolish the computation of inflation, after all ours is the country where if Rama Sene creates a ruckus we like to ban Valentine’s Day.

It is elementary logic that inflation is there because we allow it to be there and also keep on acknowledging its presence by tracking it every week. The government should forthwith rule that computing inflation, either in public or in private, is illegal, and anyone found contravening this must be strictly dealt with by the appropriate draconian sections of economics, which may include reading economic treatise. Let’s see how inflation reacts.

Anyway, if for some reason this doesn’t work, the government can think of banning all money, which, you will understand if you are a serious student of economics, is at the core of all price rises. The government, of course, seems to be on the right track. It has only last week announced that the 50 paise coin will no longer be in currency. (No silly jokes please about how a coin could have been in currency in the first place).

Don’t think 50 paises to be piddling. If you bother to collect all the 50 paises lying under sofas and behind almairahs and in the deep corners of closets and in unused purses and wallets across households across the country, you are dealing with an amount not less than 1.76 lakh crores of rupees. In other words, if you have all the 50 paises in the country, you can live royally like a raja.

Anyway, if today it’s 50 paise, tomorrow it might be the 1000-rupee note that may be on the way out. Already credit cards are the most preferred for high-value transactions, like in buying everyday vegetables. Today’s young could be the last generation that deals in cash, for electronic money and plastic cards threaten to cram their lives. So the logical economic question to ask is what will the young of tomorrow pick from their father’s pocket to watch a movie on the sly? Bankers and economists are racking their minds on this issue and trying to come up with an answer that will be reassuring to these youngsters.

Even as the world waits for their response, just to kill time, not to speak of filling some column space, we will do some number crunching: Statistics reveal that the US, a $13 trillion economy, has only about $400 billion in circulation in the form of currency. Americans, on an average, hold seven credit or debit cards for everybody over the age of 15.

What does all this prove? Nothing much, except that the internet provides such useless statistics to anyone who is bored enough to search for them.

The one basic advantage of credit cards is you don’t have to be rich to be irresponsible in your spending. Individuals, using plastic cards, can run up huge bills. When they can’t repay them to the banks, they just shrug their shoulders and move on. The banks, for their part, shrug the shoulders to the government, which in turn, shrugs its shoulders to nobody in particular but to everyone in general. This leads to prices going through the roof making the individual spend even more and get bigger bills next time round. The whole drama is played again and again and again and again, and eventually all money and life is irrelevant and futile. When you come down to it, this is what philosophers too say.

So just to jog your memory: The rule to tackle the problems of economics is: wait for the month-end, abolish inflation, ban currencies, run up huge bills, don’t pay the bank.

If none of these works, I think Pranab Mukherjee may force us to take the extreme step: Wait for the year-end, that is.