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Currency trust: Navigating challenges and restoring stability

Muhammad Aamir Ilyas
Tuesday, Aug 29, 2023

In the intricate realm of global economies, money is far more than a medium of exchange—it embodies trust. The very cash notes we employ to facilitate the exchange of goods hold inherent value, underpinned by the robust trust established within a strong governing system.

However, the concerning reality we currently face is the gradual erosion of trust in our national currency, the Pakistani Rupee (PKR). This deterioration is attributed to a multitude of factors, foremost among them being the persistent devaluation resulting from an ongoing balance of payments crisis. The intricate interplay of economic challenges has rendered the value of the PKR increasingly fragile. Furthermore, the unsettling backdrop of political instability and chaos has further contributed to this waning confidence. As these complexities intersect, they cast a shadow on the currency's stability, stirring apprehension among citizens and market participants alike.

The recent devaluation of the Pakistani Rupee (PKR) has precipitated a surge in inflation, reaching unprecedented levels in the country's history. This soaring inflationary trend is exerting a profound toll on the daily lives of the masses, rendering existence increasingly challenging. Moreover, its repercussions are reverberating throughout the fabric of society, giving rise to a host of intricate economic and social predicaments.

In the annals of world history, instances of eroding trust in a currency have historically precipitated notable responses. Often, the initial response to such mistrust has been a shift towards more tangible assets, most notably gold. This precious metal, with its enduring intrinsic value, has served as a refuge for individuals and entities seeking to safeguard their wealth amidst currency uncertainties. The allure of gold lies in its timeless acceptance as a store of value, transcending the fluctuations that currencies may experience.

A parallel development that occurs in response to waning trust in a national currency is the inclination to convert holdings into reserve currencies, and the United States dollar (USD) stands as a paramount example of this phenomenon. As a renowned reserve currency, the USD benefits from widespread international acceptance and usage, bolstered by its historical stability and the economic might of the United States. Nations facing currency instability often seek solace in the stability and global acceptance of the USD, safeguarding their assets and facilitating international transactions with greater confidence.

In the context of Pakistan, the ongoing erosion of trust in the PKR is indeed prompting similar actions. Individuals and entities, wary of the currency's volatility, may be turning to the age-old safeguard of gold as a means of preserving their wealth. Simultaneously, the gravitation towards more established reserve currencies like the USD could be witnessed as a strategic manoeuvre by those looking to navigate the precarious terrain of currency devaluation and economic instability. As history bears witness to these patterns, it underscores the critical role that trust in currency plays in shaping financial behaviour and decision-making on both individual and national scales.

Certainly, there have been instances in history where mistrust in currency has escalated to the point of chaos or civil conflict. Such as German Hyperinflation in 1920.

After World War I, Germany faced hyperinflation due to a combination of war reparations, economic mismanagement, and the printing of excessive amounts of money. The value of the German Mark plummeted to the point where people needed wheelbarrows of cash to buy basic necessities. This economic instability contributed to social unrest, political upheaval, and a sense of disillusionment among the population, providing a fertile ground for extremist movements like the Nazi Party to rise.

Likewise, The economic turmoil caused by World War I, coupled with the inequities of the Russian monarchy and widespread food shortages, fuelled discontent among the Russian population.

The devaluation of the Russian Ruble and the government's inability to address economic challenges contributed to the environment that ultimately led to the Russian Revolution in 1917.

In the early 2000s, Zimbabwe also experienced one of the most extreme cases of hyperinflation in modern history. The Zimbabwean dollar became virtually worthless, leading to widespread economic collapse, poverty, and social unrest. People lost their life savings and were forced into extreme measures just to survive. The crisis eventually contributed to political instability and tensions within the country.

In recent years, Venezuela has faced a severe economic and political crisis, with hyperinflation as a central factor. The rapid devaluation of the Venezuelan Bolívar has led to shortages of basic goods, widespread poverty, and a deterioration of public services. The crisis has sparked protests, political turmoil, and even violence, exacerbating existing divisions within the society.

These examples illustrate how the erosion of trust in currency can have far-reaching consequences, often exacerbating existing economic, social, and political tensions, and sometimes even leading to civil unrest, chaos, or conflict.

In light of the historical precedents and the potential dire consequences of a waning trust in currency, it is imperative that we act decisively. To avert the downward spiral that can result from such erosion, we must embark on a multifaceted approach. Swift measures need to be taken to restore not only the financial stability of the currency but also the faith of the public.

Addressing political uncertainties and upholding the supremacy of the constitution are crucial steps in rebuilding the foundation of trust. Concurrently, implementing prudent economic measures to stabilise the currency's value and restore fiscal discipline is essential. By undertaking these immediate and resolute actions, we can begin the arduous journey towards reinstating confidence in our currency and securing a stable and prosperous future.

The writer belongs to Inland Revenue Service