My boat moored along the coast of the Fantastic Republic of Magic Wandistan (Illustration: Mayank Chhaya)
It may be a bit late in the day to insert a new item for action in the United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) agenda as it begins deliberations on September 25. Nevertheless it would serve the international community well to consider announcing an indefinite moratorium on the use of at least two expressions by global leaders.
It is my strong recommendation that the 67th session of the UNGA as well as the UN Security Council outlaw the use of two profoundly useless and counterproductive expressions “There is no magic wand” and “Money does not grow on trees.” One can safely say that most leaders have used these two expressions either directly in English or their comparable local variations in their own languages.
I have been advocating the banishment of these expressions for a long time unless of course their users can empirically prove that both are possible under certain circumstances. I wrote this on August 21, 2011: “Here is an expression that ought to be banished from public use: “There is no magic wand.” The latest politician (which makes him Number 205 billionth) to use it is India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He has said there is no magic wand to eliminate corruption.
Politicians say “there is no magic wand” as if they have tried their hardest to look for one but couldn’t find it. Their tone would suggest barely hidden anguish that there is actually no magic wand and they have the onerous duty to report the tragic finding of their quest to the suckers at large like us.”
It is ironic that it is the same Dr. Singh who has just used the expression “Money does not grow on trees.” India’s prime minister, who has been battling hard to convince the country that it needs a new round of strong economic reform, addressed the nation yesterday explaining why the country has to do what it takes to strengthen its economy. During that address Dr. Singh was making a point about how hard it is to maintain government subsidies, particularly on petroleum products. His decision to increase the price of diesel has added fuel to the already raging political fires around him. This is how explained the rationale:
“We import almost 80% of our oil, and oil prices in the world market have increased sharply in the past four years. We did not pass on most of this price rise to you, so that we could protect you from hardship to the maximum extent possible.
As a result, the subsidy on petroleum products has grown enormously. It was Rs. 1 lakh 40 thousand crores (about $31 billion) last year. If we had not acted, it would have been over Rs. 200,000 crores (about $45 billion) this year.
Where would the money for this have come from? Money does not grow on trees. If we had not acted, it would have meant a higher fiscal deficit, that is, an unsustainable increase in government expenditure vis-a-vis government income.”
One cannot dispute the economic soundness of Dr. Singh’s argument about the subsidies because they need to be funded by the government and as we well know money does indeed not grow on trees. My objection to the magic wand and money trees is that leaders use them as if there are people in this world who actually believe that either one of them really exists.
There is a pretty good chance that those who believe in the magic wand also believe in money trees. If nothing else the UNGA can announce the formation of a new country called the Fantastic Republic of Magic Wandistan whose national emblem will be the Money Tree. I have already penned the first two verses of its national anthem. It is a work in progress.
In the land of Magic Wandistan
Money grows on trees
Where life is one unending feast
And people have no miseries