After people learn that I worked in China and Vietnam before coming to Pakistan, they often ask me ‘what are some of the differences between the Chinese and Pakistani’s’. The big difference, I always say, is long-term vs short-term. In China the focus is on the long term. They set themselves a goal and no matter how long it takes, with utter dedication and conviction, they reach that goal. In the late 70’s under Deng Xiao Ping’s leadership, the Chinese set on a road to introduce ‘capitalism with Chinese characteristics’. Now 40 years later they are the second largest economy in the world and will over the next 50 years challenge the US for that crown.
On the other hand, in Pakistan it is all about the today. We will take whatever shortcut is possible in order to get an immediate benefit. This applies to all levels of society. Pakistani’s are generally more interested in maximizing their opportunities and earnings today, than waiting to get something significantly better in the future (I would love to see a comparison between Pakistan and other countries on the result of the infamous Stanford Marshmallow Test)
Why I asked myself is this the case, three reasons:
1. You Don’t Know What Tomorrow Will Bring
Uncertainty is so high that you never know what tomorrow will bring. Many people take life day by day, questioning: why try to build something that will only reap its benefits at some time in the far uncertain future? In Pakistan, a strike can be called in a matter of minutes, causing the whole city to shut down and the workday to go to waste. With such erratic conditions, sometimes living in the moment is what works best.
2. You Can’t Depend on Institutes
Our governance is still under constructions. Institutes have made modest progress in ensuring that its people can depend on a fair, transparent and a just rule of law. Apart from a few exceptions, government offices are not known for their ability to deliver quick, consistent and high quality services. You never know whether you can pick up your passport whenever they promised it, or whether the electricity that is there today will be there tomorrow.
3. You Can’t Afford To Wait
With inflation high and incomes at sustenance levels, people need to ensure that they look after their families today. With such a large population of individuals willing to work (especially in the middle and lower class), there is always someone ready to take your place. You can’t afford to wait till tomorrow to grab the opportunity you have at hand.
All these things combined make it almost utterly impossible to predict and therefor plan for the future. This can be said about many countries, but Pakistani’s will agree that our country can sometimes feel like a light switch, with tensions arising and calming down at any instant. We have adapted to this “you never know what will happen tomorrow” motto. Apart from the obvious drawbacks there are of course numerous good things about this motto. Our turnaround time is significantly faster than any other place I have ever lived and we have become much more flexible and agile as a result of it. For us it is all about Now!
– Paul Keijzer