Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Facts and figures - where to find the "reality"?

In an earlier - long, boring, not well argumented etc., as you wish - post I tried to outline the very peculiar concept of time and space prevalent in ECE in the public sphere, primarily among so-called analysts and economists. The recent events in Hungray, primarily the installment of the new government and the prime minister's presentation of his program revealed an interesting epistemological problem, quite connected to the crisis as well, that of the facts. What are considered to be facts nowadays here, who produces facts, why are facts accepted as "truth" and sometimes why are they rejected? I have no ready answers for the questions described above, I can only register the problem itself and to make some hypothesis, viable ones, I hope, regarding its foundations and origins.

Two minor details, not really taken seriously by the public, can shed some light on the problem and its context. The prime minister designate, Gordon Bajnai was supposed to work hard on his evaluation of the economic situation and the crisis since he was proposed to be the candidate for this post at the beginning of April, but promised to present his ideas and proposals only at April 18. At the same day he held an international press conference, where he showed a presentation. (Bajnai is very convincing at presenatations, this dominant form of selling one's ideas today, once I saw him in Brussels as he was putting forward Hungar's claim for the European Science and Technology Agency's seat, and two gentlemen in front of me, I would say they were German, concluded that he was very good and clear, although for someone from the academics - where I'm supposed to belong, even if I feel sometimes that it is a self delusion and I'm only clinging to my false ideas and I'm not ready to accept my failure - the whole thing was a series of banalities, but I'm sure that it is an inevitable characteristic of the genre.) This presentation was marketing some old ideas on the factors of the crisis, outside and inherent ones, specificlly Hungarian and international and the proposed solutions - not completely without contradictions in itself - were also well known. But the communication team made a mistake, as they mada downloadable a form of the presentation that consisted some technical data regarding the author of it and the date of the last modification. The material was prepared by the intrnationl company McKinsey and last modified at April 3.

One can conclude that the supposed hard work was only a deception and Bajnai, while seemingly negotiating with politicians, parties etc. knew from the beginning that he won't modify his views. He won't acept that facts and argumentations based on this fats provided for him by others can be relvant, important or "true". (Anything this last concept covers.) He made a choice earlier and was not ready and openminded to accept others point of view or at least to ponder it. Even more interesting is the fact, that his own, unwavering ideas were not based on the data and results of their evaluation provided by the state administration (a series of institutions from the Ministry of Financ to the Statistial Office) but on concepts of an international company. One could say that he accepted the opinion of the so called markets and analysts without any reservation, even though those guys are using only a limited set of data, some figures considered to be very important and they try to deduce from those every other information on the respective economy.

Quite revealing in this sense is the data on the sovereign debt in the presentation itself. Many so-called analysts, among them the new finance minister of Hungary, are convinced that the country is on its path towards sovereign default, baceuse the debt ratio to GDP has soared in last year and there is no way to hamper the process without harsh spending cuts. (I discussed this issue in an earlier post on the S&P evaluation of the problem.) The presentation was in line with this assumption, although two fellows from the National Agnecy for Sovereign Debt published a well argumented article, in wich the porved that this assumption is false. (They reasoning was similar to what I oulined in the above mentioned earlir post.) What is really striking that the prime minister rejects the opinion of the state authorities, that have more data and probably more epxertise on the issue than so-called analysts and accepts the views of the latter. Why don't disolve this costly state institution if some self-appointed guys know it better? It would be also beneficial in financial terms.

In the light of this events it is easier to understand why are the majority of the so-called analysts are convinced that the costs of the state administration can be reduced significantly. They so it as completely useless, the existence of which is only a tradition and age old custom, something that can be substituted by market institutions. Well, maybe there is some hope. As you can see from the next post, even the most hawkish guys from the so-calld markets could soon realize that it is always easier to sell ideas on cuts and solutions without responsibility, and the limits could be immediately obviuos from another perpsective. But it is still a long way to go until facts won't be only facts if they are provided and pondered by the so-called market institutions with the most narrow perspective and having only mediocre expertise.

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