On being right


A short while ago, I gave a presentation where I predicted that the Egyptian pound would devalue and likely reach 10 pounds to the dollar by 2017.

Some in the room took little notice, but one person in particular mocked me for making such a prediction. In a very aggressive tone, he not only disagreed with my analysis, but he went on to say how well the economy was doing and that in his humble opinion the dollar would lose ground to the Egyptian pound over the same period. He also went on to call me an "economic pessimist" and ended his intervention there.

He provided no analytics on why the pound would appreciate against the dollar, just a bold prediction. I was not offended because in my heart of hearts I wanted him to be right. Who doesn't want the best for their country? A country that we all wish to prosper and to be what it once was.

My response to him was atypical me. I said "let's agree to disagree", me being feeble at my very best. Maybe I should have said that it was more likely I would be right, but I genuinely wished to be wrong.

And, I guess I have a track record for not seeing what other analysts have had a tendency to see when it comes to Egypt. Nothing incensed me more years ago when a defunct Minister of Finance started calling Egypt the tiger on the Nile. He went as far as to compare Egypt to some of the most successful Asian economies and didn't say we could become like them, but that we were in fact out performing them.

I quickly contradicted this hypothesis with proper economic analysis in a forum to which I was never invited again.

Sometimes being right is a very lonely place to be especially when you're surrounded by people who want to see something else. But, it is a completely different proposition when the people making the wrong assertions know that they are misrepresenting facts and do so anyway with a straight face.

In their defense, I guess we all do this in some form. Your friend has an ugly baby and you say how cute the baby is. A person is going to die of some horrible disease and the Doctor says something reassuring to the patient knowing the inevitable is just around the corner.

Maybe I am that misguided fool who just tells it like it is. The guy who'd call that baby ugly instead of cute to everyone's horror. Or, maybe I'd be that Doctor who would tell it like it is to a dying patient. But, if I were that Doctor, I know for sure though, that after coming clean with the diagnosis, I'd likely end up sitting in a corner afterwards and crying my heart out because there was nothing I could do to change that patient's ugly reality.

I find no solace in being right about the pound and for all who followed what I predicted closely, I have actually yet to be proven correct. My prediction was 10 pounds to the dollar by 2017. Neither have we hit 10, or are we in 2017.

If this does happen, I will find no joy in saying I told you so, trust me. Because when it comes to Egypt, and over many decades of predicting what any layman would have said was obvious, I can say with complete honesty how frustrating it is to repeat in your own mind I told you so when virtually no one was willing to listen, and worse still take corrective action.

Maybe sometimes the truth is hard to accept, and maybe a certain false reality creates a degree of comfort, but in the final analysis the truth is the truth regardless of how difficult it is to accept.

The baby maybe be ugly, the patient may be critical, but at least the truth can show us what correction may be possible. Until we learn how to tell it like it is when it comes to our country's economy, until we can tell the truth about our economic condition, the diagnosis for a proper way forward will be as misguided as the illusion we chose to create.

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© Khaled F. Sherif, 2020

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