Choices: Half full or half empty?

November 15, 2006 (LBO) – At a recent discussion on comparative rankings of economic performance, an esteemed economist decried the tendency of Sri Lankans to see the glass as half-empty; to think that Sri Lanka was in bad shape and getting worse.

“Development will come only when we pump up our self-esteem and think of the glass as half-full,” he exhorted.

It was an epiphany. I saw the error of my ways.

In partial atonement of past sins, I present below an analysis of comparative indicators in telecom, reinterpreted according to the theory of half-full, with the half-empties shown only for purposes of comparison and solely to prove the superiority of the half-full.

In terms of fixed + mobile telephones per 100 people, Sri Lanka, which was only behind Maldives in the South Asian region, was overtaken by Pakistan this quarter (half-empty); but we are still ahead of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Afghanistan (half-full).

Obviously half-full wins, because 5 is larger than 2. We are ahead of five countries and behind only two. Doesn’t that just feel better? Don’t you feel your self esteem growing as you read this?

We happen to be in a much higher income bracket than Pakistan which overtook us (half-empty); but we used to be behind Pakistan until the telecom reforms of 1996-97. All that has happened is that Pakistan restored its previous position (half-full).

In 1996, Pakistan had 1.82 fixed + mobile connections per 100, compared to 1.57 in India and 1.78 in Sri Lanka. We still have more fixed phones per 100 than either Pakistan or India (my cup overfloweth).

This approach need not be limited to boring stuff like telecom. Sure, one MP was killed in the middle of a checkpoint-surrounded capital city, but how many more MPs were not killed? 224. Isn’t 224 greater than 1? What was that muttering about Parajasingham? Okay, that was back in 2005; why can’t we let bygones be bygones?

You insist? That still makes two. So how many were not killed? 223. Smaller than 224, but surely the relevant comparison is with 2: 223 is a much bigger number.

They’re going to close the airport for eight hours every day from 2007, but it’s going to be open for 16 hours. Is sixteen not greater than eight? It’s double.

What was that about Colombo losing its incipient secondary-hub status? Please hold your negativism. As long as we think the positive thoughts of the half-full, we can be anything we want to be.

Why settle for secondary hub? If we all think half-full together, Weerawila can become the regional hub, with passengers coming from Singapore and Bangkok to join direct flights to New York.

Just by writing this, my self esteem went up by several notches. I feel better already. I have also contributed my bit to increasing the self-esteem of my readers.

The combined effect of all these increased self-esteems should account for at least one per cent growth in GDP. If GDP goes up by anything less than one percent, I will eat my words.

(Sources:
PTA, TRAI and TRC websites.
Data as of September 2006; actual
numbers may be higher)