“…I always had the expectation that my path through life would be relatively sunny, no matter what happened. I have never allowed myself to be bitter.” – Angela Merkel
Securing a fourth term as Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel’s recent win highlights how under her leadership Germany has reinvented itself as a force for stability for Europe and the world.
In spite of the challenges she faced, particularly from Germany’s increasingly popular far right party Alternative for Germany, the country’s increasing economic prosperity led to Chancellor Merkel’s re-election.
Under her administration, Germany surpassed France as the most competitive major European economy and has built strong trade relations beyond the EU, most notably with China. In addition, Merkel has supported labour unions, reduced the retirement age for certain workers and increased state payments to mothers and the elderly. Low levels of unemployment, a formidable industrial base and strong exports have all translated into better living standards for German citizens.
With Pakistan’s current ruling cadre beleaguered by corruption allegations, Merkel’s exemplary rule stands as a lesson to those countries whose leaderships are bereft of all integrity.
In spite of the vast power she wields, she continues to live modestly in an apartment with her husband, who is a professor of theoretical chemistry. Outside their apartment building stands just one policeman for security. At the peak of her power, she did not change her lifestyle. Her understated manner and simplicity distinguishes her from the flamboyant displays of wealth of some of her counterparts, many of whom represent the world’s poorest people.
The offshore bank accounts and multi-million dollar property portfolios that has tarnished the reputation of Pakistan’s leadership stands in sharp contrast to Merkel; her personal financial integrity remains unquestioned, her only other property is a small cottage in east Germany close to where she spent her childhood.
Her controversial stance on opening Germany’s doors to immigrants in the face of strong opposition is a testament to her overarching humanity. Her pro-migrant stance dented her popularity, but she held firm to her role as a champion of tolerance and human dignity.
Of course, her position on migrants is also grounded in economic imperative. With Germany’s rapidly ageing population and low birth rate, letting in refugees is the medium term hedge against this trend which, if left unchecked, would have catastrophic consequences for the German economy starting as early as 2030. Her relentless focus on Germany’s economic ascendancy has translated not only into a higher quality of life for German people, but has also established the country as the powerhouse of Europe. In the end, a strong economy led to her electoral victory.
In Pakistan, the fierce backlash against corruption in politics is largely driven by the fact that the deep economic and social inequality has become too much to bear. Pakistan’s precarious economic position underscored by perilously low foreign exchange reserves and onerously high interest payments on short-term government borrowing means that the country yet again finds itself on the brink of economic disaster. The possibility of another multilateral bailout looms large – a lamentable position to be in given Pakistan’s boundless resource wealth and untapped potential.
Merkel’s resolute approach towards economic progress, social welfare and financial transparency stands as a benchmark for leaderships around the world. Quiet and understated, she eschews grandiose statements; instead the results speak for themselves, unlike her counterparts whose soaring rhetoric often fails to match reality. A giant among world leaders, it seems that power has not corrupted her spirit or altered her values. Pakistan’s governing elite could learn a lot from her.
by Mashaal Gauhar