Saturday, May 20, 2017

Baksheesh: An Addendum

     With regard to this morning’s essay. Military / SF writer Tom Kratman has graciously supplied the following snippet from his novel Countdown: The Liberators:

     “Oh, God,” moaned Adam, seated between Abdi and Gheddi, “what is this?” The boy covered his mouth and nose with his hands and began to cough and sneeze from the thick dust that swirled around the bus. His kidneys were in agony from the pounding they’d taken from the combination of bad shocks and worse road.
     “I believe this is called ‘foreign aid,’” Labaan answered.
     The captive looked confused, and from more than the aftereffects of the drugs he’d been given.
     “Foreign aid,” Labaan repeated, with a sneer. “You know: When guilty feeling Euros and Americans shell out money, ostensibly to help the people, but the money all ends up in the hands of sundry corrupt rulers and their relatives?”
     “I don’t…”
     “Understand?” Labaan stood up and, using the bus seats to hold himself erect against the bouncing, walked to the rear where Adam sat. Abdi moved over to open a space for Labaan to sit.
     “We are travelling on what is supposed to be an all-weather, asphalt highway. Money was budgeted for it, no doubt by a consortium of Europeans and Americans, governmental and nongovernmental, both. No doubt, too, a generous provision for utterly necessary bribes was built in to every bid…well, except maybe for the Americans. For that matter, probably no American concerns bid on the project, since their government is death on paying bribes if they catch someone at it. Such an unrealistic people.”
     If ever someone wore a smile that was three fourth’s sadness, that someone was Labaan. “Now let me tell you what happened with all the money that was supposed to go for the road. First, some very high ranking people in this country took the twenty or so percent that was factored into the bids for bribery. Then someone important’s first cousin showed up, waved some official looking papers, sprouted something in the local language that the contractor couldn’t understand. Then, in really excellent French, that cousin explained all manner of dire probabilities and suggested he could help. That cousin was then hired as a consultant. He was never seen again, except on payday.
     “An uncle then showed up, in company with four hundred and thirty seven more or less distant family members, every one of which was hired and perhaps a third of which showed up for work on any given day, except for payday.”
     The bus’ right front tire went into a remarkably deep and sharp pothole, causing the metal of the frame to strike asphalt and Labaan to wince with both the nerve-destroying sound and the blow, transmitted from hole to tire to almost shockless suspension to frame to barely padded and falling apart seat to him.
     “A guerilla chieftain,” he continued, once the pain had passed, “perhaps of no particular relationship to the ruling family, then arrived, offering to provide security with his band of armed men. He was, at first, turned down. And then several pieces of heavy construction equipment burned one night. The guerillas were quickly hired. They never showed up either, except for their leader, at payday, but no more equipment was burned.
     “Then came the tranzis, the Transnational Progressives, average age perhaps twenty-one or twenty-two, and knowing absolutely nothing about road construction. Indeed, most of them wouldn’t have even known what it meant to work. Rich boys and girls, trust fund babies, out to feel good about themselves by saving the world. They filled up every hotel room and hired the few competent, and critical, local engineers to do important things like act as chauffeurs and translators.”
     The bus had now arrived at a washboard section of the road. Labaan kept speaking, but the steady thumpkareechsprong of the road and bus made his words warble almost as much as a helicopter pilot’s over a radio.
     “More cousins came, and they, of course, had to be hired as consultants, as well.
     “At about this time, the accountant for the project arrived and explained that it could no longer be done to the standard contracted for. The substrate began to suffer and the thickness of the road to be reduced. The demands for money, for the hiring of spurious workers and spurious services, never ended. With each mile of road, that substrate became less to standard and that surface became thinner.”
     Labaan shook his head. “And then came the first rain…”
     At that moment, both front tires went into a large, more or less linear hole, adding the screech of metal as the fender twisted to all the more usual sounds.
     “As I said: ‘Foreign Aid.’ And it doesn’t matter a whit whether it come from NGOs, quangos, governments, or rock stars; it never does a bit of good. Never. Fifty-seven billion United States dollars come to Black Africa every year in aid, official and unofficial, Adam. Fifty billion is deposited to foreign accounts by our rulers.”

     I have no doubt that apart from the names of the particular persons and places involved, this is an exact description of the “process.” Israel may be an exception. Reflect on that.

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