Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Floods of Investors

Floods of Investors

‘You’re a bit late,’ I said, as Sara finally arrived and plonked herself upon the sofa. ‘You’ve even missed the news.’

‘Ha!’ she laughed. ‘Was it as infuriating as usual?’

‘Up to standard,’ I admitted. ‘We had the beautiful but empty Miss Angel Visilili, blabbering endlessly.’

‘Visilili? Who’s she?’

‘You know, she’s the Little Minister for Little Lies and Petty Propaganda. We don’t usually see her because she gets hidden behind the Large Minister for Larger Lies and Preposterous Propaganda, the monstrous Shifty Shikashiwa.’

‘So did little Visilili make a fool of herself?’

‘Just a little,’ I laughed. ‘She officially opened a workshop on training journalists to tell the truth, but instead she advised them to portray a rosy picture of the country so that we attract floods of investors.’

‘Never mind floods of investors,’ I laughed, ‘what about the annual disaster of floods in New Kanyama? And how do journalists write a good story about that, especially when the government never does anything about the problem?’

‘Well,’ said Sara, ‘you could write a nice story about the government’s plans to set up a National Crisis Conference to investigate the causes of the flooding. You could write that the government is very busy drafting a supplementary budget, to pay all the necessary expenses and allowances for the five hundred delegates who will come from all over the country for the conference at the Pa Modzi Hotel.’

‘Very good,’ I laughed. ‘Perhaps the next episode in this very remunerative story could be the NCC division into ten different delegations, each to visit a country with flooding problems, to see at first hand the alternative technologies available. Then, by 2015 at the latest, a report could be…’

‘No no no!’ Sara laughed. ‘Investors want to see an active and competent government that is properly in charge of the country, not a government that is just play-acting.’

‘Quite right,’ I said, ‘we need definite action. Then perhaps the story should be that all MPs will be given their own personal-to-holder Hummers so that they can visit their constituencies to see the extent of the flooding.’

‘Half-a-minute,’ Sara objected, ‘only sixteen constituencies have flooding, so why buy Hummers for all hundred and fifty MPs? We don’t want to upset the investors with any nasty stories of corruption!’

‘That’s not corruption,’ I protested. ‘According to the Kunda principle of consistency in government expenditure, a perk given to one MP must also be given to all of the other one hundred and forty-nine. That’s what we mean by good governance!’

'Actually,’ Sara cackled, ‘investors are not interested in empty devious claptrap about good governance, they just want government to identify development projects in which they can invest.’

‘But can we have development projects in New Kanyama?’

‘Of course we can!’ she exclaimed. ‘For example, the government could promise a new project to turn New Kanyama into a gigantic fish farm, to export trout to Britain.’

‘Would that be feasible?’ I wondered.

‘Oh yes,’ laughed Sara. ‘It’s very feasible for government to make such a promise.’

‘I meant is the project feasible, not is the promise feasible.’

‘Oh, that’s quite different,’ Sara laughed. ‘The feasibility of a project can only be tested by a feasibility study, which is a completely separate and preliminary project. RB Capital Partners Ltd can do that sort of job for as little as ten million dollars. A marvellous investment.’

‘But would the feasibility study be feasible?’

‘Investigating feasibility is always feasible,’ Sara laughed, ‘so we can write lots of optimistic stories about feasibility studies. For example, we could write a story about the feasibility of Chinese investors turning New Kanyama into one huge rice paddy. This would solve the unemployment problem, with all the residents becoming rice farmers, and all the overflowing sewage acting as fertilizer for the rice.’

‘That would make a very good story,’ I agreed. ‘But what about cholera?’

‘With a bit of entrepreneurial imagination,’ said Sara, ‘a problem can always be reinterpreted as an opportunity, which makes a much better story. We could imagine Baptists missionaries investing in schools and orphanages for all the children who have lost their parents. Even better, they could export all the children to America, thereby solving the problem of overcrowding in our schools.’

‘Or we could write a story about New Kanyama becoming a new site for development tourism,’ I suggested, ‘where rich people from the North pay a small fortune to observe the desperate plight of the poor in the South.’

‘Marvellous!’ Sara laughed enthusiastically. ‘With all these good stories coming out of Zambia, we shall be made Journalists of the Year by little Visilili!’

‘And all the investors will be so happy!’ I exclaimed, ‘when they read about the government’s marvellous schemes for solving the problems of New Kanyama!’

Just then our grandson Khoza came wandering in. ‘Who will be happy?’ he asked.

‘The investors,’ I explained, ‘will be so happy when they hear of our government’s heartwarming projects for solving the problems of poverty and unemployment!’

‘Don’t be silly,’ sneered Khoza. ‘Investors prefer poverty and unemployment, so that they can get away with paying starvation wages.’

‘We know that!’ I snapped.

‘And that’s why,’ said Khoza, ‘we’re cursed with a flood of mean and greedy investors.’

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