Thursday, April 5, 2012

Social Benevolent Thievery

Author: Staff Writer

What Africa's dictators could have done with their stolen loot!

It is generally accepted that corruption to a certain degree is “good.” And that inequality in society, to a certain degree, should be “desired.” On both accounts, corruption and inequality, it is safe to say that mankind may never, but for divine intervention, rid itself of these social scourges. Why corruption and inequality are “good” is the very reason why Africa’s dictators could have done some good with the stolen loot! Everyone is familiar with the astronomical sums of money filched by African dictators from their respective central banks. In fact, it is as though the national treasury has a private hallway leading into their place of residence—that is the ease with which they conduct the thievery! Many are outraged by this fact, and for good reason, too. Understandably, the “subjects” of these dictators have legitimate qualms with this kind of banditry. The stolen amount is often enough to make an appreciable dent on the unimaginable poverty most people in these countries live under. Not to mention that there just so happens to be a way for this group to steal the money while still doing a considerable good for their countrymen. A quick look at two of Africa’s most notorious dictators, their acquired largess while in office, and a more socially benevolent way of spending their booty makes the point.

We begin with Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan. According to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the current Sudanese president, has bequeathed himself and, no doubt, his family and friends with up to $9 billion (Euros 7bn; £5.6bn) of his country’s money. According to the latest figures from the CIA’s fact sheet, Sudans entire yearly budget revenue is in the neighborhood of $9.2 billion! A more imaginative way of spending the loot would have been building a couple of decent hospitals, in addition to a series of electricity power stations for the millions of consumers (the Sudanese people themselves) who would appreciate being able to lead productive lives not bound to the rise and fall of the sun. Additionally, they would be able to avoid premature death from diseases whose cures have been known since the turn of the century. How would this benefit everyone, you may ask. Well, it’s simple. President Bashir and his friends could use their newly found wealth to build these publicly needed infrastructures. But we are not proposing that it be free to the public. No! No! No!

The hospitals and power plants Bashir and his friends build would be their private property, protected by the “law,” the very law they broke to acquire their largesse. And they would be free to set the sale price for these services as they like. Yes, many Sudanese would not be able to afford these services, but there are those who would. The doctors and nurses, who would work in the new hospitals, would most probably earn enough to send their loved ones to the hospitals where they work for care. In addition, they would be able to pay the electric utility bill from the power plants at the end of the month. In turn, the engineers and those who work at the power plant would earn enough to send their loved ones to the hospitals. They would also be able to pay the electric utility bills at the end of the month. Undoubtedly, there exist other professions within the Sudan with good remuneration as to permit its members to afford these new services! Let us not forget the businesses that would develop to act as suppliers and middlemen to these hospitals and power plants.

Next is the former president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida—notoriously known as IBB by Nigerians (International Bad Belle). As president of Nigeria from 1985 to 1993, IBB could have made other African dictators blush from the reported $12 bn he appropriated to his personal and front bank accounts overseas. Perhaps the most talented magician, if magicians are now in the business of disappearing enough money to fill the roman coliseum. IBB, according to reports, has front Nigerian businessmen who act as proxies for the investment of his largess. This column is interested in what can be done for the betterment of everyone involved, the thief and his victims, after the fact! So, we move on to the social benevolent acts available to IBB and his wealth.

The University of Wisconsin is endowed with roughly $1.4 bn. If you have not heard of it, it is considered the 27th best university in the world as of 2012 and is in the Mid-West region of America. The endowment means that IBB and his largess could have built the world’s 27th best university in Nigeria four times over! The University of Wisconsin has over twenty-eight thousand undergraduates and close to twelve thousand graduate-level students. This means that as you read this, on the continent of Africa would exist the 27th best school in the world, instead of, well, number 103, the University of Cape Town. Which makes South Africa and Egypt, appearing south of the 100th position, the only representatives, with 3 schools in total, on the continent out of 400 global universities. Did we mention the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that 57 disciplines at the University of Wisconsin were in the top 10 in the U.S. in scholarly productivity, which placed it second after the University of California-Berkeley in the number of top ten programs?! How many Nigerians would have graduated today with a reputable diploma if IBB and his friends had built such a school with their new-found wealth?

Well, that brings us to our conclusion. We are talking about a lot of money here! And even though you expect nothing less from these dictators, it still doesn’t stop your jaw from obeying gravity down to the floor, when you hear how much they have fleeced from their country. Instead of the stolen money providing capital investments to ventures across the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean, they could provide socially beneficial enterprises for Africans. It would appear that the stealing is not easily abated. However, there is still good to be done with stolen money. The infrastructures Africa needs do not care from whence the funds come. Hopefully, Africa’s future dictators realise this and make efforts to better invest their loot!

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