The master is one angry man.
Today, he went on one of his rants, after the other two somehow managed to corner him over his often polarizing views. It began with the issue of Palestine, but somehow drifted into something completely different. Syme too was around for this one, playing the newly released Assassins creed: Revelation on the PS3, and simply ignored them.
And for the first time in this household, one could literally feel the veneer on one hell of a troubled character. The topic of the day was, (you guessed it correctly):- the economy.
Money. In particular, the “irreversible unintended effects of tax havens and secret account regimes on developed and developing countries”, which if you read it out loud, really isn’t a topic for Sunday afternoon banter in cold grey weather. I’ll try to simplify the most exciting bits, in as much as I understood it:
Brit, aged 37 with 2 young kids, gives £700 in all good faith to the Wellcome Trust, a charity which his father regularly supported. Money is tight, but his old man, who recently passed away would have been well pleased by such a gesture of generosity, if the man were still alive. After all, not everybody gets a £1500 Xmas bonus, and what could be better than sharing such a modest gift with the genuinely needy. Surely that money will be put to good use.
The following week those funds (together with other funds donated by millions other selfless souls) are donated (through say DFID) in the form of a £3 million grant to an African state’s Health Department. Here , unsurprisingly, the money is ‘tinkered’ with, and a portion either disappears off the books, or goes as “commission” or “administration costs” or other unnamed levy to a number of unnamed government officials, and is wired to a Secret Swiss account.
Much more subtly, a recently appointed contractor / supplier to the Department of Health generates an over inflated invoice (the tender process of which – by any standards- couldn’t possibly be fair and transparent) , and upon payment of such an invoice by the ministry of health, 25% of those sums (which is most probably several hundred thousand pounds) is wired to 3 different Swiss accounts belonging to unnamed subjects.
No questions are asked by anyone to anybody.
A few days later, the Brit is informed by his boss that due to the employer’s company’s floundering economic fortunes, in particular dwindling sales and much recently, loss of a big client, his pay will most likely be slashed by anywhere between 10-15%.
Should he have donated the £700 in the first place? Maybe he should only have given £100, or £50, or £5, instead of £700. In any case, I thought it was the gesture, not the amount that matters? His conscience begins to contend with him, and there is a hint of regret and resentment.
Unfortunately, most British families, whether they know it (or would be willing to accept it) or not are not in a very different position to this precarious hypothetical situation.
On one hand, they pay their taxes, and a large percentage are do-gooders, genuinely trying to make a difference to the less fortunate in their society and around the world. On the other, their government (whether intentionally or not) is in bed with corporate tax evaders, criminals and corrupt officials, even those in foreign lands, thousands of miles away from Britain, who are recipients of developmental aid, and use the same hardly earned funds which could be put to genuine and much needed use in Britain, to enrich themselves filthy ( including for some committing atrocious acts of criminality[illegal gambling; drugs; prostitution, etc]/ terrorism).
If it was possible to trace that money, how many do-gooders would consider to donate to the Trust again, come next December?
Further, if one considers that one of the goals of the UN’s ( through the UNDP) is to fight global poverty, why couldn’t they pass a resolution prohibiting Switzerland from accepting funds which most likely have been obtained illegally?