Posts Tagged ‘Mushrooms’
Back in June we basked in sunshine and went about our allotment tasks muttering about fools who spend money on holidays abroad. Now the mood is somewhat different and if anyone offered us a trip to the land of Oz we would all be off like a shot. As I type, the rain is pouring and the wind howling. To escape the general air of gloom I have lowered myself, ever so gingerly, into the old sofa, which sinks slowly, with the sympathy of experience, to the requirements of my weary limbs. Why are we here at all asks an inner voice, the outer one grudgingly concedes that if you have animals they have to be cared for.
The newspapers did little to lift our spirits. More surveys prompt me to wonder why there are so many. Every day you can rely on another crop rising like mushrooms in horse manure or daisies on the vicarage lawn. And few contain any information of the slightest use. Of course there is always the latest news, a growing toenail crisis in Yorkshire perhaps and the occasional findings of a stunning investigation. It was one of these that caught my eye and aggravated my already tetchy mood. It concerned the Commonwealth Development Corporation or CDC for short.
The Corporation was set up back in 1948 to tackle poverty in some of the poorest countries in the world. It is wholly owned by the Department for International Development and has access to £2.5 billion of taxpayer’s money. One part of it was turned into a private company in 2004 and there was outrage from those who follow such things that Actis, as it was named, was handed over to the management for a measly £373,000 when the true value was estimated at around £100 million. The remainder of the CDC became a company with the government as the only shareholder – a Quango by any other name. Amazingly the Corporation was turned into a ‘fund of funds’ and thus simply hands over money to other financiers to do the real work. And, even more amazingly, investments have continued to be mainly in wealthier countries likely to provide a good return on investments.
So the truly poor nations have seen little benefit. But it seems that one group has, the management. According to reports in the media the Chief Executive , Richard Laing, has seen his salary quadruple to almost £1 million in four years following the introduction of a lavish bonus system. And the expenses incurred by the supposed champion of the poor are equally eye-watering. An investigation in the Daily Mail has shown that CDC executives last year stayed in a string of five-star hotels and treated each other to meals in London’s finest restaurants – running up tens of thousands of pounds in expenses. Examples are a dinner at the Michelin-starred L’Autre Pied which cost £701, whilst executive Anubha Shrivastav claimed £530 for a night at the five-star Four Seasons hotel in Hong Kong. I will quote no more, today is dark enough!
One of the first charities to react was Christian Aid. It declared the revelations as shocking and expressed concerns about the prioritiues of CDC which has been widely accused of favouring easy investments in fast-growing countries, rather than difficult projects where poverty is really appalling. Incidentally, CDC is also facing questions about the amount of tax paid by the companies it funds, with reports suggesting that almost half of its subsidiaries are based in tax havens. Christian Aid had something to say about this too. It complained of being concerned about the secrecy surrounding the corporation and made the point that tax is vitally important in developing countries – it pays for schools, hospitals, justice and so on.
Since the Department for International Development is one of the few to be spared the Osborne axe this must all be acutely embarrassing to the Minister, Andrew Mitchell. He said yesterday that he has been astonished by some of the things the CDC has been doing and has promised ‘substantial chnages’.
Clearly they cannot come too some for it is really depressing to find that even in concerns aimed at alleviating poverty, members of our society are, like the MPs, devoting time to pushing their noses into the trough. Courses on self understanding or shoot the lot I mutter as I ease myself off the sofa.
And it is still raining!
MYTH OF THE UNDERPAID PUBLIC WORKER?
Like me you may find it hard to believe the front page story in today’s Telegraph. It reports that the Office for National statistics has found that full-time public sector staff earn an average of £74 a week more than those in the private sector.Once employer pension contributions were included the gap rose to £136.
Of course there are lies, statistics, lies, but these figures come from a reputable source and have certainly shot down in flames all my stuff about the financial sacrifice of public service.
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. James Fox 2. Mary Wilson
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which famous racehorse died in 1970? 2. Who was the first actor to be made a life peer in 1970?
I am sure that at some time one learned philosopher or another warned of the hoodwinking of the masses. Even if they didn’t there is surely little doubt that it happens right here in the ‘democracy of the world’. Right here where everyone in power seems remarkably unlike the rest of us given that all wear tailored suits covering lovingly sculpted bodies, have even sun tans and own a private yacht.
Yet endless surveys tell us that we are all happy beyond belief and in total awe of our elected ones. But how accurate are the surveys of which a fresh crop appears daily, rather like mushrooms in horse manure? It probably depends on the questions which are usually as loaded as my pal Albert come midnight after an England win. The results usually bang on about such upper class concepts as feel good factors and quality time, a posh way of saying that one wants to get to hell out of the house. One survey I read concluded that people in a certain district of Wigan feel good because they have the lowest rates for skin cancer in the region. No they don’t, the reason is that they cannot afford foreign holidays!
Presumably the aim of all the brainwashing is to convince us that ours is a uniquely democratic society in which every Private carries a Field-Marshall’s baton in his or her Tesco bag. Something I saw on TV yesterday made me wonder for the umpteenth time about the reality of that. Bill Clinton, the ex-President of the most powerful nation on earth was talking to a group of British big-wigs. They called him Mister but he had to use labels such as Sir and Lord.
But the thing that most fuelled my doubts about our supposed democracy was the news that a former Barry resident has become Prime Minister of Oz. Julia Gillard lived as a child in a two-up-two-down in the Welsh resort before moving with her working-class family to Australia. aer Dad was a policeman and clerk who passed his 11-plus but whose family couldn’t afford to send him to a grammar school.
On the day that Mum, Dad, Julia and her sister Alison left, her Uncle and Aunt helped them carry their luggage to the station. The family were among the thousands of ‘ten pound poms’ who emigrated to Oz in the 1960s. When she was 16 Julia returned to Wales for a visit and stayed with her former neighbour, Basil Baker. He, now 90, recalls the girl’s determination to make good in the land of opportunity down under. And she did!
Now the Barry-born girl is the most powerful woman in Australia. Her Mum and Dad live in a retirement village in Adelaide and recall arriving with modest aspirations. But they worked hard and their daughter flourished. Proud Mum says that Julia will be a super PM but adds that she musn’t turn into a Maggie Thatcher.
Do you really believe that an Australian of humble background and without a posh education could arrive here and in due course become Prime minister? Neither do I. Some will argue that it happened once in the shape of Clem Attlee, but it didn’t you know. Just check out Clem’s background and schooling!
Oliver Goldsmith, the Irish writer and poet, once wrote that ‘honour sinks where commerce long prevails’. He wrote that in 1764 but it still sums up our society. Our elite love titles and honours but the whiff of financial gain and standing is never far away. It does make for at best an uneasy democracy. How could people like George Osborne ever really understand the lot of the desperate unemployed or even the place in which they dwell?
But enough of this, I’m off to watch England triumph with both bat and ball. We may not live in a true democracy but we had the cash to recruit Capello and Flower to teach us how to win!
Coming up; England v Germany; what happens next?