The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Begin with Yourself

If you are going to try and save the world, begin with yourself...

'Millions missing' from tsunami fundsBy
Rob Taylor in Jakarta
July 01, 2005
From: AAP

MILLIIONS of dollars earmarked for reconstruction and relief in tsunami-shattered Aceh has gone missing due to graft, anti-corruption watchdogs and a politician have told Indonesia's Parliament.

The revelations, if proven, will infuriate overseas aid donors.The Aceh Emergency Commission aid group told a special parliamentary hearing that large-scale graft had occurred in the construction of emergency shelter housing for Aceh.

Spokesman Firdaus Illyas accused regional government officials of padding the number of refugees in their districts to claim more money from a scheme set-up to pay tsunami survivors a daily living allowance of 3000 rupiah ($0.45), the Koran Tempo reported.

Advertisement: An MP, A.S. Hikam, said more than 1.2 trillion rupiah ($162.2 million) of funds had disappeared from the $5 billion reconstruction program for Aceh.

Parliament was to summon seven ministers in charge of reconstruction projects to discuss the allegations, the paper reported.

Amid graft concerns, Australia refused to pool Canberra's $1 billion tsunami aid package into Indonesian-managed relief funds.

Instead, the federal Government established a special joint meeting of Indonesian and Australian ministers to oversee aid projects administered by government aid agency AusAID.
International donors have been concerned entrenched corruption in one of the world's most graft-prone nations will drain vital aid funds from Aceh and set back reconstruction in the province where more than 130,000 people lost their lives.

Kuntoro Mangukusubroto, the reformist head of Aceh's newly established reconstruction agency, has hired two international accountancy firms to keep watch over aid funds alongside a crack anti-corruption unit.

Kuntoro, who has a direct line to Indonesia's President, has forced his staff to sign a promise to avoid corruption and threatened instant dismissal for anyone found to be involved in graft.

"No extortion money, no bribery, no gifts," he told Singapore's Straits Times.

Koran Tempo reported the money was missing from Indonesian government funds set aside for Aceh, not from the millions of dollars donated by the international community.

The head of Indonesian Corruption Watch, Teten Masduki, said officials had also overestimated the number of refugees in some parts of Aceh and outlying islands.

The Government had to investigate whether the inflated numbers were a simple error or the result of deliberate graft, he said.

"The mistakes started with the data processing," Masduki said, warning authorities had not yet conducted a proper count of tsunami survivors.

Illyas said officials on Simeleu island off the Aceh coast had claimed more than 71,000 refugee survivors living there.

But the island's pre-tsunami and earthquake population was 69,000, and only 60 per cent of those were now refugees, he said.

Slaking a thirst with a fire hose July 5, 2005

This must be Tuesday, because poverty in Africa ended Monday.

All it took were a few chords, a lot of screaming, several acres of dirty hair and a cloud cover of lethal body odor. When the last guitar strings snapped Saturday night at those Live 8 concerts across the world, promoter Bob Geldof's over-the-hill gang had the prescription: just stuff a few billion dollars down the bottomless holes on the Dark Continent.

"This is the greatest rock show in the history of the world," cried the announcer at the London concert. Gushed a disc jockey on XM Satellite Radio: "This is the single most important concert ever."

No one wanted to stop there. Shouted one of the "musicians" of a group called Coldplay: "This is the greatest thing that's ever been in the entire history of the world." Since "the entire history of the world" includes the extinction of the dinosaurs, the eruption of Krakatoa, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the construction of the pyramids, the Resurrection of Christ and man's landing on the moon, Live 8 had to be impressive mush.

But this week the grown-ups take over, as grown-ups always must, when the G-8 economic summit commences in Scotland under the baton of Tony Blair, who not only wants to eliminate African poverty but to end global warming before Christmas.

The nations of the West must do something to ease the brutal pain of generations of unbridled greed, ignorant incompetence and rabid corruption in Africa. It's our Christian duty. But it will require discipline that is out of fashion in the 21st century, and it certainly isn't what the simple-minded noisemakers of Live 8 had in mind.

The example of Nigeria says it all. Figures released last month by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, as reported in the London Daily Telegraph, reveal that in the 45 years since Britain granted independence in 1960 a succession of despots squandered $387 billion (that's a "b," not an "m"), almost to the dollar the sum of all Western aid to all of Africa between 1960 and 1997. One of the despots, Gen. Sani Abacha, now safely dead, is believed to have looted Nigeria's vast oil reserves of more than $5 billion in just five years.

William Bellamy, the U.S. ambassador to neighboring Kenya, startled the guests at his Fourth of July garden party yesterday with just the kind of bluntness needed to keep African aid in realistic perspective. "Turning on the fire hose of international compassion and asking Kenya and other African nations to drink from it is not a serious strategy for promoting growth or ending poverty."

President Mwai Kibaki, the Kenyan president, was off at the African Union summit in Libya, helping other despots draw up their gimme list. In his absence, a deputy fired back at Ambassador Bellamy, complaining that Kenya had been singled out for criticism just because it doesn't take terrorism seriously. Aid for Africa, he told the ambassador, "should not get entangled with the politics of your dissatisfaction with a regime, unless you have decided on a regime change."

Nobody has, unfortunately, and that's exactly why aid for Africa is as close to hopeless as anything can be. Regime change all across the continent is sorely needed, even more than another concert by unemployed service-station attendants whanging away on electric guitars and other noisemakers.

Tony Blair's No. 2 man, George Brown, talks giddily of a Marshall Plan for Africa, but Nigerian despots alone have already pocketed the equivalent of six Marshall Plans. George C. Marshall's miracle scheme for rebuilding Europe worked because mature European leadership was determined to rescue the continent from the ravages of World War II. There's scant evidence that Africa's "leaders" want anything more than to drink from the fire hose

Live 8 concerts are nice, and the photographs of starving children will break the coldest heart, but unless Europe and the West accompany aid with the kind of supervision nobody has the courage to impose, the aid will wind up in the usual Swiss banks, and 20 years from now another generation of children will die while naive hearts bleed.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

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