Once upon a time there was a hard
working man who came from a poor family and grew in
stature while labouring for years in the service of
his country’s kings and the one queen. Although he
didn’t write many scholarly tomes, he was considered
a learned man, based upon his early years as a
student at reputed temples of knowledge. He was
thought of as honest, decent and fair; and so
After having served in all key positions in the
government of his country that came with his
specialisation, the man went abroad for a few years
to earn some money and returned — all set to enjoy a
life of reading and sunsets. Lo and behold, he was
asked by the newly elected ruler of the land to be
his finance minister.
The country was going through very difficult times
and was all set for bankruptcy. This man, backed by
his ruler, set upon the task of cleaning the mess
and slowly creating a foundation for sound financial
management of the land. Which he did over the five
years. And the world recognised him for his ability.
Unfortunately, his ruler’s party couldn’t win the
next election. He went into semi-retirement.
Then, after almost eight years, his party won. The
lady who was now ran the party called upon him to
rule as the prime minister. In the first five years
he didn’t exactly cover himself with glory. But the
world was doing well; and the more so his country.
So there was no murmur of misgovernance or
incompetence. Indeed, quiet praise of a good man.
In the next election, his party won an even larger
mandate. Some nasty enemies from within were
electorally eliminated. Here comes the sun, exulted
Instead of driving success for his motherland, the
man failed miserably. In four years, he impotently
presided over decline, corruption and chaos. A
country which grew so impressively in the first five
years slowed down inexorably. Investments started
Projects to build much needed roads and power came
to a grinding halt. He who made his mark in fiscal
prudence saw his government spending well beyond its
means only to fund consumption, and could do little
to stop it for three years.
But that was nothing compared to the lack of any
governance worth the name. Most of his ministers did
what they wanted, if they did much at all. Few cared
for either him or collective responsibility or to
administer their charges. A nation blessed with
abundant resources such coal could not find enough
to supply its power plants. Soon, the centre could
Even worse was the terrible smell of wrongful acts
and rampant corruption. It started with organisation
of games; then came the telecommunications scandal;
then coal mining which was under his custody; bribes
for postings by the nephew of a cabinet minister;
then a stupid colleague interfering in a judicial
process, presumably to save him. A never ending list
Today, he is an object of ridicule across the press
— a colossus reduced the stature of a match stick.
Or less. Instead of owning up to the mess and making
a determined effort to clean the act in the short
while left for him to lead, he remains silent. As if
the maelstrom of inaction, misgovernance and
corruption has nothing to do with him.
Where is this man that the nation respected for
honesty and probity? Where is his sense of having
failed a nation that had so much faith in him? Where
is his resolve to make good in the time that
remains? Does he wish to be known as he is now
mercilessly lampooned and caricatured? As one of the
country’s most ineffective leaders? Or does he have
it in him to make amends, even in the short while
that remains? Does he know? Or care?
Published: Business World, June 2013