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06.11.2019 Feature Article

Hey Guys! I Just Won The Ignoble Prize For Povernomics!

Hey Guys! I Just Won The Ignoble Prize For Povernomics!

Reader, you should be saying, "But there's no such thing as an "ignoble prize!"

To which I'd reply: "I agree! But once I've invented it, it will come into being. You just wait! After all,

President "S***hole is on the rack and may be impeached. Do you think if he loses, the satirists of the world will forget that he used the sanctity of the Oval Office to utter a word in relation to your country and mine that had so far never been used in public by a world "statesman"? Very soon, it will come into common usage round the world!"

"All right," you say. "Granted that might be so. But what about "Povernomics?"

To which I'd again reply: "Yes. Quite easily coined, ain't it? The economics of poverty. The prize for that could have been won by John Maynard Keynes. But no-one was clever enough to invent it for him. Nor was it invented for Joseph Stigliz, either -- another very clever guy..I don't have Internet, so I can't Google the names of others that might have got it. Remember the guy who invented small savings schemes for farmers?"

"You don't have Internet? In this day and age? Are you mad?"

"Ask me again, Bo! Five days ago, my son kindly bought me 50 Cedis worth of credit. Before that, I'd myself bought 60 Cedis worth. So I was riding high. I rode even higher when I received a message from my Telco telling me proudly that I had "successfully subscribed" to a service that would give me 20-Gig for 30 days. I'd never heard the name of that "service" before, but who cares? 20-G! Sounded fab!"

"But you just said you have no Internet?"
"Right! Soon afterwards, I began warnings that I only had 4-G left. Then, it came down to 3-G. And then, on Saturday evening, just as I was settling down to watch football+plus+motor racing, no connection! No, that's not quite correct: it said my WI-fi was "connected", but "Internet may not be available!".

"Ei, these TELCOS people paa! They must be very clever! They used the word "may" instead of "is". So that you might think there was hope that it was a temporary fault or mis-eeading or something which would right itself?"

"Ei, have you worked for them before? You seem to be able cover all the bases they employ to decieve customers!"

"I am getting to know them, man! I have no choice!"

"But you are no Facebook maniac?"
"Nor a Tweet addict?"
"Yes!... Charlie, don't forget that no-one like me can without email. Or browsing for news. Or using the life-giving WhatsApp. There's just no way you can escape their clutches."

"Do you know that in some countries, WhatsApp works whether you have credit or not?"

"I was coming to that! That's the essence of my new discovery. In povernomics, those who can afford certain services are NOT charged very much for using them. But those who can't really afford them -- like you and me -- are charged such high prices for them that we can't use them even when we need them very badly!"

"I am beginning to understand povermanics!
"It's povernomics!" How can you nominate me for it if you don't even know its name?

"Chalie, new things take time to reach the brains of people like me!"

"Ok, let me explain it thoroughly to you so that your nomination essay will be second to none. Let's take electricity, for instance. If an electricity-supplying company insisted on pre-payment (a la PDS) in the USA or Germany, it would go bankrupt, wouldn't it? Who has the time to undergo the rigmarole of "pre-payment"?Its shares would fall and a more efficient company would take it over. But us poor guys who live in a developing country and whose wages are probably calculated by hours clocked in, must put down our tools, go and queue and make a pre-payment, unless we want to sleep in the dark!"

"And you, the Internet user, cannot make a payment through your online banking system, even if tyou have the money there, because you would have been cut off already?"

"Right you are!"
"And by the time you find a place to buy a scratch card..."

"The offer of a job/gig/commission or whatever, would have gone to someone else!"

"Yep! So, the first law of povernomics is this: he poorer you are, the higher the chances of your staying poor, or getting even poorer!"

"But this has been known for ever! Didn't JC say that "To him who hath, the more shall be added unto him and to him who hath not, even the little he hath shall be taken from him?"

"Yes! But that was over two thousand years ago. Old truths must be put in new tomes if prizes are to be kept going! In any case, people are still being taught in poor people's Universities that there is something universally applicable called "trickle-down economics."

"Go and ask the owner of Alphabet, Google's mother company, to "trickle down" some of his wealth to you!"

"Hahahaha! Is "trickle down" not taught by economists who go UP from Cambridge/Oxford/Yale/Harvard to become the "experts" of the IMF and the World Bank, and who invariably retire to become consultants to companies filching the world's resources from their bases in Wall street or The City of London?"

"Yes. And the dark-suited villager who, formerly, only put on a jacket and tie when he managed to go to Achimota, repeats it to the "vandals" at Legon, who parrot it to the Thsombeists at Katanga!?...."

"Hahahahaha! And before you know it, it has become the adopted Doctrine of the BoG; ISSER, IMANI and any combination of NGOs?"

"Ei, so what's all that got to do with the Internet, then?"

"This! I started by contrasting what happens to us and what happens in the "developed" countries, didn't I?

Well, in the UK, for instance, you can subscribe to a service from a company at maybe the equivalent of 200 Cedis and you will get a landline (yes they still exist!); a mobile phone service; an Internet service without a LIMIT to data usage, repeat without a LIMIT to data usage, called "Infinity"! Plus a TV service that gives you many sports events. All for roughly C200 Cedis per month... And remember that wages there are at least twice what's on offer hereabouts!"

Yiieee, they're killing us!"
Yes, over here, no-one even knows -- or cares -- about how the TELCOS calculate their charges. Is the Internet cheaper to use in Ghana and Kenya than in Nigeria or vice versa? We don't know!. The companies get their approval for licences to operate in our countries, through networks of old boys who frequent cigar-smoke-filled rooms and consume steak and salmon dinners. They take their holidays in Singapore or Dubai. The only question that interests them goes like this: "Will the Introduction fee be safer if paid in Malta rather than Mauritius or Bahamas!"

"Yeah! Yeah!! Yeah!!!"
"And when they give out the licences, they are careful enough to set up a "supervisory"or "regulatory" authority amidst fanfare, claiming that they want to ensure "fair practices" in the communications ?

"Yes! But guess what -- at least one regulatory authority has been found out as an authority whose bosses were not concerned with examining how local charges compare with those overseas! No, the bosses wanted to obtain contracts from the Government of the day to import services for it operated secretly by clandestine-ops specialists abroad...."

Yie! Yie! Yie! You mean companies like "Cambridge Analytica?"

"Commission-disgorging braggarts!"
"Yes! And that's how the TELCOS are left alone to charge us what they like for opaque services which few users understand."

"Yes! The Telcos are left unfettered to suck up unused data, if you forget you have bought it and it

"expires" on a date you signed to, without expecting it ever to arrive!..."

"Suck, suck, suck! That's all they do. And because of liberonomics..."

"Ho! you're joining in the theory-inventing business?"

"Of course! What one man can do, another can imitate! Listen, liberalisation of the economies of developing countries means that when a company from a developed country comes to set up in a developing country, the company can make as much profits as it likes (so long as it satisfies the locals who hold the reins to economic power) and send their their profits instantly to Malta, or the Bahamas or Dubai...No questions asked!."

"So liberalisation makes the rich richer, while we continue to wallow in povernomics!"

"You've got the prize theorem absolutely spot on! But tell me, who can afford to pay you the prize money? Your criticism applies to almost every company that could contribute to the prize fund!"

"Don't worry! The hypocrisy of the rich iis that occasionally, one or two of them try to make amends

by spending money on "good causes". I mean look at Bill Gates. After creating computer software that enables Governments and companies to steal all the information that pertain to its users, a system that enables cookies to feed algorithms that can pick on those who are over 70, and bombard them with hourly advertisements about Aalzeimer's Disease; Funeral Insurance; Osteoporosis drugs and other matters old persons would rather rather not think about first thing in the morning, he's now funding anti-mosquito research and other problems related to the "Third World" and the "Globe!"

"So you think you might get some sponsors?"
"Oh you wait until the "do-good" bug enters the brains of the owners of the companies making trillions of profits out of the Internet! Indeed, I've heard of a company that's about to take out a patent for carbon-free air. You know how everyone is talking about the way carbon dioxide travels upwards from the earth and accumulates in the earth's atmosphere to create global warming? "

"Yeah! What can be done about that?"
"This company is going to stop all that! And it will be doing it in the name of the developing countries!"

"Hahahahahaha! Carbon-free air? But isn't oxygen-minus-carbon-dioxide supposed to be a sure-fire killer?"

"Don't worry! There's no harm in trying, is there? Hey -- come to think of it-- don't I deserve another prize? For my ability to recognise what that company is trying to do for humankind?"

"Prize! Prize! Prize! Is that all you think about? I know Christmas is coming, but you;re taking your obsession too far! I won't be surprised if you secretly set up a body of "Econometric Predictors" as an award-dispensing body that can award you a huge prize, all to yourself! I am sure you can find enough proxies to do it in in secret for you! That could be the name of the game!"

"Isn't it though? "

Cameron Duodu
Cameron Duodu, © 2019

Martin Cameron Duodu is a United Kingdom-based Ghanaian novelist, journalist, editor and broadcaster. After publishing a novel, The Gab Boys, in 1967, Duodu went on to a career as a journalist and editorialist. Column Page: CameronDuodu

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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