18 September, 2018

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Politics! That’s Where The Real Money Is

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Power Grabs And Desecration Of Democracy Serve To Amass Shady Wealth; Politics! That’s Where The Real Money Is

“Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.” ~ Immanuel Kant in 1784

The real money cannot flourish without power and in modern times, whether in democratic or non-democratic states, power resides in politics. In rich countries great captains of finance, business and industry adorn the top of the dollar rankings; but they are circuitously beholden to political connections, Congressional lobbyists and old fashioned payoffs. Nevertheless, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, John D Rockefeller and the Rothschilds – to take the American case – were not politicians. Money and politics were not seamlessly fused in the great capitalist citadels in the last century. (Donald Trump, a mix of shoddy showman and shady businessman, and a self-obsessed politician who values appearance over substance, is an odd if not unique decoction. I will have more to say about him anon).  

In post Second World War Africa and Asia, the Middle East and Russia, and in South and Central America, politics is where the real money was and is. The examples are so many they will bore you but the crème de la crème is the Middle East where power and wealth (oil) are synonymous in Kingdoms and Emirates, and Africa where military dictatorship or presidency is open-sesame to robbery. In Nigeria oil wealth, in Congo’ minerals, in Zimbabwe mines and land in Mugabe’s time are prime examples; and Sudan, Somalia, the list goes on. There are men who love power and ones who love money, the two are connected, but often in Asia, Central Asia, Africa and Central America the two are fused inextricably. It is true that religion is a bigger business but much of it is retail trade. Religious bodies have gigantic inherited assets and a steady income-flow thanks to the credulous offerings of the faithful, but most of this wealth is dispersed into retail holdings – individual temples, mosques and churches.

Most corrupt leaders of all time in no particular order according to hardreporters.com
Top to bottom, left to right: Pavlo Lazarenko, Ukraine (1996 – 1997);
Arnoldo Alemán, Nicaragua (1997 – 2002); Sani Abacha, Nigeria (1993 – 1998), Alberto Fujimori, Peru (1990 – 2000),
Jean-Claude Duvalier, Papa Doc, Haiti (1971 – 1986); Ben Ali, Tunisia (1987 – 2011); Suharto, Indonesia (1967 – 1998);
Ferdinand Marcos, Philippines (1965 – 1986); Mobutu, Zaire now DRC (1965 – 1997)

The great paradox of modern democracy is that people know how venal, lecherous or criminal their leaders are, but nevertheless thrust power upon them again and again. I have heard many learned discourses purporting to explain this paradox, but as the Persian versifier moaned:

Myself when young did eagerly frequent 

Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument 

About it and about: but evermore 

Came out by the same door where in I went.

Research has revealed that despite the rise of Alt-Right and Alt-Left revolts there has been no push back in income inequality. The real household income of the poorest 25% of the population has continued to fall in the West despite the neo-populist surge. The rich have continued to grow richer. Their access to influence has not diminished; for example Lebanese born Ahmad Khawaja met Trump at a $5,000-per-person fundraiser after his election – then donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration committee earning himself a photo with the president inside the Oval Office. On average 80% of campaign finance is contributed by 0.01% of the population (in Sri Lanka that translates to just 2120 mega contributors). 

The wealthy buy control of the media, push legislation on “law and order”, or sell narratives on race and immigrants to the exclusion of measures to alleviate inequality and poverty and diffuse racial tension. Neo-populism will fall apart as it does not build institutions, raise productivity, or sooth racial wrath and it erodes social harmony. But what will follow; social-democracy, a variant of fascism or anarchy? That’s not a topic for today.

Sri Lanka

A child is abducted and sold into prostitution or slave labour every 8 minutes in India. Gangsters have the police on the inside, but without umbrella protection from state and national ministers and MPs – big beneficiaries – business will collapse. Thankfully in India and Lanka the power-apex and sleaze were not wedded in early post-independence decades. (Below head of state/government that is with Ministers and corporate/departmental heads, it was endemic). My recollection is that prior to Bofors (late 1980s) in India and the diesel power contracts of the 1990s in Lanka, there weren’t mega corruption allegations against apex leaders. It has since subsided in India – Manmohan Singh and Modi are uncontaminated – but in Lanka horrendous corrosion accompanied the Mahinda Rajapaksa presidency. 

Website, says the wealth of the Rajapaksa family is $18 billion – bollocks, flying peacock chariots and walking on water!  Equally nonsensical is an entry in Wikipedia which reads:-

“On 7 May 2015, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera received intelligence reports from four foreign nations involved in tracing the billions of dollars stashed aboard stating that the Rajapaksa family hold $18 billion (Rs. 2.8 trillion) worth of assets in foreign countries. Minister Samaraweera didn’t name the countries in this investigation. The government asserted that it only traced $2 billion (Rs 320 billion) and is seeking access to bank accounts held by the Rajapaksa family”.

More reliable is Forbes: Dhammika Perera is the richest man in Sri Lanka, his wealth estimated at $550 million. He is a big supporter of Rajapaksa but that’s another matter. Keeping relative scales in mind, it is unlikely that the total wealth of the Rajapaksa clan, including monies stashed away in ghost and offshore accounts and the value of overseas properties, exceeds one hundred million dollars. One must not be misled by hundreds of millions of rupees injected by China Harbour Engineering and similar amounts from other sources. Ten million dollars is Rs 1.6 billion! And the aforesaid kickbacks are unlikely to have been accumulated; more likely they are squandered on corrupt election practices. Old DA and DM Rajapaksa were men of means only in domestic reckoning and Medamulana is no Windsor Castle. But one hundred million dollars dwarfs the loot of Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves. The point I am making is that the way to sustained accumulation in countries at our stage of development is via political power, not inheritance, honest business or election fraud.

Maestro Putin and grovelling Trump

Putin has consistently denied sitting on a fortune, declaring in April 2015 that his annual income was £95,000 made up of a Presidential salary and income from his ownership of two apartments and a car park. His alleged access to 58 planes and helicopters and 20 palaces and country retreats, a Russian wag mocked “Is like calling Airforce One and the White House, Trump’s private property”. The most oft cited contrarian estimate is from KGB defector Stanislav Belkovsky who implausibly claimed that Putin had a fortune of “at least $40 billion”. The UK’s bigoted Sun paper wrote “Putin owns a Black Sea palace thought to be worth £800million and a £28m superyacht and is said by scholars and insiders to be an expert at hoarding huge sums of money”. Responding, Putin sneered “They have picked their noses and smeared the mucilage across the paper”.

Propaganda denigration misses the point. Putin has no need to be a billionaire; he is the most powerful man in the world; imagine the president of the United States crawling at your feet; imagine an approval rating of 80%; imagine a corpus of servile oligarchs trembling at your every word. Politics is where power is and power commands the ship on which money sails. My point has nothing to do with sanitising Putin the authoritarian as Putin the saviour. I remain focussed on the topic of this essay; the relationship of political power to money in movement.

A friend who is obsessed with conspiracy theories posed the question “Is Trump inadvertently playing Russia’s game or is he being instructed by Moscow to serve Russian interests? If the latter, it will be the greatest espionage tale of history!” I usually shun conspiracy theories and plumb for conventional explanations. Trump is not a Russian ‘agent’ in the usual way the word agent is used, but Putin holds the whip and is extracting value. He would prefer not to let Trump be impeached; that would terminate the latter’s usefulness. He may have evidence of Trump’s money laundering, shady financial transactions such a loans from Russian Banks unreported to IRS (Trump is fighting tooth and nail to conceal tax returns), or Moscow real estate deals with Russian oligarchs. Not sordid videos I think; Trump’s Base and Melania are immune to the salacious and the scandalous. Impressive Q2-2018 economic growth stats will further sanitise criticism from the Base for a while.

Trump and war

It would be improper to sign off without warning that Trump poses a war threat. Iranian president Rouhani reacted to Trump’s call to European allies toembargo Iran and cut economic ties if they wish to continue trading with America. Rouhani declared: “America should know that war with Iran will be the mother of all wars”. Trump’s tweeted all-caps response was in effect to threaten World War III.

To Iranian President Rouhani: “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH”.

It is risky to read this only as bombast like his empty threats at North Korea, or as an attempt to divert attention from kow-towing to Putin, or distract the public from embarrassing revelations by his former lawyers. It could be an atttempt to divert attention from the Muller Probe which is sniffing ever closer. (It is amazing that a sitting president publicly refers to an ongoing investigation into his alleged misdeeds as “The totally conflicted and discredited Mueller Witch Hunt!”) The risk in such presumptions is that this aberrant loudmouth may really unleash war unless the deep-state sees him off first. To muddy the waters, a few days later Trump tweeted he was ready to meet Rouhani with “no preconditions”!

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Latest comments

  • 4
    4

    So what Kumar David says, Ranil, Ravi KArunanayake, Arjun Mahendran and their team, were not involed in any thefts. Why Mangala Samraweera says that there is hidden wealth of Rajapakses but he di dnot bring it back. Mangala Samraweera has said so mahy things but nothing come out exactly the way Ranil does it.

  • 7
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    If Rajapakses have made money they will know it. We only know that Shiranthi’s NIC number is 222222222v and Daisy aunty found a bag of jems in her varandha and that there is a property at Malwana without an owner while I am thinking of how to find bus fare to send my son to school tomorrow. Every morning I check my varandha for a gem Malla. So far nothing not even a baby elephant Rev. Dammaloka found.

  • 2
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    Great piece!

    “Nevertheless, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, John D Rockefeller and the Rothschilds – to take the American case – were not politicians.”

    True, to some extent; I suppose …………. but like Van The Man said …..

    ” And no matter what they tell you,
    There’s good and evil in everyone”

    Even Warren Buffett …….. who is a saint to many …….. once cornered the silver-market and spread the word around how cheap silver was ……… like lemming everyone bought up big …….. once the price was driven up he slowly sold in London where he didn’t have to inform/declare his selling ……… His constant appearances/popularity/profile keeps the price of Berkshire high …….. even though it has never paid a dividend (By the same token he wouldn’t have such appreciation if he had paid a dividend – paid taxes on it – and not retained the earnings ……. he argues that he is better at capital-allocation than most ……… guess he has a point ……)

    Australian current PM Turnbull ……. turned $450,000 into $60 million ……….. by flogging off OzEmail to unsuspecting Mums and Pops in an initial IPO ……. if it’ so good why sell? :))

    First they steal from the public …….. and then they come to “serve” the public ……….

    That’s why ……….. I have no saints; killed them all ……… except Stormy Daniels …………. what you see is what you get …………

    “the total wealth of the Rajapaksa clan …………. exceeds one hundred million dollars.”

    Mangala’s $18 billion …….. is just bunkum ………. but the ill gotten loot is a couple of billions ……….. the Kris-deal itself was worth $400 mil to Namal (there was a tiff with Godehewa at the time) ……… I suspect Basil was so sure of Rajapakses ruling for another 20 years ……… he was in no hurry to amass ……. until good ol’ Sirisena appeared around the corner ………..

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      “Dhammika Perera is the richest man in Sri Lanka”

      He aint no saint ……… but for a “self-learned” MBA (without much English; the universal language of business) ………. he has “worked” the CSE very well; a very smart-cookie (rare among Lankans who usually just steal/loot their wealth from the public) ………gotta give the devil his due

  • 2
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    continued

    “Not sordid videos I think; Trump’s Base and Melania are immune to the salacious and the scandalous.”

    Spot on!


    “He may have evidence of Trump’s money laundering, shady financial transactions such a loans from Russian Banks unreported to IRS (Trump is fighting tooth and nail to conceal tax returns), or Moscow real estate deals with Russian oligarchs.”

    Spot on again ………. it was a sight to behold ………. Trump, the unabashed bombastic bully acting so docile and meek in front of a more skilled and subtle bully; Putin

    “Impressive Q2-2018 economic growth stats”

    Thanks mostly to Obama’s prior work ……… and the corporate tax-cuts …….. which will end up in share-buybacks ……… and very little will go into “wages-growth” ……… the country has gone full-circle from Black-slavery to sorta all-color slavery

    “unless the deep-state sees him off first.”

    The deep-state Koch-brothers are onto him already; broken ranks …….. they have got their tax-break ……. and Donald has now passed his use by date ………..

  • 2
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    Bloody hell! How did our old lefties miss out?

    It is clearly a case of sour grapes, isn’t it David?

  • 3
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    What was the economic status of srilanka before 2005 the size of economy was less than 20 billion USD. Jr ,premadasa and chandrika rule the country from 1977 to 2005.the foreign direct investment of the country is less than 200 million USD per year.among this mixed economy of unp and chandrka less than 20 billion is that possible to form a business community,(on those days unp said pettah business people as their favourite business community), can bring high life standard for the people of srilanka, can any one have a luxury food .answer is no.this system was entirely changed in srilanka after 2005 .this 20 billion USD mixed economic sytem was changed by rajapaksas modern slfp in to high-tech liberal business economy with in just 10 years.modern slfp has archtected a huge business economic system in srilanka.the size of srilankan economy came to 80 billion USD and percapital income came from 1000 USD to 3800 USD .direct foreign investment reach the point of 1600 million USD.the high tech business class was formed they all became full heart loyalist to modern slfp of rajapaksas.the middle class life style was became very rich ,middle class community was widely expanded.high class hotels ,urban development has done. For example I have got 3 bonus payments for April during the period of rajapaksas. We had fantastic rich life style. Because of this rich life style of middle class during the period of rajapaksas because of the economic model which was created by rajapajsas the middle and upper middle class became die heart loyalist of modern slfp of rajapajsas.the more than 75% of middle class are die heart supporters of modern slfp of the rajapaksas.

    • 2
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      In 2015 this innocent unp people who are like jr premadsa or chandrika of this current government has talled they also can run the 80,billion usd huge liberal economy which was architected by modern slfp of rajapaksas.the unp people never seen a economy size of 15 billion USD in past .they do not what is this neo liberal business economy of modern slfp. Result is they brought this business economy in to disaster instead of this business economy they started to do the same janasaviya type mixed economomic system again in srilanka which was a fail 15 billion USD economic system of Jr ,premadasa or chandrika. The result is business went bankrupt,people does not have money, the life style of middle class became poor, starvation,no food.in general if unp come to power it is the disaster for the economy,they do not know what is this business economy means,no food for srilankan public,middle class people become poor, no business,no money circulation. If architects of this business economy modern slfp comes to power, the business will come to the top level, rich life style for middle class, high money circulation, super foods, high money cirulatuion etc.in economic view Slfp is the master minds .we can’t suffer becoming poor ,or food under unp governments.may be slfp are super power and dictators but they are masters in economic management.other wise we can’t go again to the 15 billion USD janasaviya economic system of unp and Jr,premadsa again even unp people are very innocent

  • 3
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    Good analysis. Unfortunately most Sinhalese made to believe that Mahinda is the son of Lord Buddha and whatever he pocketed is the gift of god. Nobody understaand why he goes to China to meet Lord Buddha or why he goes to meet Lord Thirupathy Vengadesa in India?

  • 2
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    @Prof Kumar David

    You clearly have a bad case of “Trump Derangement Syndrome” – quite common these days in Leftist Intellectuals.

    Cause:- Listening to too much Fake News.

    Suggestion – do your own research and see how much of what is presented to you is half truths and outright lies.

    The Truth will set you free!

  • 0
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    The other day I saw Vasu walking by, followed by his security entourage (one very small man walking right behind him!), but that kind of politicians are hard to come by and they also do not make successful presidential bids.

    The reason is, that kind of simplicity is not revered by the ordinary human, instead they seek a persona that they they themselves cannot be, a demiGod, as their leader, and the successful politician try to transform into that demiGod by surrounding him/herself with glitter, as in security men, vehicles entourages, large official residences, and make themselves inaccessible and demiGod like. It is very similar to what Kim Khardasian does except she must use her personal funds for that not public funds as the politician does. When the lives of ordinary folk who voted for the demiGod does not transform immediately into riches the politician become unpopular and the people think all that glitter must be gold stolen from the state coffers, and the opposition make hay with that notion, until they themselves become unpopular and the cycle continues.

    • 0
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      wannihami

      Vasu used to accuse every single one who didn’t agree with him being a Bonapartiste.
      Now he has come full circle and joined them. He is a card carrying Bonapartiste.

  • 0
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    Kumar David ~ “Politics! That’s Where The Real Money Is”
    At last At last Kumar David is in the correct path to find out. We knew this for ages but we are not Professors!
    .
    BTW Immanuel Kant might have said in 1874 that, “Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.”
    In 1874 the ‘Infinite Monkey Theorem’ was not well known.

  • 0
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    Kumar David
    In the rouges gallery how did you miss the stars from the sub-continent?
    Why did it take you this long to find out “Politics! That’s Where The Real Money Is”? We knew this all along but then we are not Professors!
    .
    BTW Immanuel Kant might have said in 1874, “Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.”
    At that time the “Infinite Monkey Theorem’ was not well known.

    • 1
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      K Pillai, KD is Tamil, so he will dare not expose Jeyalalitha, Karunanidhi or MGR and their utter corruption and fornications etc.

  • 1
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    Class envy by derelict obsolete Socialists.
    Envious of successful businessmen like Dammika Perera. If you want to do deals with Dammika, do your homework and have your presentations well rehearsed. Do not try to bullshit to him if you are trying to be a vendor to him. He will see through your bullshit in no time. He has built a successful empire. He does not have to steal like your Politicians or take bribes like your Presidents and former Presidents and ask for commissions .

  • 1
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    True, politics is a place where money is made now.
    But things were not so good for politicians before 1978. Many of them got poorer by entering politics.
    *
    Politicians only get a slice of what the big players (all manner of investors) get. The big boys can buy governments of any size.
    Some do own whole countries

  • 0
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    Money is where the misery is. Most money is made out of human misery, war, illness, poverty. Think about it KD, rather than playing that old harp, get together with Vasu, and work towards a positive end.

    • 0
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      W
      Do you suggest that Vasu is minting money?
      I guess that, AKD is sufficiently well off to see him through his remaining retirement years.

  • 0
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    The relationship between wealth and power is obvious. Prof. Kum is a prolific writer. But I beg to differ when means that the wealthy in the past, quoting US examples, were not associated with power cum politics. Oh! Yes! They were but it was so discrete that it was not visible. Money always talks and shakes those in power perhaps catapulting them to be “rich politicians”. Rightly or wrongly some International media report that the current Prez of Sri Lanka as the fourth richest in SL. What was his ranking before he became the Prez? Of course the same report announces that the first is MR. One may wonder as to when the fourth would overtake the first. Cheers!

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