Category Archives: Politics

Political Anomaly: The Peculiar Case of Jose Mujica

 

Daily Prompt: Pat on the Back JOSE MUJICA DOES INFACT DESERVE A PAT ON THE BACK

When you see a picture like this, what sort of sentiments do you get? If you are me then you would have thought that the man in the picture was homeless. But on seeing the car, then I thought a homeless man is less likely to have a car so he must be a poor old retired factory worker on his way to collect his monthly pension benefit or something like that. But I was pleasantly shocked to find out that the man is Jose Mujica, the incumbent president of Uruguay.

I tiled this post “Political Anomaly” because usually this is not the way you would imagine a politician to be like. This is not the appearance you would expect from the mayor of a small town let alone the leader of an entire country. Mr Jose is a pleasant abnormality which everyone can relate to. He is the human equivalent of a White Lion, unique and very hard to find. His selflessness is so exemplary and definitely worthy of emulation. The house you see in the picture on the top left corner is of his wife’s farm house where they both live. He donates $12,000(which happens to be 90% of his monthly salary as president) every month to charity, leaving him with just about $1300. I learned of his story in an article on the BBC website with the title “Jose Mujica: The world’s ‘poorest’ president”, When I read the entire article I was a bit annoyed. My annoyance was essentially focused on the title, why was he labeled as the “poorest” president? It should have read something like this: “Jose Mujica: The President with the biggest heart” or any other sentence more glorifying. Jose Mujica personifies the ideal president that every citizen, regardless of country, craves for.

I come from Nigeria, one of the 16 countries in West Africa, and I can tell you that our leaders have a lot to learn from Jose Mujica. Over here in Africa, Politicians have a very despicable tendency to turn politics into a full time money gushing career. They have this unrivaled propensity to cheat and steal, they amass so much wealth and live such ostentatious lifestyles that essentially make them totally disconnected from the plight of the common man. The majority of countries in Africa are supposed democracies, but the situation at play is totally divergent. In school I was taught that Democracy is “Government For The People, By The People” and also that leadership is about selflessness, charisma and always putting the interest of the people before yours. But now I have graduated to find out that the rules, as prescribed in the textbooks, have been totally annihilated. Every day you open up the newspapers in Nigeria, you cannot help but notice the stories of massive corrupt practices. Today this governor steals $ X billion, tomorrow a senator loots $ XX million etc., there is always a bad story. These days, I almost do not want to read the papers because seeing such stories just disgusts me and makes me want to just shot someone. It’s so enraging, because there are millions of people who live on less than a dollar a day on this continent. Jose Mujica’s story prompted me to look into the economic affairs of some countries for which I could get information for, focusing on things like annual Income of the leader, Per Capita Income (PCI), Leader’s Salary As a % of PCI, % Of Population below the Poverty Line:

Note The Last Column is “% Of Population below the Poverty Line”. After publishing I noticed the column was cut-off a bit.

Leader Country Annual Income of Leader Per Capit Income (PCI) Leader’s Salary As a % of PCI % Of Population Below The Poverty Line
Hamid Karzai Afghanistan $ 6,300.00 $ 1,000.00 530% 36
Jose Edwardo Dos Santos Angola $ 60,000.00 $ 6,000.00 900% 40.5
Cristina Fernandez De Kirchner Argentina $ 51,380.00 $ 17,700.00 190% 30
Heinz Fischner Austria $ 393,443.00 $ 42,400.00 828% 6
Julia Gillard Austria $ 520,837.00 $ 42,400.00 1128% 6
Iiham Aliyev Azerbaijan $ 225,000.00 $ 10,300.00 2084% 11
Elio Di Rupo Belgium $ 162,885.00 $ 38,200.00 326% 15.2
Boyko Borisov Bulgaria $ 26,929.00 $ 13,800.00 95% 21.8
Sebastian Pinera Chile $ 191,126.00 $ 17,400.00 998% 15.1
Xi Jingping China $ 39,720.00 $ 8,500.00 367% 13.4
Juan Manuel Santos Colombia $ 121,284.00 $ 10,400.00 1066% 37.2
Mohamed Morsi Egypt $ 47,485.00 $ 6,600.00 619% 20
Francois Hollande France $ 311,393.00 $ 35,600.00 775% 6.2
Angela Merkel Germany $ 270,600.00 $ 38,400.00 605% 15.5
Pranab Mukherjee India $ 32,316.00 $ 3,700.00 773% 29.8
Susilo Bambang Yuhoyono Indonesia $ 124,171.00 $ 4,700.00 2542% 12.5
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Iran $ 3,000.00 $ 13,200.00 -77% 18.7
Karim Masimoz Kazakhstan $ 56,953.00 $ 13,200.00 331% 8.2
Ralia Odinga Kenya $ 427,886.00 $ 1,800.00 23671% 50
Pakalitha Mosisili Lesotho $ 57,826.00 $ 2,000.00 2791% 49
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Liberia $ 90,000.00 $ 500.00 17900% 80
Felipe Calderon Mexico $ 315,573.00 $ 14,800.00 2032% 51.3
Armando Guebuza Mozambique $ 55,241.00 $ 1,100.00 4922% 54
Hifikepunye Pohamba Namibia $ 150,588.00 $ 7,500.00 1908% 55.8
Mark Rutte Netherlands $ 177,253.00 $ 42,700.00 315% 10.5
Frederico Franco Paraguay $ 40,000.00 $ 5,500.00 627% 34.7
Jose Socrates Portugal $ 120,884.00 $ 23,700.00 410% 18
Vladimir Putin Russia $ 114,519.00 $ 17,000.00 574% 13.1
Jacob Zuma South Africa $ 313,222.00 $ 11,100.00 2722% 50
Recep Tayyip Erdogan Turkey $ 73,500.00 $ 14,700.00 400% 16.9
David Cameron United Kingdom $ 221,867.00 $ 36,600.00 506% 14
Barack Obama United States $ 400,000.00 $ 49,000.00 716% 15.1
Jose Mujica Uruguay $ 15,600.00 $ 15,300.00 2% 18.6
Michael Sata Zambia $ 82,632.00 $ 1,600.00 5065% 64
Robert Mugabe Zimbabwe $ 18,000.00 $ 500.00 3500% 68

Source: Index Mundi. Jose Mujica’s Salary is net of his donation to charity.

(Note: The figure shown on the PCI column is derived from dividing the GDP by the population, and thus might not be reflective for every individual in the country. There is always the possibility that a large portion of the population earns less.)

Leader Country Annual Income of Leader Per Capit Income (PCI) Leader’s Salary As a % of PCI % Of Population Below The Poverty Line
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Iran $ 3,000.00 $ 13,200.00 -77% 18.7
Jose Mujica Uruguay $ 15,600.00 $ 15,300.00 2% 18.6
Boyko Borisov Bulgaria $ 26,929.00 $ 13,800.00 95% 21.8

Source: Index Mundi.

From the tables you can see that Jose Mujica is one of the very few Leaders in the world whose salary is close to the national average, as measured by the Per Capita Income (PCI) indicator. And also you can see that a very small portion of the population lives under the poverty live. It is also worthy to note that Mario Monti (Italy) is the only leader with a salary of $0.00. He inculded himself in the wide spread austerity in the country, which is all part of the plan to cut the government’s huge deficit and thus reduce its debt.

Leader Country Annual Income of Leader Per Capita Income (PCI) Leader’s Salary As a % of PCI % Of Population Below The Poverty Line
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Liberia $ 90,000.00 $ 500.00 17900% 80
Robert Mugabe Zimbabwe $ 18,000.00 $ 500.00 3500% 68
Michael Sata Zambia $ 82,632.00 $ 1,600.00 5065% 64
Hifikepunye Pohamba Namibia $ 150,588.00 $ 7,500.00 1908% 55.8
Armando Guebuza Mozambique $ 55,241.00 $ 1,100.00 4922% 54
Felipe Calderon Mexico $ 315,573.00 $ 14,800.00 2032% 51.3
Ralia Odinga Kenya $ 427,886.00 $ 1,800.00 23671% 50
Jacob Zuma South Africa $ 313,222.00 $ 11,100.00 2722% 50
Pakalitha Mosisili Lesotho $ 57,826.00 $ 2,000.00 2791% 49
Jose Edwardo Dos Santos Angola $ 60,000.00 $ 6,000.00 900% 40.5

Source: Index Mundi.

The countries with some of the most devastating figures are the ones in the table above. And it is definitely no surprise that they are mostly in Africa, given the copious amount of corruption that is perpetuated on this continent on a daily basis. The salaries of their leaders are higher than the national average by an enormous margin. The case of Liberia is particularly alarming given that 80% of the population lives under poverty while the salary of the president is a whopping 17,900% higher than the national average.

There is an inspiring quote I happened upon a few months, it goes;

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” –Dalai Lama XIV

So this is to the leaders out there, if you cannot help the citizens with good roads, good schools, good healthcare, etc. The best you can do is not hurt them by pillaging the country’s treasury. Everyone, not just the politicians, can learn from the “Political Anomaly” that is Jose Mujica. In our own little way, let us try to better the lives of others. Let us give without recourse.

 

Hurricane Sandy: Environmental Policy Tipping Point?

In the past few weeks we have followed the trail leading up to the U.S elections, from campaigning to the debates and every other thing that accompanies it. The two rivals, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, have gone head to head arguing extensively on economic and social issues ranging from; unemployment, taxes,  gay rights, gun laws, foreign policy among others. In particular the economic issues have taken center stage given the dire state of the American economy. The economic situation has become so significant that it has led to the coining of a new phrase “Fiscal Cliff”, which summarizes the predicted consequences of the lack of fiscal discipline on the part of policy makers. I must admit these are very critical issues that have a strong potential of setting the pace of things for at least the next four to five years. The way and manner in which these issues are handled will, to a great magnitude, define the lives of not only the American people but also that of others in the world at large. In the pandemonium that has become the U.S Presidential race one issue seems to have eluded everyone’s mind, and that issue is the Environment.

According to the Carbon Dioxide information Analysis Center in the U.S America is the second largest polluter of the environment in the world (after China), with as much as 5,492,170 metric tonnes of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere in 2010 (accounting for about 30% of the world emission). At about 17 metric tonnes, America also has one of the highest levels of carbon emission per person. With such staggering numbers you would expect that the environment would take top priority, but no that not the case. The recent hurricane on the east coast I believe should be a wake-up call for those in seats of power, to further alert them of the situation at hand.

I did not realize the severity of the situation until my sophomore year in school. Back in the university I took a course titled “Natural and Environmental Science” to fulfill my science general education requirement; suffice to say I did not exactly signup for the class with enthusiasm. It was during that semester that my Environmental consciousness was raised significantly. I remember quite vividly being asked by our faculty to right a report on the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” by former American Vice President Al Gore. Initially I contemplated just coping off the internet or dubbing off the work of a friend of mine, but I did not. One Wednesday evening I walked into the library to get a book for an assignment, on getting to the check-out counter, there it was; the documentary I had dreaded was staring me right in the face. I wanted to walk away, but I decided to take the documentary and go watch it. I have to admit it was the longest one hour of my life. The documentary stirred such sympathy (for earth) in me I did not realize existed. The documentary was quite captivating, awakening and informative for me. I will not give a plot summary here because this documentary is like a Bond movie, having someone tell you the story line does not do it justice, you just have to see it for yourself. But get ready to feel very guilty of the many atrocities you have committed against mother earth.

America and the world at large needs to sit up and honestly tackle this very present problem called Global warming. We have already seen sea levels rising drastically due to the melting of ice caps in the arctic. We have also seen the intensity of major disasters such as hurricanes and typhoons increase to such tremendous heights, leading to great loss of lives and property. From the Tsunami in Japan to the series of hurricanes in the U.S, I believe it is time to really sit up and take action.

Here are some of the horrifying pictures I could find.

My heart goes out to all those who lost loved ones and property during the recent storm, may the good lord in his infinite capacity fortify you with the strength to bear your losses. But as sad as the situation might be, I believe this is perfect timing.  Americans need to reevaluate their voting decisions and give the environment a higher priority. They need to ask their leaders more probing questions as to what their plan is for the future of the environment. Because it doesn’t matter how much wealth you can acquire for the next generation, if the earth becomes inhospitable they will not be able to enjoy it.