The Shoat Statements

Random musings by the multiple voices inside my head.

Has anyone else noticed how happy we are when we complain? And usually, our complaints are directed towards one particular source: the government. Today, I'm going to hone in on one of the most popular topics: bribery and corruption. We will eternally complain how the ministers are corrupt, the prime minister is corrupt, the president is corrupt (and nepotistic) etc.

But are the rest of us any better? Honestly – how many people reading this hacen’t offered a bribe to a cop after they’ve been caught speeding? But I’m specifically talking about the Sri Lankan business community. How qualified are my boss, or your boss or any of the top dogs in the private sector to point fingers at the government? Because if truth be told, the private sector is perhaps more corrupt than the public one. I'm going to speak based almost exclusively on my experience here.

There is this charge that the Mahinda Rajapkse is nepotistic. Perhaps he is (we've certainly seen signs of it). But then - isn't that a national habit? You look at the Family Company of Sri Lanka. There was a time when it looked like they sponsored the entire Royal College, all because their Chairman (and son) went there. In fact, take a peak inside their polished wooden floors, and it seems to be populated by classmates of said son. Are they capable at their jobs? Weeeeell, you'd really have to stretch the meaning of the word capable to fit everyone in.

While we are on the subject of the Family Company, we can move onto another field in which they surpass the government - bribery. And in this department, they are joined by some equally distinguished companies. I personally know of at least two Keeping-People-Connected Companies, who together with the Family One, give contracts to suppliers who are best able to grease. And by contracts, I mean all sorts of contracts - for t-shirts, hoardings, new products, printing, refurbishments; the whole works. By greasing, if you are thinking of amounts that are less than six figures, you are highly mistaken. I've had my junior executive being offered interest-free loans from suppliers, who wanted to get a particular contract! How the supplier recovers his money is entirely up to him (the two most common ways I know of is to either over bill the company or to get enough contract to even out the down payment).

Recently I watched as company that makes, among other things, a lot of fizz (henceforth known as the Fizzy One) quite literally give their advertising account away to the highest bidder. If an agency isn't willing to support the relevant managers & directors in monetary terms, no amount of good work will keep the client with them. Are the Fizzy Ones alone in this category? Hardly – I watched as this happened two agencies with two different Keeping-People-Connected Companies. And the Family One. And those promoting Good Food. I could keep adding other companies here, based exclusively on my personal experience.

Some of these suppliers are genuinely crooked, but most of them don't have much of a choice - they can either pay something on the side, or watch as the job is given to a supplier that is willing to play ball.

We complain of inefficiency in the public sector – the private sector is not much different. There is a colossal waste of money and time due to inefficient people being placed in decision making roles. Why are they there? Because they went to the same school as the Chairman, or because they are related to the right people or something in that vein (very nicely captured in Tigo’s latest ad). How many of go through the Observer when we want jobs, and how many of us call up well-placed people we know? Networking is all very fine, but our private sector has taken it to new (altogether unsavoury) levels.

I know that I’ve made some not-so-veiled hints at a few select companies (I guess my bitterness got the better of me), but they are hardly alone in these kinds of activities. I think we all know that. But nobody does anything about it – especially the people who have the power to. They almost always look the other way, or partake in these activities.

How can we point fingers at the government when our own places of work are far, far more shameful? We’re all a bunch of hypocrites – none more than the suited-types we all call boss.

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