Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Fools will be separated from their money




A child with a loaded gun is a dangerous little fellow who poses threat to his surrounding and damage to his little self. For any self respecting and responsible community, the challenging question in this happenstance is or ought to be; ‘how did the child manage to acquire this WmD (Weapon of mini Destruction)? The underlying assumption being; a minor is not in a position to fully appreciate the consequences of pulling triggers. In this case, one might presume the child’s rearing probably has a lot to do with his behavior. In a culture where toting guns is a glorified macho behavior (unfortunately in almost all prevailing modern societies) violence cannot be avoided and can leave a permanent imprint on ones’ psyche. By the same token, when an image of a ‘successful businessperson’ (not necessarily an entrepreneur) is imprinted on the psyche of a grown-up, (physically, not necessarily mentally) compliment of the orienting institutions; business schools, movies, paid/corporate media, etc, without the full appreciation of what it means and what it takes to become a successful business operator (even by conventional standard where the motto is; steal but don’t get caught) then we are dealing, in effect, with the same delusional scenario that afflicted the child!

In the case of the child, the weapon at hand is WmD. As for the adult aspirer, it is WMD (Weapon of Money Dispensed). When a situation arises, by design or default, that allows an individual/group who has not been proven in the world of competitive markets (outside the cradle of the state, groupings (ethnic, religious, parties…), banks, oligarchs, etc) to access WMD so that he/she can embark on all sorts of projects, mostly to fulfill childish fantasies, (as propounded by the establishment; media, movies, etc) there will be consequences. Again the haunting question for a self respecting and responsible country is or ought to be; ‘how did such an imbecile manage to acquire WMD?

In today’s societies, the greed-propelled desire of making ‘quick buck’ or in the lingua of Ethiopia’s degenerates; ‘let us do business’ (racketeering) has reached a stage where many prudent people are willing to forgo due diligence in a rush to join the action. (See Das article on page 50) Only last week Ethiopia’s non-state banks announced massive profits and some are now entertaining to declare a dividend of 45%. Wow! Only last month, these banks were instructed by the National Bank (central bank) to start raising serious capital. To those of us who didn’t drop with yesterday’s rain, the truth must necessarily be extricated from the two public pronouncements; the declaration and the directive! Those who know better have a dictum; ‘if something is too good to be true, then it probably is.’

Speculation aside, villas and condominiums (not the gov’t sorts) on fine color prints are passing for the ‘real things,’ fetching millions in real money. Various industries promoted by the technically challenged and whose chance of survival against the onslaught of fierce global/local completion (from experienced operators) is as thin as the ‘wafer’ in our sim cards, are heralded as the financial security of a lifetime! Not surprisingly, these noise makers are managing to raise serious money from the naively innocent. May be they have learned their lessons from the investment banks of the United States. The likes of Goldman Sachs, before they quickly changed their status (from investment banks) to the mundane ones of deposit takers (retail banks-to qualify for government bailout) were experts in extracting money from the novice to benefit promoters of paper companies, for a very fat commission. These investment banks leveraged their status, (masters of the universe – coined for themselves by themselves and peddled by their surrogates – corporate media, etc) to hype paper companies that never made a penny from operations, as ‘once in a life time’ opportunity (some didn’t have even operational existence, let alone profit.) After underwriting the first public floatation of the companies’ shares in the stock exchanges (IPO – initial public offering) and collecting massive amount of money as well as stock, (shares) the investment banks promptly dumped their portion of the shares and quickly disappeared from the crime scene. Soon thereafter, (after the promoters and their cronies bolted) almost all the companies went under and were delisted from the stock exchanges, leaving the public ‘holding the bag.’ The rest is history, of the ‘dot-com bubble’ variety. History is replete with such stories, but the ‘Tulip bubble’ (1634-1638), ‘Mississippi bubble’ (1719-1720), ‘South Sea bubble’ (1720s), ‘Belle epoch bubble’ (1920s), the ‘Japanese bubble’ (1980s), ’Dot-com bubble’(2000) and the currently collapsing ‘Credit bubble’ that subsumed the ‘Housing bubble’ stand out.

It seems gullibility is now another hallmark of Ethiopia’s entrepreneurship, replacing prudence, which seems to have taken a long leave of absence. It is surprising to see many level headed folks falling for all sorts of gimmicks. Some are literally asking, nay begging, passing crooks with WMD to ‘take them to the cleaners.’ On the other hand, the brutish crooks insist; it is in the nature of ‘capitalism’ to ‘liberate the fools from their money.’ We give up, after all, who are we to go against history? As the celebrated French writer once said: “It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.” Voltaire. Good Day!