Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Old Soldiers May Fade Away but Politicians Keep Their Hand in the Till

Old Soldiers...

...never die, they just fade away. We know that. Unlike old socialist politicians. They don’t fade away (we just wish!), they just make a nuisance of themselves and their country.

Take for example Jan Pronk. Once the minister for development of third world countries. You better translate that as: the official Santa Claus of The Netherlands. Ever generous in handing out money to needy people. Not his own money, mind you. And those needy people were his third world colleagues who knew what to do with it. Buy fancy cars, mansions, the works. And the best of it all: no questions asked! Here is the money, do what you think is best.

Jan Pronk flew from country to country to distribute the wealth of a nation. Not in a sledge pulled by reindeer, but first class. Rank has its privileges. Normally he wasn’t able to disembark unassisted, for Mr. Pronk more often than not arrived dead drunk. His nickname therefore was Jan Dronk. He has been photographed several times falling in a hotel lobby completed boozed out.

Jan got older, and retired. He’s 67 years now, and looking at least twenty years older. Did he fade away? Certainly not. The PvdA (Labor) party, his party, is in some electoral trouble. That has to do with not keeping solemn promises given during the elections, ignoring their constituents and raising the ever so high tax burden even higher. So they need a new leader. And who volunteered for the job? You already guessed. Our beloved Jan Pronk. Beloved by the distilleries, that is. For the occasion he was even sober. Or at least able to stand unsupported on his feet. His policy was “let’s go back to the good old times of Mao, the DDR and true communism in our days.” Pity he didn’t make it. The constituents were too clever. Would have caused the bankruptcy of his party.

Take Ad Melkert. Same party. He was the party kingmaker. Arranged everything you can think of, but always in back-rooms. His left hand had absolutely no idea at all what his right hand was doing. Long before the demise of the PvdA he made his bid for the party leadership and didn’t make it. Like Mr. Pronk he was a voice of the past, so the party gave him a nice cushy job far away. He was appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the position of UN Under-Secretary-General and Associate Administrator of UNDP. Now, in the IMF we have a chap named Wolfowitz. This guy wanted to do something that European countries truly fear: cleaning out the pigsty. Mr. Wolfowitz had a girlfriend, and she worked or at least, wanted to work within the same organization as Mr. Melkert. As an honest man (as far as honesty goes with politicians) he inquired if this might become a conflict of interest. He only made one terrible mistake. He inquired this with Mr. Melkert himself. “Certainly not” replied Mr. Melkert “I commend you on your honesty and straightforwardness for discussing this with me.”
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While sharpening his knife, and seeing a magnificent opportunity to stab Wolfowitz in his back. The rest is history. As soon as the scandal became public, Ad Melkert denied every knowledge. Even when proof was presented in writing, he still denied everything. With the support of Europe and the Dutch government. Europe believed him, and Wolfowitz was made to resign. Mission achieved. Everybody can skim as much as they need from the IMF. A career ended, a relic from the past was happy and the reputation of a nation shattered. The USA and her government weren’t too impressed by this Dutchman. Or his country…

Now the latest story. We had a nice minister. Again that very same party, PvdA. Mrs. Eveline Herfkens. Politically very correct. Everything had to be done according to the rules. A bit of a stick, but respected for her way of working. She ran the same department as Mr. Pronk, development of third world countries. She was slightly less generous, but -of course — highly respected as Mrs. Chris Cringle by her client countries. She was a bit different though: she insisted on certain rules to be kept. In order to weed out the rampant corruption there. Fine, she was respected for that attitude in The Netherlands.

After her stint as minister she got a very nice job in New York, as the Secretary-General’s Executive Coordinator for the Millennium Development Goals Campaign at the UN. In other words: eradicate poverty. And that she certainly did! Her own poverty, to be exact. In order to do her work she insisted to live in a penthouse within walking distance of her office. This room with a (nice) view costs only $7000 monthly. To be paid for by the UN and The Netherlands.

You and I have to pay the rent ourselves, but no so our betters. Her annual income is a measly $225,000.00. One cannot expect to pay the rent or removal costs from that handout. Of course, Herfkens always flew business or first class, to the cost of whomever was available (usually the UN, but the Dutch government chipped in once in a while) to pay the bill. And later she decided that New York wasn’t her cup of tea after all, and moved (courtesy of the Dutch government) to Maryland.

That’s where she got into trouble with the UN over her expense sheets. They are certainly used to something in the UN, but dear Eveline beat them all. Now she is ‘absent due to illness’ (sic!), awaiting what will happen. Media, and the population in The Netherlands, are outraged. How is this possible? We are, or probably more accurate: were, one of the least corrupted nations. First we have this highly corrupt Melkert disgracing his country, and now another member of the very same labor party misbehaving even worse.

An anonymous employee of Mrs. Eveline’s previous department for Development aid commented: “her behavior beats by a large margin the most corrupted or greedy third world officials working in the UN.” He had to give his opinion anonymously, as very likely such opinion is not beneficial for his career in a country with freedom of speech.

Of course Mrs. Eveline was interviewed. Her position:

Why flying business or first class?

“Well, you see, checking in economy takes much more time. I have better things to do. This is just jealousy of once-a-year-holiday-tourists.” You know, those once-a-year-holiday-tourists are the same people who paid for her flights. And who obviously have nothing better to do.

Why renting a penthouse palace?

“My, what are people fussing about? I need a three room apartment with a balcony and a view. Otherwise, one gets claustrophobic in New York! And within walking distance of the UN, as I do not want to waste my time in the subway. People really don’t have anything better to complain about?”

New York, so I am told is a rather big city, with millions of people not getting claustrophobic, and having no problem to commute to work by subway. But then, those people are just jealous.

I really wish politicians faded away like old soldiers do…

  • Ad Melkert
  • Jan Pronk
  • Eveline Herfkens


Unknown said...

Spot on--you did however miss one of the greatest Dutch embarassments of modern times, the former Dutch PM, the disgraced UN High Commissioner of Refugees, the Stallion of Rotterdam, that serial frottage artist, Lude Rubbers, oops, I mean Ruud Lubbers!

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