You can imagine the laughter and howls of derision.
A government messes up its administration so badly that it sends 800,000 civil servants to sit at home to do nothing; the wheels of administration grind to a halt; e-mails and phone calls go unanswered. The shutdown costs the economy $1.5 billion-a-day at and shave 0.6 per cent off GDP at a time, according to S&P, when the country can ill afford it.
If it was a government in Africa, the media worldwide would have poured on the scorn. But, no folks, this was the capital of the free world in distress so therefore it was covered with relative reverent solemnity usually reserved for World Bank meetings.
The drama was played out in Washington where the politicians and the bean counters couldn’t agree on the books and they budget so they shut down government for more than 16 days. That’s how long it took for allegedly the finest financial minds in the world.
It never ceases to amaze me how the world media colours its view depending on where the story is and whom it affects.
If it had been a government in Africa in the same straits there would have been stories ranging from condemnation to satire. It is the age old reversal of the telescope from the northern hemisphere, double standards that condemns this world to a widening division between north and south; rich and poor.
Maybe African governments and commentators should have been more vociferous in criticism of the great US shutdown.
I will never forget the near dead heat in the US elections of 2000 between Al Gore and the future president George W Bush. Only 1,784 votes, out of 6 million votes cast, divided the two candidates. There was a dispute over the Palm Beach constituency where detractors claimed the ballot paper was printed poorly, which meant voters ended up voting for another candidate by mistake. It was another royal mess in the heart of the arsenal of democracy.
In the middle of it all, President Robert Mugabe’s notorious spin doctor, Jonathon Moyo, went on radio to offer Zimbabwe’s electoral advice in order to help the US overcome its impasse at the polls. Moyo was speaking a little tongue in cheek. Zimbabwe has little to be proud of on the electoral front.
At the time it made many people think about the boot on the other foot. How Africa cold judge the world instead of visa versa. In which case, as economical as Moyo often is with the truth, at the very least he made people stop and think and often, in the world of open debate, that is a very good thing.