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Thursday, 13 October 2011

Export Anna Hazare

For a few weeks, proud American taxpayers were shocked by news that claimed that government had hosted a conference at a Washington DC hotel, where the price of muffins consumed came to nearly $17 apiece. At around Rs 800, these could justifiably claim to be among the costliest pastries anywhere in the world. For government officials to be gorging on these at a time when US unemployment is stubbornly high and debt at a historic peak, would be criminal.

Fortunately, after the US vice-president promised to investigate, it turns out that things aren't as bad as they were made out to be. The $16 price was not for a muffin but for a full breakfast, including coffee, fruit and juice. For a DC Hilton breakfast, the price is not unjustified . But the fact that news of the $16 muffin went viral so fast shows people believe that governments waste taxpayer money.

The US defense department is a master of the boondoggle: its $600, or Rs 30,000, hammer is the stuff of legend. But it excels in other fields also. Between 1997 and 2003, the department of defense bought airline tickets worth $100 million, which it didn't use. In an 18-month period, American air force and navy personnel, who are given government-issued credit cards, blew up over $300,000 over gambling, cruises, dance bars and prostitutes .

The US army's engineering corps regularly builds dams and waterworks, whose only purpose seems to be raising inflated bills, with the average escalation set at 300%. America's state-funded Medicare pays far more than market rates for hospital supplies and medicines. One classic example is saline solution , which costs $1.02 for a litre, but was purchased by Medicare for $8.26 a litre. With or without the $16 muffin, Uncle Sam is riddled with graft. The time to export Anna Hazare is now.


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