The term ‘Third World’ was born during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either NATO (with the United States, Western European nations and their allies representing the First World), or the Communist Bloc (with the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, Cuba and their allies representing the Second World). Since most of the third world countries were extremely poor, it became a stereotype and all poor countries came to be referred to as third world countries.
There have been some rich non-aligned countries too, such as Switzerland who leveraged the fact that crooks in power on both sides would need a safe haven for their ill-gotten gains. There has never been a country that has presented the world with such a picture postcard look, when it is in fact more devious and two-faced than any other nation. The Swiss have banks that boast massive deposits from around the world, 75% of which were born out of some kind of tax evasion and did not lawfully belong to the account holders but to ordinary tax payers.
Due to the very method through which the funds come into Swiss bank accounts, these deposits lie around untouched for long periods, earning virtually no interest and allowing the Swiss to make billions lending them out. If you call them up and make an appointment to make a deposit or withdrawal, they’ll send a limo to the airport to drive you wherever you want. Thievery with finesse. Not much different from the auto mechanic I had in India who had a flashy garage and a waiting room where you were served tea, snacks and coke while your car was being repaired, when actually he repaired nothing and still charged for the work and the parts.
If all this sounds familiar to you, I’m not batting an eyelid. You see, I have used the Spunkybong doctrine. I have copied and pasted most of the above from Wikipedia, Google, everywhere some schmuck has said something about the subject. I normally make cosmetic changes in order to give the writing the Spunkybong touch. Y’know, make it funny and readable like. But this time I just let it be and lifted most of the material wholesale, like a virtual Attila the Hun, because I couldn’t have put it any better. Besides, its getting late and I really do have to be at work. Canada needs me. Also, the topic is somewhat analogous to what this piece really is about- corruption and the shortcuts that we humans take to get to the top of the food chain. Don’t start emulating the Spunkybong doctrine, unless you want to be sued for a zillion, for intellekchul propity rites. I’m copyrighted. Oh yeah. Right down to my colon and sphincter.
Why did I start talking about the Third World? Listen, there are many things you have to know before you start reading Spunkybong. He starts off with sumpn and ends up with sumpn else. So, just relax. Remember, nothing I say makes complete sense, except when it’s on sex. You don’t have to find time to read Spunkybong. At work you can file Spunkybong in your priorities folder and merrily absorb yourself in it while the boss (the woman who’s flatter than Saskatchewan) thinks you’re workin’. Giggle. (Sorry, that was me). You can leave it behind on your desk after work so Mitch McPuck too can read it.
Remember Mitch? Oijego, Mitch, shei Mitch McPuck. The guy no one has ever seen. The sumbitch comes into our department at night after everybody has left for home and rummages through our drawers, especially the ladies’ drawers. He moves stickies and papers this way and that. Hershey bars and Kit Kats, he purloins (boy, does that m—er f—er have a sweet tooth). He does have a sense of fair play though. Whenever he flicks chocolates, he leaves behind a bag of cashew nuts or almonds with a scrawled note you can barely read, that says ‘nuts are good for your nuts’.
If he finds panties in the drawers, he filches them. Some of the girls, like Stephanie, deliberately leave their panties behind, on the top drawer. Some mornings, as soon as you enter the department you’ll hear a scream,” Its gone, my God, it’s gone, he took it… muah.. muah.. muah..”. Some even leave stickies on their monitors, “Come an’ get it, Mitchiepoo, honey…”.
Grapevine has it Mitch McPuck is making a patchwork quilt with all the panties he collects, at his Antarctic warehouse and has penguins assisting him in his start-up. ‘Oijego’ is Bengali for saying like, ‘Y’know the one I’m referring to’. I told you, you gotta know a smidgen of Bengali.
I hope you don’t find all this too inappropriate. But then most of us are voyeurs deep inside, probably loving this peep into scandalous writing. Some even text me,” why don’t you write something, I’m bored.” And there are some whose sensibilities I breach sometimes, like an unruly wave on a levee, but those are a chip-on-shoulder minority, I assure you. I know just who they are and they will be dealt with once I take delivery of my MQ-9 Reaper.
Now if you’ll just keep quiet, I’ll tell you about a Mr.3%, Mr.TPS(a.k.a Mr.1%) and Mr.Sidewalk. I didn’t make these nicknames up. They actually exist and here in Quebec, they’ve gained a considerable amount of notoriety. At the moment as I write, the government of Quebec is holding a public enquiry, the Charbonneau Commission of Inquiry on the Awarding and Management of Public Contracts in the Construction Industry in Montreal and surrounding municipalities. Its mandate is to look into the infiltration of organized crime in the construction industry and the system of awarding construction contracts. Relax, I won’t go into the nitty gritty. You are familiar with this sort of thing in your own city, I am sure.
Speaking of my own native country, India, there is collusion at every level of governance from the lowliest constable to the Chief Minister. Even a Prime Minister (Rajiv Gandhi) ruefully admitted once that only 10% of the tax revenue converts to actual public welfare on the ground. Earlier I cringed when this topic arose in conversations here. Y’know, the CWG loot, the 2G spectrum scam, the Satyam scam, the SNC Lavalin Power Project Scam (SNC by the by is a Montreal based construction firm heavily involved in skullduggery here too).
Given the number of skeletons tumbling out presently here, I now find it strangely heartening that there is nothing to be ashamed of anymore. I no longer feel as if I’m from the third world. My new homeland, the mighty Canada, is being given a haboo duboo nakani chobani (a.k.a. drubbing) in the dirty business of graft. If you get the time, look up the Charbonneau Commission. Believe me, you’ll find the proceedings very interesting indeed.
The above three gents I mentioned are just the more interesting ones among the many city engineers, mobster middlemen and construction industry bosses who have already testified candidly and extensively in the hearings. There must be others. A Mr. Highway, Mr. Garbage, Mr. Sewers, Mr. Metro, Mr. Street Lights, Mr. Sanivac, etc, but we haven’t seen them at the hearings yet.
Let me put this in perspective for you. Montreal and the surrounding boroughs have an annual construction & repairs budget of a staggering $4.5 billion. Now just try to imagine how much a 1% or a 3% cut would amount to.
About these guys, let’s start with Mr 3%. Bernard Trepannier, Ex-Finance chief of the City of Montreal. He readily admits to being the man, the conduit, preens and basks at the inquiry, tells about the time he had to call in an aide to help him shut the door of a safe inside his office that was overflowing with $500 and $1000 bills. He turns petulant and pouts when he’s asked about his nickname (Mr.3%). Trepannier took a 3% cut off the top of every municipal contract. In return, he acted as a sort of Capo de Tutti Capi. He got together a slew of construction firms and got them to form a consortium and divvied up a construction contract between them, even before the contract was tendered out.
Then there is Gilles Suprennant, City Engineer, a.k.a. Mr.TPS (Taxes Pour Suprennant. Funny. Means ‘tax for Suprennant’). In the enquiry, he paints a picture of himself as a victim, forced by organized crime into graft. He fidgets and stammers about not knowing what to do with all that money he got from middlemen and how he blew almost a million in a casino in two nights. He whimpers of being forced to fly with Vito Rizzuto in a private jet to the Dominican Republic to play golf. Rizzuto was the then head of the Montreal Mafia, associated with the Bonnano crime family of New York, before he was extradited to the US in 2007. (Earlier, Vito Rizzuto had been indicted by a US federal grand jury for being one of the shooters in the 1981 gangland slayings of three rival Bonanno family captains, Phillip Giaccone, Dominick Trinchera and Alphonse Indelicato, a slaughter that was made famous in the Hollywood movie ‘Donnie Brasco’). At the dock, Suprennant looks like a simple little powerless clerk, forced into the limelight, a pathetic little twerp straight out of a Kafka movie.
Last but not the least is Nicolo Milioto, also known as Mr. Sidewalk. Milioto is a contractor who owns all the contracts for sidewalk repair in Montreal, which runs into $20 million a year. Milioto is also the Montreal mafia’s man in the construction industry. When a conscientious city engineer, Martin Dumont, once mentioned that one of Milioto’s bids was grossly overpriced and demanded that he revise his quote downward, here is what the mob guy had to say, “You know, Martin, my sidewalk foundations are thick and deep. You don’t want to end up in one of them.”
The hearings are ongoing, followed closely by millions of dumbstruck ordinary Montrealers who are learning that they pay up to 40% more in their annual city taxes than other major cities in Canada.
I am tickled pink. I’ll immediately write to A. Raja, Kanimozhi, the Marans and Suresh Kalmadi. Maybe they can pursue their post-graduations here.
© 2013 Achyut Dutt.