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25 May 2017


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How true Chris, how true.

But like I always say, nobody will ever take their wealth to the grave. All flesh, well fed or poorly fed, rots.

The comments attributed to a group of un-named PNG CEO's seem to me to be disconnected from the real world. Where I see grinding poverty, gross mismanagement of public wealth and rampant corruption, apparently they see opportunity.

It is as if they are living in an alternate universe from the rest of us which, of course, they are.

Being CEO of a major private corporation, wherever it may be located, brings with it a privileged lifestyle that so many business leaders now accept as their natural due. After all, without their genius as a leader, how would the corporation survive and thrive?

From the Olympian heights of their palatial offices, they can clearly see the world in a way that the rest of us cannot. This enables a clarity of vision denied the mere toilers seen moving ant like in the far distance.

These CEO's and their lieutenants, mostly men it must be said, understand how to move the levers of corporate power to achieve what their boards and shareholders demand, which is uncommonly large profits. In particular, they know the power of money and its capacity to secure the things the corporation needs to flourish.

In a desperately poor country like PNG, money doesn't just talk, it positively shrieks. There are hardly any who can or will resist its siren call.

A little money often brings freedom from want while a huge amount of money confers something many crave, being power and influence.

Truly, for many people, money is an irresistible drug: too much is never enough. They will sacrifice their self respect, integrity and reputations just to acquire money and the power (albeit frequently illusory) that goes with it.

It seems to me that we have, in the last 30 years or so, unleashed a form of capitalism that Karl Marx would immediately recognise. It is greedy, exploitative, rapacious in the extreme and utterly indifferent to the social, economic and environmental damage it does in pursuit of wealth.

Sure, a lot of people have been raised out of poverty and this is a very good thing. But, at the same time, we have allowed the worst excesses of capitalism to take root and flourish. Hubris and irrational exuberance are now the rule, not the exception.

This is why this particular group of CEO's can be "cautiously optimistic" while most Papua New Guineans have little or no hope of seeing their circumstances do other than deteriorate further.

The corporate masters are above and beyond the daily struggle for survival. There is an implicit contempt for the "little people" embedded in their thinking, even though most of them are unaware of this.

After all, in our current version of casino capitalism the task of the little people is to consume and theirs is to reap the rewards.

Still, the CEOs may be right in their assessment. Even though my sense is that the capitalist Titanic is drawing ever nearer to a huge iceberg, the band plays on and the people travelling first class remain relaxed and comfortable.

Those of us in steerage, already below the waterline, are rather less so.

Translation: The prospects for plunder are looking up and the chances of claiming a bonus look good too.

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