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February 12, 2006
Your Aid Dollars Bolster The Economy

After all of the debate and effort to give aid and debt relief to poor African nations, some people still did not believe we went far enough. We tied assistance to true political reform as a prerequisite for this relief, and many thought that such requirements were too harsh. In the end, the results satisfied few on either side of the question.

Of the few, however, the Congolese president must have been the most satisfied, if his spending habits give any indication. The London Times gives us a look at the Lifestyles Of The Rich And Subsidized:

THE leader of one of Africa’s poorest countries paid more than £100,000 in cash towards a £169,000 hotel bill run up by his entourage during last year’s United Nations summit in New York, according to court documents obtained by The Sunday Times.

Aides to President Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Republic of Congo startled staff at the Palace hotel on Madison Avenue by pulling out wads of $100 notes to settle a bill for 26 rooms.

Sassou-Nguesso, who is chairman of the African Union, representing all the continent’s governments, is negotiating with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cancel many of his country’s debts on the grounds that it cannot afford to repay them. Yet the president spent a week last September in the Palace hotel, one of Manhattan’s most prestigious addresses.

He paid $8,500 (about £4,875) a night for a three-storey suite with art deco furniture, a Jacuzzi bathtub and a 50in plasma television screen. His room service charges on September 18 alone came to more than £2,000.

I suppose if one was to negotiate an end to debt, the smart option would be to run it up to the max before presenting the bill to one's deliverers. And the stress of asking for money must have weighed terribly on the Congolese president, especially on September 18th. It sounds like he needed quite a bit of food to relieve the tremendous pressure of asking for money, since he paid almost $4,000 in room service that day.

By the way, if you're keeping score, that $4,000 comes to the amount of money made by about 3200 of his citizens in the same time period. At least it does for some of his citizens, although it probably doesn't apply to the butler, his personal photographer, his wife's hairdresser, and the rest of the entourage that took up 25 rooms at the five-star hotel in New York.

The best part? President Daniel Sassou-Nguesso has held his office since the end of a civil war in 1997, but had originally come to office in 1992. As a Marxist. How many Marxists pay their $177,000 hotel bill in cash?

Last year, I supported the debt-relief initiative for African nations that cleaned up their corruption and reformed their governments through open elections and democratic institutions. If this demonstrates the effectiveness of that reform, then I suggest that the G-8 send Sassou-Nguesso back home, along with his bill, and tell his constituents that they still have a mortgage to pay.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 12, 2006 3:15 PM

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