Pursuing Financial Reforms Across Countries - Perils, Stresses and Rewards
The personal and professional challenges a finance specialist faced while pushing for fiscal reforms...
In the layman's perception, the job of an international finance specialist who works under the auspices of the IMF or World Bank would seem to be a cushy one - entailing travels to global hotspots and hobnobbing with heads of government.
But Subra Ramamurthy, in his book Pursuing Financial Reforms Across Countries - Perils, Stresses and Rewards disabuses us of this notion through an extremely frank and analytical account of the personal and professional challenges he had to face, as a public finance specialist in pursuit of fiscal reforms across two dozen countries.
Working in various capacities - as a representative of the Indian Audit and Accounts Department, as an adviser to the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation (CTFC) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - the author travelled to countries ranging from Tanzania and Papua New Guinea to Kazakhstan and China to help their governments streamline their accounting and budgeting processes for greater accountability to international aid agencies and the public.
The book is described as an expose and the author doesn't disappoint, presenting an unvarnished account of the corruption and irregularities in dealing with public money that he encountered on his many assignments.
An initial chapter talks about how he discovered during a stint in Papua New Guinea that all government procurement was being diverted to a single supplier with the blessings of the entire Cabinet.
There's the story of a ship built for Malawi using German aid that failed to factor in the depth of the lake it was supposed to navigate and had to be converted into a casino instead. There's a particularly candid chapter on the mismanagement of the Iraqi economy after the ouster of Saddam Hussein by U.S. forces. Deputed to Baghdad to review the UN's oil-for-food programme, the author was shocked to find that there was no proper account of the billions of dollars that the New York Federal Reserve airlifted to Iraq after the ouster.
Tracking down the money trail in dubious government deals and shining the light on rent-seeking by officials comes with its fair share of risks.
The author matter-of-factly recounts occasions when he received threats to his life for exposing graft in Nairobi, narrowly missed a suicide bombing attempt in Baghdad and the murder of a BBC journalist at his apartment complex in Kazakhstan.
The sections of the book that detail the accounting and budget process changes made by the author may make for dry reading for non-finance persons.
But the book makes up by taking the reader on periodic excursions to places of interest and offering him glimpses into the unique culture and lifestyles of the people in little-explored countries that scarcely figure on the tourist circuit.
Courtesy: The Hindu