What a waste!

Birmingham City hosted the 24th G8 meeting in May 1998 – a time I was putting final touches on my PhD thesis. 

Did Birmingham schools, colleges and universities close down to go and welcome the G8 leaders? Did Birmingham central/local government departments close down to go and welcome the G8 leaders? Did Birmingham private sector enterprises close down to go and welcome the G8 leaders?

The answer to all the above questions is, NO, they didn’t.

Those who went to welcome the G8 leaders did so on a voluntary basis and within their own time. Life in Birmingham went on like ‘business as usual’, and I for one continued editing my thesis ‘as usual’.

The only distinct events that occurred relate to security issues that led to the closure of roads, and consequently businesses near the International Convention Centre where the meeting took place, and near the hotels where the dignitaries slept.

The only developing (under developed?) country like (stupid) ‘gimmick’ that Birmingham City Council did was painting some of the grass within the G8’s vicinity green!

If this is what happened during the G8 meeting, then I leave you to imagine what happens when a British Prime Minister or a minister for that matter visits Birmingham, or any other British City.

In October 2011, Sanyogita Mayer – a celebrity in her native India, where she is a Bollywood star (actor) – had an encounter on a British underground train.

Mayer was going shopping with her husband and their three-month-old daughter. When they got to Westminster underground train station, a man got on to the train, and as he went past her, asked, “Is it your baby?” Mayer replied, “Yes”, and the man said, “Your baby is really beautiful.”

Mayer thanked the man, who then moved away, but still stood near her. Mayer then turned to her husband and asked him who that man could be.

When her husband told her the man was the British Prime Minister, Mayer cautioned him to stop joking with her.

When the husband insisted, Mayer picked up ‘Dutch’ courage and went up to the man and I asked, “Excuse me, are you the Prime Minister?”

Mayer started laughing when, Mr Cameron answered, “Yes”. She then apologised for having to ask him the question.

Mr Cameron told her that he had a very busy schedule and it was quicker for him to travel by train than go by road. The two then picked up a conversation about India.

Mayer, took a photo opportunity of the meeting, but was so surprised that a man like him would travel on public transport, and was very struck by how ‘down-to-earth’ he seemed.

This brings back my school memories, under which many school hours were wasted.

A typical characteristic of African countries, and probably the developing (under-developed) countries in other continents is the glorious shows the governments put on when dignitaries from other countries visit, or when they themselves visit different regions of their own countries.

Institutions get closed and the country’s productivity falls each time such an event happens. In Uganda, my sympathies go particularly to schools on Entebbe Road– the road linking Uganda’s International Airport, Entebbe, to its Administrative Capital, Kampala.

I don’t know whether the practice still continues, but during my school days, all schools within the proximity of a ‘dignitary’ function or procession were compelled to be part of the entertainment team, or part of the broader team that welcomed and cheered during the event.

Because almost all foreign dignitaries entered the country via the International Airport and then travelled to the administrative city by road, it meant that children in schools within the proximity of Entebbe Road lost proportionately more school hours/weeks/months relative to the school children elsewhere.

What a waste of children’s time! What a waste of the country’s productivity!

Any president who has been significantly exposed to a blackboard should be able to appreciate such waste.


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