Chasing rainbows

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A disturbing smell of unease, mistrust and frustration wafted through the national assembly on Tuesday. The air was heavy. And this is what we have come away with.

That there is a bunch of losers listening in on our conversations, that the prime minister “as far as he is aware” is “not aware of anything” and that Heritage City is going ahead. The master bluffer, who has perfected the art of bluffing, did what he does best: talk, talk and talk some more, dodging all the questions. In so doing, he made sure there was no time left for more supplementary questions. 

Here is what he has tried to convince us of: That a Rs30 billion investment will not aggravate an already alarming national debt because its financing is said to be “innovative”. That this huge project we neither need nor desire will not leave a legacy of debt for generations to come. That the government is not giving any guarantee on the loan! He tried to convince us of all this without disclosing any relevant information. It is a government-to-government project so move along, there is nothing to see.

The project is going to be fantastic. It will be designed (at the insignificant cost of Rs162 m) by one of the greatest architects in the world – Saeed Ahmed Saeed of Stree Consulting – who, like all the great people Bhadain waxes lyrical about, must be so great that he does not need to advertise his greatness on the net. But we are told by the minister that this great architect has designed Petronas Towers in Malaysia, the tower at the new World Trade Centre in New York and Palm Island in Dubai. 

Now, here are some sobering facts: Petronas Towers were designed by Cesar Pelli and the tower at the new World Trade Centre in New York was designed by Skidmore Owings and Merrill and the master plan was by Daniel Liebeskind. As for Palm Island, it is a land reclamation infrastructural engineering project. I don’t know what Stree Consulting designed there but don’t tell me it is Sol Kerzner's hotel as the architects for that were WATG, an American firm.

Is it the architect who is claiming authorship of the projects mentioned by the minister or is the minister giving this architect authorship of those projects? Someone somewhere must have given us false information Choomka-style. 

Heritage City, unfortunately, looks more and more like a con. It will be financed through a huge debt our children cannot afford and the details of which we know little about. It will be designed by an architect whose CV is nowhere to be found. It is based on very hefty assumptions. Those in business know there is no way we can pull it off. 

There was no enthusiasm in the ranks of government when Bhadain was replying to the PNQ about Heritage City in parliament. Apart from the prime minister who was nodding – one wonders whether it was voluntarily – and the minister of foreign affairs who – now obviously untouchable and unmovable – boycotted the whole session, the other MPs looked stern. There was no table tapping when Bhadain finished his grand finale and he was the only one who seemed to be amused by the few jokes he cracked. 

After the BAI no-one-will-lose-any-money-and-it-won’t-cost-the-taxpayers-a-penny bluff, after the “historical deal” he signed with India, I guess Bhadain’s colleagues must have woken up to the realisation that if someone’s bluff sounds too good to be true, the chances are it is. 

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