THE state of Zimbabwe’s economy today: millionaire CEOs, “nillionaire” masses.
The Human Capital Telescope by Brett Chulu
Millionare CEOs earn a million dollars apiece. Nillionaire masses earn a combined nillion dollars. Ghanaian thinker, Samuel Koranteng-Pipim defines a nillionaire as someone who has nothing or next to nothing (nil). The nillionaire’s only asset is poverty. His or her only claim to fame is famine.
Think about it
The millionaire CEO runs a million-dollar empire. The Zimbabwean nillionaire runs an ever-crumbling nillion-dollar empire.
There is a new kind of billionaire in Zimbabwe. He is called the nillionaire bill-ionaire. He is rich in bills, hence a bill-ionaire.
He earns a nillion dollars and is expected to rescue himself from drowning in his sea of bills by drawing on resources from his nillion-dollar empire.
The nillionaire bill-ionaire is also an illionaire. He suffers from all sorts of ills imaginable. His ills are far too many to mention.
From his megabucks, the millionaire CEO can get a Range Rover. From his meagre-bucks, the nillionare bill-ionaire can ill afford to feed his dogs, Ranger and Rover.
The million-dollar CEO has increasingly more money at the end of the month. The nillion dollar bill-ionaire has increasingly “more month” at the end of his “money” (nil, if you care).
The nillionaire bill-ionaire and the millionaire CEO is more than a metaphor of our poor state of the economy. It is also a description of its operation.
A nillionaire bill-ionaire and a millionaire CEO equal a nillionaire economy. Here is the mathematical proof; a million multiplied by a nillion equals a nillion.
With a nillion dollars to spend, nillioniare bill-ionaire masses still have to make ends meet. The best a nillion dollars can buy are second, third and nth hand imports. The nillionaire flees to the flea market.
The term flea market itself is a hallmark of humiliation. The Thesaurus says a flea is one and the same as a louse, tick, nit or mite. The nillionaire bill-ionaire has to choose between sacrificing his dignity by going to a “louse” market and suffering the indignity of walking naked. So the nillionaire will buy second-hand underwear. That’s the nillionaire bill-ionaire’s lot.
The millionaire CEO cannot handle the idea of doing a shopping spree in a “lousy louse” market. The mighty cannot be seen going to a mite’s market. So the millionaire CEO imports his designer underwear. So both the millionaire and the nillionaire bill-ionaire are buying imports. Where does that leave the economy? Nillion dollars.
The millionaire CEO is largely viewed as being grossly overpaid.
Overpaying for a good or service implies that either one is paying for poor quality or is paying more than is expected when compared to his peers. The millionaire CEO presides over the destruction of a business. It’s akin to thanking them for taking down the business.
It’s a classic case of overpaying for ultra-mediocrity.
To say we are paying for mediocrity would be to dignify the destructive millionaire CEO tendency. Mediocrity is averageness. If something is below average it is no longer mediocre. It becomes a disaster.
Unfortunately, we have all become millionaire CEOs in our thinking. We want to be paid well for laziness. We also do not mind paying and worse still overpaying for mediocrity. Can you explain the logic of paying for a total landing cost of US$5 000 for a condemned US$1 000 second-hand car import? When we dutifully commend what has been condemned elsewhere, is that not the millionaire CEO mindset? The difference is only a matter of degree. The thinking is the same.
The nillionaire will buy imported, but condemned clothes and cars. The millionare CEO buys commended, but imported clothes and cars. The result — a nillion-dollar economy.
The millionaire CEO mindset
The cause of the nillion-dollar economy is the millionaire CEO mindset. The millionare CEO mindset is no different from the colonialist’s mindset. The colonialist feasted on the sweat of the powerless labourers who toiled for nothing or next to nothing.
The colonialist made his millions and billions by creating nillionaire bill-ionaires in Africa. The millionaire CEO mindset is a cross between the worst from the West and the yeast from the East.
The West offers no apology for taking pride in the idea that selfishness results in the greater good of society (capitalism, if you care).
The yeast from the East is the tradition that there is nothing wrong in paying a Master’s and PhD holders US$300 per month. It’s the worst from the West and the yeast from the East that’s making the feast for the millionaire CEO. Unfortunately, the millionaire CEO’s selfishness is not resulting in the greater good of society. It’s resulting in personal greater good.
Surely, if in the East a PhD fellow earns US$300, why should I not give the ordinary worker a nillion dollars per month, so reasons the millionaire CEO. This is the cause of the nillionaire bill-ionaire and our nillion-dollar economy. The nillionaires are the potholes caused by the millionaire CEO’s Range Rover.
We can talk of all we want about enforcing corporate governance standards. It’s a very simplistic solution to the millionaire CEO problem. At the root of the millionaire CEO problem is selfishness, a kind of selfishness that shames even the hardnosed capitalist.
The axe of reform should not be wasted on hacking away at the branches. The axe must fall on the root of selfishness. Pruning is a way of improving the yield of fruit tree. If the axe of reform hacks away at the branches, it will make the tree more productive. In other words, it will prepare the tree of selfishness to do much better.
Only the radically excellent and distinct (Red) Zimbabweans who reason that corruption and selfishness are too commonplace to be exciting will turn the fortunes of nillionaires. It’s more difficult to be selfless than being selfish. It’s easier to be corrupt than not to be. Thus being selfless and not being corrupt is Red. It starts with you. You are bred to be Red.
Chulu is a strategic HR consultant and business strategist pioneering innovative HR and business practices in both listed and unlisted companies. He is the founder of the Red (Radical Excellence & Distinction) movement. Red inspires Zimbabweans and other Africans to embrace excellence and selfless service as a way of life.
Its philosophy is bred to be Red. — firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.brettchulu.wordpress.com for weekly Red points; read Red points on Facebook and “Like” the Red movement.