A starving family writes to a bank
Dear Bank Manager,
Many thanks for the 5.3 billion dollar loan. One small step for a bank, a giant leap for a chronic borrower. I can proudly claim that my debt, steadily rising every year, has now reached 66.17 billion dollars. This would mean that every member of my family must cough out 366 dollars to repay this loan. This can only happen if we all stop eating, drinking or perhaps living, for the next 10 months. Is that what they also call collective suicide. I made sure not to consult my unenthusiastic family, on whose behalf these loans were taken. They never seem to agree with my life saving (read death delaying) initiatives. You too must be equally ecstatic. After all you end up gaining the most. You will retain most of this amount as repayment of the earlier loan while my unflinching yearly debt-servicing will keep you charmed for a long time to come.
You had raised a number of questions before you approved the loans. Why is it that despite such massive borrowing, my family shows no signs of getting any better? Why are fifty percent of the family members illiterate and sixty percent below poverty level? Why are half the children out of school and half of the time there is no electricity. Why do one fourth of the family members still defecate in the open and why no one in the family gets clean drinking water through the regular taps? You also wanted to know the reasons for the striking disparity in the life style of some other members of our family. They move about with armed guards in obscenely large vehicles (often smuggled), live in luxury homes, have properties and cash stacked in foreign lands and drink corporate soda or water only from those neat looking plastic bottles. It is only this segment of the family that is forever pushing for more loans. They are the ones who justify the bank’s slogan of ‘poverty alleviation’ – as this is the only group whose poverty gets truly alleviated.
My sixth sense tells me that you already know the answers to all these questions. You were merely going through the motions, filling forms, giving an impression of officious formality and appropriateness. The fact that I earn little, waste a lot and pilfer the most, makes me an ideal customer for the sort of business you are in. I have learnt to plead my case by closely studying thousands of beggars who flock the streets of Karachi during the holy month of Ramazan every year. I use exactly the same techniques with only three minor variations – dress, language and location.
Now some bad news for you. My entire family , except those very few who gained the most from your loans got together last night to say that they would no longer tolerate being pushed into this bottomless cesspool. When I gave them your message that they need to tighten their belts, they said they were too poor and did not have any belts to tighten. They said they were fed up of the loans taken on their name – the loans that make the elite of the family get yet more rich and have still more fun. The mounting loans had reduced their wellbeing, made them poorer than before and taken away the last shreds of dignity that covered their half naked bodies. Getting crumbs like 0.8% for health and 1.8% for education made them still more unhealthy and yet more uneducated.
In simple words, my family has decided not just to stop seeking any further loans but to also stop any further debt-servicing. An unemployed maths teacher in my family spent some time to calculate that we paid 37.2 billion dollars as debt-servicing only in the last 8 years. This is many times more than the principal amount that we borrowed during this period. We are absolutely sure that there is no law that can force us to close our schools, starve our children, privatize our resources and abandon our welfare, simply because our selfish and sick elders borrowed huge sums on behalf of those who cannot even spell the word ‘loan’ or have ever seen a bank premises from inside.
Having paid off the principal amount several times over, we have a good reason to ask for a total debt cancellation and an immediate freeze on any further debt-servicing. Do you realize that discovering a new mode of dying – by getting trampled while struggling to receive free food donations, speaks volumes about the poverty that your loans have been able to alleviate amongst our people.