October 14, 1996, Monday
The finely judged science of doling out pieces of the pie
WOULD you like another slice, Mr Yeltsin? Mmm? Come on.
You know you want it. It's good for you.
" Slice." That's what "tranche" means. Another translation is "rasher." But
they always call it " tranche. " "Parliament's rejection of the 1997 budget
could jeopardise the next tranche of the IMF's $ 10 billion loan to Russia. "
Perhaps it has something to do with the reign of Frenchman Michael Camdessus
as head of the fund. "Zey 'ave been verrey good zis quarterre, we should give
zem anuzzer tranche, no?"
Personally I think they should call it "rasher." "Here you go, Boris
Nikolayevich. Few more rashers for you. Keep it up and we'll be round again in
No-one should underestimate the importance of IMF support for Russia. The
liberal Russian parliamentarian Grigory Yavlinsky said last week that the Duma
should send Mr Camdessus a pot of home-made jam every month in gratitude for the
fact that the only reason the president tolerates the legislature's existence is
the constitutional requirement that it pass the budget, and the only reason a
formal budget is required - says Mr Yavlinsky - is that the IMF says so.
All the more surprising, then, that parliament has nothing to do with the
IMF's assessment of a country's economic progress.
Nor do GDP statistics, inflation or the rate of privatisation. No.
Sensational documents recovered by The Scotsman from an old champagne crate
dumped out the back of the Metropole Hotel reveal the existence of a secret
set of criteria for judging the economic health of a country - a questionnaire,
if you will, available to fund personnel in Filofax and CD-ROM formats.
For the first time, we can reveal the contents of this alarmingly short
1. Hotel room free of major categories of vermin - add $ 100 million.
2. For cockroaches, subtract $ 50 million; rats, subtract $ 100 million.
3. Add $ 10 million for each of the following commercial presences in
country capital: McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, any outlet
serving Tex-Mex food.
4. Attractive young local of opposite sex smiles at you - add $ 200 million.
5. Grumpy receptionist, surly waiter, curt telephone operator - minus $ 50
million per instance.
6. Add $ 10 million for each of the following products sold in local stores:
fresh Parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes, Budweiser (not Czech), lobster, Nike
7. Subtract $ 1 million, multiplied by the number of people queuing to buy
them, for every instance of shops selling: 5-litre unlabelled jars of pickled
marrow, party congress dishcloths, bedsheets too narrow to cover any known bed.
8. Homelessness and street begging are healthy signs of a transition economy
getting tough with its passengers. Add $ 10 million for each supplicant
(families count double).
9. Nice day out, though. Add $ 20 million. On second thoughts, make it $ 30
10. Add $ 10 million for each of the following available at hotel
breakfast: freshly squeezed orange juice, real coffee (not too strong!),
croissants, cinnamon rolls, tranches of bacon.
11. Subtract $ 10 million per item for breakfast featuring: eggs still in
their shells ($ 20 million if raw), unidentifiable cold meat, tepid instant
12. Country of crucial strategic importance to the US: add $ 1 billion.
13. Nice old building in picturesque central location, sympathetically
restored, made available for IMF offices: add $ 500 million.
14. Add $ 50 million per item if local officials show familiarity with:
latest trends in the study of supply-side economics, the OJ Simpson trials,
Quentin Tarantino, the Superbowl, the difference between a burrito and an
15. Local official accuses you of economic imperialism, lack of
understanding of country's uniqueness, trying to bring them to their knees:
subtract $ 40 million per whinge.
16. Charming day out at an ancient monastery/river cruise/restored palace
organised by host government. Add $ 50 million. Charming.
17. Kept waiting in cramped lobby area by host finance minister. Who has bad
breath, a terrible tie and an appalling taste in suits, and thinks he knows his
job because he used to be a jumped-up accountant in a provincial tractor
factory, and here he is trying to lay down the law to an Ivy League graduate
with an MBA and a doctorate in international relations: subtract $ 1 billion.
18. Out for dinner with attractive young local: add $ 200 million.
19. Attractive young local says how much they despise western cultural
values. Add $ 800 million. That should do it.
Have another tranche of gateau, my dear.
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