Revolution in Worcestershire
Tory-controlled Wychavon council might have started something big. It will soon be opening its new hospital, which it will rent back to the primary care trust. Profits go into the public purse, rates go down and the council moves on to build a leisure centre: a win-win. The council took legal advice before it was agreed that the “wellbeing” powers of the 2000 Local Government Act could cover building a community hospital. Senior politicians have shown curiously little interest. Perhaps the government doesn’t like the idea of a Tory council beating Labour at its own PFI game. And the Tories may feel embarrassed by what is, in effect, municipal socialism. The people of Pershore have a 26-bed cottage hospital as well as a nice little earner for their council. Wychavon is ready to act as consultant to other local authorities in need of new ideas. Any takers?
A prize to save Africa?
Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese entrepreneur, has come up with another crackpot idea. His first was to sell mobile phones to Africans, when in 1998 he founded what turned into Celtel International. No one was interested—what could Africans want with mobiles? But between 1999 and 2004, African mobile users leapt from 7.5m to 77m, and Celtel was sold last year for $3.4bn. Mo, who studied telecoms at Bradford then Birmingham, is now a very rich man. His second crazy idea is to give prizes to African presidents. Every year an award will be offered to any president who stands down after making his—or her (there is one)—country better. The prize is a staggering $500,000 a year for ten years, followed by a lifetime pension of $200,000 a year. That’s over four times what a Nobel peace prize is worth.
Do we really have to bribe African rulers to rule well? Could the money not go to build schools and clinics? Most people now agree that “governance” is at the heart of Africa’s problems, and bad rulers tend to stay a long time. Out of Africa’s 53 executive heads of state, 20 have been in power for more than ten years and 15 more than 15 years. Only a few—Nelson Mandela, Abdou Diouf, Ian Smith among others—live in quiet secure retirement. It will be hard to identify worthy recipients for the prize, but perhaps Mo’s business instincts are right: if the price is right,…