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What IS a Zeitgeist?
Jerman for "Spirit of the Age". In this case it is to mean the "spirit" of the Utanian
people, the magazine reporting the people's thoughts behind the press-releases and reported
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© Zeitgeist Magazine, 302 AP.
©Mike Ham, 2002. All rights reserved. No reproduction without, at least, tacit approval. ;-)
Mr. Infallible falls on his own sword
President Okarvits today informed the nation that his administration had
budgeted over Û121.1 billion (C40.4 bn) over four years for defence, including
Û42.7 billion this calendar year.
The President gave little forewarning of the stunning announcement, an
announcement the opposition, suspecting a budget blow-out, has been trying to
drag out of the President for months. In June, a Parliamentary inquiry was held,
but the President and Cabinet ministers managed to avoid having to declare the
budget citing "national security".
No longer. The President calmly told journalists that he was prepared to reveal
the figures of his own free will, simply to "clear the air".
"The Utanian people have a right to know how their taxes are being spent, and
though the revelation has been slow in coming, my administration has always been
committed to free and open government.
"This announcement will finally clear the air on this issue, allowing the
Utanian people to understand that their leaders have been dedicating themselves
to protecting and securing this nation.
"While the figures are not insignificant," the President said, "the cause is our
very freedom, and this cannot be priced."
The President told the briefing that his administration had Û18 billion in
routine defence costs, such as munitions, clothing, feeding and paying the
300,000 servicemen and women. The average serving member received around
Û15,000 in pay. This also included the estimated Û3 billion the government was
spending on peacekeeping in Dignania.
Thereafter, Û23 billion was committed over two years to building manufacturing
facilities around the country, plus research and development, including the
Firecat and Caiman projects.
(See UMAC site: here for Caimans and
here for Firecats.)
Finally, the government has signed a Û26 billion contract with the Zartanian
Empire to supply thousands of military equipment items, from the aircraft
carrier delivered earlier this year, to two thousand 88mm guns.
The President noted that much of the Zartanian contract was actually joint
development projects, including the Scorpion Armoured Personnel Carrier Project.
"The agreement we have with the Zartanians is to co-develop these armoured
personnel carriers, build the first 400 in Zartania, and thereafter have Utanian
production facilities", the President said. This scenario applied also to the
jointly-developed attack helicopter.
However, Utania would be buying outright, with only some modifications made in
Utania, six frigates, three destroyers and six cruisers, plus the Warbird
aircraft carrier. The President did not break down the individual line-item
The contract also includes tanks, bomber aircraft, refuelling aircraft,
transport helicopters and railway guns.
The announcement came as a shock to most journalists who attended the regular
press briefing expecting campaign news. Instead, they had the scandal of the
year laid squarely in their lap.
The issue has dogged the President for months, with the federal opposition
launching a full Parliamentary investigation in June to ascertain the truth. The
issue was opposition leader Kemp's favourite, punching away at the government,
but without success. But, curiously now, the numbers the opposition so
desperately wanted, to scandalise the government, have been revealed by the
President six weeks before an election, and seemingly without resistance.
The timing of the announcement is also disastrous for the country with the
international community, if not the electorate, starting to recoil at the rapid
expansion of defence forces around the world.
That the President would admit all now, with his own job on the line, has raised
quite a few eyebrows. The Presidential election is a mere six weeks away, and a
revelation such as this, that the President overspent his own promises and then
attempted to hide the fact, can only damage the President's hard-earned
"With all this lying, quietening, diffusion, and using the OSA (Official Secrets
Act) to hide an overspending of the budget," suggests one analyst, "makes the
President actually start to look like just another politician.
"I think the electorate expected him to be above all this."
So, why do it?
One possibility is that he was forced to do so, that the figures would have come
out anyway. Another suggestion, scoffed at by the cynical, is that he is genuine
in his claim of wanting to "clear the air".
However, consensus is building amongst commentators and analysts, albeit a
cynical consensus, that the President is attempting to head off Kyle Langley at
"It seems convenient that Ogden's poll tells us Langley will have the best
chance against the President," suggested an analyst on Zeitgeist News this
evening, "and then the President unveils figures that enhance his 'militarist'
appeal, eroding Langley's base support."
It is clear that he is unfit to continue to lead the country.
- Thomas Kemp
If pre-planned and part of a political strategy, then there is no doubt it is
the riskiest path to take for the President, to trade his integrity for some
"national security" votes. Perhaps the President believes he can keep both with
an open debate on the subject -- for as he has made his revelations mere days
before the presidential debates, there is no doubt he plans to debate the
Furthermore, there remains the issue of "why so suddenly"? If this is strategic
politics, then why the appearance of spontaneity and haste? Perhaps the haste
is a strategy in itself.
However, ultimately, the scandal will be about the figures: over 120 billion
Pund spent over four years on defence, including 26 billion on foreign
purchases. In March last year, initial defence department figures were leaked
suggesting the planned foreign purchases were three times the President's
foreshadowed ten billion budget, generating major embarrassment for the
President. Now, it is revealed that the truth is little different to the then
Opposition leader Kemp says it demonstrates that the President tried to hide the
extent of his foreign purchases budget, that it was planned to be thirty billion
"This demonstrates that the President will promise to spend only Û10 billion,
gets exposed, restates his pledge that Û10 billion will only be spent, then goes
and spends Û26 billion anyway!" opposition leader Kemp said on hearing the news.
"This is precisely the sort of shady dealings that the President has been guilty
of all along, and it is clear that he is unfit to continue to lead the country!"
For Kemp, this is the ultimate vindication.
Told by his own party to "calm down" over the issue when the President blocked
the numbers in June, yet convinced there was "something being hidden", Kemp has
never really given the issue up. It would appear that he was right, all along.
However, this is less a vindication for the opposition leader, as a test for the
President. The President will have his chance to justify the over-expenditure in
the presidential debates, and then it will be up to the people to decide. A
shrewd and calculating President, or a liar and spendthrift? Numerous companies
are even now rushing to produce polls in the aftermath of this announcement, so
there will be little wait before the people will have spoken.
If this is a strategy, then it is a risky one. Electorates do not like being
lied to, least of all by the men they regard as pillars of integrity, as
President Okarvits is, or at least was.
Furthermore, now, the President's entire budget is open to debate. It is clear
that with an average of Û43 billion a year, plus Û15 being spent on water
infrastructure this year alone, that the President's expected Û70 billion in
This will be a bitter pill for his loyal fans. Many will be disillusioned,
perhaps even vengeful.
revenues will not pay for everything. The President must now either reveal all,
or face the charge of hiding more overspending, hiding a perhaps massive budget
blow-out. Alternatively, he can be accused of mismanagement, not having complete
control of the budget.
But, more than all this, the President's infallibility has been ruptured.
He is a mere mortal now, not the demi-god of virtue. He is open to attack, and
open to character assassination, a season formerly only open on his challengers.
Now, the President is fair game, at least for a while. He has proven himself to
be a politician like the "rest of them".
This will be a bitter pill for his loyal fans. While, no doubt, many will deny
that this revelation changes anything, many more will be disillusioned, perhaps
even vengeful. Thousands of devoted supporters could yet desert the President,
and his vulnerability in February's run-off election may extend beyond just
Langley to other candidates as well.
Perhaps. The President may have faltered, but he is now down yet. He is heir to
a dynasty that created the Peoples Party, and his supporters are unlikely to
forget for whom they vote. Furthermore, his contrition may prove far more
effective than most cynical journalists and analysts would like to admit.
Regardless, the President has been dealt his first blow, albeit self-inflicted,
and he must now prove he is worth the faith millions of Utanians place in him.
The only hope for capital markets in Utania: Hope!