An economist friend was tearing his
hair out. He was trying to analyze a trend started by someone he
scornfully described as "a billionaire who thinks we all live on
I broke the news to him gently. "We DO all live on one planet.
Except for Kim Jong Un, Kanye West, George W. Bush, my kid's math
teacher, etc, etc."
He explained that Japanese tycoon Tadashi Yanai had started paying
all his managers the exact same wage, even if they lived in poor
countries. He was about to roll out the same rule to all his shop
assistants, cashiers and so on. He thinks all bosses should do
what he has done at his popular Uniqlo fashion store chain, which
is spreading fast around the world.
I told him about an incident some years ago in Sri Lanka.
Everybody at the US embassy in Colombo got a pay rise. Someone
noticed that the toilet-cleaner had not and wrote to Washington. A
functionary 14,000 kilometres away looked up the average wage of
sanitary workers in the US and added it to the embassy payroll.
The Sri Lankan toilet cleaner instantly became the richest man in
his village. He had his own car and chauffeur, who drove him to
the toilets he still had to clean.
Anyway, the economist, a Brit working for a Japanese bank, gave me
a sneak peek at what could happen. Say Tadashi uses Australia as a
base. A toilet cleaner there gets the equivalent of $16.45 an
hour. A toilet cleaner in Bangladesh earns 11 cents an hour. The
Bangladeshi would get a 150-fold pay rise, suddenly earning more
than the prime minister of that country.
In many countries (including India) prime ministers would be wise
to rush to get jobs as Uniqlo toilet cleaners. Toilet cleaners,
pushed out of the market, might lower themselves to becoming prime
ministers, trying their hands at running countries. Who knows?
They might do a good job. They probably couldn't do worse.
"But I can't work out who's going to pay for this revolution," the
economist said. Two days later, this columnist found the answer.
My daughters came home with three bags of clothes from Uniqlo. I'm
paying for it.
Police officers looked at a street surveillance video to trace a
snatch thief - and then noticed how fast he was running. Analysis
of the video by Jiangsu Public Security Bureau in China showed
that the thief, a 25-year-old man surnamed Yang, ran 100 metres in
12 seconds. One runner in the most recent Olympic Games recorded
11.99 seconds for his 100m run; so Yang's not far off. I feel a
movie coming on.
Did you see the report about the boy who was handed the keys to
his dad's super-cars from age five onwards? He drove a Lamborghini
and a Bentley when he could hardly reach the pedals. By the time
the boy was nine, Daddy had a red Ferrari F430, list price
Junior REALLY wanted to drive it. "He was insisting for months,"
his mother Amal told a reporter from NDTV. So she used Modern
Parent Logic, which goes like this: When a kid asks for something
ludicrous, the kid compromises by stopping his tantrum, and you
compromise by giving him what he wants. She handed him the keys.
(Note to this columnist's kids: You can insist for months, years,
decades or centuries, but the answer is NO, whatever the question
Off the boy went. And I don't mean sitting on dad's lap. He drove
the Ferrari by himself, with the only other person in the car
being another child.
Proud mom and dad posted a video on YouTube of him zooming around,
and horrified fellow citizens of Kerala, South India, notified
police, who arrested the boy's father, Mohammed Nisham.
Mr.Nisham clearly has 1) astonishing amounts of money, 2) total
ignorance of the law, and 3) not the slightest interest in the
safety of others.
Surely we should give him an Asian Businessman of the Year award?
A theme builder in China has created a giant statue of himself as
the Buddha. I'm not saying that this guy, not named in press
announcements, has a huge ego, but I bet Kim Jong Un wishes he'd
thought of it first. The towering statue in Longhua Playground,
Luoyang, Henan province, is made of fake gold. Classy. Do people
like this have no friends to advise them? Or are they just dumb?
Founder: "Hmm, I think I'll build a towering gold-coloured statue
of myself as the Buddha." Friend: "That would be embarrassingly
crass!" Founder: "Why thank you."
A disorderly woman subdued by police died soon after her arrest in
Japan. Police revealed that a fat officer had sat on her. The
policeman weighed 100 kilos, which is equivalent to one US
football player or the combined weight of every Japanese woman
I've ever met. The Daily Yomiuri says cops may be charged with
"use of excessive force". Surely "use of excessive weight" would
be more accurate?
A baby sold on Facebook. A man posted a blurb on the website to
offer the newborn boy to people on his "friends" and "friends of
friends" list. A Facebook user in New Delhi offered the equivalent
of $14,800 for the little guy.
But the mother in Punjab complained that unscrupulous family
members had sold her baby and police recovered it for her. They
learned that the baby had been sold three times. The child's
grandfather sold it to a nurse who sold it to a lab assistant who
put it up on Facebook. I wonder how he described his relationship
with the baby? "It's complicated."
The son of a mainland Chinese official tried to get good marks at
Bath University in the UK by buying them. Li Yang put a pile of
money on his professor's desk and said: "I am a businessman."
After he gets out of UK jail, he clearly has a great career ahead
of him as a Chinese official.
A chief minister asked citizens to smoke more cigarettes so that
useful tax money could be raised. "Please smoke a little more
these days, then the amount can be raised quickly," Mamata
Banerjee of West Bengal told reporters in Kolkata, according to
the International Business Times. Great idea, Ms. Banerjee, why
not urge citizens to buy ciggies for their children and household
The People' Liberation Army of China has provided soldiers with a
list of "useful" phrases in English, I read in a tweet from
reporter Tom Hancock. Top five: 1) "Oh! So many weapons. Great!"
2) "The air bombardment worked well." 3) "You are defeated." 4)
"We treat prisoners of war well." 5) "Don't die for nothing!" Now
I know why the PLA soldier I once met at a party was so quiet.
Thought for the Day: Make today the day you start making firm
decisions. Or maybe tomorrow.
Nury Vittachi is an
Asia-based frequent traveler. Send ideas and comments via