Recently I stumbled across Andrey Kurkov’s Death and the Penguin,
a deadpan satire of a single man and his pet penguin struggling to get by in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. The little novel points squarely at the sometimes absurd but functional atmosphere of Ukraine, where corruption runs rampant and entrepreneurs struggle to hold their own.
The novel follows Viktor, a middle-aged aspiring writer living with his pet penguin, Misha. True to real life, the zoo had been giving away hungry animals to anyone who could feed them. Viktor, abandoned by his girlfriend, took Misha in. For Viktor, too, times were hard, so when he is offered the questionable opportunity to write obituaries for VIPs who are still living, he is quick to accept. Unfortunately, these obits turn out to be a sort of hit list: following each obituary, the subject’s death ensues, which he discovers only later in the morning newspaper. He soon comes to realize that the last obituary he will write will be his own.
Andrey Kurkov poses with a penguin. (Photo: Random House UK)
Kurkov’s depiction of post-Soviet life is lined with deadpan satire that clings to the edges of the structures of corruption that have made the country hostile to its own people. One day a commercial comes on the television: penguins in Antarctica, splashing, at home. Misha begins to throw himself at the screen. Ukrainians researchers pop into the frame.
“I appeal to private entrepreneurs and others with funds – on you depends whether our scientists will be able to continue their work in the Antarctic. Have a pencil and paper ready for the account number to which sponsor donations can be made, and a telephone number on which you can hear details of what your money will be spent on,” says a woman. Viktor runs to jot down the information. Despite his friend’s skepticism, Viktor makes a donation, hoping to send Misha to Antarctica. But when that last obit is requested, it is Viktor who takes a place among the crew – it is these entrepreneurs who have saved him.
Participants in CIPE’s 2010 program in Cote d’Ivoire. (Photo: CIPE staff)
Part of my mandate as Program Officer for West and Central Africa is to establish a sustainable CIPE presence in Francophone Africa, a group of countries where CIPE appears to have a light footprint. So, it was with a solid sense of purpose that I embarked on my most recent CIPE mission to Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal, only to realize that my CIPE predecessors had already done fantastic work, which accounts for CIPE’s popularity within civil society circles in many Francophone countries.
You can imagine Neil Armstrong and his crew, possessed by that light mix of excitement and apprehension in their underbelly as they headed for the moon, anticipating being the first humans to acquaint themselves with it, only to get there and be welcomed by a bunch of encamped Russians: “Ah, Americans … you finally made it.” — I would be untruthful not to admit that a part of me felt outflanked by my CIPE predecessors.
Participants at the 4th Annual Secretary Generals’ Conference (Photo: Staff)
In Pakistan there are about 45 Chambers and more than 100 sectorial associations. The operations of these business associations are regulated by Ministry of Commerce and Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan through Trade Organizations Ordinance and under Securities Exchange Commission regulations.
According to the Trade Ordinance, Presidents and Chairmen of Chambers and Associations are elected for a period of one year through election process. The elected leadership, being the representative of the business community, comes from the trade, industry, or services sectors. But to represent oneself as a leader of the business community from the platform of a chamber or an association for a short period is very challenging because the business dynamics of Chambers and Associations are entirely different from their own business setups.
In the last few years, business associations have been undergoing many positive changes. The elder leadership is proactive in its approach and is encouraging youth to join business associations. The young businessmen and businesswomen becoming part of the elected governing boards and managing committees are contributing a great deal in initiating new and innovative programs. With the blend of experienced business people and qualified youth, chambers and associations are performing well.