Unless you've been living under a rock for the past three or four months, you've heard about the UK Members of Parliament (MPs) expenses scandal. The statistics on the MPs expenditure for the 2007/2008 financial year are here. The total expenses for some 644 MPs were about £160 million, equivalent to roughly US$ 260 million. This works out to an average of approximately US$400,000 per MP per annum, all inclusive.
This is rather cheap if you ask me. Consider, by contrast, the cost of a single African politician. Taking some hypothetical but realistic figures: Let's say the politician is the president of an African country that produces 300,000 barrels of oil per day. And let's say the spot price of a barrel of oil is US$50 and that the production cost per barrel is US$20. That gives profits of US$9 million per day or US$3.285 billion per annum. Let's suppose, conservatively, that said politician takes 10% of these profits as his own. That's US$328.5 million per godfather per annum. Nice work if you can get it. Now, I hasten to add, that this scenario is not necessarily typical of 53 African nations, but it's certainly not unheard of.
The big lesson, of course, for African countries is how politicians in the UK are being held to account even for such "small" sums of money.
Update (9 July 2009): Perhaps not so farfetched after all...