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Patrick Ooro

Budget Speech

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Today, I listened to the minister of finance. I had never heard him speak before, nor even seen him. His voice sounded strange and distant. His suit was too bright, it hurt my eyes. He had surely done a good job with his beard and hair, they looked neat! So, I thought to myself, “He must be really ready to tell us something nice and important.”

I was greatly mistaken!

As he stood there and spoke to a nation of discouraged men and women, children with no future, and hungry babies, I asked myself “does he see it in front of him? The ravaged nation?” but his neat hair cut and beard again convinced me he was a good man. I hoped blindly that he would turn the misfortunes of our ailing nation to fortunes.

So he went on, and on, and on… talking about things that I could not even pronounce, and yet they were supposed to help me… I tried to listen more keenly, but I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I heard was a loud cheer. The cheer was not from the crowd around me – the simpletons like me – but from the ministers – like himself. He had just given them a pay rise. As if their bellies are not yet rotund enough!

Later on when he was done, I asked around, as we always do…”what did he say that affects our lives?” My friends tell me, bread is more expensive, so is milk and maize and all the things we depended on for our livelihood. I looked down in shame, not ashamed because of the minister, or what he had decided was best for the nation, no! He would still drive his big car, that I pump petrol into every morning, and wash and polish.

I was ashamed to face my family, not like I could change anything. I would have to put the children out of school, so as to keep food in their stomachs, or send them to school on empty stomachs. I wondered; “what is the advantage of a well fed child who is un-educated? Can they have a future?” But I also thought; “How can a child learn anything at school on an empty stomach? Is it possible? How?

I have to make the choice between the lesser of two evils, because the minister has made his choice clear in the budget speech, and he is not about to change his mind. So, while his suit still hurts my eyes, because it’s so bright and new. I’ll have to keep pumping petrol into his big car, and washing it, and polishing it just to keep my old, tattered trousers on, the children in school and at least one meal in their stomachs.

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