Saturday, June 03, 2006

Psst. Hey, Buddy. Wanna buy a country?

From Diary of a Mad Kenyan Woman, this news:

"Nambrangelina: Africa in Hock"

However, we Africans have now reached new depths of depravity and shame. Or perhaps that should be heights, since it is somehow rather ineffable that an entire country can be turned into a private maternity ward. An. Entire. Sovereign. Country. Namibia has granted Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt the rights of ownership (or lease?) over its borders and its airspace, so that this couple, who are accomplished enough to have arranged their genetics so as to have the requisite good looks—if one likes that sort of thing—to subsequently make unthinkable amounts of money for occasionally pretending to be someone else on film, can determine who enters or flies over Namibia. I repeat. Namibia, THE COUNTRY.

There's no direct link to this story at MKW, but, just in case you haven't heard enough of Brangelina's doings, a little googling may do you. Most takes on this particular story have a rather different slant, and don't mention the "rights of ownership" business, exactly; but rather focus on the gratitude of the destitute Namibians and the charity Brangelina is bestowing on them. A typical take:


May 31 - Most Americans probably don't know much about the African nation of Namibia, except that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had their brand new baby, Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, there on Saturday.

...Hopelonge Ipinge, the Namibian ambassador to the United States, told ABC News that officials had been happy to help the couple by arresting and even deporting intrusive paparazzi.

"They were just given protection in terms of the security not for someone to intrude in their privacy," Ipinge said. "They need to be protected."

Namibians say they have a deep cultural respect for privacy, but many are thrilled by all the publicity.

"For once they can have the peace and quiet that they need," Constance Mann said.

Namibia, with a population of 2 million, has serious crises with poverty and HIV.

Two days after Shiloh's birth, the Jolie-Pitts donated more than $300,000 to a school and two hospitals.

Will Tourists Follow Stars' Lead?

Jolie has long been enamored with Africa since she served as a United Nations goodwill ambassador for refugees.

"I'd love to see Africa flourish," she said. "It's magnificent and has so, so much hope. So much possibility."

Namibians are hoping the stars will help pave the way for a tourist boom, and they have considered Shiloh's birth a special day for the nation.

"We marked it in the history of Namibia," Ipinge said.

Well, charity is nice and all, I'm sure. I mean, obviously money's needed. And I'm sure it will be put to good use, the money.

Just out of curiousity, though, I did some more googling on respective number-crunching; that is, I had said, flippantly, that in fact the GNP of Namibia or at least a number of other countries is as this point probably less than the production costs for any one of most major Hollywood flicks.

Math is hard, but here's what I have so far, in no particular order:

BO Mojo on "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," Brangelina's love duet:

Production budget: $110 million.

Total lifetime grosses (domestic and foreign): $478 million, and change.

From the CIA World Factbook:

Namibia's GDP (Gross Domestic Product, as in, everything, as in, "the total market value of all final goods and services in a country in a given year, equal to total consumer, investment, and government spending, plus the value of exports, minus the value of imports"--investorwords):
about $14.25 billion, as of last year.

Which actually sounds not-so-bad considering it's a "third world" country with a population of 2 million--certainly not at the bottom of the list. But also consider that in Namibia

A high per capita GDP, relative to the region, hides the world's worst inequality of income distribution.

... the UNDP's 2005 Human Development Report indicated that 34.9% of the population live on $1 per day and 55.8% live on $2 per day.

Now, Brad Pitt, whose imdb bio suggests a classic American rags-to-riches, local-boy-makes-good story, these days takes in such salaries as $30 million for "Ocean's Eleven." And I mean: if having to dress up as a giant chicken for "El Pollo Loco" doesn't merit that kind of reward at the end of the day, I don't know what does.

Still, that means, approximately, oh, what. Say the entire population of Namibia was earning an average of $2/day (we are presumably excluding the government officials and the mine owners at the top of the heap, here, however many of those there are). For the the cost of the gross salary earned on one of his top films, Pitt could, in theory, rent the entire Namibian populace for fifteen days. And that's not even factoring in 'gina's buying power.

I was going to ask, "and so uh do what with them?" but apparently some peace and quiet from the papparazi is, in fact, a valuable commodity. I mean, I think that's what they said the goal was.

So, but, I mean, that's cool, that they donated $300,000 (i.e. 1/10th% of Pitt's salary for Ocean's Eleven) to rebuild schools and hospitals there. I mean, lord knows it's more than a lot of equally wealthy Republicans have bothered to do.

Meanwhile, though, if you want to out-and-out buy the entire country, lock, stock, and barrel, you're probably gonna have to go farther down the list. East Timor, for instance, (population 800,000-1 million), with a GDP at a mere $370 million, would be a positive steal. I'm sure some enterprising studio could afford that, if they thought it'd be a decent investment. Of course, it'd be a bit of a fixer-upper, what with that whole war over independence and Indonesia having pretty much destroyed the infrastructure a few years ago, thus forcing like 300,000 people to become refugees; but I feel that this is exactly where that American can-do spirit could be just the ticket. Think outside the box, people! Plus, with so much picturesque suffering, it'd make for great BO.

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