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Harry Cassin
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Thomas Fox
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Bill Waite
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Senegal’s Big Send-Off

In Dakar, the capital of the West African country of Senegal, the IMF’s regional representative was given a farewell dinner two months ago. After three years in the post, Alex Segura was heading back to his native Spain. As the evening ended, President Abdoulaye Wade handed Segura a going-away gift. It was cash — €100,000 and $50,000. Segura boarded his flight and left the country, cash in hand. In later explaining Segura’s actions, the IMF said he was worried about missing his plane and concerned about finding a place to stash the cash safely in Senegal. Here’s a report from AFP.

President Wade, who’s 83 and plans to run for re-election in 2012, said there was no corruption, just a mix-up. He issued a statement giving this account of what happened:

The aide-de-camp asked the president of the republic if he should give him (Segura) something, in keeping with custom. The president of the republic replied ‘yes’ without saying what the sum should be, because there was a custom. The aide-de-camp made a mistake over the amount and realized his mistake later.

The IMF said Segura reported the gift the same night he received it. Arrangements were made to hand it over to Senegal’s ambassador in Spain, which was done in early October. Segura is now posted to Washington, D.C. and hasn’t spoken about the matter.

Even if the gift-giving incident was a mistake, as President Wade said, Senegal’s thirteen million people have other reasons to be upset. An AP report said the president “has dismayed former supporters through ostentatious displays of wealth, including renting numerous suites in a luxury hotel in Switzerland this summer for his annual summer vacation. His Swiss holiday, which one newspaper claimed had cost the government at least $1.6 million, came at the same time that Senegal suffered devastating rains that flooded entire neighborhoods, causing some 264,000 people to lose their homes.”

The U.S. Agency for International Development said in its August 2007 assessment (here) that Senegal lacks transparency in public affairs and financial transactions and suffers from chronic corruption. “These phenomena can be seen both in everyday dealings with governmental officials (petty corruption) and in major national government contracts (grand corruption). Together, they increase chronic poverty and the gap between citizens and their state.”

Senegal ranks 85th on the Corruption Perception Index (here), tied with Albania, India, Madagascar, Montenegro, Panama and Serbia. Life expectancy is just 59 years, among the lowest in the world. Literacy is under 40%. Unemployment is nearly 50% and more than half the people live below the poverty line. See the CIA World Factbook here.

Opposition legislator Imam Mbaye Niang said he’ll ask parliament to investigate the cash gift to the IMF’s departing in-country representative. “Wade has to be taken to court for spending national money illegally,” he said. “Unfortunately I am sure that we will not succeed because the opposition is the minority in parliament.”

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