I have enjoyed my stay in the new and improved Novotel – the best part was the swimming pool which, once again, was hardly used by hotel guests – swimming turns out to be a good activity with much less competition than the elliptical or treadmill machines – those tend to be occupied all the time before and after work hours.

We ended the four day retreat on a high note – even if sometimes I wondered whether we could get anything done with the constant coming and going of people trying to arrange three weeks of intense activity in the regions – there are advances to be arranged, bank visits, supplies, gas allotments, drivers and more. And unfortunately the project director wasn’t there to help me interpret all this coming and going – I tried to find out whether the difficulties they were having in organizing the activities was only because of the heavy administrative procedures (as they claim) or also with their own organizational habits (no! one said indignant when I suggested this hypothesis). It’s hard for me to interpret what is really going on, as I parachute in now and then.

At times I was surprised how often we pay for things that the government considers important, yet they are not in their budgets. Sometimes I think we (and other organizations like us) are like an ATM – you go there when you need cash to pay for stuff. I challenged the notion that the government finds certain activities important yet doesn’t put them in their budget. It is something I have trouble with when it comes to development assistance – is it really development or just easy money? The perdiemitis phenomenon (prise en charge as it is called in French) is one such a thing that was created to help the donor-funded program get their planned activities done. Someone in the 1979s had an idea when people were reluctant to come to training workshops – let’s pay them! The rest is history, and irreversible I am afraid – it is like any other entitlement program, easy to create, hard to undo.

And then there is the reimbursement for transport costs. Apparently last week some of the notables were quite insulted by the (minimum I suppose) 5 dollar transport reimbursements. My Ivoirian colleagues think this should be adjusted (upward of course).  Really? When people use official cars and drive a known distance which is then multiplied by a certain fixed amount, they should get more? Did we check the numbers or is it something else – when you are higher in the pecking order you should get paid more?

I inserted many tools and concepts that I am learning in my Conversational intelligence ™ course and am having fun with it – just as our teachers suggest – experiment, they say, have fun, play with the ideas. And I did.

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November 2017
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