Don’t be deceived by “brand-named” products?

I noticed that we who are of little means (financial) love to chase ‘brand-named’ products while those who have much go for generic products. But not only do they go for generic products, they invest in the stocks of the companies producing the branded products and make more money from our desire for brand-named products.

Now here is my experience with branded products and why I am advising that the idea of branded product is another conspiracy to transfer resources from the poor to wealthy.

In my previous life, I worked as a Staff Accountant for a private cereal manufacturing company (name withheld). It was during my time here that I discovered that branding could be a farce and because we are not smart, we are robbed.

As a cereal company, we made lots of efforts to get our products in Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Costco, and Cub Foods. Getting shelf space in these outlets is a big deal and as part of the negotiation, these outlets usually ask you to consider producing some products for them with their name on it (their brand). Usually these big companies agree to do that and we classified these products as “private labels” because we are producing them for companies other than ourselves.

During the production process, there is no way we can change the formula for the products. We cannot use less wheat, less sugar, or less flavor. To attempt to do that will cost us more to produce the product because it might mean that we have to get a whole new boiler or steamer or drier. It is usually cheaper for us to use the same production line and same mix to produce the product. It is only the package that we differentiate. We print a different box or bag for the private label cereal.

So whenever you go into the Cub Foods or Sam’s Club and you see that ‘honey oats’ cereal with Sam’s Club on it and then you see the ‘honey oats’ cereal with General Mills but the GM product costs $2.50 more, just know that they are the same cereal in box: it is only the packaging. I am sure you know that Sam’s Club doesn’t have a cereal producing plant. The Sam’s Club cereal was produced by either GM or Kellogg but packaged for Sam’s Club because as part of the deal to get shelf space, Sam’s demanded that GM produce for them.

But sometime we deceive ourselves that they taste different and that GM’s cereal is better than the Sam’s Club’s cereal. This is a lie because all of those cereals came from the same production line. It is only the packaging that is different.

So you see how they can deceive us about branded product and rob us of our meager resources?

Well, so now you know what I know and why I deal in “authentic” fake….



Aid is intended to keep us there. I think!

All of my colleagues know that I am not a big fan of development aid. To put it bluntly, I despise aid. I have always had my suspicion about aid being a tool of global conspiracy intended to maintain a certain world order in which certain countries will continue to be the guinea pigs in the test on poverty traps.

But in October 2010 when I attended the Working Party (WP) meeting in Tunis, the conversations there firmed up my belief that aid is a dangerous weapon. The WP meeting was in preparation for Busan 2011 where the world was meeting to discuss the new development aid modality and craft the successor to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. Off course from Busan came the Busan Declaration dubbed the “Busan Partnership for Effective Development Co-Operation.” Another fancy catch phrase that means nothing and will achieve nothing. I can bet!

Anyway, I sat through various meetings in Tunis, I was impressed with the level of discussions until some prominent development actors started revealing that these same conversations were held in the 1970’s. And then in 2010 we are still talking about the same things? I am like, what? Are these guys really serious? You guys sat around the table and talked these things before we were born and we are here talking about them again?

As the conversations continued, I got even more depressed. And then I started understanding why development partners and donors bring their aid with so much conditions and deliberately focus on the wrong things. In too many cases, the implementation modalities see a lot of resources going back to the donor countries and only pennies are left in the recipient countries but at great expense to these countries.

Then it all started making sense to me. I started to wonder why would aid want to put aid out business? We deceive ourselves when we think the true objective of aid is to deliver countries out of poverty when in fact it turns out that aid is really intended to keep countries in poverty so that donors and “development partners” can continue to have work to do. Why hasn’t it occur to us that it is in the interest of those delivering aids to ensure that aid doesn’t end poverty so that they can continue to have work to do? This means that the true objective of aid is for recipient countries to continue to remain in those state so that the lucrative industry of delivering aid can continue to flourish.

Look at it this way: there are no new countries being created and so if all the existing poor countries were to break out of poverty, wouldn’t the lucrative industry of aid die? In order for aid to be in business, there must be more poor countries and so deliberate efforts must be made to keep them poor.

The vexing question is why do we agree to play by their rules?

The problem I see most times is that these rich donor countries and individuals they use to implement this global conspiracy have succeeded in conditioning our thought process to believe that they are on our side and all we need to do is listen to what they say and do what they prescribe. Whenever I had the opportunity, I asked them to show me where their prescriptions have worked before and usually I don’t get any answer.

They look at very poor countries and they tell them that they should finance their development from domestic sources. How? After World War 2 did Europe finance its reconstruction and development from domestic resource mobilization? Didn’t the guys put in place a Marshall Plan to assist Europe because big problems need big solutions In fact, even today, these rich countries are using “leverage” to finance their development but then they develop rules and conditions that limit poor countries from using similar tools to develop themselves.

For example, the size of your economy is very small and then they prescribe that what you borrow MUST be a proportion of the size of your economy but meanwhile the size of your problem is several times the times of your current economy and unless you solve those problems, your economy will never grow and produce the transformation that is required to improve living conditions. But it is surprising that poor countries accept these prescriptions because they fear that if they don’t, they will not receive more aids. That is exactly where they want you! They want you to be dependent on aid so that you can never break the circle of poverty.

How we have come to accept that these poor countries will develop on the basis on domestically generated revenues amidst all the herculean infrastructural challenges is mind boggling and bewildering to say the least. If these countries are not creative to effectively use the power of “leverage” to address the structural impediments or ‘binding constraints” to economic growth, they ready themselves to be those state for decades if not centuries. Only the radicals and those written off by them (like South Korea) have progress in the several decades.

In my honest opinion, aid succeeds when they have convinced us that we should continue to depend on them even though they have no interest in solving our problems. True be told, they shouldn’t. Why should they?