The watch theory of politics

I have been catching up on old New Yorker articles and this one from 2013 was an excellent read. A diamond entrepreneur from Israel won the rights to operate one of the world's richest iron mines, located in Guinea, one of the world's poorest countries. Within a year, the entrepreneur sold a fity-one percent stake in the operations to a Brazilian mining company -- for 2.5 billion dollars. This at a time when the annual budget of Guinea amounted to 1.2 billion dollars. The current President of the country is trying to strip the diamond entrepreneur's license and protect the rights of the people of Guinea to the profits from the mines. It is a fascinating story about the networks of international corruption and power-brokering, from Conakry, the capital of Guinea, to Geneva. This bit struck me especially:

“I practice the watch theory of politics,” a Western diplomat in Conakry told me. “When a minister is wearing a watch that costs more than my car, I start to worry.” During my interviews with officials in Conakry, I spotted more than one conspicuously expensive watch; in the Guinean fashion, the watches hung loose on the wrist, like bracelets.

Those expensive watches, giving away much more than time -- a tiny detail that suddenly illuminates a whole web of corruption.