During this past week, everyone around the world was talking about the suspense of the 33 Chilean miners rescue. I was also sucked into the news storm and took some effort to find out what happened.
Basically, a mine shaft in San Jose, Chile collapsed and caused the rocks to block the exit route. There were 2 groups of miners: the first group near the surface was able to escape while the second group of 33 miners were trapped 700m deep into the earth. Shortly after the first collapse, the trapped miners tried to escaped using the air ventilation hole but caused ventilation shaft to collapse as well. Then they waited for 17 days until another drill shaft reached them.
Since the miners knew that a drill shaft was reaching them from the noise it made, they prepared a note and taped into the drill head to send the message that they were all still alive and well. Then, the rescue operations expanded greatly.
Before discovery, they had to rely on “two teaspoon of tuna, a sip of milk, and a biscuit for every 48 hours”. However, after being found, they did not suffer too much as full supply of food, bibles, nicotine patches, pen & pencils & papers, computers, etc. They were able to communicate with their family via video-conferencing. Mario Sepulveda also made himself famous among the Chileans with the personality videos sent from underground.
The note sent by the miners (source)
After re-surfacing, each miner received $10,000 from local businessman, Ipods, Oakley sunglasses, trips to soccer games, and book deals (this will be huge). This is not including all the legal compensations that they will receive after suing the mine owner, etc. However, my advise to you is: despite all these huge benefits, please do not risk your life.
Now, that we know a little about what happened. Let’s focus about other benefits & costs of the situation because there is an interesting twist for personal gain from this accident. If there is nothing to be gained, why would BBC spent up to $158,000 to cover this incident while they can spend that much on an popular event like Oscars Award or Cancun Climate Summit?
The cost of the rescue operation alone was in the range of $15 million to $20 million – most of this money goes to the rescue & equipment companies from America, Germany, & Japan. Also, the cost & spending of the 1,000 reporters & the miners’ relatives spending weeks is relatively large and could easily give a short boost to the regional economy
What are the benefits? Of course, the main benefit is the saved miners’ lives. No one could put a value on a person’s life. However, I’m questioning about other benefits that being generated for political reasons.
Without a doubt, the one who benefited the most out of this accident is the Chilean president Sebastián Piñera. In the glorious light of that incredible world-wide publicity, the president put aside of all other national responsibilities and came to give perfect answers to the perfectly asked questions of the last miner, Luis Urzua – who reportedly “after reaching freedom he told the president “I hand the shift over to you and hope this never happens again, I am proud to be Chilean.”
This event surely changed how the world view Chilean government, not Chile as a nation. I believe so because the Chilean president repeatedly said “from now on, Chile is no longer the same, every Chilean is no longer the same” – just as if he wanted to make sure that phrase is the only thing people should remember.
This positive light is good. It will surely be favorable for Chilean government whenever they ask for more international aid. I hope that the government is truly “no longer the same” – or else most of the international aid money will go through corruption again. However, there is a very large trend of bribery whenever government gives aid to other government.
In addition to being viewed as a good leader who drops every other responsibilities to publicly embrace the rescued miners, the Chilean president will be able to boost approval rate and increase his chance of doing whatever he wants with public money (and might even have a higher chance of winning the next election).
No wonder why he said: “every peso is well spent”. He meant much more than the values of the saved lives.
How does this all relate to Vietnam?
I hope this is a good lesson for future leaders in Vietnam. If anything similar happens in Vietnam, I hope the leaders will not leverage those accidents as political schemes to promote themselves for future gain (whether in terms of increased bribes from increased international aid or just for the sake of re-election, if that even happens in Vietnam).
In my view, a good leader is one who admits that he is not superman and cannot save everyone’s lives or houses. He would not try to promise many things and spend half-efforts on them. Rather, he would know to prioritize on current public problems that cannot be solved by private sectors such as over-flown sewage in Hanoi, or the hundred thousands of deaths caused by traffic accidents in Vietnam. (Click on that link to see how much damages do traffic accidents cause in Vietnam)
Let us all hope for realistic and efficient leaders (however, they don’t have to be political leaders).