Saturday, 27 March 2004

More blessed to receive

For seventeen years I was involved as an official in the organisation of international meetings. I was, I need hardly say, quite immune to any kind of corruption, mainly because the gifts I was offered by foreign delegates when I went overseas were generally not worth paying excess baggage on, let alone being corrupted by. Too late, I realised that I could have rectified this situation by circulating some guidance notes:

Those wishing to offer gifts to senior officials are advised that the following will not be accepted or even acknowledged:
Large heavy books about your country, illustrated with pictures of national monuments and your leader.
Dolls, particularly large ones in glass cases
Anything of vaguely ethnic significance for standing on the mantelpiece
Unidentifiable comestibles in leaking containers
Silly plaques or pennants

In general, alcoholic drinks are undesirable gifts, particularly obscure ones from your own country, in menacing dark-coloured bottles with incomprehensible labels, because no-one would want to use up his duty-free allowance on such things. However, old brandies, rare single malts and fine claret for drinking on the spot are, broadly speaking, acceptable.
The ideal gift is small, light, of high intrinsic value and easily concealed from Customs. Examples are:
Watches (not Russian)
Banknotes (sterling or dollars, used, small denominations)
Top-of-the-range SLR cameras (with extra lenses)

Bear in mind that the fact that you have taken the trouble to carry a gift across the world does not necessarily mean that the recipient will think it of sufficient interest or value to take home with him.
You must understand that no gift offered will, in any way, influence the attitude of officials towards any delegate. However, it is inevitable that a delegate who simply deposits at the offices, with his card, something amusing by Cartier will stand a better chance of obtaining preferential treatment than one who, in person and with halitosis, presents a large mis-shaped wooden object of unknown purpose, and makes a long speech about it. There is no need to ask to see the official personally and to take up his time in this way; if appropriate, he will send a message of thanks at a later date, in all probability.

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