Afghan president's 'austerity' in Claridge's

Hamid Karzai

The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, may need some guidance on how the idea of austerity works. On Monday he issued a decree in Afghanistan saying that the government needs to cut costs and keep a lid on expenses.

Then on the same day, he travelled to London and checked into Claridge's.
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Cost-cutting

A report in the Guardian claimed that on Monday he issued a decree saying that the government had to stop buying top-end equipment from overseas and should use domestic suppliers. They were also to cut back on overseas travel and general expenses.

The Daily Mail quoted the decree as saying: "'All the ministries and government offices are required to economise the expenses of stationery, oil materials, repairs and other expenditures, to avoid any unnecessary expense and above-standard per diems for trips out of the country, and to reduce expenses."

It's a political hot potato because government budgets are largely funded from international aid, rather than money raised within Afghanistan itself. It has created tensions in the past, and has now finally been tackled.

Shot in the foot

However, straight after issuing the decree, he travelled to London with a party of 40 for talks with the Pakistan president, Asif Ali Zardari, and checked into Claridge's. Rooms in the hotel start at £300 a night, but those favoured by royalty and state leaders can cost thousands. One is an astonishing £6,900 a night.

Of course, there's an argument that taking a break from an armoured compound, he's bound to want a bit of a treat. And given that four of the country's last six presidents have been murdered - three of them while in office - he may not be around to enjoy the trappings of office for very long.

Other leaders

He's not the only foreign leader to like a bit of luxury on a stay in London. In fact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a deal with a number of very posh hotels. The cost of the first ten or so beds are paid for by British taxpayers, and the rest by the country itself.

Neither is he the only leader who relies on foreign aid who has availed himself of London's top hotels. The Guardian reported that despite the fact that 40% of Malawi's budget comes from foreign aid, its president stayed there shortly after taking the job last year.

Claridge's itself has always been a favourite with visiting foreign dignitaries. It became home to the Kings of Greece, Norway and Yugoslavia for the duration of WWII. In fact suite 212 was even declared Yugoslavian territory so that Crown Prince Alexander II could be born on his own country's soil. Since then it has been the first port of call for many foreign dignitaries.

Its closest rival for heads of state is The Goring, which during the Queen's Coronation was used as overflow accommodation for visiting Royalty.
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