UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has acknowledged that some of the more difficult sums in the budget work may have been outsourced to an unspecified location in the Far East. ‘Outsourcing is in the public interest,’ he said, ‘and there are people out there who can provide a super fast turnaround of figures at a fraction of the cost, compared, say, with the City Accountant who did my last tax return.’
But an investigation by The Financial Times has shown that conditions in the underground ‘abacus sweatshops’ of the Far East are not always ideal and lack basic resources like computers, high-back chairs and oxygen.
‘The heat was overwhelming,’ one journalist reported, ‘but that was nothing in comparison to the endless clickety-clack from dozens of abacuses being operated by children, coupled with their noisy repetitions of favourite quotations from popular religious text books. In those conditions, it was little wonder that the supervisor was becoming ill-tempered as he enthusiastically swatted flies on the children’s backs for them with a rolled-up balance sheet so they could continue playing with their toys. However, it soon became clear that this was not a crèche for the children of company employees, but actually the main office.’
George Osborne said he will be passing the FT’s findings to Education Minister Michael Gove who is on the lookout for new ideas.