That well-known writer of short stories with twist endings, O Henry (real name William Sydney Porter), came up with the term Ďbanana republicí in Cabbages and Kings, his 1904 collection of thematically linked short stories set in the fictional country of Anchuria.

Porter was an interesting guy Ė he could (and would) get all moralistic in his tales but was himself twice involved in bank embezzlement cases, and itís when he escaped to Honduras to avoid a stint in jail in the United States that he got the inspiration for Cabbages. He would have felt right at home in Conspiristan Ė also sometimes affectionately called Hypocristan. Porter also drank himself to death.

Now if you want to get all pedantic and technical then sure, Conspiristan is a banana republic. Banana republics are politically unstable countries, their economies largely dependent on exporting limited-resource products, their societies solidly stratified with the majority of the population consisting of impoverished working classes and an oligarchy of military, business and political elites that control and exploit the country's economy and resources.

Politically, the banana republics are often dictatorships (in fact, if not in name) that allow the exploitation (for kickbacks of both the monetary and political kind) of their natural resources by foreign powers. An army general usually calls the shots and soldiers are used to control the masses and implement policies.

Economically, banana republics are operated as commercial enterprises, where the stateís power is used to favour monopolies and favoured business houses, the profits flow into private hands but the public debt keeps rising. So, obviously, the development in the countries remain stunted, the national currencies are constantly devalued, the poor get poorer, and the rich get richer.

Sound familiar? Sure. But donít you dare call Conspiristan a banana republic. At one time, maybe, but not now. We used to have the best bananas in the world. But now? Over the last couple of years or so our bananas have become a sorry shell of their former glorious selves. And in this case appearances donít lie. Peel a Conspiristani banana and you get a pulpy mess which you can barely gulp down, it being too mushy to bite into. What the hell happened?

I want my old bananas back. Bananas of which we could be proud. But now theyíve disappeared. Are all the good bananas being exported and us locals left to consume only the sorry rejects?

But this is symbolic of our general state of affairs so why should bananas be exempt. Take almost any walk of life or any segment and weíve been relegated to the bottom shelf. Letís look at sports for instance. Go back just 20 years. Two decades ago we were the reigning cricket world champions; we were the reigning field hockey champions; we had the two best squash players in the world and the British Open and World Open titles in our pockets; the Amateur World Open snooker championship was ours.

Now? Now our cricket team is an unpredictable mess (notwithstanding the recent thrashing of Australia in the recently concluded 2-Test series), more likely to lose than win; in hockey we canít even qualify for the World Cup or the Olympics; in squash our players figure nowhere in the top 20 and we are now just a footnote in any discussions of world squash; Snooker? Not sure what weíre doing in snooker. Anywhere you look the storyís the same.

All hope is not lost, however. We are numero uno in polo. A hub, in fact, for the equestrian sport and thatís according to Unicef. Thatís something to be really proud of. Whatís that you say, thatís polio, not polo. Ahem! My bad. Still, at least we are number one in something. Perhaps not for long though. The PM recently announced war on the disease and promised to wipe it out from the country within six months (what happened to the standard 90-day pledge beloved of all politicians and army strongmen?).

But wait. I see that the same day that the PM announced the six-month deadline his spokesman denied any such commitment. The very same day! That must have broken every record in the book for backpedalling. Something else to be proud of and we can sleep soundly, content in the knowledge that our position atop the global polio rankings remains safe for the foreseeable future.

But I still want my bananas back. Conspiristan needs to be a banana republic again.