Corruption's the word…




Africans on a dollar a day

If nothing else, Live 8 has given prominence to a number of bubbling under issues around development and the first world’s practical relations with the third world. This illustration was opposite a pro-Bush analysis in an article in the Irish Independent a week or so back. But it also fits with an anti-Bush analysis from Naomi Klein in the Guardian a few weeks back in which she pointed to the oil wealth of countries like Nigeria, and the concomittant poverty of it’s wider population. According to the chart, over 70% of the population there live on less than a dollar a day.

  • prolefodder

    Sad but predictable that anything outside ‘norn iron’ fails to excite us.

  • mnob

    OK I’ll bite.

    Its sad that even this worthy debate is carried out on ‘the Wests’ terms i.e. what is needed is money, democracy and free market economics.

    Some African states have only had the concept of money for less than 100 years. What was the USA like 100 years after the introduction of money ?

    Surely the corruption, poverty and lack of distribution of wealth show that perhaps another way may be more appropriate.

    Unfortunately ‘the West’ has a political agenda to follow – democracy is king, free market economies are the only show in town etc etc and even live8 seems to miss the point.

  • hagrid

    Prolefodder:

    If ‘us’ is a reference to those who regularly comment on ‘Slugger’, then you may find a rush to the barricades to defend ‘positions’ and integrity, however I for one am delighted to see such issues raised here. Yes, it is a pity that many of us have little to say when it comes to such issues.

    Whilst Northern Ireland’s contour remains embedded in the core cells of everyone’s brain (regardless of whether it is accepted politically or not), I believe many ordinary people (dare I say, ‘non-Sluggerettes’) recognise that there is more to our lives than NI/Ireland/UK, that we live on a planet where the laws of globalism are shaking the foundations of older economic and political orders.

    It may sometimes take a mighty publicity campaign (see BandAid) to get an issue raised, however people are prepared to make a financial contribution to the improvement of the lives of others. I believe that the millions of people who are, and have been, prepared to ‘give’, do so as they share a deep concern for those who live in poverty.

    What a pity that our politicians are unable or unwilling to reciprocate, to look beyond the trenches, to offer us all, at home or abroad, new perspectives for a better world.

  • Abucs

    The 70-odd percent must have very cheap food for $1 a day.

  • maca

    “The 70-odd percent must have very cheap food for $1 a day”

    It’s all relative (but still completely sucks). In China, a growing economy, you can get employees for €0.50/hr. Imagine trying to survive on that in Europe…

    Living on a dollar and a prayer
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4181939.stm

  • Young Fogey

    Its sad that even this worthy debate is carried out on ‘the Wests’ terms i.e. what is needed is money, democracy and free market economics.

    Obviously what’s needed then is a barter economy, feudalism and a controlled market then?

    Surely the corruption, poverty and lack of distribution of wealth show that perhaps another way may be more appropriate.

    Could you detail this other way, please.

    Unfortunately ‘the West’ has a political agenda to follow – democracy is king

    And your alternative to democracy is?

  • IJP

    Well said, YF.

    As usual, it’s all very easy to introduce the problems – the solutions are a bit trickier.

  • Young Fogey

    As usual, it’s all very easy to introduce the problems

    I think my issues with what mnob has to say go deeper than that. Democracy, in his worldview, seems to be at best an irrelevance and at worst a Western concept which is actively damaging to Africa.

    Quite apart from the point that it’s difficult to see how you can tackle corrpution without accountability, that strikes me as being rather racist.

  • mnob

    You are of course prefectly entitled to your views.

    but realise that views are just that – views – not facts however firmly held.

    For example the alternatives to money (as in pumping money into a problem *not* actually having a monetary system), democracy and free market economy are not exclusively “barter economy, feudalism and a controlled market” there are other systems that work. (and all markets are controlled to an extent e.g. US farm subsidies)

    A few centuries ago you would you may have had as firmly a held view that christianity was the way forward if only the rest of the world would convert to it ?

  • Young Fogey

    there are other systems that work

    Like?

  • Occasional Commentator

    Africa had war, poverty and disease before the Europeans arrived and will continue to do so if the Europeans stopped interfering. And they had a roaring slave trade too.

    The only way to help Africa is to interfere. The question is how to interfere and what system to impose/encourage.

    War, poverty and disease are the natural state of mankind. Modern Africa isn’t much different from Europe’s recent past apart from Europe had a slightly better climate.

  • Mick

    Mnob,

    It would be good to hear what some of those alternatives are.

    As an aside, Don McKinnon’s theme for a lot of the last Commonwealth Meeting argued that more democracy almost inevitably meant more development for individual countries. As a general rule, it kind of holds. But not entirely. Several of the oil rich countries of the middle east are big on development, but not democracy. Singapore is another notable exception.

    It seems to me that the west’s pushing of democracy is (partly) in hopes that some form of robust regulatory system arises which puts a brake on the worst excesses of capitalism.

    However, for most of the time, most of us are far removed from the various struggles of ordinary African people just to keep going, or indeed the great age and complexity of its history and culture.

  • Young Fogey

    Several of the oil rich countries of the middle east are big on development, but not democracy. Singapore is another notable exception.

    I’m not sure the Gulf States are particularly good examples here – they depend on huge mineral wealth and a virtually limitless supply of cheap labour from South Asia and the Philippines. Once the population:resource ratio gets too high the economy starts to go South and all sorts of social problems emerge – see Iran or, increasingly, Saudi Arabia.

    The number of countries which have actually used their oil wealth to build a future post-oil are sadly few – Bahrain and Kuwait are the only two which spring to mind, as well as the oil producing areas of the USA. That problem, therefore, is far from a uniquely African one.

    Much of East Asia was on a par with Africa economically a generation ago; just look at the difference today. Fair, well run, legal systems, moderately to very open markets and a free media which was able to tackle corruption were vital components of that. Incidentally, the relatively few parts of Africa which have had the same ingredients: post-Apartheid South Africa, Botswana and more recently Mozambique, to cite a few examples, have generally seen substantial economic growth and alleviation of poverty.

  • mnob

    Well a few hundred years ago you would be asking what the alternatives to christianity were and mocking any responses.

    One example of a country that functions without democracy is China. The old soviet union functioned without it as well – in fact you could get one or two eastern europeans to say that it functioned better.

    Before you all lay in – no I’m not advocating communism – just pointing out that there are alternatives to democracy and free market economics – some that we haven’t even thought of yet ! There is Bhutan for example which measures gross national hapiness rather than gross domestic product.

    It just seems that the people absent from this debate are the people affected the most i.e. Africans. The whole point I’m making is that we are sitting here with our 2005 ‘western’ sensibilities and outlook which may not be shared by mr average african, and to say that we need to impose a solution is scary talk indeed.

    So you ask me what my solution is – well my solution is not to impose our views but to seek to understand theirs.

  • Young Fogey

    Well a few hundred years ago you would be asking what the alternatives to christianity were and mocking any responses.

    Would, I? You seem to have a great insight into my psychology. Have you considered a career change recently?

    One example of a country that functions without democracy is China.

    It certainly functions well from a purely economic point of view. Maybe if you were a Chinese citizen sitting in Beijing writing an internet post critical of the prevailing orthodoxy, just as you are here, you might find the system functioned a little less well.

    The old soviet union functioned without it as well

    Not very well. The industrialisation of the Soviet Union came at the price of a slave labour system which, quite literally, sent 10 million or so people at any given time to inhospitable parts of the country without adequate food or shelter to work as chattels of the state, usually for imaginary crimes. Many millions were worked to death. It also caused mass starvation in Ukraine in the 1920s and approximately 40% of the Kazakh population starved due to forced collectivisation in the 1930s.

    In its latter phase the lack of freedom of speech accelerated the decline of the country under Brezhnev. The inability of the state to tolerate honest debate, and indeed its inability to allow the corruption of the ruling classes to be exposed meant that no change was possible until the system was irrevocably in decline.

    Not a great example, mnob.

    in fact you could get one or two eastern europeans to say that it functioned better

    You could get one or two, indeed probably a few million actually to say so. But I again note that there is no democratically elected government in Eastern Europe or Central Asia which has returned to a centrally planned economy. The only full on example in the region is Belarus, run my Alexander ‘the walking ego’ Lukashenka, and the only other close candidate is Turkmenistan, run by ‘Türkmenbashi, Father of the Turkmen’, who replaced Lenin’s statues with statues of himself.

    There is Bhutan for example which measures gross national hapiness rather than gross domestic product.

    I suppose that’s very convenient if you’re the Thunder Dragon King and operate a feudal system in which the entire population of your country are vassals. Then you can ignore the fact that your people live in grinding poverty and the lack of democracy means there’s no need to appease the ethnic Nepalese majority and you can continue to lock them in ‘refugee camps’ and otherwise persecute them.

    Of course you can invent some measures which prove your people are really happy and then you don’t have to bother with any of this funny opposition stuff.

    Another great example. Congratulations.

    It just seems that the people absent from this debate are the people affected the most i.e. Africans.

    Now, for once I agree with you!

    The whole point I’m making is that we are sitting here with our 2005 ‘western’ sensibilities and outlook which may not be shared by mr average african,

    But unless you have democracy and freedom of speech there’s no way of knowing what Mr. African actually wants out of life. Which I’m sure is very convenient if you’re one of the myriad petty African dictators, but I’m not entirely sure why you’re so keen on it.

    I also note that the most robustly democratic African nations – Ghana, Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa – seem to rather like it.

    and to say that we need to impose a solution is scary talk indeed.

    Yep. Especially when the person who wants to do the imposing is Blair, a man who believes in lifting up the white man’s burden if ever I saw one. So, I agree again. (Better stop this or people will start talking!)

    So you ask me what my solution is – well my solution is not to impose our views but to seek to understand theirs.

    Again, I fail to see how you can understand their views if you don’t have a system which permits robust freedom of speech and exchange of views. In Africa’s uglier dictatorship those who are allowed to speak their minds and have the financial and technological wherewithal to transmit them to the West tend to be self-serving, corrupt stooges of the regime in power.

  • mnob

    So can you give me an example of where the imposition of democracy and free market economics has worked ?

  • Young Fogey

    So can you give me an example of where the imposition of democracy and free market economics has worked ?

    I’m not seeking to impose anything on aybody, mnob, but I can give you lots of examples of where democracy and free markets have worked – pretty much all of Europe, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Taiwan, most of the Carribean, etc., etc.

  • 6countyprod

    60 years ago America imposed democracy on Germany and Japan. Seems like they have done pretty well ever since. 2nd and 3rd in the world is good going, by anyone`s standards.

  • mnob

    YF, Grand so, now we are getting somewhere. You believe democracy and free market economics are the best way to go.

    I happen to agree with you.

    My point is that because we have arrived at a moment in history that we believe in democracy and fee market economics doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone else is or does.

    Thats the point I have been trying to make all along. 100 years ago we may have had the views that setting up colonial govnerments was the way to go, 1000 years ago conquering and subjugation, 1000 years from now – who knows ? So should we just go ahead and impose our latest theory on those we believe aren’t sophisticated enough to understand it for themselves.

    6 county – so is your approach is to firebomb and nuke them into submission and then you can impose pretty much anything ?