Tuesday, 17 July 2012

We're doing Somalia the wrong way round

Ya gotta love Paul Collier and ya gotta love Foreign Policy.

Once the ruler had a tax system, he had an interest in growing the economy, which in turn called for basic economic infrastructure and the rule of law. At some point, provoked by this taxation, people came to demand political representation, and the state embarked on a long journey toward inclusivity. This is how modern Europe emerged, consolidating from thousands of proto-states into today's handful of modern states, all of which are more or less centralized and inclusive. 
In Somalia, the West is putting the cart before the horse. The first step is decidedly not to build imitations of representative government. Rather, it is to encourage the emergence of monopolies of organized violence at the local level. Even without international support, this is already happening. Somaliland and Puntland are proto-states in Somalia's north, while the transitional government, in reality if not aspiration, is a proto-state around Mogadishu. Conforming to the history of state-building, these three proto-states do not like each other, and they have demonstrated it in armed clashes. But such competition can be healthy. It provides the impetus for taxation, which eventually provides the incentive for development.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Role of median age

While youth are important in making revolutions happen, older people make it successful.

...political demography research shows that countries with very young age structures are prone both to higher incidence of civil conflict and – most relevant to the outcomes of the Arab Spring – to undemocratic governance. ... The difference in outcomes across the region, according to Richard Cincotta, can be attributed to the fact that as age structures mature, elites become less willing to trade their political freedoms to autocratic leaders in exchange for the promise of security and stability.  
...the initial events following the uprising in Tunisia that quickly spread across the region played out in a neatly linear fashion. Among the five countries where revolt took root, those with the earliest success in ousting autocratic leaders also had the most mature age structures and the least youthful populations. 
In Tunisia, with a median population age of 29, one month passed between a fruit seller’s self-immolation and Zine El Abedine Ben Ali’s flight to exile. In Egypt and Libya, where median age is close to 25 years(identified by Cincotta as a threshold when countries are at least 50 percent likely to be democratic), Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gaddafi took three weeks and eight months, respectively, to lose their titles. Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen (median age 17), took one year to be convinced to formally resign, while in Syria (median age 21), the 15-month uprising continues to be brutally repressed by Bashar Assad’s forces.

Report from Zabul province

It is hard to say why, but this was a more-interesting-than-average, highly readable report from the coalface. I've never heard of Zabul province, have you? I think that might be the point. Apparently it's the Missouri of Afghanistan.

Of note:
In Tarin wa Jaldak, we met with the shopkeepers in the bazaar and their primary concerns were the process for opening new shops and taxation. That’s a success—they were not fearing for their lives. In Suri, a part of Shinkay District, property values have risen due to the American troops stationed nearby. 
And here is the lesson:
The Afghan paradox is that while reality here can be infinitely granular, differing almost from village to village, the whole picture counts too. Places like Zabul are impoverished because they are ungoverned, but they are also ungoverned because they are impoverished. Security is weak in such provinces because the central government remains a disaster, and the central government remains a disaster because these provinces have no security.