Friday, October 28

Billions of lives improved!

Lost in a maze of debt, poverty, corruption and foreign aid?
Left in the lurch by Marx and Lenin
Try Basic Property Rights with Rule Of Law!
Billions of lives improved!

The Milton Friedman prize for advancing liberty is given every two years by the Cato Institute. The winner in 2004 was Hernando de Soto of Peru.

The Financial Express of India takes a look at de Soto’s prize and his latest book “The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else”
(It is) “a book that is easy to identify with. This book argues that the main difference between developed and developing countries is that in developing countries, we deprive the poor of the most important resource they have, namely, land. This is the only form of capital the poor really have. Because we prevent land markets from developing, because we have no clear land rights and land titles, there are no land markets. In India, we have prevented land markets from developing, not only through outmoded and dysfunctional land ceiling legislations, but also by often declaring tenancy illegal. That merely drives tenancy underground. There is no incentive to invest in land.”
From The Economist in an article titled "The economist versus the terrorist: Hernando de Soto believes that capitalism can defeat terrorism"
“Hernando de Soto is no ordinary practitioner of the dismal science (economics). It was his pro-capitalist intellectual crusade against Shining Path terrorists in his native Peru that made him one of their top targets; he survived at least three attempts on his life. Those ideas, set out in his 1987 bestseller, “The Other Path”, may even have helped to turn the poor against the Shining Path, ensuring its defeat. What worked in Peru, he says, can work wherever terrorism now thrives.

Now, (de Soto) is everywhere. So far, over 20 government leaders—from Afghanistan to Mexico to Russia—have sought his counsel.

Yet Mr de Soto is not one of those economists who thinks that the key to capitalism's success is to protect existing, legally established property rights, come what may. On the contrary, he argues that capitalism will thrive, and overcome threats such as terrorism, only if legal systems change so that most of the people feel that the law is on their side. Creating this sense of inclusion requires many things, including marketing the idea aggressively to the poor. But one of the best symbols of change is a mass programme of giving full legal protection to the de facto property rights that are observed informally by the (typically poor) people now living beyond the formal law.

According to Mr de Soto's research, based on interaction with extra-legal communities in several countries, such informal property rights cover assets—notably, land and housing—worth many billions of dollars. Informal systems of property rights usually make such assets “dead capital”, meaning that it is hard to use them as collateral for a loan, which might be used to start a business, for example. Bringing these rights into the formal legal system will unleash this capital and spur growth, says Mr de Soto: an efficient, inclusive legal system preceded rapid development in every rich country.”
From Time Magazine “Hernando de Soto; Unlocking the Riches of the Poor” Time, April 26, 2004. (Sorry no link available)
“Development schemes for Third World countries rarely benefit the poor, largely because aid is too often squandered by corrupt bureaucracies. That makes fresher, commonsense visions like those of Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto all the more welcome. De Soto has spent years looking deep inside the underground economies where poor people--who make up two-thirds of the world's population--eke out a living.

(de Soto) offers a simple solution: give these underground denizens legal title to their homes and businesses. That would grant them access to bank credit and investment capital, much as the property-title revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries enriched Western Europe and North America. A limited experiment in Peru in the 1990s proved the idea had merit when it brought in more than $ 1 billion in new tax revenue. Some 30 heads of state, from Egypt to Mexico, have hired de Soto for similar projects. "I think our time has come," says de Soto. "Four billion people exist outside the market, where angry folks like Osama bin Laden followers lurk."
In and interview in Reason Online de Soto elaborates
Agrarian reform is a process by means of which government assigns lands to the peasants...Until you have universal, well-protected, clear, and transferable private property rights, you cannot have a market economy.

If you take a walk through the countryside, from Indonesia to Peru, and you walk by field after field--in each field a different dog is going to bark at you. Even dogs know what private property is all about. The only one who does not know it is the government
The Cato Institute has a list of other recent articles about de Soto here.

Given the essentials of property rights and the rule of law it seems that much of humanity can escape the dismal fate envisioned by the likes of Thomas Hobbes: life does not have to be "poor, nasty, brutish and short" for uncountable millions. The results of ensuring property rights and providing for the rule of law are surely better than anything else that has been foisted on helpless masses worldwide.

Well... either rich countries kept this a secret or the leaders of too many poor countries did not want to listen even when they were in a position to make their own decisions. Those leaders were probably particularly hard of hearing when they realized that losing control of land might have meant a loosening or loss of what was all too often dicatorial power.

Sadly, what many countries did actually attempt to adapt from the rich world were not proven solutions but variations of messianic Marxism. Such promises of paradise on earth were flirted with and rejected by societies that actually prospered. Societies that tried to contort human nature to create such earthly paradises relegated themselves to the dustbin of history.

In Ethiopia the government owns all rural land where the great majority of the population are subsistence farmers. In the cities people can own their own home or place of business - but not the land they built on. Urban land can only be leased from the government for a specified period. Confiscation is only a bureaucrat's whim away.

Property rights are inexorably tied to liberty and human rights. For example, in the antebellum and Jim Crow South the basic property rights of Blacks were non-existent or at best restricted. de Soto points out a pivotal event in several of the most dynamic economies and successful democracies of the latter 20th century.
"(w)hen (Americans) occupied Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea they titled and registered the poor landowners."
de Soto recounts that exactly the opposite was South Vietnamese-American policy in Vietnam where communal land ownership was emphasized as land reform - where any was carried out at all. Thus there was no distinct or attractive alternative to the Communist plan for total government ownership of land.

Both systems left peasants at the mercy of either corrupt local officials controlled by whoever paid them off or corrupt local officials controlled by an even more merciless vanguard party. Even given the dislocation of war the South was always more productive and agriculture there did not collapse until the North took over and started absolute government ownership.

Indeed, North Vietnamese land reform in the 1950s led to widespread famine and revolts against the Communists resulting in thousands of deaths. One must wonder then, why do governments stick by the dead end of absent individual rights to own land?

The answer is easy and obvious - when no one can own land, the ultimate source of freedom and prosperity lays in government hands. It is all about absolute control of everyone at any cost. For example, Ethiopians today are the serfs or at best sharecroppers of a tiny revolutionary feudal aristocracy that trades mass destitution for their own place in power.

The Creation of a Nation of Serfs tells how this lethal nonsense came to Ethiopia. Marx Reloaded (not Groucho) reveals some clues about the origins of this despotic absurdity.

The importance of the rule of law and property rights in developing free and prosperous societies is not a matter for debate it is simply a fact that is amply demonstrated by history. Those that deny private property rights understand the truth more than anyone - they just choose to ignore it.

Wednesday, October 26

Politics is the Continuation of War by Other Means

The Ethiopian government views politics as the continuation of war by other means.

The theme of war and violence has never left the 'election' and its aftermath this year. Indeed war and rumours of war along with more selective applications of terror and violence are the principle vocabulary of government policy.

The aim, is of course, eternal rule.

The justification is that by by definition the Ethiopian people support the ruling politburo, the government it owns and the business empire. The view that the Ethiopian people do not support the eternal rule of the government is by definition a lie and by design and evil that must be crushed.

Ultimately the will of the Prime Minister is the will of the people and in the defense of the people everything is permitted ... by definition. So why bother with the 'election'? Well, all tyrants from the Pharaohs to Mao used interchangeable religion and ideology to justify themselves and to manufacture consent.

The use of civilized terms like parliament, election board and supreme court convince many to assume that something approaching the actual meaning of those words exists. But it doesn't - it is all about justifying eternal rule.

The election was held for that purpose and the government has demonstrated its fluency in the language of war and violence ever since as it did for years before. Meant principally to be a show for the sake of aid donors it fell apart when every district with an election observer voted against the government.

Instead of reaching for their wallets the way they were supposed to they actually acted like the Ethiopian people should choose their leaders. That, of course, could not be acceptable because by definition the Ethiopian people supported their government's eternal rule.

The Ethiopian government has said that the whole election was carried out as a calculated risk anyway - so they must not have been serious about it since the beginning anyway. In the same BBC interview the Prime Minister said that all along it was known that the opposition was plannning a Rwanda type genocide.

The Minister of Information was emphatic that without the June 6-8 massacre of those protesting the stolen election, that a Rwanda type genocide would have happened. This was along with branding the victims hooligans, bank robbers, chauvanists and probably kulaks, supporters of the dark side of the force and reactionary anti-Enver Hoxha elements as well.

The Rwanda genocide theme was strong just before the election and in one of the many dozen proclamations of victory from 'election' day on it was all compared to the defeat of the Dergue. Since then the entire opposition has been described as alternatively Dergue remnants and Rwanda genocide planners.

The EU was blamed for the June massacre at the same time a threat was made not to 'patronize' the EU and to go into a fortress mode of eternal struggle ... and presumably eteranal war. Before and after the election successive waves of violence have battered opposition supporters in the countryside far beyond curious eyes.

In the cities violence has been a bit more subdued but vigorously pursued nevertheless because the ferenjis might stop their financing of government oppression if it was too obvious. Actually, letting the ferenjis see it was helpful too - just so no one got any funny ideas about democracy or anything crazy like that.

There was a hint of blame of Eritrean agents for the June massacre as well but that must have been a trial balloon that sunk. Instead a slow steady drumbeat of threats and propaganda continued to lay the ground for mass violence. The opposition did not participate.

They knew that loss of liberty, limb and life was the principle vocabulary the government spoke and sought to outflank it by careful and steady application of sober and transparent decisions.

Opposition members have been allegedly caught with weapons many times in the past months - each time with more weapons and greater variety and more fanfare. Allegedly the government in its great compassion and patience mistakenly gave the oppostion the democratic rights that have been abused to begin a campaign for war.

Opposition members who stayed out of parliament were stripped of immunity last week, the Prime Minister accused them of treason a few days later and now they have been caught supposedly planning for war against the government.

Dear reader you know that war against the government is by definition war against the people so again by definition whatever the Prime Minister does is justified. The orders for the June Massacre were given to "restore order."

Watch for more such orders to restore order. The chain of events that follows and the blood that is shed will all be done in the name of restoring order. That is called changing the subject so that the stolen election is not an issue but law and order is.

We don't believe for a moment that the bomb at a police station a few weeks ago was not macabre theater just like the arrest of opposition leaders on bogus charges and the likely flood of terrorist and Al Quaeda warnings flowing into CENTCOM since the Spring.

We also have our suspicions about the recent rumours of war with Eritrea. The timing is a bit convenient to the overall government aim of changing the subject and changing the vocabulary as well to that of its favorites - war and violence.

The aim, aside from obviously wanting to rule for ever, is to do so by worrying the very critical and disgusted EU and the just disgusted but silent US. The threat is that the whole Horn of Africa is about to go up in fire unless the Ethiopian government is immediately given absolute financial support and the subject of the election and democracy is forgotten.

Once again, 70 million Ethiopians are simple hostages in a particularly vicious protection racket - eternal rule for the government or all those Ethiopians suffer even more. The government is counting on the ferenjis caring for Ethiopians more than they do.

The caring part is a sure bet ... but we doubt that anyone is being fooled by all this anyway ... except for those who want to be.


Carl von Clausewitz (June 1, 1780 - November 16, 1831) was a Prussian general and influential military / political strategist. He is the source of the famous line that goes something like this
War is the continuation of politics by other means
His logic, as we understand it anyway, is based on the assumption that war is an extension of politics where both are simply means to a mutual end, presumably that of self interest.

Our opinion of Ethiopian government logic is that it is in a perpetual state of war with everyone whose soul it does not own outright - unless they are already dead - often the latter is just arranged as a shortcut.

The war to own all souls is carried on by politics only when there is no resistance. Always, war is a ready means to carry out the mission of eternal rule for those who defy the will of the people.

Remember that by definition Ethiopian politics is about the fact that the Ethiopian people want nothing more than eternal rule by this government.

Anyone who thinks differently deserves nothing but war, terror and violence. After all they asked for even worse by going against the will of the people - by definition.

Monday, October 24

Dear Comrade Leonid ...

Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1964 to 1982 and all around El Supremo Big Cheese Super Cadre & Communist O.G. meets a living avatar of rapacious capitalist rent-seeking oppression of the people in the form of actress Jill St. John.

"The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World" is the
second volume of the post-war history of the KGB-based on the "Mitrokhin Archive" of secret documents purloined by the late co-author, a KGB dissident-surveys the Soviet spy agency's skullduggery in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Historian Andrew portrays Russian policy toward the Third World as largely the creation of the KGB, which hoped that the spread of Soviet influence and revolutionary upheavals would make these regions the decisive Cold War battleground.
The entries in this book on Ethiopia are real tragi-comedy. A few glimpses of how Communists from home and abroad came to rule and ruin a country with such amazing potential are below.

The first is an account of a KGB operation to keep a tighter hold onto the new Soviet colony of Ethiopia by messing with Mengistu - this story really belongs in a situation comedy script except the characters are too murderous
Operation FARKEL used bogus documents allegedly from CIA Nairobi to reveal Sudan - Saudi - Somali - Egyptian - [?] - US plans to invade.

On 9/77 Mengistu went to the Soviet Ambassador who kept a straight face while [Mengistu was] appealing for support.
The next bit is a quote from Mengistu about his first meeting with Brezhnev ... you will either laugh or cry or both ...
From that moment Brezhnev was like a father to me. We met another twelve times, always in the Soviet Union.

Each time, before telling him about our problems, I would say "Comrade Leonid, I am your son, I owe you everything."

And I truly felt that Brezhnev was like a father.
This was from an interview from the comfort of exile in Zimbabwe many years later. Are we surprised that he still remained loyal? Not really, the current government still feels the very same way about their common ideological forefather.

If Brezhnev was like a father he was certainly an abusive one. Soviet policy was based on keeping Ethiopia weak and poor because the Soviets had nothing to offer a confident and developing Ethiopia besides MiGs, AK-47s, second rate machinery and priceless multi-volume editions of Lenin and Brezhnev speeches.

Actually as we discussed in Unhealing Wounds and the Rise and Fall of the Ethiopian Air Force there was a definite policy of not training Ethiopians to use arms properly for the sake of breeding dependence.

Mengistu & Co. spent billions of dollars to pay for all those arms by borrowing and mortgaging and scraping up every resource and crop that could generate cash (real Western money, mind you - not Birr, and certainly not worthless Roubles). This was done amidst massive famines and the decay and purposeful destruction of all of Ethiopia's human and physical infrastructure assembled at such cost over the whole previous century.

The real issue here is not Mengistu alone but the importation of such nonsense to begin with, by a generation of self styled intellectuals and revolutionaries buzzing around within the Dergue and the current government.

Lost in a veritable supermarket of Traditional, Western and other ideas (some of which actually worked) much of a generation of educated Ethiopians never found their way past the ideological crap aisle.

It is tragic and terrifying that a glib catechism, itself the detritus of the West, could make so many otherwise bright people become utterly delusional. Ultimately, even opposition to the post-1974 Marxist-Leninist military dictatorship was largely an argument over who the 'real' Communists were.

The 'Scientific Socialist Military Junta Communists' were defeated by the 'Revolutionary Democratic Tribal Divide and Rule Communists' who represented a mild improvement only because they depend on the Western world (victorious in the Cold War and fitfully concerned with human rights) to rule.

If Mengistu could have covered up all of his boasting about actual abusing and killing folks by their millions he would have had a real shot at being the "Renaissance African Leader' for the 1990s and the new millenium. After all the current government was openly dedicated to Enver Hoxha's Albanian Communism far past the time that Mengistu was desperately trying to accomadate the West and allow for some economic privitization.

Papa Leonid would have certainly been delighted to personally adopt any Commnist who schemed or fought their way into power. Except for the slight problem that he was dead by then and Papa Gorbachev was presiding over a USSR destined for the trash heap of history because of its internal contradictions.

This from the BBC shows how close the 'Will the Real Communist Please Stand Up Contest' really was
Observers used to joke that when the TPLF captured towns from Mengistu's Marxist regime, they would take down the ubiquitous portraits of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Lenin in government offices, and replace them with even larger ones.
With cosmetic and grasping adjustments made because of the fall of the Dear Comrade Leonid's Soviet Empire, such as the grafting of monopoly and crony faux capitalist structures onto a Bolshevik-Maoist party, the current government continues the bloody tradition of Communism in ever growing poverty and ever shrinking freedoms.

There is no excuse for any of this and there never was. Any person who took even a minimal interst in history and politics or indeed anyone with common sense knew this was all bad for Ethiopia. For example, the people of Tigray knew very well they wanted no Communism and always had the strongest property rights in the country. That is why the TPLF lied to them about its ideology when it was being established.

To the Dergue to the TPLF to Me'ison to Ech'at onto the rest of the alphabet soup of Communist parties it should have been clear by 1974, actually decades before, that Communism was a dead end at improving human life in any way however sweet it sounded.

Even the ethnic component of all those parties was Leninist in nature - the whole nationalities issue was a way to serve Bolshevism by crippling outwardly patriotic, traditional or ethnically based rivals - using classic tactics of divide and rule.

That is ... unless they also recognized that Communism also provided the ultimate feel good rationalization for the absolute dictatorship of a few god like figures.

Spiritually and practically, all of them were right there with Mengistu on bended knee before Dear Comrade Leonid.

By the way the problem has always been Communism itself, not the implementation of it nor who led it nor any such lethal nonsense.

It should come as no surprise to readers that ethiopundit considers the religion of the church of Marx and his prophet Lenin to be the very worst thing that ever happened to Ethiopia. The battle against that mental slavery continues today.


Ethiopian Review has links to Soviet & East German documents from the 1970s relating to their joint colonial venture in Ethiopia.

Saturday, October 22

Caravan Reloaded

The Caravan Passes and the Dog Barks examined in detail the implications of the Ethiopian government-ruling elite lawsuit against, a critical radio station and web site in the US. Caravan Redux took a look at the resolution and meaning of it all as the government withdrew their case.

Here is some more detail from the International Journalists' Network, 'Ethiopian government drops U.S. lawsuits against journalists' details the charges against the four being sued by the government and their alleged accusations against the goverment officials in question.

The whole thing is worth a read for background but this is the money quote
The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in Virginia because they knew at least one of the defendants lived in the area. It is fairly common for public officials in many countries to file lawsuits against journalists who publish critical stories. But for officials to sue journalists from their own country in foreign courts is unusual.

If the lawsuits had proceeded, all the parties involved – including the prime minister, his wife and cabinet officials – would have had to come to Virginia to give their depositions in October. Gregg Murphy, a lawyer for the defendants, said dropping the suits “is nothing more than a delay tactic of basically stopping it right now with the right to bring it back again.

To be fair we should note that the article is not fair in places. For example it details charges brought by the Ethiopian government against one of the journalists while in Ethiopa without pointing out that the persecution of the press with such bogus charges is simply a matter of business as usual in current Ethiopian governance.

Even if the purpose of the suit was pure harassment, setting up a situation where the government elite of one of the least transparent (translation = most corrupt) countries in the world according to Transparency International, would have to come to give live depositions on financial matters in a Virginia courtroom is unbelievable.

If someone had made this story up they would have been greeted with yawns for having an overactive imagination.

The Prime Minister and the elite of a government just up and presented themselves to the authority of a suburban Virginia court. Even if this particular lawsuit is over, the legal precedent is voluntarily established that the Ethiopian Government considers itself to be under the jurisdiction of either Virginian, American or just all international courts.

Given the habit of judges and prosecutors in Europe in particular to entertain lawsuits against folks like Pinochet, it is not a stretch to imagine such courts accepting cases brought by Ethiopians abroad or frankly anyone who wants to do so. Human rights issues are a favorite for such courts. After all, there is nothing that courts and lawyers like to do more than extend their legal powers and have a bit of fun against tyrants while doing so.

We rather doubt that the Ethiopian government's 'progressive' credentials and revolutionary rhetoric will shield them from the interest of activist courts all over the world. Especially if the crackdown against the opposition continues in its current bloody and brutal form, world opinion and politics would readily accept criminal or civil suits against such a government.

Amazing. The legal departments of Presidents, Prime Ministers and Potentates of nations all over the world must be shaking their heads in bewilderment.

Thursday, October 20

No More Appeasement

The recent EU Parliament denunciation of the ‘election’ and its aftermath as well as recent US Congressional views put the Western Strategic Dilemma there into stark relief. The foreign policy of every country is based on self interest. Self interest and projections of self interest over time can combine with occasional frank altruism to bring about policy beneficial to countries like Ethiopia.

Such a window of opportunity is now opening. The West in general now has a very clear picture of the TPLF from its open behavior after the ‘election.‘ The donor nations seem to be in the process of making decisions for the future that are no longer based on wishful thinking about personalities and rhetoric.

It is valuable to examine a similar situation in recent history for instruction. Once again we will ask our readers to take part in a familiar thought experiment. Close your eyes and imagine Ethiopia’s politburo was White and that they had exactly the same policies in place that the current genetically Ethiopian politburo does.

Naturally one would think of Apartheid era South Africa or a nation fallen victim to colonialism long past its expiration date. Wonder along with us why any dictator should be given credit just for looking like his victims?


Self Interest
--SA was the source of crucial strategic materials for Western economies and their militaries
--The Cape of Good Hope was near vital shipping lanes and especially after the closing of the Suez Canal (and given its size limitations even when it was open), a friendly presence on those waters was needed
--Soviet expansion in Africa, and Southern African in particular, required a convenient Western proxy to counter it
--There were billions in every Western currency invested and paying dividends in the generally advanced economy and market in SA
--SA was stable in comparison to the rest of Africa

Long term Self Interest with a Degree of Altruism in the mix
--Apartheid would lead to greater instability in the long term and serve Soviet interests in Africa even beyond propaganda value
--Apartheid was morally repugnant and despite every manner of strategic calculation, the public of the West would not long tolerate accommodation of it - or more important with their own governments that did


The appearance of policy against apartheid
--SA was kicked out of symbolic institutions like the Olympics or various Rugby Leagues.
--It was occasionally treated rudely by Western governments with loud criticism and diplomatic sanctions that really meant nothing at all


Actual policy against apartheid
--An arms embargo was placed on SA with the full knowledge that SA could make anything it need to for itself. The French, for example, basically sponsored SA manufacture of Mirage fighter jets
--Economic sanctions and divestment were never an issue beyond talk and popular protest until late in the game when they began to bite


--the Sullivan Principles (more on these below) mandated sanctions against particular businesses that did not meet standards for race blind or at least more black friendly practices

--the Soviet Empire started to fall apart at about the same time some sanctions were coming on line with the possibility of many more. Without security considerations to hold the West back, this made the SA government worry far more than usual - especially as the economy began to contract from the first sanctions alone

But, there is always opportunity in crisis ... the same situation also provided the apartheid government with an opportunity to change without worrying about Soviet control of popular Black empowerment of any degree. So far we have not noted the absolutely vital role of the burgeoning Black movement for freedom. Black SA was not a silent spectator while all of these decisions were being made.

As the occasional armed but far more importantly unarmed, united, morally omnipotent, rational and increasingly fearless Black movement gained strength, the SA government saw its own interests increasingly defined by opening up and ditching apartheid ... while it could still do so peacefully. The release of Mandella and elections followed naturally in a victory for all concerned


The lessons for Ethiopia in the SA example
--the vagaries of Western self interest, policy and their usefulness (and potential harm)
--the use of detailing the moral element of a Western break with the TPLF
--the utility of encouraging the type of Western behavior that weakened apartheid
--the utility of emphasizing the self interest in both the long and the short term that the West has against an ongoing alliance with the TPLF and in an alliance with Ethiopians

Ethiopian government is defined by an unprecedented degree of structural corruption and bad policies that guarantee poverty and dependence on the kindness of the West. That and threat of instability that is encouraged and based on Ethiopian government policies makes the situation all the more difficult for all than in SA.

--there is no right to private ownership of land which all of human experience has shown is needed for any political and economic development. Indeed all are serfs or at best sharecroppers of the TPLF with little prospect of the opportunities to develop that are easily well within the capacities of the land and the people. There is no structural reason that Ethiopia should be a beggar nation in any way beyond the oppressive structure and policies of the TPLF

--the Bolshevik-Maoist TPLF, the government that is defined by it, government economic monopolies, party and crony owned businesses, armed forces, all powerful brutal security forces, the judiciary, the parliament, the media and regional bantustan governments utterly dominated by the center are all one and the same

--per capita foreign direct investment, per capita income, per capita spending on health and education and per capita agricultural production are either at the very bottom worldwide or very close to it. Indeed all of these factors have worsened since the fall of the Dergue and Ethiopia is now the poorest country on earth and is getting poorer

--the TPLF can not survive without aid, even aid providing direct budget support for every basic from pencils to possibly out of place advanced fighter jets. All infrastructure projects are carried out with the interest and finance from aid givers who also feed Ethiopians, up to 15 million of whom require constant food aid to survive. Much or the rest are chronically malnourished, also because of government policy

--foreign aid has helped the TPLF become independent of accountability with the Ethiopian people. The normal process of the development of democratic and economic accountability and institutions has been short circuited. What matters most with the TPLF mode of government is getting along with Western aid donors - not Ethiopians.

--Ethiopians of every ethnicity, region and religion serve as hostages of the government that essentially promises them harm unless it is continually patronized by the West and allowed to remain in power without hindrance. The TPLF routinely makes that threat in calls for ongoing struggle and a return to the fortresses of war.

Instability is carefully nurtured by the TPLF and often simulated to increase Western attention to its utility as a partner. This is done because its chosen mode of Leninist-Maoist government with bits of monopoly and crony capitalism grafted on will always make for weakness that is outweighed by the benefits of depending on foreigners rather than Ethiopians for the sake of continued rule.

Above all, the TPLF has so categorically weakened Ethiopia and is so effectively strangling its chances for progress that if aid cuts or economic sanctions are used it is clear that innocent Ethiopians will suffer long before the revolutionary aristocracy does.

This accentuates the moral and practical bind that Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopian must deal with. When SA was the issue there was little hesitation among Black SA and their friends to use sanctions even though blacks would be harmed first.

While Ethiopians are rather more desperate under the TPLF than Blacks were in SA, that does not provide the TPLF with an eternal lock on power. There is ample room for maneuver to cut the Gordian Knot that TPLF and its eternal policy of beggar status have caused.

To see what role the West may play in this let us take a look at ...


Self Interest
--Interest is essentially negative - meaning that under the TPLF nothing good is expected but they want to prevent things from getting worse
--The US is concerned with the War on Terror, the potential for instability, and the role of Ethiopian intelligence activities in Somalia and Sudan
--The EU are concerned with the same with more accent on the potential for instability that the West may have to respond to and the potential for the immigration problems of Europe to be compounded by millions of new refugees

Long term Self Interest with a Degree of Altruism in the mix
---Everyone is concerned with stability but there is also a realization that the TPLF is both cause, effect and the most likely to profit from instability
--There is ever present and growing moral revulsion with the TPFL that the ‘election’ and aftermath have accentuated.
--There is also a sense that without demands for good governance and human rights that any level of aid will be wasted.
--It is becoming ever more clear that the TPLF does not represent anything but a guarantor of very short term Western interests and in the long term that it is a threat to Western aims


The appearance of policy on behalf of Ethiopians
--this has been the case thus far. Generally, thinking that they have found ‘an African we can deal with,’ the West has been silent on basic issues of good governance and human rights while wishing against all evidence for some 'future post-election and post-massive aid infusion paradise' when all hopes and expectations would miraculously be met

The ‘election’ and its aftermath blew up this whole pretty picture and left no excuses behind. TPLF behavior since has been more obviously than ever brutal towards Ethiopians while EU concerns have been met with frankly shrill abuse that must have raised some serious questions about how Ethiopians suffered - if the actual TPLF paymasters were being so insulted.

Actual policy in support of Ethiopians?
--Beyond threats on the subject of aid cuts, the UK, for example, has already cancelled significant planned aid increases
--The EU election report mentions the The Cotonou Agreement. This is ominous news for the TPLF because the development partnership so defined explicitly states that
* Respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law are essential elements of the partnership.

* A new procedure has been drawn up to deal with violations. It puts more emphasis on the responsibility of the State concerned and allows for greater flexibility in the consultation process. In cases of special urgency - serious violations of one of the essential elements - measures will be taken immediately and the other party notified.

* Commitment to good governance as a fundamental and positive element of the partnership, a subject for regular dialogue and an area for active Community support.

* The EC and the ACP [African, Caribbean and Pacific] have also agreed on a new specific procedure to be launched in serious cases of corruption. This is a real innovation, both in the EC-ACP context and in international relations. It is not confined to EC activities.

It will be applied in cases of corruption involving EDF money and more widely, in any country where the EC is financially involved and where corruption constitutes an obstacle to development.

This is a very important aspect, as public finance constitutes a whole, regardless of the source of finance; corruption involving other sources of financing therefore indirectly affects EDF funding. The EC and the ACP States are together sending a clear and positive signal to European taxpayers and investors, and legitimate beneficiaries of aid.
If the EU is serious about the Cotunou Agreement and if it is tired of hearing excuses and insults from the TPLF then there are interesting times ahead. It has also become clear that the issues with the TPLF are structural, meaning they are built in and not necessarily subject to improvement with promises or PR campaigns.

The opposition to the TPLF has responded to its stolen victory with exemplary fortitude and strategy. It is now placed within and without the TPLF parliament and is posed to cause migraines within the politburo. The West will be watching very closely what happens and the EU and the US have explicitly demanded changes in new parliamentary rules that may make that gathering actually mean something.

Most importantly, it is clear to all observers that there is a rational, indeed preferrable, alternative to the TPLF as a development and security partner.

Joint EU & US demands for access to the media and an easing of the state of tyranny will by necessity end TPLF rule if they are met. The TPLF will of course resist and at some point will openly put mass violence and the fate of its 70 million hostages on the negotiating table with its ultimate constituency in the West.

The threat will essentially be: leave us alone to rule forever or your sanctions and our violence will cause millions to suffer.


The structurally determined mess characteristic of all one party states is also familiar to Zimbabweans. According to the Independent of Zimbabwe, government / ruling party owned businesses there are "in a shambles" with billions lost to corruption and mismanagement with considerable "externalization of funds". Often there are no records of audits having been done at any time, significant deals are made verbally with no other record and no one knows who owns what.

The only constant is that the ever poorer Zimbabwean population pays and pays. Doesn’t that sound familiar? In addition Mugabe has a horrible human rights and economic record compounded by an absence of private property rights. So what did the West do about Mugabe?

The US Departments of State and the Treasury under an Executive Order are bound to act because
Zimbabwe’s government has conducted a concerted campaign of violence, repression, and intimidation showing its disregard for human rights, the rule of law, and the welfare of its citizens. Ultimately Zimbabweans must resolve their political crisis, and the United States supports the region's call for the government to enter into dialogue with the political opposition to find a solution acceptable to the people of Zimbabwe.


The United States’ sanctions target only those responsible for Zimbabwe's political crisis and not ordinary citizens. They support regional and international efforts to convince Zimbabwe’s government to abandon political repression and engage in meaningful dialogue with the political opposition.

Should Zimbabwe’s rulers continue to oppress its citizens and to resist forthright efforts toward resolving the country’s political crisis, we are prepared to impose additional targeted financial and travel sanctions on those [INDIVIDUALS] undermining democracy in Zimbabwe.
Here is an example of what was done by Executive Order. Having
determined that the actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Zimbabwe and other persons to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes or institutions, contributing to the deliberate breakdown in the rule of law in Zimbabwe, to politically motivated violence and intimidation in that country, and to political and economic instability in the southern African region, constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States
The EU for its part has
imposed various sanctions measures against named Ministers and officials of the Government of Zimbabwe. The measures were -
--an arms embargo,
--a ban on technical assistance, financing and financial assistance related to military activities,
--a ban on the supply of equipment that could be used for internal repression
--a visa ban for Ministers and officials and their spouses, and
--a freeze of the assets belonging to the Ministers and officials.

The arms embargo encompasses the sale, supply or transfer of arms and related material (including military vehicles, ammunition, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts), and technical advice, assistance or training related to military activities. It also prohibits the sale or supply of equipment that could be used for internal repression.
Every measure above may not be appropriate in an Ethiopian context but all serve as a valuable base for the future alliance between Ethiopian and Western interests. One issue sure to be raised by the TPLF in its defense is the boogeyman of instability. The EU had this to say on that subject
But the European Union, the Commonwealth and the African states, collectively and individually, also have responsibilities to the region and they must now take action against a man who is quite literally getting away with murder. We cannot accept that to impose targeted sanctions would have "little impact", or that they would lead to a dangerous black-white split.

The decision by Mr Mugabe to delay the access to information and protection of privacy bill and the announcement that some foreign journalists and observers will be allowed in to Zimbabwe to cover the March election (however cynical this may be) comes only after threats have been made to freeze Mr Mugabe's assets abroad.

The only certainties, if Mr Mugabe wins, are that he will unleash a terrible vengeance against his political opponents and a refugee crisis, directly affecting Britain and the EU, will follow. The question is not "Can we afford to risk sanctions?", but "Can we afford not to?"
That terrible vengeance is coming to pass there. For example, Mugabe named 'Operation Clean Out the Trash' himself to destroy the homes of 700,000 allegedly illegal squatters who also just happened to represent oppostition to his rule. The African Union, which was blessed the TPLF 'election' and those of Mengistu as well, found nothing wrong in the sudden de-housing of all those victims of Mugabe.

As we see above, the West, the US and the EU both, did not hesitate to act boldly in Zimbabwe against individuals held responsible for particular crimes. This was done despite the fake issue of risk of a tribal / racial split or of great harm done to Zimbabweans because greater benefits for all were seen in action - just as there was in South Africa two decades ago.


Food aid and aid related to health should not be an issue for obvious reasons. All other aid and budget support should be on the table as a level playing field is sought in Ethiopian affairs. To do this an alliance must be created to ensure the natural partnership in these circumstances between Ethiopians and the West.

It should be noted that it is the weakness and the structural failure mandated by TPLF policies that has brought everyone to a situation where foreigners are needed to help Ethiopians against their own government.

Appeals will certainly be made to pride, history and nationalism on this point but they are obviously not to be taken seriously. For example, after decades of belittling all Ethiopian and Tigrayan history before 1975, the TPLF all of a sudden celebrated the return of the Axum obelisk this year just as in 1998 it all of a sudden remembered the convenient emotional call of Ethiopian history.

Appeals to the suffering of Ethiopians must be understood based on the fact that it is the policies of the TPLF that are making Ethiopians suffer to begin with. There is no determined history or holy book anywhere that consigns Ethiopians to misery and beggar status.

All Ethiopians need to advance the way nations all over the world have is the chance to do so. All of the basic raw materials already exist in the Ethiopian mind. In terms of the potential of the physical setting even more potential exists.

Policy changes must be based on ECONOMIC and POLITICAL factors that are inseperable but that may be considered seperately.

Economic Conditions

There should be a set of Neo-Sullivan principles based on the Cotonou Agreement. Cotonou is adequate but a new decision to enforce it practically is needed.

It should be noted that the private sector and foreign direct investment are totally dominated by the party / government or very tiny in scope. Thus attention will by necessity be directed towards knowledge of and sanctions against the party / government apparatus or rather particular individuals within it.

--Aid money should be directed to specific projects as much as possible. For example, the building of one bridge or a point to point road project that is not open ended and whose costs should be known
--There should be absolute transparency in all government agencies and private contractors that deal with aid money as a condition for aid and contracts
--This will reveal the not so hidden but totally non transparent web of government / party / crony enterprises and businesses that dominate the economy and shut out the benefits of competition

Why not? There is absolutely no compelling reason for the financial dealings of any government official or anyone else who deals with sums of public money to have any degree of secrecy at all. This is normal practice in most prosperous democracies and all nations fastest on the way to escaping poverty and being free.

This will also do away with once and for all, unfair charges of corruption. The innocent will be spared attention and these means should allow those few who benefit most from corrupt practices to be positively identified.

--There should be fairness mandated in providing contracts based on aid that should benefit the whole private sector and not only those who are most in synch with or actually part of the hydra headed empire of government / party / business.

--At some point, unless the essential fairness of the above points is met, budget support aid should become conditional on meeting the above goals. To do this either an independent agency or company should be enlisted to serve as a corps of national auditors.

Just as the opposition is protected by the constant attention of aid donors, a group of accountants and translators should have the same commitment of interest granted them to carry out with international participants a thorough check of the books.

All government spending dependent on aid budget support as well as associated business enterprises connected financially to government and party officials should be subjected to such attention.

--Far more important than all of the above there should be insistence on the issue of land privitization. Every country without land rights is poor and despotic according to the degree of freedom given. This is a fact without exception in human history.

This is also crucial in terms of limiting the web of debt, agricultural marketing controls, access to essentials such as salt & sugar and the distribution of land based on political controls that party /government businesses and inseparable local authorities use to control the vast majority of the rural populace.

If aid is not to be wasted and Ethiopians are to be recognized as the ultimate authors of their own success they should be given the same set of tools that donor nations had to become self sufficient and then wealthy.

Political Conditions

There are certainly enough political implications to the economics section above but more directed goals are needed to serve the interests of Ethiopians and the West in terms of Neo-Sullivan Principles or an aggressive Cotonou Agreement.

Aid beyond food and health projects should be subject to not only good governance and transparency as defined above but also on human rights practices. Of course, such decisions should be based, just as above, on WHO is making decisions and WHO benefits from bad practices in any realm.

--There should be an insistence on an investigation of the events of the Addis Ababa Massacre of June 6-8 with international participation. A model for this is the investigation in Lebanon / Syria led by UN officials into the car bombing murder of opponents to Syrian control.

The requests detailed in the EU Parliamentary complaint about the 'election' are largely sufficient to provide for the further development of democracy.

--Knowledge from every source open and hidden utilizing leaks, audits and frank intelligence collection should determine which individuals and organizations within the party / business / government structure give orders and carry out acts in violation of human rights.

--Military aid and security aid may not have to be cut if a clear distinction is made between military and security aid that is used for internal repression and that used for external defense.

This is of particular importance especially as the Eritrean issue heats up (rather convenient timing right?) and Al Quaeda, (which certainly is a threat but one exagerated conveniently) is suddenly discovered under every rock. Seperation of internal and external issues should also serve to show that the military does not serve as an occupying force.


The main argument about using aid dependency as a weapon against bad governance is that the common people will suffer. Using the Cotonou Agreement as a starting point and Sullivan like principles it is possible to identify particular individuals who are making decisions and their own financial intersts and to sanction them while sparing the larger nation and economy and certainly doing less harm than the TPLF is already doing.

Given an EU and / or US policy like this, anyone within the infernal web of inseperable party / government / business who makes a decision to be corrupt or who causes the violation of human rights will be INDIVIDUALLY accountable for their decisions and should expect
--that they will be locked out of decisions or access to all funds from foreign aid or budget support either as party members, government officials or businessmen
--that all of their foreign funds, holdings and investments will be frozen and subject to suit from those violated by the decisions made by those individuals
--that they will be banned from travel to participating nations and in fear of extradition from others - particularly for orders for violence of incitement of it
--that the chain of political command and the identical web of financial interests will be held accountable in a gradual spreading fashion based on known relationships and structures of control
--that their partners will be sanctioned according to the continual presence and associations that they have with illicit practices of corrupt and violence ordering individuals
--that no longer under any circumstances will 'following orders' or 'everyone is doing it' be excuses for corrupt and criminal acts

The examples of South Africa in the past and Zimbabwe today provide precedent for this while the fact that the TPLF is far more subject to influence by such pressures by its own insistence on economic failure as a strategy for power helps all considerations.

Ultimately the aim of identifying accountable responsible parties is the reform not only of Ethiopian governance at large but particularly that of the TPLF. As often as in this post alone we have identified the TPLF as a problem it is not essentially an obstacle to progress.

The obstacles are not amidst the great majority of well meaning party members but amidst the vanishing few of the revolutionary feudal aristocracy and nobility whose interests run counter to those of their own party and country.

Reform and advancement in Ethiopia is impossible without reform and advancement within the TPLF. Most of its members without doubt recognize the benefits of tried and true policies to gain freedom and prosperity and are sick and tired of silly mantras of absurd ideologies.

At this point, in a system that is to be democratic, no one is yet beyond redemption. What should be done to bring about peaceful change is to leverage the mutual interests of all Ethiopians and the West against the politburo and its minions. The party / government / business machine may have chosen the West as a constituency rather than Ethiopians but all things are fluid and mutual self interest can be found in a variety of combinations.

Of course, there is little chance of all of the above ever happening anytime soon. But ... the West does appear to be moving in that general direction ... in combination with the actions of the opposition it will ultimately lead to much good for Ethiopians.


This will be the last of the long ethiopundit posts for a little while. Some definitely enjoy them long and others just tolerate them while wishing for shorter ones. We always write what we would want to read - and that has always worked with readers either way. We started this blog with the aim of building a basis of argument, brick by brick, against the essential defining and BAD policies of this government. Our aim was also to identify rational, tried and true solutions that were no secret to all the decent governments on earth.

Simply put, we are right about the unrivaled potential for liberal democracy, capitalism and the rejection of all extreme ideologies to improve human life anywhere on earth. What we have to say is backed up by centuries of human experience at delivering freedom and plenty to ordinary humans everywhere.

After all, none of this is rocket science - it is just common sense - some ideas always fail and others always work. Even when judgement is not so simple, some ideas always do far worse than others. Many of these issues have been defined in the Ethiopian context for far too long by totalitarian and doomed to fail ideologies, that to our revulsion have been the basis of government.

So ... at sixteen months and counting we will finish the projects we have begun, but in blog posts at least, that will never again exceed one page unless it is a rerun - and to be satisfied with shorter ones overall.

Tuesday, October 18

Ethio-Jazz and a few links

We are passing on some information from a radio producer interested in Ethiopian music who is presenting Ethio-Jazz with Mulatu Astatqé and the Either/Orchestra

Open Source, a nationally syndicated public radio show based in Boston is putting together a radio program for this Wednesday, Oct. 12th discussing Mulatu Astatke and the Ethiopique series, and the connection his work implies between Ethiopian and Western music.

Anyone interested in listening about or commenting on the artist himself or on why jazz musicians from these two regions of the world have found a common accord can visit the site .

Stop Repression - What else is more important! is a new Ethio-blog worth visiting. Weichegud hits the nail on the donor - regime head just so. Booker Rising is as good as ever as is Foreign Dispatches. rogue classicism is a new discovery that followed naturally from looking forward to every episode of HBO's Rome. The Sporadic Chronicle of Things and Happenings of Some Interest is always interesting. Gateway Pundit is worth visiting too.

Monday, October 17

Tag Team

We feel better about the united opposition to the Ethiopian government every day and as a result the prospects for Ethiopia‘s future seem ever brighter. They seem to know exactly what they are doing and they regularly display the confidence and the characteristics necessary to take on the Meles regime and eventually to lead Ethiopia.

First, the opposition isn't playing the regime’s game. Meles and his party view politics as a zero sum game with life or death stakes. The ruling party approach to politics is indistinguishable from its approach to intrigue or war either within its own party or with an armed enemy. Infiltration, propaganda, intimidation and from ambush particularly directed or mass violence is the regime’s own language.

The party history is re-written on a continuous basis and there is no concept of abstract morality or right and wrong beyond what serves the politburo at that moment in every case. Within or outside the party there is also no concept of equals in agreement or argument. There is only a strict hierarchy of ruler or the ruled in a rigid pyramid of discipline with Meles at the top and a heap of compromised and crushed souls at every level below..

By definition the people want Meles to rule forever and by definition anyone who doesn’t is against the people. That does not leave much room for civilized political exchange because following the logic of the will of the people, anything that Meles does against anyone is only proper. After all Meles is the people of Ethiopia -by definition.

Outwardly the government can only bluster and threaten dire consequences because money wielding ferenjis are watching. Below the radar in Addis or out in the countryside terror rules openly among the opposition and Ethiopians in general.

In astonishing displays of bravery at all levels the people keep standing up to be counted. Even where they have been beaten down and had their folks killed and tortured around them they had made their opinions know as they did in the brief, mistaken democratic window granted them. They represent the ultimate silent majority and force.

The people all over the country and the opposition are using every peaceful means at their disposal to resist. The government can plant guns or explosives on people and stage violence and fake news stories and tribalist pamphlets but no one is fooled - if they ever were anyway. With time the government just grows more shrill and abusive.

By not playing the government’s game the opposition is retaining freedom of action and credibility while deftly avoiding the ultimate fate of speaking the only real language the government knows - violence. The opposition always speaks maturely and reasonably without bombast or threats if you actually listen to it and not what the government says about it.

Their actions are transparent and not at all tricky. Actually at some point there was said to be a spy for the government broadcasting all internal business. He or she was probably not alone in this classic regime move - but it doesn't matter. The opposition has no real secrets anyway - what you see is what you get.

They do what they say they will and if they change their minds, they just say so with no sense of shame or weakness because they know their mission and themselves like grownups. This sort of peaceful and reasoned but principled and stubborn opposition is more of a nightmare for the regime than a massive guerrilla uprising would be.

Second, the opposition is not afraid of internal disagreement. The maturity displayed by regularly disagreeing with each other without purges and murders and life long enemies being made is what we most admire about the opposition. The way they react to disagreement today is the way they will treat opposition once they are in power and it is reassuring beyond all expectations for the development of a genuinely democratic culture and prosperity.

Basically, this makes us confident that unlike the ruling party that the opposition does not need to have the whole pie for itself or to see everyone bow down before it in humiliation and submission. Even now, outside of office, they are showing us their respect for people and the choices they make. They also seem to recognize that people may have a purpose beyond immediate political utility.

They are acting like democratic players from all over the world who expect of themselves and of others civilized participation in a system of give and take. It is politics after all so they are all men on a mission and they are also very ambitious. That is great - good politics should channel natural ambition and interest into the common good by the competition of words, without bullets involved it is all good.

But they dare to do so with respect for other men and most of all without ongoing jealousy and rancor. From a stock market and parliamentary debates to courtrooms and junior high school elections in Ethiopia’s future this is a profound and revolutionary factor that has been introduced into the country.

Consider how the main opposition figures have definite structures but that leaders and deputies routinely speak for each other across party lines and across internal party barriers as well. THEY TRUST EACH OTHER and ARE CONFIDENT.

As far as we know Meles has no single named single deputy in the party or government that is just assumed to have a right to an opinion or position absent ongoing support from the top. Why? Fear and the possibility that anyone could rise up at anytime given a chance is the reason.

The victor would then re-write history as convenient with Meles as hero or villain - whatever it took at that particular moment to maneuver around and rise to the top. Anyone who did not jump right on a new anti-Meles party line would be in as much trouble then as they would be today if they were anti-Meles.

Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties that have ever admired Enver Hoxha and his Albanian nightmare are not natural settings for the trust that internal party or national democracy and prosperity need. They are instead incubators of intrigue and suspicion and vengeance and trickery and by necessity - violence.

Ethiopia deserves better.

Notice that the inseparable ruling party / government / judiciary / legislature / press machine ALWAYS speaks with one voice.

No one should be surprised by this - all of the above are just the hydra like heads of one beast. It is the very model of a Bolshevik-Maoist structure of a party-state with a little bit of corporatist crony monopoly capitalism grafted onto it (doesn’t that sound like a description of a fascist state?) to accommodate the successes of the imperialist camp (what the government calls aid donors) in the Cold War.

That tight ruling party discipline is actually a sign of profound weakness. It means that they don’t trust anyone - especially those closest to them. To dissent or disagree or break with the regime one has to defect or naturally expect to be treated far worse than the opposition is. Turning away from revolutionary democracy is like committing the vilest act of heresy or apostasy in an unforgiving religion.

What this means is that it takes far more real commitment and actual discipline to be a member of the opposition to such a regime. That is the hard road after all and the faint hearted don’t begin it and stay on it easily. In contrast, the regime despite all of its efforts trusts no one because it knows very well that it can’t trust itself.

The government, as we said, wants obedient subjects, not partners. The partners it does tolerate are partners in crime who lose a bit of them selves in pursuit of property or position or just the easy way in life. Its supporters are people who by force or circumstance and very seldom by choice become part of a vanguard party that treats them like minions and not like men.

Between harassment and intimidation, spying and subverting one’s own spirit and those of others, always in the party’s service, supporters can not but feel a continual internal sense of complicity in wrong. ‘Only following orders’ or ‘everyone is doing it’ or ‘the others are worse’ can only serve for just so long.

We predict that in the months or few years ahead that the regime and the party at its core will implode from the steady yet peaceful moral pressure of the Ethiopian people in opposition to it.

That is just what happened in Eastern Europe and the USSR. The Ethiopian government, like it did in June will try to put the Chinese alternative and Tiananmen Square on the table but ultimately, the poverty its own system generates along with dependence on the world's money will make that a losing option. They still may take it but that will only seal its fate.

At some point the supporters of the government will recognize the time to admit that their own traditional and essential human morality learned in their community and homes was right all along has come, though they were afraid to reveal that fact openly.

They will shout out how far from human is the Marxist-Leninist mental colonialism from abroad that has subjugated them. The know now and will know better that they want something the party can not give them.

A sense of purpose and meaning as well as a vision of the future that is not based on force, fear and the demonization of their fellow Ethiopians - but calls on hope - for a change.

Third, no one is afraid of the opposition but the government. In every way in Ethiopia and with the diaspora, just about everyone takes advantage of opportunities to tear into the opposition. The government and its supporters do in a characteristically shrill and ad hominem manner routinely that would be silly if it did not promise deadly force.

What is really fantastic to us is how often critics of the government and supporters of the opposition pull no punches in their critique of the opposition. We think this is wonderful beyond our ability to describe it.

Why? People who want the opposition to rule, disagree with it openly and frequently because they want to help it be better or just to be what they want it to be effective or even keep its promises - mainly and the most healthy reason of all is that they sincerely feel that they own the opposition - that it is theirs and it has an obligation to hear them out and be influenced by them.

Now how is that for real democratic culture?! It is truly wonderful and marvelous is it not? We just choke up thinking about it - seriously.

What it all means is that they all trust the opposition to behave totally unlike the Ethiopian government of Meles or that of Mengistu. People critical of either government did or do so at great risk to liberty, limb or life. Totalitarian parties have long memories for disrespect and vengeance.

Government supporters are simply afraid to be critical in any way even if the criticism is constructive. THEY ARE TERRIFIED OF THE GOVERNMENT more than the opposition is. Cadres know very well the legal and moral crimes that they routinely commit against their own fellow cadres and opponents alike and are thus familiar with what lies in store for themselves if they think unapproved thoughts or even worse - dare to voice them.

They also know that their own hands are dirty and can only justify their own weak behavior by louder and more aggressive behavior to prove themselves and to direct fire away from themselves. It is a structure that dehumanizes all who touch it within and without while demanding subservience in the same manner that cowboys break the spirit of a horse. They endure in the system to give themselves some illusion of purpose beyond the whims of those above them.

It is likely the case that much of the brutality of every manner directed against opponents is a result of trying to silence the internal guilt of knowing better from what tradition and family have taught them but being unable to face their own weak reality as a cog in an immoral machine. They seem to have viciousness in direct proportion to the earnestness of their opponents.

Try getting a government supporter to make any critique of the government in any way at all. They simply can't do it. It is like asking someone to forsake God. Now try the same with an opposition supporter and try and get them to criticize the opposition - you won't be able to shut them up. That is all a sign of great strength of the opposition and the clear insecurity and weakness of the government.

The only way a criticism will be allowed is when particular permission is given for the sake of infiltration and seeming reasonable in civilized circles. For example, the odd throwaway remark about the land policy is done only along the lines of a script handed down from far above and attempts to make the speaker seem open minded.

Presumably cadres should have to submit themselves to ritual cleansing after such missions.

Another example where extraordinary written permission may be needed is when loud abusive insults are directed at the government by its agents. The purpose there is classic Leninist infiltration to draw out hidden opponents in the flock and to discredit the opposition. Having thus established 'street credibility' an assault on the opposition may be launched that is supposed to find more receptive ears.

Often such calls are made with demands for anti-government violence and tribal insults and other ad hominem attacks. Even when no one is fooled, a purpose is served by such performances. Everyone just feels stupid and silly to even be in the company or the same room and interested in the same subject as the performer.

Participation on the sacred party ground of politics is thus discouraged by often successful but indirect means. Willing participants in the ruling party games are actually rather sad to contemplate seriously. Those at home may have untold pressures brought to bear on them but those abroad are real subjects for study.

Some who even use their children as props in the party service are beyond contempt and can only be pitied for what they have allowed themselves to become. All who serve as cadres in the cozy midst of free socities where they endeavor to recreate a culture of fear and to enable it at home are certainly beyond moral understanding.

What excuses can they have for being the personal handmaidens of totalitarianism or of a foreign government while they take full advantage of every opportunity in their new locations.

We say location instead of home because for many immigration is a matter of physical movement with brains always enslaved to forces far away. Did they go to free countries like carriers of a disease - to bring bits of dictatorship in their wake like it was some treasured part of their country's culture?

No, they left to be free but proved too weak to ever free more than their physical bodies from domination. It is beyond civilized understanding to contemplate someone who can cross oceans and continents to become agents, cadres and spies as though their earthly existence was nothing more than an eternal hell of loyal vanguard party membership of servitude.

The human spirit deserves more than that.

Presumably after such a loyal party performance a ritual cleansing is no longer good enough but a brief period of re-education and particular attention from internal party spies may be necessary to make sure nothing was internalized out there amongst the non-revolutionary democratic infidels.

Intensive participation in an intensive gimgema (criticism / self criticism) sessions may also be required to root out any independent thought that might have sprung up from exposure to free minds. Can anyone picture the opposition running a gimgema?

Of course not! People would just refuse to participate because they trust the opposition to behave in a civilized way ... and it would meet their expectations by never trying such nonsense anyway. Every Ethiopian deserves better than constant calls to the very worst parts of human nature that the government considers the basic coin it spends to rule.

Fourth, the opposition plans ahead. and they think. Man oh man do they plan ahead and think. We see that like a grand champion team at a chessboard that their minds have together wrapped themselves around every possibility and have a plan for it.

Ultimately we think that they know the regime better than it knows itself. Certainly they know Ethiopians far better than the regime does.

At every stage before, during and after the ‘election’ they not only defied predictions with their reasoned tenacity but did so with particular care taken with domestic and foreign opinion and expectations. Without going over every event in the past months let us just look at the past weeks.

No matter what the government says it is in reaction mode to the opposition - the opposition sets the agenda. They plan rallies and strikes, behave and judge in measured terms the risks and benefits and change their plans accordingly. They are always reasonable and never abusive in the face of the worst violence, abuse and ad attacks.

With no domestic press available they involve the common man as best they can and engage the diplomatic corps with care but never with timidity. The aid donors want nothing more than to have the opposition just go away with a nice pat on the head for playing the democracy game (they weren't supposed to take seriously) but they continue to defy everyone with dignity and the patient accumulation of a long list of carefully thought out positions and responses.

The opposition is painstakingly painting the regime and the donor community into a moral and practical box where there are no secrets and reality is presented in stark relief. If the government does what comes naturally and starts shooting there is a long record of opposition behavior in trying times that provides no excuses or exits for or from such a situation for anyone concerned.

Now CUD did not enter Parliament and the UEDF did. Is this a victory for the regime? No, it is actually far worse for the government than if both did not enter or if both did enter together. Having attempted to split the opposition all along what the regime is presented with is not a split but a strategy.

When the rubber stamp Parliament voted to threaten CUD with a withdrawal of parliamentary immunity on the same day it was accused yet again of being a violent outlaw force, UEDF within parliament made news by clearly disagreeing and making it principled positions know before all.

After all, if the UEDF has joined up it can’t be continuously scourged the way CUD is even if they are on the same page. That would not make sense in the regime’s own picture of pretend logic and that of aid donors as well.

This arrangement will prove to be a nightmare for the regime in the end and they have very few reasonable looking options for dealing with it. In a way the opposition is playing ‘good cop, bad cop’ from without and within, while it has also set the rules of the game being played out before an international audience.

The donors who finance Ethiopia’s dictatorship weren’t willing to go all out for the opposition. Why should they after all? They are there to look out for their own national interests and to use the rewards their own societies provide them in abundance to give some degree of humanitarian aid. They know full well that Ethiopia’s government is the main reason that Ethiopia is in bad shape.

The best they can do is assure that some democratic opening exists in a totalitarian system because at some level of violence all are aware there will be consequences in the withdrawal of aid. The regime hopes to avoid that by threatening national failure and chaos while using manageable levels of brute force to rule indefinitely.

The opposition has to play a very deft hand and juggle these forces while serving the general interest. It has come so far and done so well so far against a brutal despotism while saving the nation from the threat of a new round of civil war which is the government's counterfeit trump card and ultimate fake raison d'etre.

Given Ethiopian circumstances in 2005 what we are seeing is the equivalent of Gandhi in action against colonialism and Martin Luther King against Jim Crow. We have asked our readers to try a little thought experiment before.

Close your eyes and imagine Ethiopia's politburo was white. Immediately you would picture South African apartheid or a struggle against colonialism. The whole world would rise up with you calling for sanctions and disinvestment.

Why should dictators get any credit just for happening to look like the people they abuse?

While the Ethiopian government is missing the essential capacity for shame that worked so well directed back against the British or against the American South. The window provided by foreign eyes on Ethiopia is creating an atmosphere where daring and principled men and women may lead their people to freedom

We have said before that this is a struggle just like all of Ethiopia’s united efforts against centuries of foreign invaders and it is. This time war is not an option and once again Ethiopians of every region, tribe and religion are rising to meet the new challenge of non violent change just like they did with arms when called for against Italy, Somalia and the Dergue.

Oromo, Amhara, Tigrayan, Gurage, Agew, Anuak and all others deserve better than what now pretends to speak for them singly or together.

The regime has been out of ideas for thirty years now and its options are slowly shrinking and being managed for them. Like an evil Samson they may yet try to take down the whole Temple with them, but given what Ethiopians of every kind from everywhere have shown of themselves for centuries and what they have displayed just this year- the good guys will win in the end.

It may not happen tomorrow and there is a hard road ahead but things are going the right way. Ethiopians finally have some leaders that deserve their support.

Saturday, October 15

Economic Absurdities

This post will take a look at a number of economic issues. They reveal an ever more disturbing image of the Ethiopian economy whose only growth sector is foreign aid and foreign remittances. First some background ...

According to the World Bank in 2003 FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) for all of SSA (Sub-Saharan Africa), with a total of 705 million souls, was $10.1 billion. That same year FDI for Ethiopia, with a population of 69 million souls, was $60 million. So FDI works out to $14 per capita for Sub Saharan Africa and $0.87 per capita from Ethiopia. The trend for Ethiopia’s FDI figure is actually on the way down while that for SSA in general is on the way up.

The piece below is a jumble of irrelevant good news / factoids / unsupported statements that leave the unquestioning reader with the impression that this government is doing something right economically. Let us take a look at it, originally from the government ENA via the Sudan Tribune. “UN say foreign investment increases in Ethiopia”
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flow to Ethiopia has shown an increase.
See above, was the increase $1 billion or $1 million? It could be $0.01 and still meet the standards of this article.
This year’s International investment report was released on Monday at the United Nations Conference Center (UNCC).
Sounds really important and official doesn’t it? We suspect that even the UN does a better job of organizing information than this article would have us believe.
Speaking at the occasion Director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Augustin Fosu said Ethiopia, which is among promising African countries for FDI during the current European year, stands 12 in its FDI share from other African countries.
Ethiopia with a population of about 70 million is second in size of population only to Nigeria in SSA and third in line after Nigeria and Egypt. Is Egypt included in this ranking? Even if we are to believe that Ethiopia is #12 what could that possibly mean when so many far smaller countries are so far ahead? The article doesn’t want you to think about such things.
Some 233 billion USD FDI flow was registered since 2000 E.C, the report indicated, adding some 36 percent of the stated amount was [the]share of developing countries.
Now we see more playing fast and loose with the numbers. The $233 bn over 5 years sounds good but only a bit of that is for developing countries - so why mention it at all - and Ethiopia with less than $300 mn over that time represents so little of that total this figure is useless besides its ability to cloud some men’s minds.
On the contrary, the report said, FDI flow to developed countries has fallen by some 14 percent during the reported period.
FDI to developed countries is down? We don’t believe this at all, increased oil prices alone have probably meant far more petrodollars were sent on to investments in North America and Europe not to mention steady European investment in the US and vice versa. Actually the $233 bn figure for all FDI is ridiculously small over a five year period worldwide. This article is just plain silly.
The report further said Africa has obtained the biggest share of FDI flow and infrastructure development, while South Africa stands first among African nations.
This is also nonsense. We are to believe of all FDI that Africa got most of it? Does ‘infrastructure development’ count as FDI? In that case every development program in Ethiopia should add hundreds of millions to Ethiopia’s FDI because almost all is paid for by donors from the imperialist camp (what the government calls foreign aid donors).
The activities being carried out in the sector by developing countries would enable them forge coordination in attracting FDI, it was indicated.
Why should they forge coordination? They are in competition for FDI. File this one under absurd. In the next sentence more confusion. What does the fate of the developed economies below have to do with anything above? Over what period is it? Does it really make sense to discuss Ethiopia‘s FDI along with the countries below?
Britain, Singapore and Korea have registered increase in FDI, while China, India and Singapore have taken over half of research and study activities during the stated period, the report said.
This article is characteristic of a combination of ashattir (trickery) and sloppiness on this subject. Just throwing around a bunch of numbers from a real source with no context or background is not silly reporting - it is lazy propaganda.


Here is another article, this time from People’s Daily Online. The Chinese government's news agencies seem to be offering the Ethiopian government at least one deceptively positive news item every week in exchange for the endorsement of the invasion of Taiwan by Ethiopia’s government.

Here is the title “Impoverished Ethiopia stands first in Africa in cost effectiveness for FDI” It is hard to figure out where the news came from - the Ethiopian Investment Commission or the magazine, "Foreign Direct Investment," published by the British-based Financial Times Business Ltd.
In its 2005-2006 evaluation, the magazine said Ethiopia is favorable for foreign direct investment with its "cheaper labor" and "suitable infrastructural development," among others.

Meanwhile, the commission said Ethiopia has licensed foreign investment projects with an aggregate capital of 1.1 billion US dollars since last year. The liberalizing direction taken by the Ethiopia government over the past 12 years, beginning with the economic reform program launched in 1992, has resulted in improvements in the areas of trade policy, foreign investment and government intervention, it said.
The news is mixed up so no one thinks about what it says too much and all just goes away with a pleasant buzz about the actaully tanking Ethiopian economy. Ethiopian labor is cheap because it is the poorest nation on earth - because the economy is horribly managed, it is shrinking and there is staggering unemployment.

An enterprising, well managed government plan could turn those factors to advantage by welcoming investment whose profits and taxes could be converted into capital, human and physical, for development. However, the Ethiopian government views economic development and the enfranchisment that brings as a threat to its hold on power.

The revolutionary feudal aristocracy has made a choice to keep Ethiopia a permanent beggar nation to maximize their own control and to short-circuit accountability with foreign governments and intellectuals controlling aid placed in the loop to bypass Ethiopians. The wretchedness that is a natural product of that policy is seen as an acceptable price for the massess to pay.

Infrastructure development as we have said is initiated and paid for entirely by the imperialist camp of aid donors while the government has essentially abdicated responsibility for that development beyond accepting projects and money while making sure government / party / crony owned businesses get the lion’s share of domestic contracts.

Beyond the fact that the government / party / business control or outright monopolize most of the economy at all levels there is no private ownership of land - a prerequisite of development everywhere at every time in human history. Now, while the World Bank says that annual FDI is in the $60 mn range we are expected to believe that $1.1 bn in ‘licensed foreign investment projects’ has been forthcoming in the past year.

The IMF says that “"contributions of industry and the private services sector remained essentially unchanged, and Ethiopia’s growth potential remained largely untapped.” Indeed economic activity and growth in limited urban sectors is based solely on foreign aid and remittances from Ethiopians who live abroad.

Aside from those limited urban sectors of which the government / part / crony machine is dominant future projections show increasing urban and rural poverty ahead. The government has neither the policies or the inclination to change them to actually attract FDI and to develop.

Instead it relies on dreams of massive aid in the form of the Millenial Development Goals and bits of propaganda like these two articles to convince us otherwise. After all who is really going to invest in a country that prattles on about revolutionary democracy anyway?

There is an open working assumption in the world today that keeping Ethiopians alive and caring for their future is a job for ferenjis and not their rulers. We have seen this kind of nonsense before when economic growth was trumpeted but was actually dependent on rain, diaspora remittances and foreign aid alone.

See these posts for an assortment of government lies and truths: 'Zenawinomics' and the Aztec gods' about high 2003-4 'growth' and On Borrowed Time about historical 2004-5 'growth'. See Ethnicity , Poverty and War and Malthus, Hobbes and the Red Queen to see that things are going to get worse in all economic sectors in the future if current policies continue.

let the ferenjis feed 'em ... again looks at how agricultural figures were lied about by the government in the run-up to the election which then got into aggressive begging mode to get food aid by making the imperialist camp look bad for not giving aid earlier.


What is the true state of affairs regarding FDI? This Daily Monitor article, 'Ethiopia's FDI Inflows Decline' on September 30, 2004 (no link available) lays it all out in much better form.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows to Ethiopia in 2003 has declined compared to the level attained in 2000, revealed 2004 World Investment Report launched by UN Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD.

According to the report, the percentage of the country's Gross Fixed Capital Formation was 5.4 percent in 2003, the increment deemed low by any standard. The report shows that the FDI to Gross Fixed Capital Formation for Africa in same year was 13.9 percent while it stood at 10 percent for developing countries.

Ethiopia's FDI stocks have however improved significantly the last five years, the report noted. "As a percentage of GDP, the country's FDI stocks have increased from 1.8 percent in 1990 to 16.5 percent in 2003." The registered FDI stocks in Africa's GDP same year is 25.3 percent while it was 31.4 percent for developing countries.

Despite its meagre share of the world FDI, 2.7 percent, Africa has reversed the downward trend in its FDI and reported an increase from 12 billion US dollars in 2002 to 15 billion US dollars in 2003.

According to the report Morocco was the largest FDI inflow in 2003 in the continent, followed by Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Sudan and South Africa.

The report indicates that for a third year in a row, global flows of FDI continued their downward trend in 2003, reaching 560 billion US dollars-the lowest level since 1998, and a far cry from 1.39 trillion registered in 2000.

According to the report, Africa's outlook for FDI in 2004 and beyond is promising.
Wasn't that a whole lot more easy to make sense of than the other pieces? Basically, FDI in 1990 was so unbelievably, rock bottom low that it is now, in still bad circumstances, higher. However, it is far behind the rest of Africa and even as most of Africa experiences increases in FDI, Ethiopia continues to experience decreases.

Global FDI flows in the very high hundreds of billions of dollars make more sense too don't they? Ethiopia's FDI since the fall of the Dergue has been affected most by one investor, the Midroc Group. Indeed, Ethiopia's FDI is so small that the Sheraton Hotel alone represents over five years worth of ALL foreign investment in the country.


Here is another subject that has escaped attention of late - that of taxation. Here is the first article from the Addis Tribune 'Parliament to Approve Controvential Value Added Tax Proclamation'

Uncritical observers figure the word 'Parliament' by itself has some actual meaning by necessity. However, right off the mark this is rather silly because Parliament is not a serious institution - it does what the party bosses want it to do and only exists as a fig leaf over despotism.

How did the VAT do? From Nazaret.Com (we have no link to the original article source) 'Ethiopia champions unpopular VAT for developing African nations'
Ethiopia said Wednesday that a highly unpopular value added tax (VAT) put in place two years ago is now responsible for 43 percent of its tax revenue and urged other developing African nations to adopt the scheme.

Earnings from the 15-percent VAT now amount to 43 percent of the money taken in by Ethiopia's Federal Inland Revenue Authority (FIRA) in 2004-2005, said the head of the agency, Woldegebriel Naizgi, said.

Officials said FIRA had collected the equivalent of 390.4 million dollars (319.2 million euros) in taxes in 2004-2005, of which VAT and related tariffs accounted for the largest single chunk.
First of all, is this a substitute tax or a new tax? Second, for a country with a GNP less than $7 billion this represents a massive tax increase under any circumstances. The tax applies to nearly all consumer goods and services excluding medicine, fuel, transport, milk and bread.

No rational government just takes over 6% of GNP all of a sudden in new taxes, even if tax collection was poor before. The economic affects are definitely very destructive. This is like the US government collection of an extra $720 billion one year than it did the year before.
"As VAT requires strict use of invoices, the sales and consequently, the profits of many companies have gone up resulting in a higher intake of tax," Woldegebriel said, stressing the benefits of adopting the system.
How utterly ridiculous.Taking money away from a business and forcing it to make customers pay more for everything is really DOING THEM A FAVOR!
"We know VAT is an uphill task not just in Ethiopia but in the rest of Africa too but it is worth it to fight," he said. "VAT should be appreciated not only from revenue perspective but also as an important tool in promoting trade discipline and transparency."
Transparency is a polite word for corruption and as we have seen Ethiopia is more corrupt today than ever before and is rated by Transparency International to be one of the most corrupt states in the world.

The corruption is structural meaning that it is built into the system of inseperable party / government / party-government owned businesses. How much do you want to bet that the government party businesses aren't paying their fare share of this massive tax increase or that they pay any taxes at all?

In fact, the party's own Revolutionary Democratic Manual for control under the guise of free markets and democracy holds that taxation is a weapon
the state's fiscal instruments would be used to "destroy those that are not in line with the goals of Revolutionary Democracy." For example, the power to tax could be used as the power to destroy.

As the strategy document indicates, the government "will reduce or write off for some years the taxes due from those forces or economic spheres" which the Front supports and "pile up the tax burden" of those the EPRDF does not support.


As we discussed in this post, Cognitive Dissonance, the whole concept of FDI and economic growth in Ethiopia is not taken seriously by the government. One official in charge of FDI drops this bit of unbelievable wisdom
He sees these investors as interested in financial gain rather than the good of Ethiopia.
We'll leave it to you dear reader to dissect that one.

One flower growing company moved to Ethiopia from Kenya recently and we saw big headlines but the fact that Kenya, with all of its problems and a far smaller population, gets more FDI every year after year is not news.

There are also occasional articles about an alleged 'brain gain' whose interviewed participants are certainly very optimistic and sincere but who by no means represent a larger economic trend of any kind. The flight of tens of thousands of other mobile professionals, businessman and folk from every walk of life along with the talent and actual cash they carry with them is overwhelmingly massive by comparison - but conveniently glossed over.

When it comes to economic news from the Ethiopian government or based on news or statistics from that government the best advice is to realize that money does not like revolutionary democracies and that the economy is doing worse every year - and that the poorest country on earth is growing poorer every year.

Why believe numbers from the government at all? If all the inflated economic growth figures snce 1991 where in any conceivable way related to earthly realtiy then why has Ethiopia gone from being one of the poorest countries on earth to the poorest one on the planet?

If the government had been tellin the truth all along Ethiopia's economy would have been many times bigger now rather than continually shrinking.

Indeed, the economy is a national Cargo Cult, meaning a series of rituals and rhetoric that only mimics the practices of developed and developing nations but not their reality. Development, either political or economic, are in fact inseperable and based on INSTITUTIONS - not billions in aid or empty talk.

The Adam Smith Institute Blog looked at the Economic Freedom of the World: 2004 Report and noted that economic freedom is the best predictor of foreign investment and of
Prosperity is as possible in Asia and Africa as it is anywhere else in the world. It is not related to natural resources or to climate or to population density but only to better or worse governance.
Crispus in 'How Regulation Fuels African Poverty' quotes the Economist about the World Bank Report 'Doing Business in 2005' - "To register [a business] in Ethiopia, a would-be entrepreneur must deposit the equivalent of 18 years’ average income in a bank account, which is then frozen."

The Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom 2004 places Ethiopia in the 'mostly unfree' category and says that
Ethiopia’s cumbersome bureaucracy deters investment. Much of the economy remains under state control, and the evidence suggests that businesses also must contend with political favoritism.
Ethiomedia reports from a U.N. Economic Commission for Africa Report that that 'Ethiopia one four countries ranked last for good governance' adding of Kenya, Ethiopia, Chad, Zimbabwe and Malawi that "there are doubts about the commitment of government agencies to respect and implement the rule of law."

IRIN reports that Ethiopia receives $1.9 billion a year in foreign aid. That is for a GNP of about $7.0 billion. Remittances from socities abroad where citizens are actually allowed to earn and create wealth account for hundreds of millions of more dollars.

The $90 per capita GNP today represents less than one quarter of the same figure from 1975. It has continued to drop even since the fall of the Dergue.

The way to plenty is no secret but Ethiopia's revolutionary feudal aristocracy is doing all the wrong things to avoid national success in the interests of their will to power. This post, The Birth of Plenty, describes how some countries have managed it and categorizes the errors of contemporary governance.

This post, Luck and the Idea Trap takes a look at why bad decisions are made and is not optimistic about the options under the current government.

Basically, next time you read something about the economy, read critically and Don't Believe the Hype! Actually, don't believe ethiopundit either. Even though we are almost always right, you should suspect every thing you come across and think for yourself above all.

For example consider this; is it a coincidence that all countries in human history that cackle on about absurdities like revolutionary democracy, that limit private ownership of land and that are corrupt - are also not free and are poor?