Wednesday, July 14

Disagreement over an open letter to Tony Blair

There is a frank exchange of views on Ben's News Page where a group called the Concerned Ethiopians take issue with the appointment of the Ethiopian PM to the Commission for Africa chaired by Tony Blair. They ask that the West demand transparency and accountability of the Ethiopian government as a condition of further monetary support. They state that
African development is hampered primarily by political failure, at the domestic as well as international level, to tailor the application of sound economic principles to the unusual circumstances that prevail in Africa. This failure has less to do with incompetence than with the narrowness with which self-interest is defined by donor countries as well as by African leaderships including many of those waiting in the wings to replace them.
To make matters worse, duly “elected” African dictators who pay more attention to their paymasters in Brussels and Washington, D.C., are audacious enough to present themselves to the international community as reincarnated reformers. The complicity of donors in this morbid political dance never ceases to astound us. As the Ethiopian saying aptly puts it, “those who feign sleep will not heed wake-up calls.”
In the economic sphere, the urban and rural lands that were nationalized by the previous regime continue to be state owned. Small farmers, who enjoy neither tenure security nor food security, are being threatened by the regime’s cadres with eviction and jail for voting against government candidates or for failing to service loans for fertilizer and seeds even after being hit by successive drought and collapsing markets.
Tintag expresses his disagreement in Come not to counsel, Uncalled. He sees instead that
(T)he virtue of “Zenawinomics” – food-security plus poverty reduction, equals Rapid Economic Growth...(the Concerned Ethiopians) salvo on Ethiopia’s hard-working, pragmatic, personality-cult-allergic, and yet, misunderstood Prime Minister, only serves to highlight the presence of a virus responsible for causing blindness amongst the signatories.
(The) Press Law, which, among other things, is designed to rein in cowboy journalists without undermining the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of thought and of press, is, to our intellectuals, “draconian”.
(M)ore should be expected "from the intelligentsia by way of being appreciative of the fact that, despite political differences, it really is an act of virtue to celebrate together the honour Meles has scored for Ethiopia.
Let's see now... political opponents should feel such a rush of national pride in the makeup of various international commissions that they should simply silence themselves. Or perhaps given the new press law the state will do the silencing for them. Check out the Watch List of the International Press Institute, an global network dedicated to freedom of the press and to improving the standards and practices of journalism. Basically, according to Tintag, dissent is an indication of ill will or a sign of infection by a "virus responsible for causing blindness". The use of a medical metaphor for dissent is especially ominous in this situation.

UPDATE AdamSmithee, a blog concentrating on issues of economic development, has this to say about the interim report from the Commission for Africa following a widely publicised series of meeting including one where Tony Blair visited Ethiopia.
Commission for Africa: Exciting New Ideas!

Not really. Tony Blair's Commission for Africa has issued an interim report with the following policy conclusions: (i) the investment climate, infrastructure, trade and employment are important to foster growth which will lead to poverty reduction; (ii) more aid should be given (pehaps using the IFF mechanism) and it should be targeted at countries that use it well; (iii) there should be more debt relief.
Exactly the point - the basics of excaping poverty have never been secret. The meetings could have spent the same time and money noting that using umbrellas promotes dryness when it is raining.

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