Thursday, March 10

On Borrowed Time

a bumper crop with famine,
a boom and decline,
all at the same time ...
publicists won't solve this problem

AllAfrica reports that “Ethiopia has registered an 11.6 percent economic growth in the year 2003/4 due to a recovery from the past drought, a report disclosed yesterday.” This article titled 'Ethiopia's instable economy currently growing' sees a recovery from past drought. In the same vein Afrol reports ‘Finally, a bumper harvest in Ethiopia‘ but
the UN report also noted that - despite this strong performance - 2.2 million Ethiopians will need emergency assistance in 2005. In addition, five million people suffering from chronic hunger will receive cash and food transfers under a new safety net programme to start soon.

Agriculture is the main economic activity in Ethiopia, contributing to 45 percent of GDP with some 80 percent of the population earning a living directly or indirectly from agricultural activities. The near total dependence of the agriculture sector on rainfall makes it susceptible to the vagaries of nature and results in high variability of yearly agricultural production..
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network also sees a crisis situation
Field level information now suggests an alarming, rapid, and widespread deterioration of food security in many parts of the country.

Poor rainfall performance in the predominantly pastoral regions of Afar and Somali and eastern crop-dependent areas has been compounded by the delayed implementation of the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP), the late arrival of emergency food aid, as well as underestimation of needs in some areas.

The situation is worst in areas affected by the severe 1999/2000 and 2002/03 crises, from which only limited recovery has been possible.
The safety nets program seems to be an effort to formally institute aid as a fact of national life in dependent areas and is already troubled
The scheme, which had been due to start on 1 January, provides food or cash (US $0.70 cents a day) to people for employment in public work programmes. Working for food or cash, the government says, would end aid dependency.
Ethiopia's safety net programme was designed to operate alongside its emergency programme. Under the government's strategy, people in need would this year receive aid either through safety nets or by emergency food handouts.

In districts covered by the safety nets programme, however, no one had been getting food or cash whereas in areas covered by the emergency system food has been handed out.
This just does not make sense. Giving people money or food regularly for public work instead of giving them food aid while they work on their own land is supposed to end aid dependency?

Another idea that is being mismanaged is that of resettlement which we looked at in this post "let the ferenjis (foreigners) feed 'em". Northerners are being resettled in the South with totally indadequate support in the midst of national policies based on ethnic divide and rule that have already had tragic consequences.

making sense of it all?

It is hard to square these sets of information with each other - for example famine and reported unprecedented economic growth (based on agricultural growth) seem to be mutually exclusive concepts. As we noted in this post “Zenawinomics and the Aztec Gods” last year’s economic growth was also entirely attributable to the fact that it rained in some places and not in others.

We are delighted that the economy may have grown but the gods of rain are not acceptable determinants of the fate of 70 million Ethiopians and extraordinary figures like 11.6% growth must be examined closely before acceptance.

Normally, population growth, foreign aid and government spending based on foreign subsidies accounts for the lion’s share of economic growth. Given that the national economy is about $7 billion or so, one loan from the World Bank, increased remittances from Ethiopians abroad or even one aid project from the European Union could account for much of the reported 11.6% economic growth.

In this post “Malthus, Hobbes and the Red Queen” we took a look at changes of GNP over several decades and also future projections found in a paper by the economist Berhanu Nega. Overall trends indicate that Ethiopia is becoming progressively poorer, especially in the countryside where most people live. In the cities, particularly Addis Ababa, growth is uneven and eclipsed for the majority by increasing poverty.


EarthTrends is the Environmental Information Portal of the World Resources Institute. There are some links from this country profile page that detail trends over decades of development that are rich with information clearly presented that we will take a look at below. Click on the images for detail or visit the site.

Today child mortality and the total fertility rate are high while the number of births attended by trained personnel and life expectancy at birth are poor - all by the standards of sub-saharan African (SSA).

In addition, by those same standards access to safe water in rural areas where most people live and literacy rates are low. The population is set to reach 113 million over the next two decades.

Total food production has increased by some 50% since 1961 but per capita food production has decreased by some 35% over the same period. During that period the use of fertilizers increased from about zero to 15 kg per hectare.

The percentage of GDP from agriculture is 52.3% for Ethiopia and 16.7 for the rest of SSA. The variation in domestic cereal production from 1992-2001 (average percent variation from mean)was 18.5% compared with 6.5% for the rest of SSA. This explains the boom and bust (simultaneously!?) nature of rainfall dependent agriculture.
Droughts in Ethiopia typically would be considered poor rain years (but nothing to panic over) in developed countries. Ethiopian farmers, however, employ few water management methods to harvest and save water for dry seasons and drought conditions. Their farming is entirely based on the seasonal rains coming when they are supposed to – even a week’s change in the advent of rain can spoil the harvest for a season (A farmer can plant the seeds one week expecting rain, but the rain may not come for two weeks, killing the seeds and depriving the farmer of any crops). There are few farms which utilize irrigation or water harvesting techniques. Thus, Ethiopian farmers are entirely dependent on an increasingly capricious nature to water their crops.
The number of children underweight and the amount of calories daily consumed per capita are also low by SSA standards. Of course, the dependence on donated food is markedly higher. Foreign direct investment is very low by any standards.

In this post “Malthus, Hobbes and the Red Queen” we took a look at changes of GNP and GDP in detail. This graph shows a stagnant GDP from 1975 in constant dollars with an increasing PPP. Some sources now use a PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) conversion factor which attempts to provide a more meaningful value for wealth across national borders.

The relative costs of the same amounts of goods and services in the domestic market as compared to the United States are calculated to arrive at the conversion factor. Frankly, PPP figures seem to us to be a 'feel good' economic measurements that in the case of Ethiopia go against any rational observation - just take a look at the chart.

In our opinion GDP is the gold standard for measuring national wealth. GDP per capita has been stagnant for Ethiopia and SSA over the entire period of study and in many instances has fallen.

The percentage of GDP earned by agriculture, industry and services is 52%, 11%, 37% in Ethiopia and 17%, 31%, 53% in SSA. The percent of population living on less than $1 a day is 31.3% and the percent of population living on less than $2 a day is 76.4%.

The richest 20% of the population commands almost one-half of the national wealth so the average Ethiopian - a farmer largely disconnected from the international economy except by food aid - is even poorer than a $100 per capita GNP indicates.

Essentially, the fate of Ethiopia is currently measured by agricultural performance more than by any other factor.

so what then is being done?

We started to title this post Crisis but the situation is so precarious that "On Borrowed Time" seems to be more apt. The time for noting a crisis and finding rational solutions is long past for all rational observers. The saying - 'as long as it rains in Kansas, there won't be mass starvation in Ethiopia' is true but along with over hyped statistics and and sunny rhetoric, they are hardly a strategy for long term development.

In Ethiopia today there is no right to own private property and the guiding ideology is ersatz Marxism in the form of 'revolutionary democracy'. That means pretending to have a market economy while strangling enterprise with the economic tentacles of an all powerful, selfish, effectively one party state.

There is no national accountability because pretend elections are held in the setting of mass disenfranchisement and absent human rights. Outside of the sight of Western aid donors that all of the pretense is designed to impress, there are millions of subjects of 21st century feudalism but no citizens.

Indeed the principal consumers of government policy are foreign aid donors who are usually to weary of Ethiopian governance to expect any better. The greatest source of domestic power is the ability to balance a boot on the proverbial national neck while using sleight of hand to get Westerners to believe in something other than what they actually see.

There is no other conclusion to make but that development is a distant priority in Ethiopia today while power must be maintained at all costs. Millions in the present and future generations will have to suffer for the power of a few but that is seen as an acceptable trade-off.

Saturday, March 5

respect for Jamaica & kick Chou to the curb

Fabian's Hammer has a listing of former Maoist-oriented Marxist-Leninist communist party members. The most fascinating is Yemane (Jamaica) Kidane,
former Maoist fighter against the Ethiopian military junta with the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF). His poems from the 1970s were published this year in English in "Soaring Spirits" (Commercial Information Agency). He is now a retired civil servant who believes in an evolutionary process rather than a revolutionary one.

“‘I am rather sobered by the experience of life. In hindsight, Haile Selassie’s continuation with a peaceful transition would have been much better than what we have now. Had the violent period of the Derg been avoided, we could have brought about economic development through a peaceful struggle. I was an idealist then, I am a realist now. A realist and pragmatist."
It is hard not to admire someone with such an honest view of the vagaries of life and of his generation in particular.

While it is also impossible to argue that Haile Sellassie's rule was ideal but it did have the significant virtue of not being revolutionary. Therefore, the foundations of tradition could be used as a base for reform in the same manner as dozens of successful societies worldwide. That society had a real vision of a better future without destroying everything in its way.

If the past century, actually the past centuries, have taught us anything it is that radical re-organizations of society and mantra-derived solutions are harmful and invariably lead nowhere good.

The lessons range from the palpable messianic evil of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia to the local but similiarly loathsome Afro-Socialism of Siad Barre's Somalia or Mengistu's Ethiopia and the Clerical Dictatorship that is Khomeni's legacy in Iran. All were bloody and needed someone to ritually blame based on religion, ethnicity or social class - with inhuman results.

In comparison, South Africa's ANC, India's Congress Party and even Algeria's FLN were relatively conservative and therefore delusion free even though they are remembered as radical, socialist or revolutionary. They wanted national independence and power but with no 'spiritual' vision of creating heaven on earth at the direction of party visionaries and at great cost to their own people or a targeted minority.

Their relatively firm grip on reality kept them within the more rational limits of the left-right continuum avoiding the frank evil at either end. Thus they either propelled, or at a minimum preserved, the ability of their societies to advance in the future by preserving the parts of the past that deserved it.

Those who can't look back critically can't move forward without delusions guarded so jealously that barbarism is a necessary result.

justifying radical barbarism

Chou En Lai (Zhou Enlai)was once asked for his judgement of the French Revolution. He answered, "it is too early to tell". Many come across this comment and are either impressed by his long view of history or imagine they have heard something really deep.

We aren't impressed. Chou, however blindly dedicated he was to Communism and party discipline, was well aware of the damage that he had helped do to China by the ruinous policies of Mao. His Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution cost tens of millions of lives and kept China down for decades.

Imagine an alternate Cold War history where American interests were based on keeping China radical, weak and poor instead of a secure capitalist anti-Soviet ally, Mao could easily have been an 'American Candidate' right there in the Forbidden City.

Chou, while still a lackey of Mao had some minimal moral or more likely practical compass. He managed behind the scenes to preserve what was possible and to help keep some like Deng Xiaping alive who saved China in the end.

The right answer to the question about the French revolution was that aside from some cool slogans, and maybe Napoleonic Law, the whole thing was a bloody mess and a waste of time. The French ended up with a campaign of terror directed by the first modern totalitarian state and an eventual military dictatorship far worse than the king ever could have been ... as well as a series of disastrous world wars.

Europe was damaged not just by war but because the kind of democratic reform that the English were managing to carry out gradually was discredited. Despite the shocks of 1848, absolute monarchy managed a death grip on Continental political progress until the aftermath of World War I and probably helped to cause the war. Even then liberal politics were often stillborn with the advent of the ever more rapacious revolutionary catastrophes of the 20th century.

Arguably, France did not get its act together until the late 1960s and 1970s to become a stable liberal democracy. During and after the Algerian crisis, de Gaulle was effectively a popular but unmistakably military dictator.

Chou was consciously defending himself in his answer. Having been Mao's consigliere for so long, how could he be honest and face himself?

please ... more jamaicas and no more of chous

Yemane (Jamaica) Kidane, obviously, has a cleaner conscience than Chou's could ever be, and he has the courage to have experienced a reformation that is notable for the honor it brings him and his comrades.

There are more out there ... even if they don't say so in public. Isn't it time for rational policies and enough with the pretense.

Sometimes we still can't get over actually having to consider the nasty varieties of communism worthy of discussion ... in 2005! With its land policies, ethnic manipulation, ruinous economics and 'revolutionary democracy' the Ethiopian governance is like a museum of ancient horrors for most Ethiopians while pretending for foreigners sake to be a showcase for progress.

Hellooooo, Earth to radicals, come in radicals ... revolution is like so totally last century!

Thursday, March 3

They got so much things to say

Guiltiness (talkin' 'bout guiltiness)
Pressed on their conscience. Oh yeah.
And they live their lives (they live their lives)
On false pretence everyday -
each and everyday. Yeah.

These are the big fish
Who always try to eat down the small fish,
just the small fish.
I tell you what: they would do anything
To materialize their every wish.

Bob Marley, lyrics from Guiltiness, album Exodus

In 2000 there was a funeral. Twenty five years after his overthrow and murder by the Dergue, the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was buried at Addis Ababa's Trinity Cathedral. The Ethiopian government that in turn overthrew the Dergue in 1991 refused the Emperor a state burial and
reviled the [E]mperor's reign describing him as a tyrant who enslaved the peasants by imposing a feudal system.

"Selassie's reign was marked by its brutality and extreme oppression of the Ethiopian peasants," the government said.

The government said it will continue with its efforts to recover money the emperor allegedly deposited in foreign bank accounts.
The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was in attendance along with members of Haile Selassie's family and thousands of mourners. The government refused to honor the Emperor in any way.

Now, fast forward to 2005. On the occasion of Bob Marley's sixtieth birthday a massive concert called Africa Unite is held in Addis Ababa's central Meskel Square with thousands in attendance from all over the world.

Official word is that
Bob Marley put Ethiopia on a pedestal and it is in his honour that this festival is going to take place here
with the eager cooperation of the Ethiopian government because
Ethiopia, the spiritual home of Rastafarianism, was chosen by Marley's family to host the official event, and is organised by the Bob Marley Foundation, the UN children's agency, the African Union and others.
Notice reality being spun here by the careful emphasis from the government and from the BBC reporter that Ethiopia was put on a pedestal by Marley and that Ethiopia is the spiritual home of Rastafarianism.

The problem with these finely crafted and neatly nuanced statements is that Rastafarianism is about Ethiopia because Haile Selassie was Ethiopian - it is not the other way around. However deeply Rastafarians may feel about Ethiopia or Ethiopia may feel about Rastafarians, the central figure is always the Emperor. That fact remains whether or not it is convenient from the government's point of view to mention him.

Indeed, the movement's name comes from his royal title and pre-coronation name - Ras Tafari.
The original Rastas drew their inspiration from the philosphies of Marcus Mosiah Garvey (1887-1940), who promoted the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in the 1920s. The organization's main goal was to unite black people with their rightful homeland, Africa.
After spending nearly a decade in the United States and Great Britain, Garvey returned to Jamaica in 1927, where he spread his political views among the black working class. He assured his followers, "No one knows when the hour of Africa's redemption cometh. It is in the wind. It is coming. One day, like a storm, it will be here." He told blacks to "look to Africa for the crowning of a king to know that your redemption is near."

In 1930, Prince Ras Tafari Makonnen was crowned the new Emperor of Ethiopia. Upon his coronation, he claimed for himself the title of Emperor Haile Selassie (Power of the Trinity) I. This announcement was a monumental event that many blacks in Africa and the Americas saw as the fulfillment of Garvey's prophecy years before. After the crowning of Selassie, the Rastafarian movement gained a following and officially began.
Many Rastafarians still refuse to accept that the Emperor could die and revere him as a living diety. Bob Marley was the most popular practitioner of Reggae music that grew out of Rastafarianism.

So how did Marley's sixtieth birhday come to be celebrated with no mention of the man that inspired Marley and whom he glorified with his life and abundant talents? Probably because if the Emperor had taken centerstage with Bob, the Ethiopian government would have been displeased - and they probably made this point clear to organizers.

That might have meant admitting that he was not an incarnation of evil - even in the presence of paying foreigners and curious reporters that could simply not be done. It might raise too many issues.

Such as the reality that
-peasants today have no right to own land and are indeed eternal serfs of an effective one party feudal state with no chance of a change.
-brutality and oppression of peasants is a hallmark of current government whose human rights record is only favorable in comparison to the Dergue.
-more than thrity years on there is no hint of any foreign bank accounts of any kind with the Emperor's money while structural corruption in Ethiopia today is at an all time historical high.

We are not arguing here that the Emperor's reign was a Golden Age. However, in comparison to any of his successors it certainly represented an orders of magnitude improvement in the most basic elements of governance.

One last spin before we sign off. The Rastafarians in Ethiopia seem to have issues with government shared by Ethiopians in general. This insightful Scotland on Sunday article from the reporter behind the Meskel Square blog begins
ETHIOPIA’S tiny Rastafarian community launched a string of bitter protests against the country’s government yesterday, casting a shadow over huge celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the birth of their Reggae icon Bob Marley.

A list of long-standing grievances, calling for full Ethiopian citizenship and the return of acres of land they claim were given to them by Haile Selassie, their spiritual leader and Ethiopia’s last emperor, was aired by Rastafarian leaders.

The calls struck a jarring note ahead of a huge Bob Marley concert due to take place in the capital Addis Ababa today, part of a month’s worth of "Africa Unite" exhibitions, performances and conferences organised in the Rasta legend’s memory.
We have three main issues. First we want the right to commercially develop front pieces of our land on the main road through Sashamene. Secondly we want the return of the full 200 hectares of land that was given to us. And thirdly there is the issue of citizenship. It is a scandal that we have second or third generation children here in their twenties who are still seen as foreigners.
This is a typical story for all Ethiopians, either they are insecure becasue they can't ever own land anyway or their land was taken away from them while local ethnically based authorities are making all the decisions - in this case commercially developing the most valuable bits. Or they just feel generally hopeless before an unsympathetic government.

Another of the very few articles to go anywhere in search of a back story is from Reuters addresses some of these issues before being spun off from the story by the familiar ethnic misdirection of Ethiopian governance (with some help from official minders?).
Even Rastafarians living in the community of Shashamane, donated to them as a gift by the emperor, complain that members of Ethiopia's Amhara tribe look down on them, or government red tape frustrates their development projects.

"The Amharas, they've got a problem, they're a bit racist themselves," said Jahlisha Israel, head of the Rastafari Nazarite Research Centre in Shashamane.
Notice how the government, which controls every aspect of the Rastararians' lives and of every Ethiopian is somehow being let off the hook in preference for a convenient scapegoat in the form of the whole Amhara tribe.

The Rastafarians live in a region controlled by Oromo ethnic government at the direction of the central government totally dominated by a revolutionary party that claims to represent all Tigrayans while the Haile Selassie himself was both Amahara and Oromo ...

Confusing? No not really ... the problem is Amharas ... right? Actually, the real problem is a government based on ethnic division to begin with that seeks to set Ethiopians against each other and that searches for villiany and blame in categories of its own people numbering millions.

Who knows what the spin will be next time? Who will be the scapegoat and who may be set against them? Oromo, Amhara, Tigray, Gurage, Sidamo, Somali or Rastafarian - all are pawns under great pressure in the Ethiopian government's great game of divide and rule while trashing tradition.

I'n'I nah come to fight flesh and blood,
But spiritual wickedness in 'igh and low places.
So while they fight you down,
Stand firm and give Jah thanks and praises.

'Cos I'n'I no expect to be justified
by the laws of men - by the laws of men.
Oh, true they have found me guilty,
But through - through Jah proved my innocency.

Bob Marley, lyrics from So Much Things to Say, Exodus

Tuesday, March 1

Institutions and Accountability

AdamSmithee has found some interesting references regarding the relationship between the usefulness of development aid, viable national institutions and civil liberties. Foreign Dispatches pointed out some of the crucial points.

Like ethiopundit always insists, aid - institutions - civil liberties - growth are inextricably linked. In a nutshell, INSTITUTIONS such as those that defend PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS allow aid to be used effectively. Money alone can solve nothing. Just as important is government ACCOUNTABILITY to the public expressed through CIVIL LIBERTIES that make any sort of institutions work more effectively.

Here are some excerpts from the first article - 'Sowing and Reaping: Institutional Quality and Project Outcomes in Developing Countries' By David Dollar and Victoria Levin describes itself thus:
In this paper, Dollar and Levin introduce microeconomic evidence on factors conducive to the success of aid-funded projects in developing countries. The authors use the success rate of World Bank-financed projects in the 1990s, as determined by the Operations Evaluation Department, as their dependent variable. Using instrumental variables estimation, the authors find that existence of high-quality institutions in a recipient country raises the probability that aid will be used effectively.
An interesting result here is that democratic political institutions facilitate successful policy-based loans, whereas property rights/rule of law is more important for investment loans. Given the well-established relationship between property rights and growth, this latter finding makes sense: it is difficult to have a high-return public investment if the institutional framework is not conducive to economic growth. This may appear self-evident with “hard” investments such as transport infrastructure. But it is interesting that there is a similarly strong relationship between property rights and “soft” investments in education and health. It is difficult to have successful projects addressing these important social needs in a weak institutional environment.
[... and they conclude ...]
We have documented a stylized fact that is well known to anyone who has practical experience in the aid business: the success of aid-sponsored projects depends primarily on the quality of the institutions in the recipient country.
[T}he fact that in several different macro data-sets researchers have found that growth is correlated with the interaction of aid and a measure of institutional quality or economic policies increases our confidence that aid is playing a useful role when it is targeted to low-income countries with reasonably sound institutions and policies. In terms of aid policy, our work provides additional support to the view that aid resources have the greatest impact on development when they are channeled to poor countries with sound institutions.
Below are some bits from the second article - 'Civil Liberties, Democracy, and the Performance of Government Projects' by Jonathan Isham, Daniel Kaufmann, and Lant H. Pritchett begins
This article uses a cross-national data set on the performance of government investment projects financed by the World Bank to examine the link between government efficacy and governance. It demonstrates a strong empirical link between civil liberties and the performance of government projects. Even after controlling for other determinants of performance, countries with the strongest civil liberties have projects with an economic rate of return 8-22 percentage points higher than countries with the weakest civil liberties. The strong effect of civil liberties holds true even when controlling for the level of democracy.
[... and they conclude ...]
The extent of a country's civil liberties has a substantial impact on the successful implementation of government investment projects financed by the World Bank. This impact of civil liberties is as empirically large as the more celebrated impact of economic distortions on project returns. Given that citizen voice is an important precondition for government accountability and, not coincidentally, that voice is suppressed in the absence of civil rights, this result is perhaps not surprising.

This result adds to the evidence for the view that increasing citizen voice and public accountability-through both participation and better governance-can lead to greater efficacy in government action. Some analysts argue that there is a trade-off between liberties and development. We find the opposite evidence, that suppressing liberties is likely to be inimical to government performance. This has obvious implications not just for governments but also for development assistance.
Ethiopia’s governance is today a Frankenstein’s monster of Marxist-Leninist mantras scavenged from the rubbish bin of history and only partially housebroken by a dependence of Western aid.

The institution eroding (indeed aborting) structural corruption of an effective one party state with no property rights is a natural feature of such government as is its natural hostility to all human rights outside of the sight of ferenjis (foreigners - particularly aid donors.

As the old saying goes "You can fool some of the people some of the time but you cant fool all of the people all of the time“. In the end all manner of public relations won’t fool the very human laws of economics.