Monday, May 14
The Greater East Africa Co-Prosperity Sphere II
How Meles, Museveni, the Donors Group, the IMF, the World Bank, and even North Korea, all got together to create The Greater East Africa Co-Prosperity Sphere
This post is continued from The Greater East Africa Co-Prosperity Sphere I. In the last episode of this series we discussed how the governments and institutions of the regime's 'strategic' and 'development' partners have internalized the mission of Meles Inc. dictatorship as their very own.
We'll probably repeat ourselves here and there but you are used to that by now and appreciate our thematic approach - or else you wouldn't be reading this. The thematic approach works because there are readily evident and defined reasons for why governments like those of Mengistu and Meles are no good and why they should not be propped up.
so what‘s it all about then?
It is a simple truth that foreign policy is based upon national self interest and quite silly to expect otherwise. That is unless the society is structured so that only the interests of the regime are considered against those of the ruled. Citizens of donor nations don't generally have that problem but such a tragic situation is Ethiopian reality.
That also explains why on the most fundamental level why some countries have the spare cash to be donors and why have by design of their own government the status of permanent beggar states. Where there is no accountability in rule there is little good to be found. Pretending otherwise won't change that bit of reality no matter how convenient pretending may be.
It is also a simple but slightly more subtle truth that the institutions, public, semi-public, and private of any given nation (as well as the individuals therein) tend to take on that same dubious mission. Institutions have their own interests and survival instincts which are often not remotely connected to their avowed mission.
Individuals in those structures, however sincere and well meaning, have career interests as potentially far removed from any benefit to those whose lives of suffering they are meant to help as can be imagined. Most often the mission, career, budget, policy etc. depend on getting along with rulers who are in the way of actual economic growth for whole countries and thugs who are making millions suffer to begin with.
That means getting along with the local thugs - in other words tolerating corruption and brutality on a vast scale. One must wonder if justifications for treating so with dictators and their minions take on a Roussea-ist 'romance with the primitive' tone. Jimmy Carter was certainly romanced by the idea of hanging out with a real live revolutionary who spread out his 'secret' strategic maps before him and discussed strategy.
Countless others financed and applauded the lethal nonsense of Nyerere's Ujamaa economic policies too. As bad as he was, Nyerere was a living saint compared to Meles because while brutal he was not bloodthirsty even though he did little good for his people besides his decision to admit he was wrong and leave office. Ferenjis sent more money and clapped harder the worse things got each and every year in the lives of real live Tanzanians - all for the thrill of hanging with a revolutionary father figure.
Realities of life and death or real statistics of poverty and growth were not important beyond the mission. That mission became defined four decades ago as cash infusions followed by more cash infusions and actual budget support along with too often doomed to fail project completions with little follow up. All of which had no necessary connection to actual sustained poverty reducting economic growth.
enabling bad government
Sending cash as the sole purpose of international aid has reached its logical conclusion in the Millennium Development Goals. The theory (ignored by the planet for its inherent silliness beyond rhetoric) being essentially that if you throw more money than ever before into a country and don't demand good governance that the sums will be so much more than any regime can steal that eventually something good just has to happen for poor folks.
Silly or not, real or not, the MDGs will open up the pockets of donor taxpayers. That may have been the purpose all along. No one ever expected donors to pony up that kind of cash but it has raised the bar for what is acceptable. But it will all hurt more than help. Cash and corrupt governments always make for more poverty and more dictatorship - especially as even bothering to run an economy to collect taxes becomes a bother compared to simply looting.
After all, none of the actual institutions and practices needed to actually alleviate suffering are demanded as conditions for billions of Euros, Dollars, and Yen so perhaps it is assumed that international beggar status and despotism are all that Ethiopians can manage. Donor nations know very well that would never happen in their own countries because it would be ruinous - but what the heck, what's a few lost decades and millions of ruined lives between development partners, right?
Perhaps the issue is multiculturalism gone crazy on an international scale. That would be based on the notion that when people are looted and beaten by people who look just like them it is somehow alright / to be expected / racist to expect more. Now is a good time to get to the point of racism in this discussion. At this late date we reject the notion that 'Europe (or any other donor nation) is STILL Underdeveloping Africa' because of colonialism.
Africans have been masters of their own fates for a while now and Ethiopians have pretty much always been masters of their own fates. At least in the sense that the 'natives beat up on the natives' with only enabling from abroad. ethiopundit's point of view here is not based on emotive appeals to ferenji guilt.
Indeed, (what follows is a point which is very upsetting for most of our contributors but one the boss threw in by virtue of being boss) we have little doubt that given the historic opportunity that Africans would have colonized Europe. Seriously, Ethiopians certainly would have. Right?.
dude, be guilty about the present
The issue should not be ferenji guilt about the past - colonialism and slavery remain as ugly and detestable human practices as ever. At this late date Africans should be expected to treat each other decently just because they are humans and are not inferior morally or incapable of judgement. Ferenjis feeling guilty about the past should not mean Africans are helped to hurt eachother now.
If historical judgement has determined that such bad behavior was wrong when today's donor countries had their way with the world - then why is such behavior alright now when Africans do it to themselves? Setting up kleptocratic murderous states should be wrong no matter the color of the victims or bad guys. If ferenjis want to be motivated by guilt - there is plenty to go around right now - mainly generated by the desire to just help without consideration of reality.
We have made this point before in comparison South Africa. Imagine if everyone in Meles Inc. turned into prototypical blonde haired and blue eyed Boers upon waking up tomorrow morning while not changing a single policy or the way that they do business of any kind.
The world would put sanctions and denounce the Ethiopian regime before lunchtime - suddenly discovering its larcenous ways, living ethnic apartheid, tribal divide & rule, and the horrible status of serfs and subjects held by all Ethiopians. But since the tormentors look like their victims the regime gets a pass.
That is why the goal of just wanting to help turns into a vicious subtle contempt that accepts bad behavior and encourages the suffering of whole nations. Face it, the Ethiopian social contract has nothing to do with Ethiopians. It was negotiated and put in practice between Meles Inc. and ferenjis.
Ethiopians are hostages to Western humanism & self interest or at best just bystanders to their own fate. That their own government instinctively treats them badly is not even a matter for debate beyond insincere press releases all around.
In a country like Ethiopia where the government has to be begged and threatened to treat its own people decently, there is a tendency to assume that the foreign presence is all for the good. In many ways that presence is good - without ferenji interest millions more Ethiopians would be starving to death right now and the government would be even more brutal.
The government has abandoned every responsibility for feeding its own people because Western farmers and taxpayers take care of that. So without ferenjis, millions more would starve and the government (and ferenjis too!) would blame donor nations for the resulting famine. Meanwhile business as usual for Meles Inc. as cash for Ethiopian blood, sweat & tears fattens portfolios and bank accounts worldwide.
The truth that the absence of private property rights, the presence of ruling party managed fertilizer indebtedness & serfdom, and the market for agricultural goods is designed to serve the political / economic interests of the party / government / cronies is ignored or considered inconvenient to deal with.
In the same way, the government can transform a whole national economy into a checking account for the tiniest and greediest feudal elite in thousands of years of Ethiopian history. Nothing about the Ethiopian economic scene beyond foreign remittances, foreign aid, and the expanding economic empires of the revolutionary feudal elite and their fellow travellers promises any improvement for the future in comparison to what Ethiopians could do for themselves.
Again, like the food aid issue, reality on the ground doesn't matter. Governments, institutions, NGO's, and reporters repeat the regime's own statistics to prove points they know are not true or don't care to know enough about to argue against. After all, the mission is pumping money and projects into Ethiopia - the mission is decidedly NOT actually helping to make sure that what made donor nations rich and so many others escape grinding poverty exist in any form beyond press releases.
In the end, for the most sincere bureaucrat or volunteer in the world - it is still all about spending SOMEONE ELSE'S MONEY. None would run their own lives and institutions with the same rules that they run the unaccountable to taxpayer / charity giver institutions they are part of.