Sunday, September 02, 2007

Imperialist? Who me?...

Boy, it is difficult to look at Africa (for the most part) and not wonder if a more enlightened colonial rule wouldn't give a better outcome. Say what you will about the English in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) but at least the economy functioned and corruption was held to a genteel level. And the farms produced.
Mugabe will go but it will take decades for the Zimbabwean society to rid themselves of Mugabe fostered environment of corruption, greed and selfishness. Its common knowledge that the delivery of basic services in Zimbabwe is dependent on your political allegiance and who you know. Even if Mugabe has gone the corruption culture is deeply interred in the edifices of the structures that MDC will inherit when they get to power. A mechanic at CMD (Government controlled motor vehicle repair service) drains petrol from a government vehicle and sells it on the black market leaving the tax payer to pick up the bill. A state security agent stationed at Harare Airport waves in goods imported by his friends without paying import duty preventing the government to earn money to use to improve people's lives. A policeman stops a driver on suspicion of drink-driving which is an offence in Zimbabwe, his suspicions are correct the guy is over the legal limit to drive instead of arresting him, he accepts a bribe to turn a blind eye again denying the government a chance to earn money through fines that in turn could be used to improve the police deliver better service for its citizens. A utility company ignores the official waiting list for anyone with a better colour of money, so a provision of land-line telephone depends if you are prepared to bribe. For many Zimbabweans stealing from the government is ok they view it a victim-less crime not knowing that delivery of service depends on it and that they the tax-payers are stealing from themselves. [More]
Not so with the unceasing tribal self-destruction and institutionalized gangsterism that passes for government today in too many African nations. All of this would be simply a cause for rock concerts if it was not for the timing.

In one great global coincidence, the urgent need for energy, improving incomes in China and India, climate change, and the failure of African governments are combining to create a perfect storm for food production.
The threat of a food crisis is exacerbated by fears over energy security, with many countries opting to plant biofuel crops in place of traditional food crops. India, for example, has pledged to meet 10% of its vehicle fuel needs with biofuels.

Andres Arnalds, of the Icelandic soil conservation service, said the pressures on food production would have knock-on effects all over the world because of the international links in food supply.

Mr Campbell said: "If we can improve agricultural practices across the board we can dramatically increase our food production from existing lands, without having to clear more or put more pressure on soils. Simple things like good crop rotation, sowing at the right time of year, basic weed control, are what is needed. They're very well known but not always used." [More]
We need more output of calories from every arable acre, and we can scarce afford to lose any more of those acres. Without significant improvement in growing and allocating food resources, untold millions especially in Africa will perish.

The trouble is for those of us in the First World is simply getting past the incomprehensible bloodshed in places like Darfur. Establishing political structures to allow economic development seems hopeless without de facto occupation and colonial rule. This admittedly could be a nostalgic mirage, as we have learned in Iraq. The natives aren't quite as cowed by guns and technology as the good old days.

The failure of poor-country governments is not universal, of course. Many, especially in Asia are booming and raising the standard of living of their citizens. But in what is almost becoming digital in outcome, the losers are losing everything. Africa is moving the wrong way.

Colonialism is not a modern option of course. But it would be wrong to ascribe only base motives and mercantilism as the impetus behind the British or similar empires. India, Jamaica, and the good ol' USA have much to show for their period of colonial rule.

We are today forced to play with the cards we have been dealt, but the cost of losing more acres where they can hardly be afforded along with increasingly inhuman loss of life leaves the West with the option of watching a wretched end and writing off part of the globe, or intervening in a more vigorous way than we presently can stomach.

[Thanks, Greg]

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