Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Keeping an eye on Africa

Well, to nobody's surprise Compaore has won his "hard-fought campaign" to be "reelected" to the presidency of Burkina Faso... the last few months have seen a lot of reversals for democracy in Africa. To point out just a few: the persecution of opponents in Senegal, Nino Vieira's return in Guinea-Bissau, the failure of conflict resolution in Cote d'Ivoire, Faure's perhaps fraudulent win in Togo, the apparent split of Zimbabwe's MDC, Meles' repression in Ethiopia, the amended new constitution in Kenya...

In between these negatives there are some lights... Burundi held elections and the ex rebels are now a majority in Parliament, and Nkurunziza their leader has become president. Of course, they still confront the rebels from FNL. In Liberia democratic elections were held and a woman president elected, but there is trouble as George Weah will not accept the results (exactly what the country does not need right now is a dispute and everyone should hope that Weah will realize that soon). Mauritania is ambiguous as the new military group has so far taken the right steps, but must be watched closely.

In between all of this, Somaliland remains one of the success stories. In a neighborhood where nobody else has successfully democratized, the Somalilanders have held peaceful municipal, presidential and parliamentary elections. Of course the government in Hargeysa still sits without international recognition and little aid, though the EU and U.S. try to help as they can. But the country weathered a very close and contentious presidential election without violence, and the parliamentary polls gave none of the three permitted parties a majority, meaning they will have to work together. It's too bad that politics have prohibited anyone from recognizing this government because it's one of the few on the continent that has had any success.

By the same token, perhaps it is that same lack of recognition and much more scruitinizing international eye that has facilitated Somaliland's democratization. Leaders of the fledgling state know that they must be accountable if they are to have hope of gaining recongition, and any aid at all. Meanwhile there are fewer aid scraps and patronage positions to fight about; government is not a flowing spigot of aid, because there is little aid and much must be channeled through other organizations.

As much as Africa is in dire need of economic renewal, the current model is not working. This has been recognized, of course, and steps taken, but the latest of them, NEPAD, is a joke. Perhaps what is needed is much more stringent standards and the end of any aid directly to African governments, as this aid seems to just create flawed incentive structures and encourage rent-seeking.

Or, perhaps not... I don't pretend to know the issue thoroughly enough, yet.

A note on tuition

So I ranted about tuition the other day and explained that I favor a higher-tuition model. Here's something else to take into account that I hadn't put together, even though I really should have (heard it in a class today):

What is our state's tax structure like? Regressive and favoring the wealthy (to the tune of, lowest brackets $30k and below pay 4 times as much percentage-wise as higher brackets $130k-plus).

Who is more likely to get into my university? People in the upper and middle classes.

Who does a low-tuition model really favor?

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