30 April 2009

Collective Action

So this is my inaugural actual Mancur Olsen-related post (of roving bandit fame).

Is there a collective action problem in parliamentary scrutiny in multi-party systems?

In an American-style 2-party system the oppositions reaps 100% of the political benefits from asking awkward questions of the government, but in a more European multi-party system the gains from scrutiny of government may be spread amongst several opposition parties. Could this reduce the incentive for opposition parties and their members to scrutinise the government?

Just a thought. And a potentially testable one. In fact it might well have been in which case I'd love to know. Abhijeet suggests Indian data would be perfect for a rich cross-state panel.

More Survey Fun

I image this must be a problem for surveyors everywhere - how do you keep a close enough eye on your enumerators to make sure they aren't just making stuff up?

Fortunately in Southern Sudan some of these cases are relatively easy to spot. A household in rural Sudan which produced 12 sacks of Fanta in the last month? And one with no children which still managed to consume 14kgs of Cerelac in a week?

Assorted Links

I love angry rants

The Fijian press's response to censorship

This sounds interesting, I hope someone is evaluating it properly

Alex de Waal on Collier

These guys are going to be pissed off when they find out how little economics can tell them about the crisis.

29 April 2009

Juba Food Blogging

I'm pretty sure this could be a world-first.

God I'm terrible with names though. Anyway the new coffee place in Malakia on the main road (there is only one) has started doing some decent food. The coffee (actual real cappucino! in Juba!) and cake is already pretty impressive, and I've had their pizzas before which really aren't bad and cheap by Juba standards (around SDG 15 or $6), although everywhere seems to be doing pizza these days. Anyway they do a really good curry. Not quite the same selection as Hotel Salaam - there is a choice of "chicken curry" or "fish curry" - but both are genuinely really really tasty.

Highly Recommended.

28 April 2009

Jigy Jigy

A solution to the budget crisis from a friend at UNDP. Go Dutch and start taxing the East African "unmarried business women" who are undercutting the locals for "Jigy Jigy."

Pity the poor "undercover" journalists who wrote this piece.

My friend also suggests we might need some "hookers without borders" to advise these ladies on their pricing strategies. $5 for one ejaculation and $10 for the whole night!

African Proverb of the Day

From the BBC world service:

"Those who seek to drown their sorrows with alcohol should know that sorrows too can swim."

27 April 2009

Winning arguments with science

This is brilliant.

"When you don't have children - as I don't, thus far - one entertaining thing to do with friends who do is as follows. Wait until they're gazing, lovestruck, into the eyes of their newborn baby, tucking their toddler into bed or proudly watching their 21-year-old graduate. Then creep up behind them, slap down a copy of the Journal Of Marriage And Family, vol 65, no 3, and triumphantly declare: "Ha! You may think parenthood has changed your life for the better, but, in fact, the statistical analyses contained herein, along with numerous other studies, demonstrate conclusively that having children makes people, on average, slightly less happy than before!" Then walk away cackling. They may never speak to you again, but that won't matter: you will have won the argument, using Science."

22 April 2009

Another big win for transparency and good governance

The GoSS Ministry of Legal Affairs has established a website with copies of all the laws passed by the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly. Fantastic, now I don't have to just read about them in the Tribune.

Now if only the Ministry of Finance could get one so people could find the damn budget themselves.

In other data (non)news - why is so hard to get comparative data on basic aspects of African governments and their budgets? Is there not some repository somewhere of staffing levels and spending levels on different sectors

21 April 2009

Out of Office

There is no internet at the Ministry of Finance. Posting may be sporadic

19 April 2009

A Sudanese delicacy

So the rainy season is just getting started in Juba. Maybe twice a week we are treated to an insane monsoon-style tropical rainstorm. Last week lightning struck right outside the office window and it was like a bomb just went off.

The rain also means the proliferation of insects. Hoards of little flying bugs have been swarming around the external lights of the house. Jimmy the guard and Anna the cleaning lady both say these bugs are very tasty when fried. People pay 3 SDG (£1) in the market for a cup of them. Jimmy was collecting some in a plastic bucket when I got home the other day. So last night I asked him how his bugs were, but he hadn't cooked them yet so he ran off to prepare some so I could try them.

Now it would be rude not to right? And they're actually not bad. A bit like popcorn - with that soft yet slightly crunchy consistency - similar to sugar puffs cereal. Only with a slightly meaty taste.


18 April 2009

Nazis in Southern Sudan?

The State government for Central Equatoria has recently been clearing up settlements in Juba. This has meant widespread demolition of Tukuls (mud-huts) and market stalls. Many people are arguing that the victims were warned, and would not move until action was taken. Either way its pretty grim. I even had to go without the fruit and veg stall and the rolex stand (a Ugandan snack - fried egg rolled up in a chapati) outside my office for a couple of weeks before the stall-holders began to rebuild out of the wreckage.

But the editor of The Citizen was so offended that he was forced to take a break in Europe to recover. Whilst in Germany he decided that:

"what our government is doing today in Juba is similar to what the Germany Government of National Unity did during the time sof Adolf Hitler in 1930 and 1940" (Leader, 17 April 2009)


17 April 2009

Insecurity, rain and dispersion...

...do not make a good combination. Aside from the obvious economic and human costs, it makes statistician's lives horrible. My friend was at the airport at 7.30am three days in a row for a flight which was cancelled each time because it was raining in Yambio. The poverty survey currently being conducted has had to replace NINE enumeration areas because the survey team turned up and NOBODY WAS THERE. The whole village had got up and left, there was nobody to interview in the entire area.

15 April 2009

Garang's Infrastructure Plan

Dr. John Garang was an economist (phd from Iowa), and so I'm sure this infrastructure plan with connections to DRC, Uganda and Kenya (but not the North) was all about economic geography and not at all politics. The red lines are railway tracks by the way. Ambitious.

14 April 2009

Census Speculation

The result of last year's Sudanese census (the first since 1956) is highly political, with a direct bearing upon future power and oil sharing. As a result, negotiations over the numbers have been going on for months.

Kiir has previously vowed not to accept anything less than 15 million for Southern Sudan (about a third of the national population). The latest rumours are putting it at 8.2 million (about a fifth of the national population).

This isn't going to be pretty.

09 April 2009

Who needs computers anyway?

You may have heard of Liberia's analogue blogger who summarises and comments on the news on his blackboard in Monrovia.

Well today a lady in the street gave me some analogue spam.

"Mark 11:22-25

Jesus says to you, "you must trust God"
This letter is sent to you for good fortune.
The original letter is in New Zealand. ...


do not keep this letter.
It has to leave you within 96 hours




Within a few days, you will receive a surprise even if you are not a believer, you will see that it is true.


etc etc etc"

08 April 2009


Interview with Michaela Wrong, author of “its our turn to eat”

The ANC looks a safe bet ahead of this month’s elections

Juba’s first ATM

Chart of the Month

You have to admit the guy has balls

07 April 2009

African Proverb of the Day

"You cannot ask the hyena which is suspected of eating the goat to go and look for the missing goat."

From the Sudan Tribune

Wars, Guns and Votes

I'm generally a big Collier fan. He has a fairly unique talent amongst economists for communication - his talks are great (no powerpoint!) and his writing is very readable. And he comes up with a lot of great ideas. For all the criticism of his heroic assumptions based on slightly shaky statistics, I think you are allowed a bit of slack when you are at the frontier, and the theory is often pretty convincing.

So I'm enjoying his latest book already, but I've just got to the part where he talks about Southern Sudan (page 76 if anyone's interested). Whilst the general argument is broadly correct, I'd love to know where the 5-star hotel and international shopping mall he mentions are. Seriously Paul, I would love an international shopping mall. Where is it!

Back in Juba

Latest headlines from the Ministry of Finance (via TH):

Budget books finally arrive from Nairobi.

Crowd of 250 people arrive at the Ministry in anticipation of getting their hands on this eagerly awaited publication.*

Situation turns ugly in competition to get inside. SPLA intervene with whips to calm the situation and disperse the crowd.

Just another ordinary day at the office.

*This bit may not actually be true.