24 July 2009

My part in Sudan's downfall

Here is Harry Rud whining about his expat guilt in Afghanistan. TH thinks we are also guilty here in Juba. I'm not so sure. I'll take Harry's points one by one.

1. Living in a house modest by many expat standards but that has still helped lead to a huge rise in house prices in Kabul, benefiting a few but forcing out many more from affordable housing in their own city.
Yeah maybe, but I'd like to see your evidence. Supply constraints are probably more important here in Juba.

2. Tempting qualified Afghans out of service to their own government with hugely better pay at an INGO.
I agree completely, but then I don't work for an INGO...

3. Failing to build the capacity of those people, in a position that will be filled by another expat rather than someone I have trained to replace me.
Capacity-building is difficult, it takes time. Also the government of what is probably Africa's most successful country was pretty relaxed about this:
"In stark contrast to most other African countries after independence, the BDP [Bechuanaland/Botswana Democratic Party] resisted all calls to 'indigenize' the bureaucracy until suitably qualified Batswana were available. thus they kept in place expatriate workers and freely used international advisers and consultants. The initial development plan of 1966 conservatively phasing out all expatriate by 1991, a target that has not been achieved... In his first speech as President Seretse Khama announced that "My Government is deeply conscious of the dangers inherent in localizing the public service too quickly."
quote from Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson, An African Success Story: Botswana , from Rodrik's In Search of Prosperity

4. Failing to even have the common decency of learning the local languages, and having only the scantiest knowledge of a country on which I am experimenting with ill-informed development projects.
Arabic is really hard!

5. Taking a large cut of the budget of those development projects as my salary, most of which I will take home with me.
International staff work in an international job market. If you want them you have to pay them the going rate, that's just the way it is, nothing to feel guilty about.

6. Treating my life as more valuable than those of my staff.
Not really.

7. Drinking in an Islamic country and generally being a bad influence as well as an example of the debauchery and gross-oppulance of the West. Not good for long-term cross-cultural understading that one.
You mean spreading the universal values of liberalism and human rights, right?

8. Flying about too much and demanding electricity from the generators and generally contributing to a lot of carbon emissions in a country that will probably be devastated by climate change.
Blah blah, I refuse to be guilty about flights, they're only 1-5% of global emissions, and technological innovation will save the day anyway (insh'allah!!!).

9. Eating scarce food when others around me starved.
Bollocks. Amartya Sen. Exactly. So shut up. All your food is imported so it's not exactly scarce is it?

10. Bitching about all and sundry, how various policies will lead to the downfall of this country, but doing nothing to suggest better alternatives.
Because anyone would listen to your better alternatives?


Matt said...

#3 - It has to be long term - 'systems building' (I hate the term capacity building) is a precarious business, as everything can fall apart quite quickly if left unattended. A gap of one year between two ODIs often means things will be back at square one.

#5 - I never bought the argument that development/NGO staff wages were so high because it was the 'going rate' - look at most of the people working in development and ask yourself if the private sector would value their 'expertise' and work as much as the international public sector does?

Lee said...

My take-home salary here is almost exactly what it was when I worked for the UK government. Which is handy because Juba is almost exactly as expensive as London!

Matt said...

Yes, but the ODI salary is a lot lower than what most long-term expats are being paid.

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