12 May 2011

Blattman's 7 top tips on Southern Sudan

I hate linking to Chris Blattman's blog because you all read it anyway, or if you don't you should, but when it comes to Southern Sudan.... here are his ideas in response to Duflo/Banerjee's suggestions. 
I know too little about Sudanese politics to give specific recommendations, but here’s a sample of suggestions based on what I think I know: 
1. Build compacts, possibly unequal and unsavory ones, with warlords and other big men, giving them a stake in continued peace, even if it means they control crucial ministries or development organs. 
2. But for goodness sake try not to give up the ministries or development organs. There are non-pecuniary ways to buy people off. And spread it out so you get petty barons rather than oligarchs. They’ll be easier to deal with in 20 years when you have the strength. 
3. Next, give every incentive for elites, especially the ones apt to war, to invest in fixed assets whose value depends on stability and growth. Make them entrepreneurs. Oil rigs don’t count. Property in Juba does. So do plantations and small factories, even if they need subsidies to operate at first. This is hard, and will require attention and dedication. 
4. Aim for minimal corruption in twenty years, not two. 
5. Create a minimally competent police force, one that is less criminal than the criminals. And a court system, with particular attention to the places where ethnic groups repeatedly clash over land or rights or respect. Target programs to these hotspots to buy some measure of content. 
6. Train and educate the military like the bejeezus, and at all costs do not let it slip into factions. 
7. Roads, roads, roads. Not only are they good for growth, they are good for exerting state control and building a sense of nation.
I think the third point is a really good one. The rest, particularly 1 and 6, are things that are probably high priorities for the leadership already. You would have a hard time persuading them after 21 years of war that peace and stability is not the top priority. And they know plenty about balancing different armed factions in the pursuit of peace, having already brought different independent militias into the SPLM.

So: a big chunk of the budget is effectively already ring-fenced for salaries, the army, and road construction.

The question then is what to do with the small amount that that is discretionary and remaining, and I do think that there is space to deliver some social services in the simplest and most effective way possible, which might just be cash and/or health services. I do have a hard time with the poverty alleviation vs growth policy trade-off, and don’t know what the answer is. Its interesting that Duflo/Banerjee make no mention of macro/growth policy, contrasted with Lant Pritchett’s advice which is all macro/growth and no mention of social policy.

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