51st State

Some people think the developing world is like the developed world, just poorer. It isn’t, and if you’ve traveled a little it’s hard to avoid noticing there is a competence gap as well. For example:

Nigeria’s ruling party has been accused of plagiarism after its manifesto declared it was dedicated to “keeping America safe and secure”.

The All Progressive’s Congress (APC), led by President Muhammadu Buhari, featured on its website a section dedicated to energy policy ahead of a general election slated for February.

It was allegedly headlined, “Our first priority is keeping America safe and secure”, and featured rambling copy critics said was likely lifted from other websites.

My guess is the task fell to a family member of the person responsible for getting it done properly, who either couldn’t do it or simply didn’t care. But others beg to differ:

An APC spokesperson, Lanre Issa-Onilu, claimed on Twitter the website had been “hacked” and “unauthorised content” posted on it.

“We won’t allow the desperate people to succeed in their evil plots,” he said.

I’m reminded of when I got annoyed with my maid in Lagos for reeking out my apartment by boiling fish on the landing outside. She first said it wasn’t her, and when I got doubly annoyed at being lied to, she later apologised and said “the devil made her do it”.

(Via Clarissa)

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18 thoughts on “51st State

  1. Well I, for one, am glad to hear that Nigeria has America’s best interests a heart! Now if only we could get DC to adopt that philosophy.

  2. I started my previous career in the oil industry doing the Management Information for its shipping division. There was one coastal oil products vessel in the Caribbean that had broken down for no obvious reason. A lot of investigation revealed that the rice cooker in the galley had broken and the Philippino crew had been cooking their rice instead in the main engine’s water-cooling jacket! My reaction was:
    1. How cool is that ! Very inventive.
    2. WTAF. The rice must have tasted like WD40 / coolant porridge
    3. Why oh why didn’t someone just say ‘we need rice’.
    Different peoples’ mindsets can be radically non-aligned.

  3. Living overseas I’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t that the rest of the world is strange, but that actually it is the UK, and maybe the US that is strange. We expect the police to be generally helpful, letters delivered to our door, the toilets and sewerage system to work, people generally being friendly and helpful to each other, knowing that the courts decide on the context of the facts and not who has paid the most to the judge, that food in shops is generally fresh and in date. These are things that I’ve noticed don’t travel across the world too well.

  4. We expect the police to be generally helpful, letters delivered to our door, the toilets and sewerage system to work, people generally being friendly and helpful to each other, knowing that the courts decide on the context of the facts and not who has paid the most to the judge, that food in shops is generally fresh and in date. These are things that I’ve noticed don’t travel across the world too well.

    What proportion of the world’s 7 billion people live under these conditions?

    US(mostly), Canada, most of Europe, Japan, South Korea, Aus, NZ, the more grown-up bits of South America, and some small places like Singapore, HK and so on? Do we even make it to 2 billion? So under 30%?

  5. abacab

    The EU is 500 million, US 325 million, Japan 127 million, S. Korea 51 million, Canada 37 million, Australia 25 million, Taiwan 24 million,

    Throw in the most developed parts of the coastal Chinese provinces (where life is OK and the state functions) and we might get to 1.5 billion possibly. But most people live in bad places.

  6. Not all parts of the EU qualify for that list – Bulgaria for certain (I know someone who moved out there from the UK). Its incredibly corrupt.

  7. @Ken on January 17, 2019 at 4:36 pm et al

    I find it odd verging on incomprehensible that ~80% of world still live in C17/C18.

    All the heavy lifting has been done and solutions have been in public domain for a century or more and easier than ever to access (internet). Copying would seem a no-brainer.

    Why don’t they? Do they prefer peasant lifestyle? If they do, no problem; but we (DfID, Oxfam etc) should stop colonialist interfering

  8. @Pcar

    You can copy and paste a document but far harder to transpose institutions and practices.

    In the West, if you’ve got a degree certificate, for instance, it’s fair to assume you’ve got an actual degree. In Nigeria, who knows? Here if you’ve got a driving licence you almost certainly took and passed a driving test. In much of the world it just means you paid the right person. (I remember a news story about somewhere in India instituting basic automated driving tests to remove the human factor to get to grips with the corruption.) Those countries could look at the problems of unsafe driving and copy and paste the syllabus of a Western driving test in order to “ensure” learner-drivers had to reach an appropriate, safe standard…but it would achieve almost nothing to do so.

  9. “My guess is the task fell to a family member of the person responsible for getting it done properly, who either couldn’t do it or simply didn’t care.”

    😂😂😂
    That is exactly what happened. It was given to one of the presidents aides who outsourced it to her brothers company. Clear case of incompetence

  10. @MyBurningEars on January 18, 2019 at 1:52 am

    That pretty much says “We do prefer peasant lifestyle” and corruption.

    I say: let them and stop imperialist DfID, Oxfam etc meddling.

  11. @Pcar

    I don’t think it’s that people prefer that way of living. But I think that you need sufficiently strong institutions before it becomes possible to build the required amounts of trust for the system to function properly. Otherwise, even if you hate corruption and fakery, you’re still living in a place where cheating pays, and it’s rational both to assume other people are cheating and for you to engage in it yourself. On the other hand, if using a fake degree certificate or fake driving licence was likely to land you with severe penalties, not only do you no longer have the incentives to cheat, but you can begin to trust other people when they say they’ve passed a driving licence or degree.

  12. Didn’t the British government just hire a ferry company which owns no ships, has never operated any ships, and which copy-pasted its T&Cs from a pizza takeaway?

    Whence said competence gap?

  13. @Pcar, MBE

    One reason for why less developed places are still poor is that they don’t have the capital to improve the productivity of their labour. Capital accumulation is a pre condition for growth. Really appalling politics and institutions help to retard capital accumulation. We see this in LatAm, where they should be developed and are not. I suspect that western aid has helped to foster utterly corrupt and disruptive practices in other places such as Sub-Saharan Africa. Stupid left wing policies that try to socialise capital are a big factor as well.

  14. @big

    Fairs!

    @ken

    Thanks, any recommended reading? Some time ago I read quite a bit of stuff by Sala-i-Martin but suspect that is not quite where current thought is.

  15. @MBE

    This lady is generally right, not read her book, but it sounds correct. She mentions many of the right peeps: Easterly, deSoto. Sala-I-Martin is good on growth but perhaps not quite as sceptical on institutional problems.

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2009/feb/19/dambisa-moyo-dead-aid-africa

    One problem with the Moyo argument is that cutting aid to zero would create huge new distortions. But, she is right, capture of the state is a huge prize in developing nations, in a way that was not true in Imperial Britain, which was also pretty corrupt pre the Northcote reforms of the mid 19th century. The British civil service was tiny for such an empire, compare it to modern African states.

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