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Thursday, 1 July 2010

I agree / disagree with President Banda

I agree :
"We should not allow donors to feel that they can interfere in our internal affairs. This is a free, a sovereign country"
I disagree :
"We did not ask anyone to fund the road sector or the health sector, so they must not use that as blackmail."
President Banda is absolutely right about the first.  Any patriotic Zambian should not disagree with that statement.  I am therefore totally shocked and appalled that the President has not been applauded for that particular statement. Attacking the President just weakens the sovereignty of Zambia. Even if we disagree with him on other matters, we should recognise what he said was for our long term benefit.

His second statement if taken at face value is absolutely false because the whole process of budgetary support (as Magande as ably noted) is about begging for donor funds. In this respect the President should admit that we are not economically independent.  He would do well to reflect on the piece I wrote in 2007 - Reflections on true independence. There's  no need for us to pretend publicly, we need to have an open discussion on how we can become more truly independent. In that piece I offer a few thoughts.

But I say on "face value" because I  still have some sympathy with him at a deeper level because I have always seen donors funds as money simply returned to Africa from capital flight to Europe and colonial  plunder from some of these nations. So in that sense we should recognise that justice probably places a moral imperative on European countries to give back.  There's a moral obligation I think for these donor countries to help struggling African nations. Incidentally this is a point that I thought Moyo also missed - though I never addressed it in my review. The moral dimensions of these debates on aid should never be ignored. 

18 comments:

  1. Even if we disagree with him on other matters, we should recognise what he said was for our long term benefit.

    The problem is that after especially the ZAMTEL deal, he has not credibility left, to talk about the benefit for the nation.

    The reason donors have influence over Zambia's domestic and foreign policy, is because they pay (now over) $600 million a year of the government's budget. But that is what donor aid is - external control.

    If the government wants to talk about national sovereignty, it has to start standing up to the mining companies, and collect $1.2 billion a year from the mines, instead of letting them rob the country blind and get $600 million in 'handouts' instead.

    The problem is that the MMD want to claim sovereignty when it comes to the embezzlement of donor funds, and don't want to ensure actual sovereignty over Zambia's revenues by taxing the mines. If they did that, only Zambians would be setting Zambia's course, no one else. Mine taxes are the way toward economic independence.

    But as the following article states...

    The Great Swindle, 2nd Edition

    "It is all negative. No positive to the tune of -13 per cent…the mining industry is getting out of Zambia Revenue Treasury instead of contributing to it…..

    This is the problem, and why the MMD government has no credibility when it comes to claiming sovereignty.

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  2. Chola I think you are misdirecting yourself. Let us put what RB said in context: This grand standing about sovereignty came on the back of the press statement issued by the Global Fund. This was picked up and disseminated by all news wires across the world (notwithstanding warped claims by MMD psychophants that it is a campaign by Mmembe and donors.) RB's reaction suggests that he would have been content if the Global Fund had withdrawn quietly without alerting Zambians and the whole world to the actions they had taken. Banda's only concern was to save face. The sovereignty stuff was a red herring. If this man really believed in sovereignty he would have taxed the mines accordingly rather than allow his Finance Minister to make annual budgets whose fulfilment is dependant on donor commitments.
    Chola; if indeed donors are obliged to give Zambia money because of their past colonial activities; I honestly dont see what the Dutch, Danes, Swedes,Japanese, Americans and Norwigeans are making reparations for in Zambia? I think it is high time for we as Zambians and as a nation to own up and tell these people that we do not need their Aid; if indeed they are a pain in our necks.

    Lastly, let us not muddle things here. The Zambian govt was given money for road and health projects among other things; however some of this money was not used for the intended purposes.It was stolen. We have simply been asked to account for it. Instead our President throws tantarums about sovereignty! What is this sovereignty about anyways? Is it the independence to steal donor money without being asked to account for it? In this case that is all that it is! We are a corrupted nation of criminals! It is sad to see a nation rotting in ones own life time (I was born in the late 60s and the story of my country is depressing). Honestly let us not defend the indefensible. Zambia is on a sure path to a failed State!

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  3. Cho, sorry but I think you are doing yourself a dis-service by separating these two statements. The fact is that the President linked donors questioning the misappropriation of funds with us not being answerable to anyone by being a sovereign nation.

    I don't know how anyone could applaud any part of this statement.

    We made commitments to our donors that funds would be used for specific projects and we would account for all monies. So this is an internal affair only in-so-far as the theft took place in Zambia. I would equate it to him saying the various thefts uncovered by the AG was a Govt affair and the Zambian people should keep out of it. Just because the donors have been more forthright in asking questions about where THEIR money has gone than we Zambians have been about where OUR money has gone doesn't make it wrong.

    Finally, disappointing statement from you about aid merely being a form of capital repatriation. As someone who is proudly pro-proactivity, this is a bit rich. You have recently (rightly) written a number of pieces about Zambians being the solution to the problems we face. Earlier in the week you bemoaned the fact that we (as a nation) look to Govt to provide too much of the infrastructure and environment to improve our predicament. I'm therefore quite shocked that you feel that we are due aid due to colonialisation. No, I'm sorry to say but that's a cop out, many development indicators show that we are worse off now than we were at Independence. So I don't subscribe to that I'm afraid.

    Finally, finally, what a silly situation we find ourselves in. We are giving away our resources to all and sundry, then we beg for money to undertake basic development projects, when funders ask questions we scold them?! It's ludicrous.

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  4. Thanks to all for your thoughts. Let me see if I can address each of you one by one - separately.

    MrK,

    I agree with you, but that is precisely my point.

    Rather than addressing the inconsistency inherent in the President's position what we have seen is blind and unsystematic critique.

    It would have been good if people addressed openly the question of Zambia's sovereignty from the four horses of the apocalypse : Multi-National Corporations; Donor Agencies / Countries; Multi-Lateral Institutions and CHINA.

    This is therefore a missed opportunity to precisely discuss much broader issues.

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  5. Frank,
    I like your choice of words – “misdirecting yourself” :)

    Now I perhaps should own up that I have not seen full statement on video of what he said – so I have gone entirely by the Reuters report and taken at face value what they have reported. It is with that in mind, that I address your substantive comments below.

    ”Let us put what RB said in context: This grand standing about sovereignty came on the back of the press statement issued by the Global Fund. This was picked up and disseminated by all news wires across the world”

    Context is important indeed. I have no problem with that – but we should never confuse context with mind reading. The context can also be a man tired from his pursuit to be Zambian Tourist Nambala 1 or may be journalists hustling him for an answer. For what its worth I have no problem taking that as the backdrop.

    ”RB's reaction suggests that he would have been content if the Global Fund had withdrawn quietly without alerting Zambians and the whole world to the actions they had taken. Banda's only concern was to save face.”

    These are just inferences and cannot be deduced from what he said.

    ”The sovereignty stuff was a red herring.”

    Again, it is difficult to substantiate this statement without prior judgements. We need to be clear on the assumptions we are making. In my assessment, I take his comments at face value. I believe a balanced critique cannot ignore the possibility that he genuinely meant what he said.

    If this man really believed in sovereignty he would have taxed the mines accordingly rather than allow his Finance Minister to make annual budgets whose fulfilment is dependant on donor commitments.

    Now this is a sound challenge and this is what we should be saying. The discussion in my view has been a missed opportunity to address fundamental questions.

    Chola, if indeed donors are obliged to give Zambia money because of their past colonial activities; I honestly dont see what the Dutch, Danes, Swedes,Japanese, Americans and Norwigeans are making reparations for in Zambia?

    Your statement ignores “capital flight”. Also I never implied ALL donors are guilty, I was speaking as a general point. I admit I perhaps could have made this more clearer.

    ”Lastly, let us not muddle things here. The Zambian govt was given money for road and health projects among other things; however some of this money was not used for the intended purposes. It was stolen. We have simply been asked to account for it.”

    I am not questioning donor demands. I
    simply agree with the President’s particular statements that donors should not be allowed to FEEL they can interfere willy nilly in internal affairs. Donors do this all the time and I think we should oppose that. Remember most of this aid is there as a form of post colonial control.

    ”We are a corrupted nation of criminals! It is sad to see a nation rotting in ones own life time (I was born in the late 60s and the story of my country is depressing). Honestly let us not defend the indefensible. Zambia is on a sure path to a failed State!”

    I will take this as a lament!
    Many of our people are honourable including yourself :)

    As for being a failed state - I am hopeful about Zambia. We have a strong opposition and if that is the path, Mr Banda and minions will be thrown out. Let us not panic just yet!

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  6. Whisper,

    I think you are doing yourself a dis-service by separating these two statements. The fact is that the President linked donors questioning the misappropriation of funds with us not being answerable to anyone by being a sovereign nation.

    As I note to Frank, I have not seen the video transcript but to me the President was making two separate points. One about sovereignty, the other about the one about who asked who for help.

    Now I agree his statement was stirred by the donors postures, but that does not mean that he was not making a lot of points within one statement. In short, what you are saying does not prove that we can read this one way, on the contrary, it shows multiple interpretations. The problem is that we have a media and commentators who only sees things from one perspective.

    ”Finally, disappointing statement from you about aid merely being a form of capital repatriation.

    Mmm..are you sure you read my piece correctly?

    I think the point I make is that as well as other reasons for aid, the “moral imperative” should not be ignored. That has two dimensions.

    First, historical injustices are part of what motivates some countries to give. I see nothing wrong with Africans demanding reparations if that is the point you want me to address.

    Secondly, I don’t restrict the moral dimensions purely to reparations. I believe that we are morally required to help our neighbours distant or near. In that sense we must continue to say it is morally right that westerns nations should help – though I recognise that giving is not always morally correct.

    ”I'm therefore quite shocked that you feel that we are due aid due to colonialisation.”

    See above.

    ”We are giving away our resources to all and sundry, then we beg for money to undertake basic development projects, when funders ask questions we scold them?! It's ludicrous.”

    I agree :)

    As per my response to MrK

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  7. Chola,

    'These are just inferences and cannot be deduced from what he said'. I beg to differ. The man castigated donors that they had no right to issue statements to the effect that they had withdrawn this and that because no one invited them to help Zambia. He said this in response to a journalist's question concerning the Global Fund statement on Zambia. Come on man there is more than a casual link here. This is not just an inference.

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  8. Frank,

    Perhaps what I should have a said is that - certainly that is one possibility.

    By the way, I think you mean "association" rather than "causal" :)

    In general as I note to Whisper a typical statement usually has a range of interpretations and good analysis demands all angles are looked at. My central problem with media and political pundits is their tendency to only consider ONE dimension ignoring at times that discarding the literal meaning could undermine other issues. As is the case above.

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  9. Chola,
    RB was asked a specific question about the withdrawal of donor support specifically that of the Global Fund. My question is why did a question concerning unaccounted for donor money lead the President to invoke sovereignty? We are all patriots who love our country but we should never hide behind the veil of sovereignty when we squander public monies be they from Zambians or donors. By the way just like I earlier stated; VJ Mwaanga has just confirmed (Times Of Zambia)that it is okay for donors to complain about how their money is used. His govt is only against letting the press/media on to this because according to him this will set Zambians against their own govt! This is exactly what RB was complaining about when he went into that vile rant at the airport. He was concerned more about his image than the sovereignty thingy! RB's policy is simple: Donors can complain about stolen Funds but it should never be made public!

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  10. Cho,

    Thanks for the response.

    I agree that a statement has a range of interpretations and that is why context is imporatant. In this case, Mr Banda chose to refer to Zambia being a sovereign nation in the context of replying to a question about donors questioning the misappropriation of funds. This was reported in all media (in Zambia and outside), not just one rogue title (his government has even subsequently reinforced his message). Are you seriously trying to say to me that his comment about sovereignty was not connected to this and that he has somehow been misunderstood? Maybe you can help me understand by providing me with an alternative context, which has so far not been put forward by him or anyone else, as to what Mr Banda was actually referring to.

    Regarding aid, I think I understood your position perfectly. Regardless of the imperative, moral, legal or otherwise. What you are saying is that Africa is due aid due to colonialisation. As I said, I think this was true as some stage, but after 45 years of independence I see this notion as a complete cop out. We have failed to take control of our own destiny and use the issue of colonialsation is a crutch. The moral obligation, is on our leaders to stop stealing and start working, simple. The obligation (moral and legal) of the donors is to ask where their tax payers money has gone to. OUR obligation is to ask for the same level of accountability of our government as the donors have, not to defend the indefensible.

    Cheers

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  11. Frank,

    "My question is why did a question concerning unaccounted for donor money lead the President to invoke sovereignty?"

    Not that I am able to answer for Mr Banda, but it seems to me you are unnecessarily constraining what the President can speak about. it is quite conceivable that point had been on his mind and he just thought like letting rip on that occassion.

    My point is that we now speculating. Sure it is better to simply accept that : a) multiple intepretations can be given b) by focusing on one aspect we ignore an important question regarding sovereignty.

    What I am unclear about from your position is whether you disagree with his statement or whether you disagree with his IMPLICIT reasons.

    Which is it?

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  12. Whisper,

    Your first issue is addressed in my response to Frank

    On the question of aid - I still think you have not understood what I am saying because I find it difficult to understand this statement :

    "What you are saying is that Africa is due aid due to colonialisation".

    What I have said is that it is one among many reasons that justifies the moral argument. Your statement implies that this is the only reason I believe Africans are due aid.

    "I think this was true as some stage, but after 45 years of independence I see this notion as a complete cop out"

    I am not sure how you would prove this? This is just a belief without empirical validity. The truth is that if we accepted that colonialism put Africa on a different path of development - in theory (as in philosophically) the reparations could be infinite. I am not saying they are - I am merely pointing out that the logical basis of your inference is unclear without you elaborating further.

    "The moral obligation, is on our leaders to stop stealing and start working, simple".

    Its not either or.
    Why can't the moral obligation be on both?

    In short - I think we are reaching different conclusions because your approach, with utmost respect, seeks a straight jacket. I am comfortable with the idea the world is more complicated.

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  13. Cho,

    'Not that I am able to answer for Mr Banda, but it seems to me you are unnecessarily constraining what the President can speak about. it is quite conceivable that point had been on his mind and he just thought like letting rip on that occassion.'

    Are you suggesting that in response to a direct question our President responds with random rambles?! I think you are the only person that is speculating on what he was responding to, for everyone else (including his Government ministers the matter is clear). Again, please don't ignore the context in which this statement was made.

    'What I have said is that it is one among many reasons that justifies the moral argument. Your statement implies that this is the only reason I believe Africans are due aid.'

    Understood and agreed, my statement did imply that. Duly noted and accepted, but please read your original article, at no point did you mention this being part of the reason. It sounded like it was your sole reason.

    I agree that the moral imperative MIGHT help justify aid. But as you go on to say, who should decide how much and for how long? Just as you make a moral argument as one of the reasons aid should be paid, there are people who will point out that the country was actually left in a better state than it is now (not that I necessarily subscribe to this).

    My 'straight jacket' approach might be due to the fact that when someone asks a direct question (like the one RB was asked) especially an important one like that. I expect a direct answer not an abstract one that could be because he was tired, hassled or rambling. Maybe if people said what they mean the world would be less complicated :-)

    Anyway, have to say I'm enjoying discussion. Very stimulating.

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  14. Whisper,

    Are you suggesting that in response to a direct question our President responds with random rambles?! I think you are the only person that is speculating on what he was responding to, for everyone else (including his Government ministers the matter is clear). Again, please don't ignore the context in which this statement was made.”

    I am saying the President was asked “to comment on how far the government had gone in dialoguing with donors in the road sector” [source – The Post].

    The question was general about dialogue and it is obvious his response was seeking to contextualise his approach to dealing with donors, including the need for them to respect the territorial integrity of Zambia. The question was broad enough to allow such a comment.

    We need the transcript to the conversation. At present it’s all a bit in the dark. Infact if you read the government papers you get a different story. Reuters story also gives a different impression from the Post.

    Now I am not one to defend President Banda endlessly. It just occurred to me that in the middle of the criticism, it has not been clear where people disagree with his statement at face value, and where they differ because of their understanding of the context or on his track record.


    ”I agree that the moral imperative MIGHT help justify aid. But as you go on to say, who should decide how much and for how long?”

    I think this could be quite simple. For example, we know 60% of Africa’s wealth has been leaked into Europe through capital flight. If greater efforts where geared towards repatriating that back that would be a good start.

    I think plunder during colonialism is a little more complicated. Certainly many countries feel they have “paid back” enough through IMF / World Bank loans and the subsequent debt relief. So in the grand scheme of things, I would probably put more emphasis on capital flight. Something even the OECD recognises as a huge contributor to underdevelopment.

    Although corruption imposes some transaction costs within countries, it is when leakage from the system occurs facilitated by foreign banks and countries that it becomes debilitating for Africa.

    By the way, I don't actually think western nations actually donate money the way you and I would give donations at our local events. These are part of global governance deals. The West when it gives "aid" it does so often out of self interest. They give because it is in their interests to do so. Either to assuage moral guilty or to maintain security or foster strategic dominance.

    They are what Ha Joon Chang calls BAD SAMARITAN nations - so they'll give RDA money in exchange for a large benefit to them elsewhere. Not necessarily at our expense - but often as a necessity.

    The USA aid in Afghanistan is precisely for security reasons. China's loans to Angola for oil...etc etc.

    Zambia gets aid mostly because it is seen as stabilising influence in the region. In the old days all else around it was on fire and that meant more money was needed in Zambia to keep it stable.

    This is probably what Banda meant when he said "we didn't ask you". He simply may have meant we know you give because it also benefits you. Now I have challenged his statement but let us not forget that AID model exists because it serves the interests of western nations.

    Infact the AID model benefits more the West than us. If that was not the case it would have collapsed because it would be unstainable for western countries to support something that does them no good.

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  15. Cho,

    I don't think anyone disagrees with RB assertation that Zambia is a sovereign nation and should be respected as such. Therefore it is just the context in which he brought this up which has irked readers.

    I don't think either of us is going to get any further trying to convince the other on this matter, so let's agree to disagree.

    Regarding aid. I agree capital flight is an often ignored problem that stifles development. Aid is a crude and inaccurate of method of repatriation and this needs to be looked at.

    With regards, the reasons why Western Governments give aid, again I completely agree with you. Infact I remember an article written about ten years ago on a Zambian blog site about aid. In it the author was talking to a Zambian Economist who was proportedly mentally ill and resident at Chainama Hills Hospital. The economist was promoting the idea of loans over aid and his reasoning was thus,

    'when you take a loan you know what you need to pay back and when. It is possible to negotiate your terms and establish whether it is within your means to take the loan. With aid it is different. Aid is like Aids, in the process of getting it it feels really good. You don't believe there are going to be any reprecussions further down the line from your decision. When the 'repayment' manifests itself it could be fatal.

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  16. Cho,

    We can agree that there is a need for a broad based discussion on Zambian (economic) sovereignty. I was merely commenting on the fact that President Banda's sudden discovery of national sovereignty was a matter of convenience, not an actual desire to see Zambia be economically independent. It was an excuse to avoid accountability in the government's finances, nothing more. And if they were just unaccountable to foreign donors, I would let it slide. However there is no accountability towards the Zambian people or even other branches of the state either.

    On the general issue of 'donor aid', and how it is abused to influence African countries' domestic and foreign policies, please see the following three articles. Irrespective of whether you feel the donor countries were justified or not, this is what happens:

    Germany threatens to cut aid over farm seizure
    by Staff Reporter
    02/07/2010 00:00:00

    GERMANY’S government says it will cut off aid to Zimbabwe unless illegal and violent occupiers leave a farm owned by a German national in the eastern part of the country.


    EU petitioned to suspend aid to Malawi over bankrolling Mugabe
    By Nyasa Times
    Published: November 17, 2009

    “Why, for instance, should Malawi get £70 million in balance of payments support this year from the UK alone when its people face starvation because of a reckless loan to Mugabe, which predictably has not been repaid? “ reads the petition.

    The words of Brigadier General Geoffrey van Orden (Military Intelligence), MEP. This 'petition' was followed 2 months later with this actual withholding of 'donor aid':

    World Bank faults Malawi on aid absorption as EU withholds budgetary support
    By Nyasa Times
    Published: December 28, 2009

    The report comes in the wake of the European Union’s decision to withhold budgetary support to Malawi.

    The EU is withholding about K6 billion because of concerns with the “macro-economic framework” in Malawi.


    Etc.

    Donor aid is being abused to micro-manage the domestic and foreign policies of African countries. This is not about 'charity', this is about control.

    There is a reason Africa is standing still while Asia is moving ahead in leaps and bounds. The money generated by our economy is not being reinvested, nor is it showing up as tax revenues. Instead, with have this suffocating micro-management of 'donor aid'.

    We need to start massively taxing the mines and be rid of this 'donor aid' once and for all.

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