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Upton-on line Diaspora Edition - 5th August 2004

Upton-on line
Diaspora Edition


From Hon. Simon Upton In France

5th August 2004

In this issue:

An unaccustomedly brief summer holidays edition of upton-on-line on: French explanations of what the recent 'deal' on export subsidies for agricultural products really mean; the reasons why Turkey isn't welcome in the EU despite what governments say; biological invasions of Europe; and Tariana Turia breaks into Le Monde.

Plus (for the minority of u-o-l readers who feel disoriented by the idea of a short edition) the full text of a Letter from Kenya by Jeff Sachs, Special Advisor to Kofi Annan on the the Millennium Development Goals. If you're interested in development assistance, this open letter to the rich world is a must read.

Reading between the lines

The recently concluded negotiations in Geneva represent a real break through, don't they? After all, Europe is set to phase out export subsidies, tariff barriers will fall and general sanity will break out after years of foot dragging. Upton-on-line's theory is that radical departures can be explained either by genuine revolutions or tactical retreats behind which lie deeper defences. It would seem Europe's conversion is of the latter kind.

As Europe's most recalcitrant defender of farm subsidies, French reaction provides probably the most plausible guide to the future which can only be described as strewn with obstacles. The tone of the French Agriculture Minister, Hervé Gaymard, provided the first grounds for sobriety. M Gaymard decided to present the deal as a major victory for European diplomacy (for which, read a major victory for French pressure on the European negotiating position). It was, above all, he said about bringing the United States to heel. "The United States have accepted constraints on their agricultural payments that they have never before accepted. Once our efforts were placed on an equal footing there remained no basis for our continued opposition."

But it was the next sentence that gave the real flavour of French fervour to reform the agricultural products market: "the focus of negotiations between this autumn and December 2005 will be the speed with which the subsidies are removed. I think the rhythm of reform will very likely have a horizon of 2015 or 2017 which will give us the time to get ourselves organised." So there's no avalanche of activity likely. Just the stately movement of the same old policy glacier perhaps a little the worse for wear after a mild policy warming. It would also explain the measured tone of a statement from the ministry responsible for overseas trade which characterised the agreement as: "an agreement along the way which constitutes an important step in the negotiations opened in Doha ... There still remains much work to be done to finalise the terms of the agreement and to reach an agreement that is in accord with the interests of the European Union."

And to the extent that French reporters shine a light into the soul of French officials (or more accurately, French officials shine remarkably well-informed light through the pens of expert journalists), reporting in Le Monde on the agreement provided a superb insight into how this agreement is viewed officially. After a recitation of the heroic reforms being undertaken to the CAP, Le Monde's well sourced journalist recorded that: "It is being underlined, in Paris, that there are other means available to provide protection from competition that is too stiff (for example, competition from countries with very low wage rates). The application of strict sanitary or labour standards, labelling rules, requirements for the traceability of crops or animals, the presence or otherwise of GMOs, the taxation of the large wholesalers - all these can constitute protections every bit as effective as tariffs, quotas or various types of direct assistance." ( Le Monde, 3 August).

So there you have it. A long, slow retreat so when the ice finally melts there will be plenty of new barricades in place!

New Zealand interests will also be interested to know that Le Monde (reflecting, one assumes, the official view) is firmly of the view that Europe's gallant reforms of the last 10 years are ahead of everyone elses. "The United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand haven't made the same effort" intones the self-righteous mouthpiece for the Ministry. In New Zealand's case that is technically correct. If you have no protection it's hard to make more progress. Do Europeans think we should have started paying them through some novel system of negative subsidies?

Talking Turkey

The recent visit to Paris by Turkey's Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, provided yet another opportunity for Jacques Chirac to reiterate his support for Turkey's admission to membership of the European Union, albeit on a very slow time-track. In this, Chirac has been courageous (although his caveat would place membership safely beyond the life of any current senior politician). That caution hasn't stemmed increasingly vocal opposition to the prospect. Le Figaro published recently a call to arms against Ankara's candidacy by Alexandre Del Valle. Del Valle is a ferocious islamophobe who believes fervently in a clash of civilisations that pits the liberal, enlightened West against its third totalitarian challenge (the first two were communism and fascism). An academic, his most recent book is entitled Turkey in Europe - an Islamic Trojan Horse? There is no question that the views he expresses are widely shared across the political spectrum.
Leaving aside his particular views on Islam, Del Valle's recent article skilfully marshalled the sorts of arguments Europe is likely to hear much more about should its leaders commit to official adhesion talks:

"Are our leaders aware that Turkey will become the single biggest state in Europe; that from 2020, Ankara would account for 100 Turkish deputies in the European Parliament asa against 72 for France and 98 for Germany; that it will be the premier military and power and have the largest population (around 100 million inhabitants and 850,000 soldiers)? The entry of Turkey into the EU will open a Pandora's Box of enlargement. How could one in turn refuse the 200 million Turkish speaking people from the Caucasus and Central Asia or the states of North Africa? The EU will inherit all the contentious geo-political disputes (water, national boundaries, minorities etc) that Turkey has with her neighbours. That's without including trafficking in drugs, arms and illegal immigrants in respect of which Turkey is a hub. The EU will have, as direct neighbours: the Iran of the Mullahs and Syria, guardian of the Hezbollah; Iraq, home of Al Qaida's anti-Western djihad; Azerbaijan and Georgia, conduits for Islamo-terrorists fighting in the Chechen djihad..."

Uncompromising stuff. Upton-on-line is not aware of any significant official campaign in Europe to counter this sort of analysis. The governing elites seem to continue on their reasonable, fair-minded way hoping that these voices will simply evaporate. That would seem to be a dangerous gamble. Turkey is not the same as Lithuania or Hungary. It is huge and of enormous geo-political significance. Without a popular mandate for accession based on active, prolonged advocacy for turkey's cause, Europe's political leaders could find themselves - or more likely their successors - with a real popular backlash on their hands. That's certainly what people like Alexandre Del Valle are counting on.

Biological Invasions of Europe

New Zealanders are acutely aware of the bio-security status of their isolated islands. So it's interesting to read what a recent French update has to say about the significance of biological invasions of France over the last 11,000 years (the Holocene or post-Ice Age world). Of the 585 species believed to have established themselves over that time, around a quarter - 154 - appear to have invaded naturally from outside. They embrace 68 birds, 38 mammals, 31 fish and 17 reptiles and amphibians. Over the same period 51 species have disappeared, principally species of birds and mammals. Needless to say, one species (living in Europe long before the Holocene) has had a bigger impact on the rate of arrivals than any other - humans. And the rate has risen over time. From less than one invasion per century between 9000 years ago and the C17th, the invasion rate is now running at over 130 species per century. As a continent whose bio-diversity has been radically simplified by Ice Ages, Europeans probably don't feel under much threat but climatic change could change as the arrival of vectors for nasty disease find it easier to gain a foot hold, proboscis hold or whatever it is that insects have...

Godzone as the world now reports it

The sheer infrequency of articles on New Zealand tends to cause kiwis abroad to pause when they see articles about 'home'. Le Monde recently devoted a 1000 word article to Godzone under the stiff, formal title: The Maori question divides New Zealand. It was a summary of the fall-out from Don Brash's Orewa Speech and the general state of race relations. The journalist set the stage with this description of the background:

"New Zealand has long been presented, justly, as a country in which the European settlers managed to live on good terms with the population already installed prior to their own arrival. This peaceful co-habitation contrasted squarely with neighbouring Australia where the settlers set out to physically eliminate the Aborigines before turning to assimilate them forcibly by tearing children away from their parents and turning them over to religious boarding schools. But the good relationship between Maori and Pakeha (New Zealanders of European origin) seems now to be being called in question. For decades, the Maori question has been a taboo subject in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Politicians from the right and the left have resisted using the race card to win votes. Then Don Brash arrived."

There follows an unvarnished account of the party political stand-off which will be stale news to New Zealand readers but seems more than a little squalid to kiwi Diasporans who have rather enjoyed New Zealand's good reputation in these stakes. Brash is quoted as saying (with a 'wheedling smile') that "It was high time that someone tackled the question [of special rights for Maori]. The resentment felt by a large chunk of the population for several years now would only have grown if I hadn't put the issue on the table." Helen Clark is quoted, in response, as claiming that "the leadership of the National Party was so low in the polls that they became desperate. And the right is used to playing the race card to win votes."

The journalist then proceeds to an account of what the debate has done to the opinion polls followed by a grim litany of statistics charting the gap between Maori and Pakeha on a range of social and economic indicators before returning to a verdict from Tariana Turia that "this country is going through a critical period in its history. Some young people have already asked me what I think about a possible armed uprising against the Pakeha." With this almost casual reference ringing in our minds the journalist concludes with the trite verdict that "New Zealand has become a country like all the others, with its share of racism and jealousies."

There's not a word about the foreshore debate which sparked the whole thing off. That's scarcely surprising. That sort of arcane domestic debate doesn't begin to penetrate consciousness here. The long and the short of it is that paradise got misreported and Whale Rider - which does get mentioned - exists in Hollywood, not the real world. It was always risky to launch - and then market - a nation based on utopian premises (and we've had more than our share: social laboratory of the world, race relations nirvana, clean and green now running in its latest incarnation as 100% Pure NZ). Sorting out the image problem may take longer than many imagine - assuming Turiana's none too subtle commentary doesn't get acted upon. Upton-on-line can see a bit of a branding problem up ahead.

A Letter from Sauri, Kenya

For those who insist on substance rather than the preceding sound bite length stories, upton-on-line leaves readers with the full text of an open letter to the rich world by Jeffrey Sachs, Kofi Annan's Special Advisor on the Millennium Development Goals and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. The UN system has a penchant for appointing special advisors on all sort of problems that arise or (as in this case) goals it has talked itself into but doesn't have a clue about how to achieve. These are usually earnest men (and sometimes women) known only to the grey world of multi-lateral diplomacy. In Sachs, the Secretary-General chose a completely different sort of beast - an internationally known and controversial economist implanted at a top American university.

What the world leaders who trooped off to New York in 2000 to sign up to some ambitious development goals thought they were doing we will never know for certain. One has to fight against the cynical thought that at least a percentage of them saw set another raft of words that would never come back to haunt them simply because there were already so many broken promises on development assistance that one more couldn't cause much trouble. And looking at the way in which development resources didn't exactly pour in in support of the Goals, it might have looked as though any cynics among them picked it right. But they hadn't reckoned with Sachs.

Despite major professional and academic commitments, Sachs has become a crusader for the goals and a highly mobile and vocal conscience for those who might have thought they'd be left to welch on their promises in silence. The author of a major report for the WHO on the macro-economic benefits from tackling the key diseases which blight the world's least developed countries (AIDS, Malaria and TB), Sachs has placed a lot of emphasis on the investment case for putting serious money behind the goals. As an economist he knows how to marshal his case to head off those who might be inclined to query the value for money of such investments. Here is the full text of his appeal direct from East Kenya and following hard on the heels of a high level meeting at the OECD where he asked the donor countries just what they were going to do about making good on their promises.

Some readers may challenge some of Sachs' premises but no-one can doubt the sheer single-minded passion he has developed for his subject. As a successful academic with the professional world at his feet, it is not work he needs to guild his career. He does it because he believes in it as is palpable to anyone who has listened to him. Time will tell whether this man's crusade can unlock the necessary billions.

***********

Jeffrey D. Sachs

July 24, 2004

Letter from Sauri, Kenya

I am writing to you in my capacity as Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. I have been visiting western Kenya, where I have seen harrowing things that I would like you to know about.

Together with colleagues from the UN Millennium Project and the Earth Institute I have spent several days this month in a group of 8 villages known as the Sauri sublocation, in the Siaya district of Nyanza Province, about 44 km from Kisumu. We have visited farms, clinics, a sub-district and district hospital, and schools, in Sauri and the environs. We have met with international organizations working in the region, including ICRAF (the World Agroforestry Center), the UNDP, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We have found a region beset by hunger, AIDS, and malaria. The situation is far more grim than you will find described in official documents. The situation is also salvageable, but the international community requires a much better understanding of its severity, dynamics, and solutions if the crisis in Sauri and the rest of rural Africa is to be solved.

The situation is best understood through the voices of Sauris 8th grade class passed the Kenyan national secondary school exams. This past Sunday, July 11, we saw why. On their _day off_ from school, this years national examinations coming in November. Unfortunately, many who will pass the exams will be unable to take up a position in a secondary school because of lack of funds for tuition, uniforms, and supplies. Nonetheless, to boost the fortitude of the 8th graders during the critical examination year, the community provides them with a cooked mid-day meal, with the fuel wood and water brought from home by the students (shown below). Alas, the community is currently unable to provide mid-day meals for the younger children, who must fend for themselves, with many going hungry the entire school day.

The village meeting got underway on Monday afternoon, July 12, with the villagers arriving on foot from several kilometers away. I introduced my colleagues and told the community of the Millennium Projects $500 a ton, at least twice the world market price. A proper application might require 2 to 4 bags per hectare, or $50 to $100 per hectare, a cost vastly beyond what the household can afford. Credits to buy fertilizer are neither available nor prudent for these farmers: a single failed crop season, an untimely episode of malaria, or some other calamity, can push a household that has taken on debt into a spiral of unending indebtedness and destitution.

As the afternoon discussion unfolded, the gravity of the communitys residents cooked with locally collected fuel wood, but the decline in the number of trees has left the sub-location bereft of sufficient fuel wood. The quarter or so households who are using the ICRAF system of improved fallows, based on leguminous trees, have a dedicated supply of fuel wood. Other farmer households do not. Villagers said that they now buy pieces of fuel wood in Yala or Muhanda town (both a few kms away), a bundle of 7 sticks costing around 25 shillings (30 cents). These 7 sticks are barely sufficient for cooking one meal. In our meeting with the villagers, I conveyed astonishment at the price, 30 cents per meal, for a community that earns almost no money at all. A woman responded that many villagers had in fact reverted to cooking with cow dung or to eating uncooked meals.

As this village dies of hunger, AIDS, and malaria, its isolation is stunning. There are no cars or trucks owned or even used within Sauri, and only a handful of villagers said they had ridden in any kind of motorized transport during the past year. Only 3 or 4 out of the 200 or so said that they get to the regional city of Kisumu each month, and about the same number said that they had been to Nairobi, Kenya meager production, farm output must be used almost entirely for the households villages, and impoverished villages like them all over the world can be saved, and set on a path of development, at a cost that is tiny for the world but too high for the villages themselves and for the Kenyan government on its own.

African safaris speak of _The Big Five_ animals to watch for on the savannah. The international development community should speak of The Big Five development interventions that would spell the difference between hunger, disease, and death, versus health and economic development. Sauris Poverty Trap,_ in the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, which I attach), are:

" Agricultural inputs. With fertilizers, improved fallows (with ICRAFs farmers could triple the food yields per hectare, and quickly end chronic hunger. In addition, improved storage facilities would allow farmers to store their surplus and not have to sell it all immediately. This would be of particular advantage for the women who do the lions 5,000 residents would be very low. Here are some quick guesses, to be refined by the Earth Institute over the coming months:

Fertilizers and improved fallows for the 500 or so arable hectares would be roughly $100 per hectare per year, or $50,000 per year for the community.

A clinic, staffed by a doctor and nurse, providing free anti-malaria prevention and care and other free basic services other than the anti-retrovirals, would cost around $50,000 per year. (Anti-retrovirals would be provided by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, the U.S. Emergency Plan, and other programs.). School meals could be paid for communally out of just a small part of the incremental grain yields achieved through the application of fertilizers.

A village truck would be an annual inclusive running cost of perhaps $15,000 per year if amortized over several years (or leased from a manufacturer). Modern cooking fuel for the primary and secondary school students (numbering about 1000) in the entire sub-location would cost an additional $5,000 per year. A few village cell phones and a grain storage facility would add perhaps $5,000 per year, for a total of $25,000 per year.

A combination of protected springs (with improved access), bore wells (with pumps) and community taps connected to the large-scale storage system would provide access to water at 10 convenient locations and cost around $25,000 dollars.

Electricity could be provided to the school, the nearby clinic and five water points by a dedicated off-grid generator, or by a power line from Yala town or Nyanminia village for an initial cost of about $35,000. For another $40,000 initial costs and recurring costs of $10,000 every household could be provided with a battery/bulb assembly to light a small bulb for a few hours every night with the battery charging station connected to the village generator. The annualized costs would be $25,000 per year.

Additional expenses would include scaling up educational activities, various costs of local management, technical advice from agricultural extension officers, and other related delivery services.

We estimate that the combined costs would be around $250,000 per year, or roughly $50 per person per year in Sauri, for at least the next few years.

The benefits would include decisive malaria control (with transmission reduced by perhaps 90 percent judging from recent CDC bed net trials in a neighboring area), a doubling or tripling of food yields per hectare with a drastic reduction of chronic hunger and under-nutrition, improved school attendance, a reduction of water-borne disease, a rise in incomes through the sale of surplus grains and cash crops, and a myriad of other benefits as well (e.g. the growth of cash incomes via food processing, carpentry, small-scale clothing manufacturing, horticulture, aquaculture, animal husbandry, and the like). With anti-retrovirals added to the clinics villages require annual investments on the order of $1 billion per year, with the donors filling most of that financing gap, since the national government is already stretched beyond its means. Instead, donor support to Kenya is around $100 million, or a mere one tenth of what is needed. Amazingly, Kenyas budget is therefore still being drained by the international community, not bolstered by it.

This is all the more remarkable since Kenya is a new and fragile democracy that should be receiving considerable help from its development partners. Kenya, ironically, is also a victim of global terrorism, caught in a war not of its own making. U.S. and Israeli targets on Kenyan soil have been hit in recent years, sending Kenyat have to live off of bribes and side payments, continued support for the governmentd like to help you scale up the Big Five in Kenyas rural poor have access to agricultural inputs, health, education, electricity, communications and transport, and safe water and sanitation. Letre prepared to pay if you are prepared to ensure good governance on such an historic project._ Private consulting firms with an international reputation can be brought in to help design these systems, and to give confidence in their performance.

With a little more forethought, the donors and Government could take advantage of the crucial fact that villages like Sauri have a _group monitoring and enforcement_ mechanism automatically built into village life that can help to ensure that aid at the village is well used. Just as experience with group lending in microfinance has been highly successful, projects which empower village-based community organizations to oversee village services have also been highly successful. Recent experiences with village governance in India, based on the panchayats, are but one notable example. In Sauri, the villagers jumped with eagerness at the invitation to form various committees (schooling, clinics, transport and electricity, farming) to help prepare for the actual investments and to ensure proper governance as they are put into place. The headmistress, Ms. Omolo, who oversaw the formation of the committees, also ensured that the village women, with their special needs and burdens and even legal obstacles, would be well represented in each of the committees.

If donor officials will join the UN Millennium Project and Government of Kenya by going together to the villages, meeting with the villagers, and brainstorming with government officials, I am utterly confident that together we can come up with a hundred-and-one fruitful approaches to ensure that aid actually reaches the villages. We need to be more creative, in order to save the lives of millions of people now struggling to survive and often failing in the impoverished villages around the world. The donors and the Government of Kenya can and should agree on a suitable and bold strategy before the end of 2004.

I firmly believe that Kenya's new democracy, from the national government down to the villages, is prepared to govern the use of international help with transparency, efficiency, and equity, if we can get the delivery mechanisms right and invest in the supporting information and reporting technologies. The emergency is at hand. Kenyas fragile democracy need to be saved now. The rich world needs to wake from its slumber.

Sincerely yours,
Jeffrey D. Sachs
Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals
Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University

***********

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