Thursday, November 26, 2009

Development Aid Agency Bid Procedures

There has been an alarming trend in the development aid business when it comes to requests for proposals issued by some agencies. Apparently, those who put together the various requests for proposals or similar bid packages have little practical experience in the field or understanding how companies are run.

A recent example that I came across involved a request for proposal that tied payments to the contractor to events beyond the control of the contractor - specifically, passage of legislation by a foreign government. The culprit in this idiotic requirement will not be mentioned but it is clear that the author of the RFP does not know what he/she is doing and likely is someone with no business or practical development experience. Now, this is not a matter of a simple failure of understanding. It is profoundly stupid. No business in its right mind would agree to tie payments to any event that is outside of its control.

Another example of this out of control agency behavior is the weighting of proposals among technical and cost points. To use an 80/20 split is absurd. Again - the result of inexperienced staff and the academic composition of some agencies which results in programs that fail to take into consideration anything practical or reality based. Developing programs founded on theory rather than the existing environment is worse than ineffective. It is why many authorities in Africa, for example, think aid agencies are part of the problem and why, during a recent debate in the Economist, the consensus was that the private sector was better at delivering results than government aid agencies.

Development contractors are not in the charity business and the sooner aid agencies figure that out the better.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Afghanistan Surge

The rumours of President Obama's decision on the next steps in Afghanistan for the United States all seem to indicate the insertion of about 34,000 more troops as part of a "surge" advocated by the Pentagon. This is less than demanded by General McChrystal. The number itself is meaningless without context and the parsing of the rumours serves no useful purpose until President Obama explains, as he has promised, the plan.

Any explanation will have to address what the Afghan government must do in the short and medium term and an exit strategy (though not necessarily characterized as such). Perhaps, too, President Obama will explain the objective and, hopefully unlike the military and their allies, it won't be to "win". Until then, I'm reserving comment.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

World Cup - France Cheats to Get In

There is not much that can be done about it (and the suggestion for a replay is a non-starter since the teams won't release their players to do so) but the French win over Ireland is forever tainted by this clear, deliberate hand-ball. If France wins the Cup - unlikely but possible - a notation should be added on how they arrived. Too bad.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tanzanian Corruption & African Fragmentation

Well, this is not good. A considerable fall from 2008. Ranked now at 126 (102 in 2008), Tanzania is only marginally better than most of Africa. However, for the sake of perspective, Somalia is dead last at 180. I guess that's something. Botswana is the best at 37 - only two points below Puerto Rico and 5 below Israel. Maybe I need to work there.

This ranking was published by Transparency International just prior to the speech in Dar es Salaam on November 14 given by Mo Ibriham where "the British-Sudanese mobile phone billionaire said bad leadership, and the fragmentation of the continent into small and economically isolated countries meant that Africa could not survive as it was".

Mo Ibrihim's conclusion, by the way, applies to ethnic separatists in Europe and Asia. Their desire for an independent state - driven by a demonstrable inability to tolerate others based on differences of religion, race, hair style, shoe size or a false sense of superiority or other less palatable reasons on the part of the locally dominant species of ethnic culprits who are equally at fault - leads to economically unsustainable "nations" dependent on the charity of others. Their position of "separate but equal" is more aptly called "separate but poor and stupid".

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Consultants to the World - Condi and Hadley - Oh My

I just noticed this from last week.

Who on earth would hire the same people who brought on the foreign policy disasters of the Bush adminstration? Their potential and actual client list would be useful and tell us more about the relative intellegence of the clients than what we already know to be true about the judgement of these two foreign affairs experts.

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Japan & Russia to End Word War II

In a little reported event on Sunday, the Russian and new Japanese governments have agreed to sign a peace treaty ending the last vestige of World War II.

Japan agreed to the peace treaty with no strings attached - a significant departure from previous negotiations. The fact that the issue of the South Kuril islands will not be linked to the treaty may stir up some political trouble in Japan; but, it seems that Japan is pushing the issue to back burner in order to concentrate on its economic position with China and re-entering South East Asia. Russia may also want to resolve any remaining issues with Japan precisely because Japan would be a counter to China. Russia is not particularly formidable in its eastern regions and a settlement with Japan would allow Russia to concentrate its efforts in the west.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

The Rains Came

Summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.Image via Wikipedia

Actually, four days of heavy rain in drought striken East Africa. It's probably not much interest for those who are not here; but I am, so tough.

The problem is that after a two year drought, heavy - and you really need to see it to understand the difference when we say heavy rain in Africa - can do a great deal of damage. The land is parched and in the northern districts around Kilimanjaro here in Tanzania it is particularly so. So the rain took down the side of a mountain and killed at least 20 people in their homes.

The rainy season begins this month and so the devastation in East Africa (Tanzania has not been hit as hard)caused by two years of drought is likely to be supplanted by devastation caused by downpours in partnership with the el Nino affect and climate change. Although huge efforts to feed people have been undertaken by Oxfam, the respective East Africa governments and other aid agencies, there is something missing from an aid perspective at this point.

Starvation caused by drought, inefficiencies in distribution, climate change and land development are all connected and simply providing food aid is not a long term solution. The focus on sustainable food production requires increasing funding to programs that actually have a demonstrable affect on the ground in a very short term.

I've seen how many aid agencies work. I'm not optimistic.

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Pirates Have Lawyers Too

Spain's Defence Minister is pushing the EU to blockade three Somali ports. I won't discuss the utility of this since I don't know the naval deployment capabilities of the EU outside of NATO. But, I found this remark amazing:

--- Chacon also said the pirate gangs "have ties to sophisticated law firms in London," and she called for the international community to do more to track ransoms given to pirates to release hostages. ---


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Comment Control Back On

Sorry. Because of a spam attack, I've had to turn comment moderation and coding back on in full. Open ID will work but, if you want to leave a comment, you'll need to be able to type in the letters shown for verification. These people know who they are and just make it difficult for everyone else.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Title Registration in Africa - a Bust?

{{Potd/2005-06-24 (en)}}Image via Wikipedia

As an agent-of-virtue (but without the giant white land rover) currently working in Africa, I would love to know if the land registration systems foisted on the continent by the West for the past 15 years work...anywhere? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

More on this later.

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A Propos of Nothing in Particular

WattoImage via Wikipedia

I see that Lou Dobbs of CNN fame (I rarely watch it - BBC is far superior) has quit. The mother ship from the Vega star system has arrived and is bringing him home. Great.

Now if only the ship from planet Zorg would come and snatch Rupert Murdoch (pictured here), the stench of bigotry, hate and stupidity on the planet would measurably drop.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Afghan Rumours

McClatchy reports that the Obama adminstration is hinting at the deployment of 34,000 more troops to Afghanistan - very close to the number requested by General McChrystal as a minimum and which I thought was delusional.

If this is true, then I believe it is a huge mistake. The Biden approach is much more doable than spending a huge amount of funds on a questionable deployment to support a corrupt government of a non-nation which has shown no signs of reforming. The final decision won't come until after the President finishes with his Asia trip, but a plan has yet to be articulated.

I despise people like the Taliban - but are they a threat to US interests within Afghanistan (they are different than the Pakistanian version)? Why isn't it possible to maintain a force that can surgically target threats? What is the US goal? Is there an exit strategy?

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Ukraine and Russia Leadership Classic

No. It's not golf. It's caption writing.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fresh Air in Tehran

This was interesting. The fact that the student Mahmoud Vahidnia, has not been, to this point, the target of retribution (his statements and questions were really posed with respect), is refreshing. It is a bit of fresh air juxtaposed with the tear gassing of protesters the other day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chancellor Merkel's Moment

OK. I withdraw 40% - well maybe 45% - of my criticism of German foreign policy following the Chancellor's speech in front of a joint session of Congress. Although Chancellor from the larger political party, I do wonder what effect her coalition partner's foreign policy views had on the rather forceful remarks regarding Iran. Nevertheless, the follow-up actions vis a vis Russia are what will count.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Afghan Post - Headline: Karzai Bounces Back - Wins by Landslide

070822-A-6849A-667 -- Scouts from 2nd Battalio...Image via Wikipedia

The US is now stuck. First, the administration tried to distance itself from Karzai as well as signal it was looking for someone new. With Karzai cozying up to every warlord in Afghanistan, turning a blind eye to corruption (particularly his own), the US had burned the ships on the beach - as history has shown, a very unwise tactic. Now what? A congratulatory message from the US embassy in Kabul. "Looking forward to working with you", "victory for democracy" sniff, sniff sort of stuff.

Whatever happens next, the US needs to start rebuilding those burnt hulks and develop a strategy to get out. Karzai is unlikely to feel generous just now and attempts to pursue governance, anti-corruption and "civil society" reforms will slide off the mountains like so much melting snow.

As I said earlier, I suspect that the Obama administration will send between 10-14,000 more troops. McChrystal is certifiable if he thinks more will come. Obama will lean more toward the Biden plan of CI warfare than that of taking and holding territory. I hope.

Afghanistan is not a country and cannot be governed through a central authority. Some semblance of a deal needs to be made with the warlords. It would be nice if the Taliban can suffer severe losses and be marginalized because I believe that people who treat others, especially women, in a manner that might even be found obnoxious in 12th century, need to be boxed up somewhere so they don't do any more harm. However, it is likely the best that can happen now is a successful Biden approach. Any legitimacy in Kabul that a real election may have engendered is up in smoke.

The other element ofthe Afghanistan war is the impact on the foreign policy of the US and NATO members as a whole. NATO is now becoming less and less of a unified force. The US is tied down in Afghanistan and still has 120,000 troops in Iraq. In the meantime, Iran is proving to be its normal self, expert at outwardly reasonable delay and obfuscation while risking that Israel may suddenly tire of the game and throw its weight around. This could drag the US into another Asian land war and would undoubtadly set of a naval conflict in the Arabian Gulf. Something it cannot afford either militarily or financially. Something Russia knows very well.

The mess that the previous administration of Cheney/Bush dumped on the future is now pretty clear. Bush looked into Putin's eyes and "saw his soul". Really. How sweet. Jerk.

Well, that soul has now breached the borders of another country and remained; threatens Ukraine with a similar loss of Crimea (to which it has gleefully handed out Russian passports); cajoles Germany with the carrot of energy dependence to its view of Eastern Europe as within its sphere; crushes any degree of press and individual rights at home; revises its nuclear strategy to include a first strike; and, begins a diplomatic round of ally hunting in South America. All of this is within Russia's rights. Just like the Soviet Union (except for the first strike doctine) which it is more than a little beginning to resemble. None of these moves should go unanswered or uncountered because of Afghanistan. Understand, Russia wants the US tied down while it completes its circuit. The US, while it remains in that position, has very few alternatives.

If Russia were to turn on Iran today, there would be a deal. Iranians are not stupid and they know they have Russia at their back. China would veto sanctions as well - but the Russians will sell them military equipment. Obama will not succeed with Iran until he succeeds in beginning the disentaglement from Afghanistan and completes it in Iraq.

He will not succeed in moving anything forward between Israel and the Palestinians while Iraq and Afghanistan are lead weights on new policy development.

He will not be able to assist Pakistan deal with the terrorist wave of 12th century Luddite Taliban extremists that are tearing the Pakistan state to shreds.

The costs of these two wars has been and is draining the US treasury and making the dollar weaker every day - leaving the US open to a type of effective diplomacy at which the Chinese excel - and the US does not.

NATO is losing its center of gravity and a Germany that sees fit to sell the freedom of other countries for comfort and energy, can bring its operations to a halt.

There should be no mistake. The gross, self-centered, bloody arrogance and greed that engulfed the US for 8 years under the Republicans has been dumped on this new administration to come full circle both domestically and internationally. An exit strategy for Afghanistan based on the Biden plan will be a hit on US prestige. The right wing extremists that have now taken over the Republicans and give the Taliban a run for their money will howl because they are very willing to watch other people die but won't volunteer while there is still time to do so (unlike the Taliban). So what. They would howl either way because they only hate being out of power. The country means nothing.

So this administration now is forced to show the world that it knows how to deal with Afghanistan. The non-plan of the snarling Cheney world view of blood-letting has turned into a morass.

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Afghanistan II 1/2

With the turn of events in the second round of elections in Afghanistan, I've postponed a post on the wider issues surrounding the US/Europe/Russia/Israel linkages that significantly tie the hands of US policy makers. There will be no second round - one person running does not an election make.

Let's not characterize this as anything other than it is - a disaster. Sorry Hillary - it changes everything. With the imminent dispatch of another 14,000 troops to Afghanistan, a policy must be articulated by the US administration and an exit strategy developed. Otherwise, there is no reason to be in Afghanistan supporting President Karzai - the Mayor of Kabul.

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