What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Data mining or, uh, well, some "responsible cherry-picking" rather, on provincial development

MStFB update
I'll get to explaining the title in a while, but first some intro to this post. I got an interesting question from "fm" on whether it's actually unfair towards farmers in the north of Afghanistan that there is more poppy eradication there, and whether it's legitimate to be more understanding towards farmers in the south.
I argued basically that it's worth being understanding towards farmers in the south, in the sense that it pays to do so, given how that means less unemployed, and less support for the insurgency. As far as humanitarian considerations matter, I think, however, that it's really important to ask what's up with northern farmers, indeed.
Here is what I've written on that:
"As to the other half of the question. Without infrastructure and basic opportunities to make a living, eradication does no more justice in the north, either. It's a shame there's not really major improvement in conditions in the north, given how, seemingly at least, the circumstances seem more favourable there for the delivery of any kind of assistance to the people there. But that's what one gets when some countries there just go through the motions, and when others there are simply not able to mobilise more significant resources. A couple of days ago I said the Netherlands spent only some 14 million euros on reconstruction and aid so far in Uruzgan. Well, that's actually a lot more than what some PRTs manage in the north."
Okay, I was a little vague there. I should cite some data, shouldn't I? Well, this won't be comprehensive, but I did some cherry-picking surfing on the web (man, that sounds like I had some fun, doesn't it?), and here are several figures I've come across. This 'NewZAID' (the New Zealand International Aid and Development Agency's news bulletin) says that from 2001 to December, 2003, New Zealand has contributed $4.6 million in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. That's not a current figure, and neither is it a PRT figure of course, so I tried to dig up one for their Bamiyan PRT, too. All I managed so far was finding this news piece from July 5 this year, saying "New Zealand will give $800,000 in aid to Afghanistan, says Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters. The aid will go towards helping local communities in Afghanistan's Bamyan province build or repair irrigation systems, improve local roads and extend electricity supply to villages. New Zealand troops have been helping stabilise Bamyan for several years". Well, whichever way we view it, the Netherlands' 14 million euros in over a year in Uruzgan look pretty good, especially if you consider they're deep in there in the Wild South.
Well, there is Lithuania then. They're running the PRT in Ghor province, centered in Chagcharan. The Jamestown Foundation says here that "the Lithuanian government has allocated some $1.7 million of its own funds for development projects in Ghor in 2007".
By now the point I'm making is probably clear, but let's put it explicitly. In the north there are many small PRTs operating, many of them run by small countries actually, that couldn't muster much more anyway. To give further illustration, Hungary is running the PRT in Baghlan province, and we'll probably get to spend only about 5 to 10 million dollars by 2010 there (my rough estimate with absolutely no serious methodology).
PRTs are not the only source of development assistance for the provinces, and a development aid donor usually isn't giving aid to only one province of course (uh, well, so for example the Netherlands are still even spending in Baghlan province actually...). So these above are not totally relevant data. But it is indicative of why Bamiyan's female governor (she actually badly needs using that asset of being female with the western press), Habiba Sarabi complained recently that "larger PRTs spend more on development while smaller PRTs have less to spend", and demanded therefore more equal spending from PRTs, or nothing short of... a U.S.-led PRT!
Well, that is what you get when a blogger goes cherry-picking surfing the web for about an hour or so. I'll still have the really serious research to do on this issue, which I will, but right now I'm working on all sorts of other things. Still I think we may already conclude that if the Netherlands' 14 million look so good, then the far greater amount the Canadians spent in Kandahar makes Canadians look like gods of development. (Seeing how Habiba Sarabi is "longing", as the IRIN article says, for a U.S.-led PRT, what title should we reserve for the U.S. then? And what if these people could see neat charts on how much money was spent in the Balkans in the 1990s, per capita?)
Oh, and one more remark which I shouldn't forget. Given how development experts like talking of the need for dropping ink blots on the map (yes, it's not exclusively a Dutch habit to talk of ink blots), isn't the north of Afghanistan like the obvious place to do so? Rhetorical question of course, and it takes no hardcore realism to see that the really important question to ask is who will be ready to pay the bill?
P.S. Development ministers, leading PRT officials, or basically anyone in the know: if you read this post, and can send me some hard data on any PRT that you feel I should see, I'll be grateful. (Our department at my university is moving to a new building, and I'm spending these days packing stuff mostly, which doesn't leave me with much time to look for what may not even be out there.)
Update (September 10, 2007): I refer here to a "far greater amount" of development aid being spent by Canada in Kandahar than what is spent by the Netherlands in Uruzgan. That is not correct. In fact, Canada spends a very similar amount of development aid in Kandahar. The roots of this misunderstanding of mine I'm pointing out in an update to this earlier post on this blog.

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