Wednesday 13 January 2010

Better off stateless?

Ben Powell, Pete Leeson and others have done interesting work on the relative performance of Somalia and ex ante comparable African states. While Somalia would be a terrible place to live, folks there often are better off than folks in neighbouring countries.

Interesting case reported by the BBC in the Ivory Coast where the northern town of Bouake, formerly capital of the rebels' region, has been operating under near-anarchy for a few years.
It was perhaps that legacy and a relatively high education that gave people the courage to try to make the best of difficult situation.

When civil servants fled south, volunteer teachers, like Ali Ouattara, stepped forward to try to keep things going.

"We didn't want the kids to become child soldiers, so we tried to give them something. This is how we became teachers," says Mr Ouattara, who lost his job at the university at the start of the crisis.

Most of the volunteer teachers had limited qualifications and no experience of teaching.
At first they had almost no resources as the schools had been ransacked and the lawlessness meant they were scared to discipline their pupils, who were sometimes armed.

Gradually with contributions from parents, the ad-hoc schools helped save a generation of children, and in some years the rebel zone got better results in national exams than the government zone.

Other volunteers helped cover for the absence of the state in other ways: setting up an ad-hoc postal service; their own television stations and some basic policing.
As for prospects, the Ivory Coast is set for reunification:
For example, Bouake now has a booming business in motorbike taxis - illegal under Ivorian law.

But here it is a sector that has kept hundreds of young men off the streets.

The problem is they will not have a place in a reunified Ivory Coast, what with their untaxed scooters, unlicensed businesses and lack of driving licences.
UN observation points along the former ceasefire line have already been dismantled but the most delicate part of reunification - handing over guns and control of taxes - still seems a long way off.

And, seven years without traffic lights, taxes or utility bills develops habits that are hard to budge.

The BBC's podcast on life in Bouake is here. UPDATE: Having heard most of it, I strongly recommend...

HT: Radley Balko

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