Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A letter to Private Eye


I have been following your exposé of CDC and Actis for a little while and, whilst I applaud your dedication and doubt that said organisations' motives are entirely pure, I do feel that you are labouring under several delusions.

Your ire centres around the idea that CDC is investing, not in "agriculture", but in technologies such as mobile phone networks which is not an appropriate way to "spend the taxpayers' money intended for poverty relief". Fair enough.

Except that several reports have shown that mobile phones have an extraordinary and positive impact on development in poorer countries; one showed that a rise of 10 mobile phones per 100 people leads to a 1.5% rise in the growth of GDP. Amongst other things, they allow the farmers that you profess to champion to 'phone the nearest population centres—rather than having to pick one to travel to—and determine the best price for their products.

Further, another recent study showed that the building of reliable infrastructure had a far more positive impact on the development of Western economies than protectionism, for instance, ever did and so I would have thought that you would applaud the constructing of such infrastructure in Africa and other developing nations.

You also claim that CDC is "deserting third world agriculture"; it might have escaped your notice but the development of Western societies shows that everyone wishes to desert third world-style agriculture: in this country, for instance, people preferred to work down the coal mines—hardly a walk in the park—rather than continue in subsistence farming.

If our government was really interested in helping these impoverished nations, they would sponsor action to enact, and enforce, strong property rights laws: once a farmer can be sure that his land will not be removed at a moment's notice, and with no compensation, he may determine that land to be worth investing in. Further, his land would then provide collateral for loans to make that investment.

As things currently stand, in all too many countries, farmers do not have that assurance. As it is then, we should help them to make the best of their position and building a technological infrastructure—given the geographical and capital problems inherent in building a tight physical one—has been shown to be an excellent way in which to do that.

Yours faithfully,



Anonymous said...

An easier infrastructure to install than cabled telephones. The ability to contact your family and friends. A means to make payments and transfers without needing a computer or even a bank. Plus as you say, the convenience for the farmers to find out market prices before setting off.

The benefits of the mobile to Africa are pretty hard to miss. Well done to Private Eye for managing it.

China's business deals in Africa tend to involve minerals in return for roads, schools and whatnot. This is far harder to siphon off into a fleet of Mercs and a few private jets, or stuff into a Swiss bank account, and gets Africans an infrastructure they use.

It's the sort of thing the Empire used to do isn't it?

Mark Wadsworth said...

Nice letter. No swearing!

Anonymous said...

Mark, i's probably poor form to tell the editor of Private Eye to fuck off.

Anonymous said...

But without the swearing they won't believe that it is from you. Did you really sign it DK?

Anonymous said...

Look at the spineless WASPS, posting anonymous Internet messages against an Italian woman. That's what you've all been reduced to -

Your society's been overrun by the Third World, your media's been taken over, and this is what you're reduced to

Led along on a string like sheep by Churchill to fight a war for the *international bankers * .... and destroy the British Empire

Churchill was a great man? You've been buying that bullshit for years. You need something to pacify you while you continue to get sodomized

Italians = On the right side of history

Northern Europeans = effiminate, "proper", effete pansy ass cocksuckers who've turned the West into a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

I hate when racist trolls take over the comments box. It's just that Fabio person again, who thinks that because we hate fascism, we hate Italy.

What nonesense.

Tristan said...

I question your history. People were forced to work down the mines and in factories by government action.

The working people were forced off their land by the aristocracy (starting as early as the Tudors, continuing through to the enclosures) and then forced to stay in their current parish by the Poor Laws unless it was convenient for the industrialist.
Vagrancy laws were also used to force the poor to accept wage labour.

I am sure that had this not happened we would have had a decreasing number of people working the land as productivity increased, but they would have left voluntarily and to enter other professions freely.
Some would have chosen mining I am sure, but they would have been in a condition to enforce better standards and new technology would have been invented to aid in mining sooner rather than later.

Richard said...

Nice one! Farmers do not make money from growing crops but by selling them. In the absence of market information, they very often get ripped off by local traders, relying on their ignorance in order to pay them under-par.

In India, Reuters have pioneered an argi-market intelligence service, accessible by SMS, and this is remarkably enhancing the prosperity of the small farming sector.

You are right, therefore, to point out that a mobile phone network - in the absence of a cable network - is an integral and necessary part of rural development.

James Higham said...

Can't argue with that.

Anonymous said...

Much as I love your normal writing style, this one makes its points even more persuasively.

James Barlow said...

Well put. In retrospect, my "Brillo" submission from 1995 seems rather unworthy.

Fabio said...

I hate when racist trolls take over the comments box. It's just that Fabio person again, who thinks that because we hate fascism, we hate Italy.

Who, me? I have commented probably a total of 4 times on this blog, including the comment you're reading.

In fact I rarely read comments here because I find them uninteresting compared to the posts.

So no, it wasn't me. It's not my habit to post anonymous ignorant screeds.

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