extractive institutions

Why states fail and how to rebuild them ?!

Reading of the day -> The Economist: Why states fail and how to rebuild them
What we can learn from countries that failed to build themselves?!

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– Few things matter more than fixing failed states. Broadly defined, state failure provides “a general explanation for why poor countries are poor”. Life in a failed or failing state is short and harsh.

– Lawless regions, such as the badlands of Pakistan and Yemen, act as havens for terrorists.[…] In the most extreme form of state failure, in places like Somalia, the central government does not even control the capital city. In milder forms, as in Nigeria, the state is far from collapse but highly dysfunctional and unable to control all of its territory. Or, as in North Korea today or China under Mao Zedong, it controls all of its territory but governs in a way that makes everyone but a tiny elite much worse off.

– The key to understanding state failure is “institutions, institutions, institutions”.

– States are not wretched and unstable because of geography—if so, how to explain the success of landlocked Botswana? Nor is culture the main culprit: if so, South Koreans would not be more than 20 times richer than North Koreans. Some societies have “inclusive institutions that foster economic growth”; others have “extractive institutions that hamper it”.

The world’s newest country, South Sudan has received billions of dollars of aid and the advice of swarms of consultants since seceding from Sudan in 2011, but has failed to build any institutions worthy of the name. South Sudan failed to build institutions that transcended tribal loyalties or curbed the power of warlords. There are plenty of government buildings, including state ministries of education, culture and health. But none of them does much. Nowhere in South Sudan does the state do what it is supposed to.

The fighting becomes tribal because warlords recruit by stirring up ethnic tension so that their kinsmen will rally to them. This creates a vicious circle. Lacking protection from other institutions, people seek it from their own tribe. Rather than demand evenhanded government, they back tribal leaders, knowing that they will steal and hoping they will share the spoils with their kin.

– “The politics of the vast majority of societies throughout history has led, and still leads today, to extractive institutions.” These tend to last because they give rulers the resources to pay armies, bribe judges and rig elections to stay in power. These rulers adopt bad policies not because they are ignorant of good ones but on purpose. Letting your relatives embezzle is bad for the nation but great for your family finances.

– But failed states are not doomed to stay that way. Even states that have collapsed completely can be rebuilt. Liberia and Sierra Leone were stalked by drug-addled child soldiers a decade and a half ago; now both are reasonably calm. The key is nearly always better leadership: think of how China changed after Mao died. Many bad rulers continue deliberately to adopt bad policies, but they can be—and often are—replaced with better ones.

Afghanistan case. Afghanistan’s president since 2014, Mr Ghani is a former academic and author of a book called “Fixing Failed States”. His TED talk on fixing broken states has been viewed 750,000 times. Now he is trying to put his own theories into practice.

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