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Accelerating our aid to Trashcanistan


Continuing our theme of Where we care, where we don't, it is instructive to track the aid now pouring into Trashcanistan and its near neighbors, Afghanistan and Pakistan; aid with little expectation that it will move beyond propping up egregious regimes and causing us longer term harm.

Stephen Kotkin coined the term Trashcanistan in the process reviewing the fates of ex-Soviet statelets such as the Ukraine, Moldova, Central Asian and Caucasian republics.  His biting work identified regional features as:

  • Economic collapse
  • "Gangland violence among state ministers"
  • Rising Fascism
  • Rising Islamic fundamentalism
  • Population flight

Jean-Jacques Dethier, Senior Economist, World Bank, later issued a much more detailed report for much of the same area (the "CIS-7" low-income countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States: namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.)

I recommend Kotkin as a good read and Dethier's work as a reference. Dethier identified the key governance issues that led to corruption as:

  • Authoritarianism [and/or] highly unstable competition between factions/parties
  • Capture of the state by local elites and resistance to market-friendly reforms
  • Weak state capacitywhere administrative capabilities were concentrated in the [former Soviet] center
  • Difficulties in nation-building resulting from regional and national conflicts; geo-political factors and the uncertainty over national boundaries

Dethier's results track with Kotkin:

  • Flattened investment climate
  • Harassment of small entrepreneurs
  • Purchase of government jobs
  • Corruption among public authorities
  • Diminished living standards
  • Corruption in the provision of education, healthcare and social services
  • Corruption during privatization

Unfortunately, this aid is flying in the face of World Bank President James Wolfensohn's observations that "aid can make an enormous difference" in nations with good governance and strong policies, but that aid can be ineffective, even counter-productive, in areas of weak governance and bad polices.

Strategic reprioritization in the wake of 11 September is to blame with the US (and the lending bodies with which it has influence), and EU making generous grants, loans and write-offs to such areas even as World Bank was attempting to lift its lending criteria by rating supplicants' policies, institutions and governance, and calling for better targeting of pledged aid and coordination among donors.

I have long made the observation that the 'free world' was the virtual reassembly of the West's colonial empires cemented by resistance to Communism.  Aid that flowed to resist Communism ceased when the USSR collapsed.  It has started anew in resistance to terrorism.  Unfortunately we are again helping the wrong people do the wrong things to their citizens while 'helping' us.

Karimov in Uzbekistan is worthy of Franklin Roosevelt's comment of General Anastasio Somoza that, "He may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch." We have returned to a multiplicity of such states while we subvert the improved World Bank lending guidelines. I hope that Wolfensohn is not denied a third term and that we survive our choice of regional allies.

Trashcanistan: A Tour through the Wreckage of the Soviet Empire
Stephen Kotkin
The New Republic
April 15, 2002

Jean-Jacques Dethier
Senior Economist, The World Bank
Prepared for the Lucerne Conference of the CIS-7 Initiative, 20th-22nd January 2003.

World Bank Official Calls For More Capacity-Building Aid
Washington: March 21, 2002

World Bank President Outlines Post-Monterrey Action Plan to Development Committee
Washington, April 15, 2002

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Strategic Risk Public  


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