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 interview of the month SEP.2006

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Nombre de messages : 8092
Localisation : Washington D.C.
Date d'inscription : 28/05/2005

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interview of the month
Andrew Mwenda, Ugandan journalist and academic

By Jennifer Williams

interview of the month SEP.2006 Mwenda_stanford

Recent forums such as the Group of Eight Gleneagles summit, Make
Poverty History and Tony Blair’s Africa Progress Panel, have thrust the
issue of development aid back into the headlines. Ugandan journalist
Andrew Mwenda has been one of the loudest voices on this topic,
controversially insisting that western aid only fuels corruption.
Transparency Watch asked why he thinks aid is such a bad thing.

TI: In a July BBC interview, you said, “If only foreign aid
could be shifted from lining corrupt politicians’ and bureaucrats’
pockets to developing private enterprise, then Africa would have hope.”
Could you explain this? Where do you think the money is going?

AM: Foreign aid is channelled by international financial
institutions from the governments of the west to the governments of
Africa, in the vain hope that African governments will then invest that
aid in poverty reduction areas like infrastructure development, free
education and free health. Actually, what happens in most African
countries is that African politicians and bureaucrats steal that aid
money. They exploit it as a political resource. My argument is that
throwing good money at incompetent and corrupt politicians and
bureaucrats is obviously not going to end poverty.

TI: Who do you think should be held accountable for ensuring
this money goes to the right places? Should it be the donors’
responsibility to make sure it doesn’t line bureaucrats’ pockets?

AM: If foreign aid was channelled to private banks, providing long-term affordable financing for enterprise and investment in the export trade,
then aid would have some benefits. It would recognise that often
African economies lack long-term savings to finance long-term
investment. Those investments can be two types: mortgage finance, and
investment in export trade. So if aid was given to private banks, for
commercial benefit, and the private banks lend it for mortgage finance
and the development of a proper export industry, it would be more

TI: What should Western governments be doing if not giving aid? Should they do anything at all?

AM: No, they shouldn’t. The problem for most of Africa is not a
lack of resources. I have visited many African countries, and I have
seen that if they were better managed and if their public expenditure
priorities were more appropriate, they would have the necessary
resources to focus on development. But aid is a subsidy for African government corruption and incompetence. It is not so much that these countries don’t have resources; it is that they mismanage available resources. Giving them aid is an incentive for them to continue mismanaging.

TI: You have said that you think the models for governance in Rwanda and Botswana are admirable. Why?

AM: In a country like Botswana, every shilling - every dollar -
the government has is put to proper use, with proper methods of
accountability. If you go to Rwanda, you will see a government
committed to wiping out corruption. But not just corruption. In Rwanda,
you see a clear and visible effort by the government to ensure that
every dollar they have is spent on priority areas. Most African
governments lose money through wastage.

As an example, the Ugandan health ministry has 3400 vehicles at its
headquarters. But there are 961 dispensaries in Uganda, and none of
them has an ambulance. This means that motor vehicles in Uganda are
used by politicians and bureaucrats, but the people who are supposed to
benefit do not have emergency medical transport. So it clearly shows
that the money does not buy ambulances for the sick and dying in
Uganda’s villages.

In Rwanda, politicians do not have expensive fringe benefits. The
government is able to manage its resources very well. And do you know
why? Because the most dominant influence in Rwanda’s ruling authorities
is the Tutsis, an ethnic minority. They have to take visible actions
that are seen as helping in the eyes of the majority that they are
ruling. The second reason is that the price of failure for the
government of Rwanda is very high. The price may be another genocide.
So the government of Rwanda has a strong imperative for success.

TI:Do you think that countries that already have a transparent system of government in place should receive foreign aid?

AM:There you have hit the point. Although Rwanda has the
correct environment for aid, aid brings serious economic problems. When
you receive aid in dollars, the government must then print money,
because the aid is spent in Rwandan currency. So aid then fuels
inflation. The government must step in to remove the aid from the
economy; they over-budget, discourage exports, put up interest rates,
and drive the private sector out.

Although Rwanda should receive aid, most of it should not fund health
and education and roads. It should instead finance investment in
private sector factories. It must go directly to finance production of
exports. Then you can solve the problem of aid and inflation.

TI:What is your view of the Africa Panel to monitor
implementation of the G8’s Africa proposals? Will it have any practical

AM: Ultimately, if Africa is to get itself out of its
misery, the initiative has to come from African leaders themselves, not
from Tony Blair or Kofi Annan or anyone else. It must be in the
self-interest of the political powers in Africa; it is their
responsibility. The interests of Tony Blair, however high the
engagement may be, are not in line with the political interests of
African governments. So it is wrong for Blair to assume that they have
a common interest.

Any attempts by Blair compound the problem. The problem is that African governments only want to survive, and the methods they employ to survive politically are economically destructive.
In the long term, most African governments undermine the economic
foundations of their own political survival. Aid is the money that
actually props up African dictators. Aid is the subsidy they utilise.
Once they have bankrupted their economy, they wait for Tony Blair to
give them money, and steal aid to fund their lifestyles.

TI: You have expressed an interest in becoming Uganda’s
president. If you were, would you refuse aid? What would you do to wipe
out the culture of corruption in Uganda?

AM: If I became president, the first thing I would do
with my government is pay back the aid. I would then limit aid to
assisting long-term private enterprise. The private sector would become
the source of revenue.

The most important instrument for reducing poverty is for countries to
carve their way economically out of poverty. What Africa needs is not
money. It needs the right institutions, and the right policies.

To achieve democracy you have to actively fight corruption. You want to
know how I would fight corruption? Let’s look at Rwanda again. In
Rwanda it’s not easy to be corrupt. If you steal, you are fired. If
they can find the evidence, they will prosecute you in court. So in
Rwanda, they have built a culture where the feeling among the public is
that if you are corrupt, it is a stigma. If you are a corrupt
politician in Rwanda, you are kicked out of office; even your own
brother will not be seen with you. You will be socially alienated. Your
friends will not want to be seen with you for a cup of tea or lunch,
because you are a bad man.

But in some countries the corrupt are considered heroes. A person can
steal and walk around holding his head high. There is no punishment for
it. So I would ensure that there is ruthless punishment of the corrupt.

Le Mensonge peut courir un an, la vérité le rattrape en un jour, dit le sage Haoussa
Ma devise:
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