Why South Korea succeeded where Uganda failed
A common argument to explain (the better term would be to “caricature”) post independence failures in Africa is always in comparison to East Asia. It is often argued, for example, that by 1960, Ghana and South Korea had the same per capita income of roughly US$100. Yet 50 years later, South Korea’s per capita income is US$ 32,000 while Ghana’s is US$ 3,100. Therefore, the conclusion goes, there was gross mismanagement of Ghana’s potential in comparison to effective management of South Korea’s opportunities.
The often unsaid but certainly underlying thesis behind such comparisons is that there is something inherently wrong with Africa.
That unsaid “something” is racial; an inherent incapacity for self government.
Although this stereotype was developed by Europeans, its greatest proponents today are African elites – both ignorantly and inadvertently.
I write this article with a lot of humility because I also have been an active but subconscious contributor to this narrative. On the surface, the argument seems self evident; how could two nations with the same level of per capita income take divergent developmental trajectories?
Yet the focus on per capita income ignores the most salient ingredients that influence developmental outcomes.
For lack of access to detailed information about Ghana, I will substitute it with Uganda which enjoyed an almost closer level of per capita income as South Korea in 1960.
Hopping on a plane back to Atlanta at Midnight. Haven’t really slept in two/three days, thanks Shanghai!
The Cebu Pacific flight this morning from Shanghai to Manila felt a lot like the Philippines. I missed it:
- Acoustic covers of songs that don’t need acoustic covers, like Sting’s “Every Breath You Take”
- Using “avail” in odd contexts, like “check your flight status online to avail of seat selection”
- Sweating. so much muggy sweat.
Happy Mother’s Day. Happy Filipino election day. Happy Back to the States Day.
What I’ve been up to.
Somehow my blog on whale sharks (probs because it has nothing to do with economics) has 70+ likes on the Vittana facebook page by people I don’t know. Guys, strangers like my writing!
WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT!!!
Global Giving Open Challenge: HOST-NGO has to raise at least $5,000 from a minimum of 40 donors in 1 month, starting on April, 1st 2013.
To donate, visit this link: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/remove-500-children-from-the-streets-in-philippines/
Your generous donation will directly support the vulnerable children of Bacolod City, Philippines! Thank you SO MUCH!!
And remember: “Every small step counts to build to long path!”
FYI, Global Giving is a charity fundraising website, which gives social entrepreneurs and non-profits from anywhere in the world a chance to raise money to improve their communities.
These are my buddies over here, and they’re doing good work. If you donate (over $25) today, April 10th, 15% of your donation will be matched. So get on it!
How To Power 10 Million Off-Grid African Homes In 10 Years
Taking cues from the pay-as-you-go mobile phone market, Erica Mackey and Off.Grid:Electric are working to deliver clean, affordable energy to the world’s rural poor.
“The poorest people people pay the most money for the dirtiest power,” says Mackey, the 30-year-old COO. “And these people are technically the most risk averse, because anything they lose is a huge hit to them. What we do is centralize that risk. And that allows us to serve the people the national grid doesn’t find profitable.”
Find out how they plan to do it here.
Before half of my (small) audience tunes out over the words “bonds” and “investment,” lemme explain in some non econ jargon just how dang important this is.
In the most simple terms, this means that sovereign bonds here are viewed as safe, so interest rates will go down, making borrowing more affordable. (The Philippines is currently borrowing at better rates than half of Europe and, except China, all of the BRICS—powerhouse emerging markets, aka Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.) The stability of the government bonds also reflects well on the private sector, so investment will likely increase there too.
Essentially, a lot of money is going to be flowing into the country. The trick is now how it will be spent.
Part of the reason that the rating went up is the Philippines’ focus on infrastructure development: building roads and ports, expanding internet and mobile access, etc. The Philippines needs all of this and more. Any money invested in infrastructure will be returned in the form of higher incomes (and therefore higher tax revenue) down the line. The same investment-return scheme is true of education. In my ideal world, this money would be funneled into infrastructure and efforts to increase access to and quality of education (that have been researched and have actual measurable impact) like conditional cash transfers.
Whether this will actually happen or the money will flounder in a pool of corruption is a different matter. Corruption is supposedly going down, which also contributed to the ratings upgrade, and Dambisa Moyo in Dead Aid argues that borrowing through bond markets encourages more accountability as opposed to international aid. Her reasoning is that bond markets are punishing, if you mess up (like Greece) you can’t really afford to borrow anymore. International donors, however, will keep pouring in money regardless, which further feeds corruption. As a smart friend, Kiki, points out, the European debt crisis questions some of Moyo’s claims because of the huge sovereign bailouts (like Greece), so accountability may not hold. I don’t know, I’d say the fact that the Philippines is the only country using the Philippine peso means we won’t have anyone riding to our rescue if payments go south… I could go on. Do you actually want me to?
In short, this news is huge. HUGE. I found out when a friend literally squealed after reading the news as we drove the beach.
Kakenya Ntaiya made a deal with her father: She would undergo the traditional Maasai rite of passage of female circumcision if he would let her go to high school. Ntaiya tells the fearless story of continuing on to college, and of working with her village elders to build a school for girls in her community. It’s the educational journey of one that altered the destiny of 125 young women.
Day 12 of White History Month: The Imposition of Colorism and Colonial Beauty Standards on People of Color
This is a long post adapted from a longer essay which references a lot of studies so you might notice there’s no works cited, but if you really want it, send me an ask.
Related to racism and colonialism, colorism is the discrimination against darker skin and preference for lighter skin among people of color. Colorism was created by European colonial standards. It was engineered by white people and white people continue to harm people of color with colorism in the media, workplace, and in their own minds.
White people tend to be unaware of the nature of colorism because of the popularity of tanning. Within mainstream white American culture, tanning has become a trend, leading many white people to be ignorant of how prized fair skin is. A preference for tanned (white) skin among white people does not negate colorism. Tanned skin is a trend and is also tied to class and status (time for leisure) while in the past, tanned skin was linked to working outdoors. When white people are aware of colorism, they often try to portray it as a tragic phenomenon among people of color and not one that is the result of whiteness, racism, and colonialism.
Many people of color are also unaware of the true nature of colorism, as well; some believe it to simply be a harmless “feud” between lighter and darker skinned people of color. This is not the case. While many light-skinned and white passing people of color may feel a disconnect from their racial identity due to their skin color, this does not negate the privilege they have. Colorism is directly related to colonialism, showing tangible effects on people of color. Communities of color are divided by skin color and given privilege based on their proximity to whiteness.
Racist colonial logic emerging from slavery associated Blackness with savagery and ugliness, as opposed to whiteness which was associated with civilization and beauty. From this logic emerged features associated with whiteness – light eyes, straight/long hair, narrow nose, and thin lips – being considered good, while features associated with Blackness – dark eyes, kinky/short hair, wider nose, and full lips – being considered bad.
Historically, during slavery, light-skinned Black people were treated less violently by overseers, were more likely to be given household duties instead of more difficult work, had better living conditions, and had more possibilities for education and eventual manumission (Rockquemore and Brunsma). After slavery, lighter-skinned Black people had more opportunities for prestige and success.
Hypodescent - the “one-drop” rule - meant that anyone with Black ancestry would be considered Black, no matter what their appearance was. Light-skinned Black people were encouraged to think highly of themselves and were literally “valued” at higher prices during slavery. Those classified as “Mulatto” were more likely to be freed; mixed Black people (classified using the antiquated term “mulatto”) made up 10-15% of the total Black population, but 37% of all free Black people.
Freed Black people during slavery and those were well established after slavery tended to be light-skinned. Paper bag tests were used in Black communities to establish admission to social events, fraternities/sororities, and more, shutting out darker-skinned Black Americans from networking opportunities. Noting that lighter skinned Black people were more likely to successful, sociologist E.B. Reuter (1918) noted that even some “white blood” would “improve” Black people (rather than the obvious fact that lighter skinned Black people were treated better).
White colonizers created caste systems and categorizations deriving from this racist logic, and from it emerged the categories of quadroons, Mestizos, and Mullatoes. In the Southwest United States, Mexicans were more likely to receive United States citizenship if they had lighter skin or passed for white. Colonizers in Africa, the Americas, and Asia treated lighter skinned people with more “European” features better than those with medium or dark skin and indigenous features.
People often try to absolve white people of responsibility for colorism that existed in Asian societies before European colonial contact, but it was not racially-based. The concept of race itself is a European and Western construction. Lighter skin was a class marker just as in European societies - darker skin was linked to laboring in the sun rather than proximity to whiteness. Even when lighter skin color was preferred, indigenous hair and eye color and facial features were previously the standard of beauty.
Effects Today (behind the cut)
According to this post, 40% of people in the Philippines use skin whiteners, and I believe it. My sister visited for less than a week, but became accustomed to being told that she looked like a model (though we’re both half Chinese half white, she is lighter and her features are more Anglican). And it’s true. In almost all advertisements, the people look very similar to her, very European.
I didn’t sleep much the night before. I’ll blame it on excitement, but more likely it was the rare treat of Vietnamese coffee. I was on Cebu Island for “work.” Well, we actually were running college fairs and conducting product orientations during the week, but I was mostly excited for today, for swimming with whale sharks. WHALE SHARKS.