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Issue 500/ 27th Aug - 2nd Sept 2011

Front Page

Somaliland News

News Headlines

CPJ Sent A Letter To Somaliland President

Havoyoco Gives Health Training

Somaliland: Economic Cooperation Increases Investment And Development

Local and Regional Affairs

Few African Leaders Show Up For Famine Summit

Instructors Struggle To Rebuild Somalia's Army

Somali Militants Behead Boys In Mogadishu Attacks

Many Die Trying To Cross Gulf Of Aden

Ghana Schoolboy Raises $4 000 For Horn

Farah Goes The Distance In Search Of Gold

Starving Somalis Latest Victims Of Broken Government


Turkish Prime Minister Wrong On West And Somalia Famine

Features & Commentary

Somalia: Countdown To Calamity

Somaliland – It’s Time To Consider Calling In The Professionals

The Pirate Corridor

Inside The Hidden World Of Somalian Pirates.

Who Are Somalia’s ‘Al-Shabaab?’

International News


The UN Somalia Support Centre In Nairobi Advocates War Between The Two Peaceful Enclaves In The Horn Of Africa

Buurmadow Turning Traitor Changes Faith


In Somaliland, Less Money Has Brought More Democracy

Unable to access foreign aid, Somaliland's government has had to negotiate with citizens and business leaders for financial support – and provide stability and democracy in return

Hargeysa, Somaliland, August 27, 2011 – As the humanitarian crisis in southern Somalia threatens millions of lives, Somalia's little-known northern neighbor, Somaliland, is doing so well that its government recently offered to send aid across the border. That a small and relatively poor country that is also suffering from the ongoing drought would be in a position to help Somalia is itself remarkable; that Somaliland achieved this position without being officially recognized by the international community as a sovereign nation – and thus without being eligible for international assistance – is truly impressive.

But have Somaliland's accomplishments come in spite of its ineligibility for foreign assistance, or because of it? Somaliland's success – providing peace, stability and democracy in a region where all are scarce – is in large part due to the fact that the government has never received foreign aid. Because Somaliland's government cannot access funding from the World Bank, IMF, or other major donors, officials were forced to negotiate with citizens and business leaders for financial support. This negotiation created the responsive political institutions that, in turn, have allowed the nation to fare relatively well in recent years and in the current crisis.

Somaliland was part of Somalia until 1991, when it seceded during the country's civil war. When Somaliland first declared independence, its government was built around a single clan and lacked accountable political institutions. Business leaders eventually agreed to provide funds, but not until the government agreed to develop representative and accountable political institutions (a concession that politicians made only out of necessity, as it weakened their own grasp on power).

In one notable incident, the government was forced to implement democratic reforms in exchange for tax revenues from Somaliland's main port. These revenues total less than $30m a year – a fraction of the more than $100m the government would have received from aid organizations if Somaliland had been eligible for international assistance. It is difficult to imagine that the owners of the port would have been able to exact the same concessions if the government had other funding options.

As a result of these negotiations over tax revenue, Somaliland has become an exceptional democracy. It has held multiple presidential, parliamentary and district-level elections. It has seen multiple peaceful handovers of power, including to a minority clan. It even survived a presidential election that was decided by an 80-vote margin without resorting to violence.

While the government's limited finances prevent it from providing an ideal level of public goods, the stability it has ensured has led to an economic revival, massive gains in primary schooling, and significant reductions in infant mortality. It has also been able to facilitate a strong response to the current food shortages, which is evident in this World Food Programme map of the current incidence of famine. To be sure, there is still much work to be done but, in context, Somaliland's accomplishments are, in the words of Human Rights Watch, "both improbable and deeply impressive".

Of course, one might wonder whether Somaliland's experiences can be generalized. In fact, the idea that government dependency on local tax revenues makes it more accountable has a strong historical pedigree. Political scientists and historians have long argued that the modern, representative state emerged in medieval Europe in large part as the result of negotiations between autocratic governments that needed tax revenues to survive inter-state conflicts and citizens who demanded accountability in return. Only recently, though, have development professionals have begun to recognize the implications of this line of research for modern development policy.

Certainly, not all foreign assistance is bad. Aid has clear benefits against which the potential harms discussed here must be weighed on a case-by-case basis. In a country like Nigeria, where the government has ample access to oil revenues, foreign assistance is unlikely to affect the relationship between citizens and the government. In many countries, though, aid is the largest single source of government revenue; there are 16 sub-Saharan countries in which the ratio of foreign assistance to government expenditure is greater than 50%, and in 10 of those, this ratio is greater than 75%. If these aid levels damage the quality of governance in recipient countries – as Somaliland's experience suggests they may – then it might be the case that, in the long run, less money may actually do more good.

Source: The Guardian










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