Saturday, April 19, 2014

Op-ed Round-up: Miserly Banks, Devolution, Poverty Jargon, and Failed States

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Kenya Commercial Bank in Nairobi. Photograph by Demosh.

Kenya's miserly banks

Although Kenya's banks have promised to lower their interest rates, The Daily Nation believes they are taking too long to act. Last week the Central Bank reduced the lending rate from 18% to 16.5% but the other banks in the country will not respond to this for at least another month. The editorial argues that this slow progress is harming the banks themselves, explaining that "by keeping the rates out of reach of the productive sectors of the economy, they are hurting their own prospects of growth". And with inflation still running at 10% it seems unlikely that the Central Bank will seek to make further decreases.

New departments and some devolution: Zambia's mini-revolution

Zambia's government is undergoing a radical reorganisation and The Times of Zambia has broadly endorsed the reforms aimed at improving efficiency. More power is being delegated to local administrations, which has included the creation of twelve additional administrative districts. In addition, government departments are being broken up to ensure that individual ministries are not overloaded. In particular, the editorial praises the decision to create a Ministry of Tourism, removing that responsibility from the busy Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The creation of new ministries has sometimes been seen as an expansion of the gravy train and the full effect of these reforms remains to be seen.

ANC argues over the right word with which to tackle poverty

What is the difference between a phase and a transition? The South African Times bemoans the ANC policy conference's debate over terminology: “It doesn't help whether poverty is being tackled through concepts such as ''second transition' or 'second phase'". The editorial notes that Jacob Zuma was determined to show that he was aware of the challenges ahead and was taking them seriously. Yet with three years in office behind him, Zuma is no longer a new face at the helm and South Africans are growing restless. “If Zuma does not listen to the complaints about his government's delivery failure, he will meet the same fate that felled Mbeki", the piece concludes.

Nigerian government strongly objects to being called a failed state

There is perhaps no greater insult to a government's ability than to describe it as presiding over a failed state. Fund for Peace, an America NGO, has ranked Nigeria as the 14th most failed state in the world, leading to a predictably angry response from Nigeria's politicians. Yet Nigeria's Punch defends the report's conclusion, arguing that the levels of poverty and corruption are sufficient to merit the damning verdict. Furthermore, the paper highlights the role of international NGOs in holding the government to account, saying “it is clear that while it is possible to falsify or manipulate our economic figures to deceive the public about the true picture of things, we cannot do the same with international organisations, whose figures look more reliable".

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