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Old 01-26-2010   #81
M-A Lagrange
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Default may be not a science but certainly an art

Dayuhan,

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Humanitarian "science"? First time I've heard of such an animal, tell us more...
Apparently it’s a French delicatessen… Well, actually in France you have 3 Universities teaching humanitarian actions and humanitarian Rights and Laws.
Plus one more university teaching logistic/administration… all the NGO administration stuff.
This came to the point they are developing humanitarian anthropology which is based on different bases that development anthropology.
Myself, in order to be much more bankable, I just passed a master in Crisis management: humanitarian and development actions at la Sorbonne, Paris.
But you have the Oxford Master program… There are some stuffs being developed on Humanitarian action as a “science” integrating civil security, emergency management, legal issues, rule of law…

“Science” is the only work that comes to my mind actually concerning this. There are already devastating bad effects: you see coming in the field young guys and girls thinking they know everything because they have been taught to do so and have a degree on it.
Sometimes, I’ll just like to sunk them in concrete, head first, just to remind them the hard way “we”, the stupid guys with long years spend in the field, we have learn our knowledge the hard way.
They do the same mistakes as us but now have a degree to back it up…
But the good thing is that some quite interesting theories as the continuum/contiguum have come out. Also some analyses of Culture as a tool to legitimize “civil society” disconnected from politic.

May be not a Science but certainly an Art

Steve,

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An ineffective national government, no effective sub-national governance structure, or credible plan for one, and, at the bottom of that pyramid, soldiers are supposed to build local governance to hand off to the national system that does not exist.

Two things are missing. If there was a subnational gov plan, us civ/mil could synchronize efforts to focus on support for implementation, but there is none, and there is no entity to either link or hand it over to.

A district with a $6 budget, no staff, and no cell phone is hardly going to be able to accept a hand-off of responsibility for an island of villages "redeveloped" by the US, and certainly cannot sustain or support any level of infrastructure/projects.
We can give all the advices of the world to good guys trying to do their best to build local governance capacity (a local administration basically in a good governance cheap dress). But without plan and vision of where to go by the Afghan… We build a white elephant. No doubts on that.

But anyways, I still think that there are best practices coming from the field. It’s may not be plug and play projects but rather how to build a project, what to do for assessment, what to look at, what to not do…
Still, it’s best practices that will help to have a better use of the money, time, energy… And may be achive results in the end
Standards are not meant to be: 1 you build a school 2) you build a well 3) you build a road…
Standards can be: 1) you assess the local production and markets. 2) you dress the gender task division. 3) you conduct focus groups…
Standards can be approaches…

This, it self is a debate. But once you have decide what you want to support then you have a good list of stupid stuff to not do, just like the Appalachian example.
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Old 01-26-2010   #82
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I have my doubts. I don't see any standard actions that are universally or even widely applicable even within these "boxes", and based on return on aid invested to date I've no particular trust in "best practices" coming out of the aid industry. Emergency relief situations, I agree we have a clue there, simply because the objectives are limited and clear. Moving to the development side, I don't think "best practice" has accomplished much.

All too often the principal constraints on development are not the technological or financial ones addressed by development aid, but direct resistance to and subversion of development efforts by a nexus of local and national elites and military forces that have a powerful vested interest in the status quo and see their interests and even their lives threatened by what we would call development. The people who have built their fortunes and their power on the status quo are not going to simply give up and walk away, and for development to progress these forces have to be challenged and defeated. Sometimes this requires insurgency, and this is why we need to stop seeing insurgency as something that must reflexively be countered.
Absolutely agreed. Indeed, I've often that we should spend far less time on "best practices," with all of the potentially dangerous baggage of external omniscience that it sometimes carries with it, and spend a little more time trying to understand "worst practices"--that is, how well-intentioned efforts can go awry, and what can be done to to mitigate those risks (or, at the very least, what questions ought to have been asked).
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Old 01-27-2010   #83
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Default best or worst practices... all a question of words

Dear Dayuhan and Rex,

I see clearly your point on best practices. In some how, we do agree and words are probably what separates us.

Quote:
Absolutely agreed. Indeed, I've often that we should spend far less time on "best practices," with all of the potentially dangerous baggage of external omniscience that it sometimes carries with it, and spend a little more time trying to understand "worst practices"--that is, how well-intentioned efforts can go awry, and what can be done to to mitigate those risks (or, at the very least, what questions ought to have been asked).
For me (And it's a personnal understanding) best practices includes DO and DON'T DO. And it's most of the time easier to find all the DON'T DO than even 1 I recommand you to process that way...

In some context, as emmergencies, you do have standards actions with basically: you do that way and no others for technical responses (Food distributiojns, water distributions, camp management...).
But I agree that it is limited for what I know best: immediat emmergencies responses. The "first box" if I can say so.

Even for recovery, (The very next box) you have "better" approach/practices and "practices to avoid" rather than a omniscient knowledge that you just drop on the people. Nothing is worst than a solution droped from the moon.
After, comes stages of "development" I have no clue of what could be a best practice or even a project. (I have no clue of what you do in rural development of a low developed country as Burkina Faso for example.)
If we go on a SWJ Experiment project that looks at providing a compilation of this community knowledge for State Building some steps can be just recommandations of what to not do with illustrated real cases.

The example of Dayuhan is basically a very good one, once you have clearly expose the context, of what to not do, how to not approach the problem...

But this example is may be something that is too far from the target we are looking at: advices for civil/military projects/actions.
We probably should be able to define the limits of such action and build the pre requirement of the advice: at that point you redraw and handover to the civilian development agencies, the local administration and step back until the local context falls back in a need for military action.
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Old 01-28-2010   #84
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Be skeptical. Be very skeptical. Make each proposed effort justify itseld in the actual circumstance.
I'd agree with that... and I'd add that skepticism should be matched by the will to not act when circumstances don't justify action, especially when to act would simply mean throwing money at a problem that money will not solve and could exacerbate.

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Development is making some thing happen that has not happened before. Especially when applied to Afghanistan, the burdens and challenges of any success must be incrementally built on a solid foundation, Doing so while security, corruption and lack of framework/context is almost spitting in the wind, and with very little reasonable expectation for bug strides.
This runs back to my initial comment about trying to build things that have to grow. All too often, in all too many places, we've assumed that if we build the concrete evidence of administrative and organizational capacity, the capacity will somehow be summoned into being. The result has been billions of dollars tossed down black holes, and all manner of expensively constructed artifacts rusting in peace in odd locations.

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In theory, the Afghan gov is expected to deliver it's proposal to the nations for creating and implementing subgov structures in Afghanistan. Although many at the national level are skeptical about creating subgov (and especiially effective subgov) is that it diverts their power.

Back up the truck a sec. There is no effective sub-national governance structure, and, if needed to be built, you can do the math as almost as big a separate effort as training police and soldiers---let alone the hundreds of offices, desks, cell phones, bicycles and bongo trucks needed for that. Now, we have an hour scheduled to hear how (if) the new Afghan government wants to pursue this objective, and whether int'l aid will accept/support their plan.
Is there really no subgovernance structure at all, or simply none that falls into categories that we recognize? Are the villages without any form of governance? No councils of elders, no village headmen? No traditional system for resolving inter-village disputes? Instead of imposing a top-down structure of subgoverenance according to our model, why not start with what exists (I suspect there is something) and try to provide minimally invasive assistance aimed at letting it grow upwards... accepting of course that this will take a lot of time.

If there is an existing system of local administration, they may be comfortable with the idea of being rebuilt according to somebaody else's priorities. They are likely to be reluctant to see their power diluted by national government intrusion and they are likely to be very uncomfortable with the idea of being handed over to anybody.
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Old 01-28-2010   #85
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Originally Posted by M-A Lagrange View Post
But this example is may be something that is too far from the target we are looking at: advices for civil/military projects/actions.
I agree... and I think one piece of advice to start with would be to know what you are trying to accomplish. Is the project intended to promote development or is it intended to win loyalty or support? If the latter, for whom are we trying to win loyalty and support? For us? For the host nation Government?

It is difficult to propose a strategy until the immediate goal is clear.
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Old 01-28-2010   #86
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Dayuhan:

As I understand it, many areas of Afghanistan were, in effect, self-governing and stable enough, in their own way, but decades of conflict leveled or destabilized a lot of old structures and systems, including with refugee flows and cross-border movements.

In some places, who is in charge, and in charge of what, may be both stable and well-known and understood.

Problem 1: What we are looking for is something very different than what existed before---a nationally-focused interest and commitment to centralized governments that both create and provide demonstrably different levels of economic, social and political linkages and dependencies on more advanced economic dependencies that will create future levarage against barbarism and "old ways".

The advanced economic performance and dependencies are inextricably linked, too, to social advancement factors including higher levels of education and transformational women's rights changes, and acceptance of other religions, cultures and heritages that have criss-crossed Afghanistan (the Bamyan Buddhas, etc...).

So, it is far beyond simple "reconstruction," and the "development" aspects are tightly wound with essential cultural and societal advancement factors that are truly remarkable in their breathtaking audacity---all this now wrapped around the axle of the original anti-AQ mission.

All these things are laudable, but, if our success (and Karzai's continuation) is dependent on them, it is certainly a huge mountain to climb.

The alternative is pretty simlar to what we did in Northern Iraq with MG Hertling: If nobody else has a plan for civilian reconstruction/stability, and I need a plan to accomplish my mission, then I will make a plan, and executed it.

That's a far cry from accidentally stumbling into success one battle space at a time. Intentionality, forethought, some basic interoperability and consistency (or each recovered area will be dissimilar and incompatible with the next), and some guiding purpose....

Amazing task, though.
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Old 01-28-2010   #87
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Problem 1: What we are looking for is something very different than what existed before---a nationally-focused interest and commitment to centralized governments that both create and provide demonstrably different levels of economic, social and political linkages and dependencies on more advanced economic dependencies that will create future levarage against barbarism and "old ways".

The advanced economic performance and dependencies are inextricably linked, too, to social advancement factors including higher levels of education and transformational women's rights changes, and acceptance of other religions, cultures and heritages that have criss-crossed Afghanistan (the Bamyan Buddhas, etc...).
Yikes. If that's problem 1, I don't even want to ask about problem 2.

The big problem I see with "problem 1" is the bold "we" in the citation above.

Somehow "we" went from wanting to see an Afghanistan that doesn't shelter people who attack us to wanting "a nationally-focused interest and commitment to centralized governments that both create and provide demonstrably different levels of economic, social and political linkages and dependencies on more advanced economic dependencies that will create future levarage against barbarism and "old ways". In the process (in my perhaps not entirely humble opinion at least) we went from climbing a mountain to rolling the rock of Sisyphus up a mountain. I can't imagine what would make anyone think that "we" are in a position to create, impose, dictate, inspire, incubate, or otherwise achieve such a thing in Afghanistan.

And at the end of the day, who are "we" to be telling the Afghans what they should become?

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Old 01-28-2010   #88
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Relax:

Step 1 is still security, and to hold it until Step 2 can get done.

Oh, did I mention that step 2 is usually considered a process of social and economic advancement that takes place over about 20-50 years.

Here, we have to compress it a little...

Actually, the Genral should give it a few more weeks, and if nobody can come up with a credible and implementable civilian sub-national plan and schedule, develop and implement one based on the pieces he does have...and get on with it. Government by... and for...

For that, the rule is simple. Be humble and ask the people what they need to function reasonably, wrap that into a viable governance and economic implementation program that has prospects for sustainable application (and maybe even future societal advancement), and move down the road to implementation (if the partners will agree).
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Old 01-28-2010   #89
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For that, the rule is simple. Be humble and ask the people what they need to function reasonably, wrap that into a viable governance and economic implementation program that has prospects for sustainable application (and maybe even future societal advancement), and move down the road to implementation
If that's simple, I'd hate to see complex.

To start with, I suspect that the assumption of a centralized government is going to meet substantial opposition from local and regional powers, who are likely to be extremely suspicious of any central government they don't control.
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Old 01-28-2010   #90
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I think that is the point.

Without an effective subnational governance plan emenating from the center, each area will set it's own course, which we will then support instead.

At that point, you have, by default, bypassed the central government, and, therefore, undermined it.

You already see it going on now with Intl aid starting to bypass Kabul.

A recent story on Pashtuns agreeing to oppose Taliban in exchange for development aid was quite instructive. They are as equally opposed to Kabul, which steals their money.

One deal at a time might end immediate AQ threats, but it won't make a nation (except by complete accident). Are we out to end immediate AQ threats or to build a nation as a more permanent threat reduction step?
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Old 01-28-2010   #91
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A recent story on Pashtuns agreeing to oppose Taliban in exchange for development aid was quite instructive. They are as equally opposed to Kabul, which steals their money.
Would not be surprised. In DRC we traded (with low effect) discipline and no civilian harassement against food for the FARDC who were not payed by the government.
As some say: peace has a price, just find it.

But it's an old concept. The may-may in DRC went up to the point to take hostages to get aid. Even government official who were on their side.
The result in the end is quite conter productive as Gov makes sure those places are margenalised after.
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Old 01-28-2010   #92
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" But it's an old concept. The may-may in DRC went up to the point to take hostages to get aid. Even government official who were on their side.
The result in the end is quite conter productive as Gov makes sure those places are margenalised after. "

The risk of creating local self-government without connection and explicit support of the central government is that there comes a time when the locals eoither are, or are not, supported by the national government---which, in the end, will control money, police, and troops.

Where do the locals end up in that game? What was the net effect of disconnected local capacity building?
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Old 01-29-2010   #93
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The risk of creating local self-government without connection and explicit support of the central government is that there comes a time when the locals eoither are, or are not, supported by the national government---which, in the end, will control money, police, and troops.
What if the local people - who are, after all, supposed to be the raison d'etre of the government - are fundamentally suspicious of the idea of centralized Government? What if they see it as an entity that is at best going to be intrusive and may well be exploitive and abusive? In these circumstances, wouldn't an attempt to impose an unwanted strong central authority only serve to exacerbate insurgency?
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Old 01-29-2010   #94
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Default Governments are like most everything else.

Centralizing is invariably efficient. However, it is rarely as effective a a local or distributed effort...

All politics is local, quoth O'Neill.
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Old 01-29-2010   #95
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Dayuhan:

"What if the local people - who are, after all, supposed to be the raison d'etre of the government - are fundamentally suspicious of the idea of centralized Government? What if they see it as an entity that is at best going to be intrusive and may well be exploitive and abusive? In these circumstances, wouldn't an attempt to impose an unwanted strong central authority only serve to exacerbate insurgency?"

Isn't that the entire conflict? It is not just that Kabul hasn't extended itself down to the local levels, but that, in many instances, the locals are better off to reject it---and they do.

If Kabul has guns, drugs, corruption, and armies, other than that, what does it bring them? Improved services, more crops?

Even the taxes (a flat 10%) are better than the Taliban, and there is nothing under the table. Simple, brutal justice, no services, and no charges. versus?

It is unsurprising the the recently "flipped" Pashtuns did so not because of the central government but because of local conflicts with the local Taliban. They still do not embrace the federal government.
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Old 01-29-2010   #96
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Default Efficient and effective

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from Ken
Centralizing is invariably efficient. However, it is rarely as effective a a local or distributed effort...

All politics is local, quoth O'Neill.
I expect that how one looks at this depends upon one's personal political slant, as well as one's experience with governmental organizations. Since I am center-right non-statist, or center-right anti-statist (haven't figured out which one will sound better when I run for office ), but definitely not a center-right pro-statist, the last two sentences sound pretty good to me.

I do have to question (to some extent) the first: "Centralizing is invariably efficient". As an example, I'll take our tax collection systems that have affected my little world over the last 50 years - local, state and federal.

Point 1 supports the local "distributed effort" concept (more than less). Point 2 deals with "centralization".

------------------------
1. Local (property taxes). The basic setup has not changed - each municipal corporation (cities, villages, townships) has had its own tax assessor, and the county and state have had their own tax equalization units. Michigan's concept of property taxes is that the taxable value of the property shall not exceed 50% of its fair market value (FMV). Obviously, every governmental unit wants its properties to be appraised (the valuation process) and assessed (formal entry of the valuation) at no less than 50% of FMV. Also obviously, the governmental units have not had funding to appraise each piece of property each year.

In the olden days, the assessors relied on their judgment in assessing (generally increasing the formal record valuation) by reference to e.g., improvements (building permits), transfers (deed prices) and drivebys. They would then engage in tugs of war with owners at the annual Boards of Review. The county tax equalization unit would then review the overall assessments of the municipalities for outliers and adjust the aggregate assessed value of each municipality by a factor. The state tax equalization unit would then do the same for each county, adjusting its aggregate assessed value by a factor. The resultant adjustment of the assessed valuations resulted in a State Equalized Valuation (SEV), which was the valuation on which the tax ($X per $1000 of SEV) was based. In theory, your SEV was 1/2 of your FMV (you could challenge that).

In newer times, the basic structure remained the same, but changes occured. Upgrading the qualifications for assessors resulting in certified assessors handling mulitiple municipalities (removing some partisan local politics from the mix). The advent of computers did not end paper records, but (in theory) allowed a better interchange of data between the local, county and state levels. Of course, it took the local assessors, the tax equalization units, the county register of deeds and county treasurer's office, 20 years to agree and implement computer systems that would talk with each other. At present, this "distributed effort" seems to be working.

On the substantive level, two changes in the 90s added some complexity to the picture. Michigan's "Proposal A" legislation added "taxable value" to the equation (in effect, the SEV for 1994). A property's "taxable value" cannot increase over a certain formula-set amount each year (say 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 %), unless there is a "transfer". The "assessed value" and SEV for each year are computed and adjusted as before. If there is a "transfer" (say in 2009), the "taxable value" increases to the SEV for 2010.

Another 90s change was the Land Division Act dealing with splitting of parcels. While more half-assed zoning and land access legislation, it also affects the tax assessing process. The burden to implement Proposal A and the Land Division Act was placed primarily on the local municipalities and the counties. The state legislature, as often it does, imposed that burden as an unfunded mandate.

---------------------------
2. State and Federal.

Much could be said here, but I'll just look at centralization. Back in the olden days, we had a local state tax officer (responsible for assistance, auditing and collection of all state taxes in a small multi-county district). He went the way of the dinosaurs and his duties were shifted to a regional office for the UP (same responsibilities). While these officers had to be generalists (all state taxes), their population base was small enough to allow them to handle the full-spectrum. To the taxpayer, the services offered were far more personal. Now, a bunch of small offices looks bad on a org chart; and wouldn't concentration of all efforts in Lansing, distributed among offices in each subject matter area, be more efficient. Well perhaps, and even as effective - if those offices are adequately staffed !!!

Now, with Michigan's budget problems (which go far back before the current downturn: Dem admin started the problem, Rep admin added to it and present Dem admin holding the bag), reduction in force is the mantra (and probably the only answer). Here's an example of what happens. I had to clear up a problem with terminating a charitable foundation. It should have been easy cuz the lawyers and accountants originally involved had done everything right in setting it up, except for one report which was not submitted. The effect of that was that, to the State of Michigan, $1,000,000 in charitable funding had gone missing. The lawyer at the responsible unit advised that he and his auditor (the staff) had a backlog of over 250 foundations and trusts six months before and had reduced them to 150 - new ones ? In any event, all ended well (since we had a complete papertrail), but a simple report would have taken 1/10th the effort (which would have been quickly reviewed and approved without a papertrail requirement caused by the red flag). Not the fault of the state unit, who actually expedited my request (probably at the cost of not getting to other backlogged files).

Similarly, we used to have a local IRS officer (multi-county), whose functions were shifted to Detroit or Cincinnati (still dealing with known people you can call back). Now, you have an 800 number reaching a person located in ? - probably West Virginia (if Sen. Byrd managed to snag that one).

The example of centralization here is that the office had made a small tax payment (~$850), but we got a deficiency notice for the tax, penalty and interest. That I paid with a protest letter attaching cancelled check to IRS and demand for refund. That, of course, was like baying at the moon. After allowing a reasonable interval with no response, my paralegal got on the phone and called the 800 number.

Now it seems the IRS is organized to respond in very general areas of expertise, where most responders are supposed to be generalists in all aspects of specific facets in the very general area to which they are assigned. The first five phone calls were duds (as also the dozen phone calls chasing leads based on bad advice given). And yes, my paralegal knows to go up the chain to supervisors. The problem was that no one of the first five knew how to trace a check.

Finally, my paralegal got lucky and hit the jackpot - a knowledgable person. Basic problem was that the check was deposited to the wrong year and credited to the wrong account (and the credit fortunately had not been used or withdrawn). So, the IRS guy, who was a real pro on the IRS computer system, reversed the credit and put the funds in my account for the correct year. He also authorized a refund of my protested payment with interest from the IRS - which came about 3 weeks later as he promised. Got to talking with him about our experience. His view was that the system should drill down to his level, but it doesn't.

So, how does a country without much administration to begin with handle even the basic aspects of tax collection ? Unless the government is supported by foreign funding, it would probably find the easier path to be funding by natural resources (oil, narcotics, etc.).

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Old 01-30-2010   #97
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Mike:

"So, how does a country without much administration to begin with handle even the basic aspects of tax collection ? Unless the government is supported by foreign funding, it would probably find the easier path to be funding by natural resources (oil, narcotics, etc.)."

That's the point. First, is there a publicly acceptable means and structure for local tax collection? Not really.

What other internal fees exist? Usually transit fees (formal or informal shakedowns at checkpoints) What is the salary source for local payroll? (what ever you can shake down).

Either the money would have to come down from the center, or in from foreign aid. Neither is stable or predictable.

When it comes to creating a sub-national government, money is everything, and not just the lack of money but the successful targeting and distribution of money.

One estimate I saw was of 12,000 plus civil servants needed to be recruited, retained, put on permanent payroll, housed, office-ed and supplied. Democracy, and democratic governance is not, after all, the result of a vote. It's body and limbs are the staffing, offices, equipment and services, all of which require stable revenue sources.

So, what would that take????

Who is in charge of that? (Afghans? US DoD? NATO? UN?)

To me, the biggest breakthrough this week is the appointment of Staffan Di Mistura as UN SRSG. From Iraq, if he had a question about Iran, he would address it with Ahmedinajad. With Shias, he would see the Grand Ayatollah. He is "juice" and very effective.

Now, the question is will the UN Mission for Afghanistan allow him to live up to his personal capabilities, or are there structural impediments to the UN's "peace and stabilization" mission that need to be addressed. Most important: Can he wrangle all these civs and foreign aid into something productive?

If anyone is likely to broker a cessation of fighting, and obtain an anti-AQ commitment, he is the man. And it won't take him six months to become effective.

He knows how to work with others to create their own nation.





OK, Mr. District official---go forth and collect taxes....sure.
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Old 01-30-2010   #98
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Default I'll bow to your semantic distinctions Mike but I do believe

your examples made my poorly stated case...

Two noteworthy items from your informative Post:
Quote:
So, how does a country without much administration to begin with handle even the basic aspects of tax collection ? Unless the government is supported by foreign funding, it would probably find the easier path to be funding by natural resources (oil, narcotics, etc.).
Steve The Planner has provided a sensible answer -- my nonsensical one is that "Yes, it is easier and that's why there's so much of it out there..."
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probably West Virginia (if Sen. Byrd managed to snag that one).
Almost certainly there is one there, IIRC, there are 14 IRS Call Centers nationwide. The IRS 'puter center is there: LINK.
Ken White is offline  
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