Sunday, July 29, 2007

The local web correspondent

I have an idea that I am going to present to the press and other media and just in case I can patent it or at least to avoid that someone else patents it am jolting it down here and I will publish somewhere on one of my many blogspots.

I believe that a newspaper that creates a special very local page for local communities such as condominiums, senior resident homes, companies and other and then appoints a member of that community as its local correspondent is placing itself in a privileged position to defend its interests in these difficult times. The local correspondent would work for free though special identifications and rewards like giving out some prizes to the best of them and raffling other prizes among them would help to stimulate them.

The local webpage where only members of the community can be registered will be a part of the medias overall page.

Alternatively communities themselves could set up their own page and negotiated their linkages.

"The local web correspondent" © Per Kurowski

"The community web correspondent" © Per Kurowski

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Odious debt should not be granted relief while odious conditions remain.

I am a citizen from a country that I consider corrupt and that needs to change a lot before any new debt could do it any good.

In this respect I urge you not to give debt relief to corrupt governments as that will only allow those addicted to debt to be able to hit the bars again, in the same shameful ways as before.

If the concept of odious debt is applicable in the sense that some debts should not have to be repaid if contracted in an illegitimate way, castigating the creditor, then the same concept should clearly also apply to the granting of any debt relief, punishing the debtor.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The World or Mother Earth lacks representation

Wolfgang Münchau in “This gentlemen’s agreement fails Europe too”, Financial Times July 9, makes a good case for why Europe by splitting up the European representation in international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (he argues that it is to preserve many plum jobs) ends up in fact with having no real representation at all.

I understand and agree with his point of view especially since it goes hand in hand with my opinion that since all the votes, and all the Executive Directors, and the Presidents, and so many of its staff are assigned on pure local considerations, it is the “international world”, the global order, or mother-earth itself, whatever you want to call it, that ends up being the most under represented party in these global institutions.

If we are going to be able to manage the global challenges it is urgent we look for means to break away from our parochial local chains. What about splitting at least 50% of the chairs at the Board among varied constituencies such as migrant workers, multinationals, media, educators, environmentalists, NGO’s, accountants, farmers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, service providers like nurses or plumbers, and so on? Just beware, diversity is much more about life experiences and mindsets than about gender or race.

The only constituency that has currently a representation in IMF, in fact a 100% representation, is the constituency of central bankers and this need to be changed. Europe, if you must insist on naming the next managing director in the IMF then at least do the world the favour of appointing some finance knowledgeable person that has never worked for any central bank. That would provide us with much more needed diversity than just appointing another central banker based on the local consideration that he is from Asia, Africa or Latin America.

And this is no joke, incestuous groupthink is about the most dangerous limiting factor when it comes to impede clear thinking and effective actions.

PS. Kristalina Georgieva, I am not implying they read me.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Let them bike (1)

Friends, listening to your exhaustive list of concerns [about how the World Bank could best assist countries in their development] I was reminded of the moments when I had to teach my daughters how to ride their bikes: I heard their mother’s anxious calls in the background; I felt my own nervousness; nonetheless, I just knew I had to let them go.

One could find and read thousands of manuals about how to put a bike together safely; about all the safety implements a kid should wear, such as helmet and wrist-guards; about all the precautions he or she needs to take, not going downhill or out on the main road; but nowhere can you find even a single manual that clearly and exactly instructs you how to learn to ride a bike. Left leg up, right leg down! Or was it right leg up first?

We need to understand that development is a bit like learning how to ride a bike and, at the end of the day it is something that must be done on one’s own. In fact, no matter how much we could help in the preparations, we will not stand a chance to achieve lasting results if we are not willing or do not know how to let them go.

It is not easy to let go, I probably even closed my eyes for fractions of seconds after letting my girls roll away on their bikes, but I let them go and they know how to ride a bike now.

So, my colleagues, in these discussions, not as caring parents but as caring development partners, let us try to act accordingly, letting them go, always remembering that, at the end of the day, countries need to do it on their own. What else could ownership mean?

Of course, anyone might fall trying, but that is exactly the risk we need to be able to take if they are going to achieve real sustainable development results and, if they fall, there is probably nothing more to do than to help them rebuild their confidence so that they can just have another go at it.

Moreover, if you try to hold the bike while they ride it, the bike might not really behave like a bike, and so they might never get the hang of it. What we really should be concerned about is that they have what is most needed at the time of trying: sufficient confidence in themselves. In fact, what unwillingly might be the first victim of all our other secondary concerns is precisely that, their confidence.

So, my colleagues, let them go, again and again and again, learning to ride their bike, and as they believe a bike should be ridden.

I know it is not as easy as it sounds and in fact I would only give someone the freedom to try it on their own whenever he or she convinces me he or she is truly ready for it, in a sufficiently confident way.

(1) Extract from Voice and Noise and that reflects what I said to my colleagues at the World Bank Executive Board while discussing in 2004 the issue whether developing countries should be allowed to use more their own country systems.