Does inequality matter? What are the effects of wealth being concentrated in the hands of a few individuals?
Well, if you believe some of the world’s most respected economists – people like Thomas Piketty, Joseph Stiglitz, Branco Milanovic, Wilkinson and Pickett – it matters. And they say it is getting worse. The World Bank and the IMF made “shared prosperity” the theme of their annual meeting this year, and the IMF head, Christine Lagarde, described the rise in global inequality as “staggering”. Just in the past week, Bill Gates, the Financial Times and the (UK) Guardian have all made the case that inequality matters.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa conducts an annual exercise to review access to information from different government ministries and agencies. The latest report, Government Secrecy in an Information Age, 2014, came out a few days ago.
Within each country, eight government institutions are tested, in two ways. First, researchers look for ten different types of information on each institution’s website – the Website Review. For each bit of information that is found, two points are scored. Or one point if it is partially available. Second, they send a letter to the institution, followed up with phone calls and physical visits, requesting answers to a set of questions, and see what response they get – the Written Request for Information. The responses are then scored against ten different criteria, two points available for each.
Each institution’s score is added up, to a maximum of 40 points (20 for the website, 20 for the request for information). Those with the best and worst scores are then awarded a “Golden Key” and a “Golden Padlock” respectively. Continue reading →
Witchcraft-related attacks on people with albinism are big news in Tanzania, and have been for some years. Back in 2008, Vicky Ntetema, then working for the BBC, first went undercover to investigate, and then into hiding after receiving threats.
Vicky is now the Executive Director for Tanzania of Under the Same Sun, campaigning for the rights of people with albinism. They recently published a report on the number of reported attacks on people with albinism across Africa.
Below, I have turned the data from their report into a map and two charts: Continue reading →
Last weekend, Statoil management finally broke their silence on their leaked contract for gas production in Tanzania. In an interview with The Citizen newspaper, Statoil’s Country Manager for Tanzania, Øystein Michelsen, spoke at length, including on the subject of contract transparency:
“Statoil respects the position of any government in the countries where we operate with regards to whether the contracts are made publicly available or not. In a number of countries where we operate the contracts are publicly available and Statoil does comply with that position. In Tanzania, the contracts are confidential and for that matter, Statoil also complies with that position.” [my emphasis]
“In 2012, Transparency ranked Statoil as the most transparent company among the world 105 largest publicly traded companies [see here]. We will continue to promote transparency, but we will also respect contract terms and the obligations we have towards our partners.”
The Citizen used this as their headline: “Investors accuse govt of keeping contracts secret.” And the point is clear: Statoil has no objection to contract transparency. Continue reading →
Tanzania’s more internationally-minded political thinkers watched Scotland’s Independence Referendum last week with much interest. The question on everyone’s lips was this: what does the decision made by Scottish voters to remain part of the United Kingdom mean for Zanzibar and the United Republic?
It is a reasonable question, because the similarities between Scotland’s relationship with England / the UK and Zanzibar’s relationship with Tanzania mainland are strong. The two smaller, once-independent nations both have understandable resentment towards the bigger, dominant partner in their unions. Constitutional oddities mean neither England nor Mainland Tanzania have their own parliament, while Scotland has a parliament and Zanzibar has a “revolutionary council”. There are oil and gas revenues to argue over in both cases, and endless disputes about who is subsidising who. And Britain’s relationship with the European Union is not that different from Tanzania’s uncertainty about the East African Community.
But though the question may be valid, the answers have been very mixed. Continue reading →
The data was collect through an internet survey, which means the data is dominated by responses from wealthier folks in urban areas. But with that caveat in mind, and focusing on Tanzania in particular, what can we see?
Well, a majority said they thought the government was already open (51%) or somewhat open (29%), but nevertheless, a solid three quarters of respondents expressed support for open government. This doesn’t vary much with the different questions asked:
77% would like government to be more open
76% would trust government more if it were more open
75% would like more information about government
78% said citizens should have a say in government spending and contracting
75% said they thought government would be more effective if it was more open