Good Governance, Corruption Control, and Overly Flexible Ex-Pats.
So I chose "enthralling" to describe my Thursday mostly because of the alliteration...but any similar word would do: fascinating, interesting, riveting, action-packed.... It was a good day for sure.
Thursday mornings around HakiElimu are reserved for the highly anticipated weekly "learning session." These sessions address topics like poverty reduction, education, Kiswahili, the situation of the Maasai, Tanzanian history, etc. etc. This week, every staff member settled in for a lecture entitled: "Ten Years of Corruption Control: What lessons for the future?" In short, the level of corruption in Tanzania is extremely low...when regionally compared. Then again, if the competition isn't so stiff: ie, DRC, Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda...then perhaps there isn't too much bragging to be done. When measured against the modern Western paradigm of "good governance," (voice & accountability, rule of law, political stability, government effectiveness, corruption control and regulatory quality)- Tanzania's numbers aren't improving.
For example, if natural resources (excl. mining) were used responsibly and not so epidemically plundered, Tanzania would more than double its national budget with over USD $1 billion in extra revenue. With this kind of money, Tanzania would not need any foreign aid. When I talked to my Tanzanian co-workers about this, they remarked that the $1 billion wasted was a very conservative estimate. And, with mining included, the amount lost would more than triple. The speaker went on to suggest that the answer for the future is, (of course!) "sustainable corruption" - corrupt activities that aren't ruinous for the entire country..."be corrupt," he said, "but not too much". Sounds like an American philosophy to me
So I found that presentation to be very interesting. I explored the topic of "good governance" a little further during our twice monthly "book" club meeting later in the day- (it's actually more of an "article" club). Just so you know, "governance" refers to the nature of rules that regulate the public realm: basically, the way in which a government runs itself and its people. Because "better" governance is positively associated with improved foreign investment, good governance is an important factor in improving economic development in countries like Tanzania. What is most interesting, however, is that the Tanzanian members of the book club seemed to believe that standards of good governance go hand-in-hand with western globalization. In other words, the Tanzanian government is expected to adopt practices that external forces consider prerequisite to foreign investment and aid. "If you do this and this and this, it means you are a good solid government and have earned our approval, good boy, here's a treat", sort of thing. Cultural imperialism is still very much a hot issue with Tanzanians, and it was interesting to listen to them speak of the "Western World" and realize that I am a part of it.
Anyway, I hope that all of this isn't terribly boring. I really have much more to say but I will spare you After a heated discussion, we shared Tanzanian ice cream and "cake"- which is really more of a very dense bread that is a little sweet. Tanzanians like their food to be relatively bland. My manager said to me during lunch one day: "American food, always too salty or too sweet!"
Ruth and another American girl working in public health invited me to their weekly yoga class that evening. So, thinking- "ah, this won't be strenuous or difficult...what a nice way to end a long day! And, for four dollars, can't beat that!" I agreed. Well, I advise you now to NEVER take Afri-yoga so lightly.
The "health club" was on the peninsula where all of the wealthy ex-pats and diplomats live, so I got to see some very ridiculous houses. My "classmates" were all women- (probably of the bored embassy wives persuasion)- and little did I know they were nothing short of miraculously flexible monkeys. I've never been so winded in my life, and I didn't know the human body was ever intended to bend in such a manner. It was extraordinary contortion with a little african-techno bongo drum pop music in accompaniment...a little bizarre, a little painful, very awkward and embarrassing (I was the instructor's charity case) and definitely worth the four dollars. haha I'll probably go back.
So, it's off to Zanzibar this afternoon, so you'll have to wait until monday for another riveting blog entry. Hopefully, I will have many spectacular photographs to post when I return!