Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Fake News in Nigeria

Really fake.

The Economist Disowns Publication On PMB [President Muhammadu Buhari ]
The Economist, a London-based magazine, has disclaimed a publication which claims that Nigerians have shown unprecedented level of patience with President Muhammadu Buhari.

The president’s special adviser on media, Femi Adesina, who revealed this in a statement, noted that the publication had been trending on the social media and on some websites in the country, and beyond.

He said: “A letter dated January 18, 2018, written and signed by Jonathan Rosenthal, the Africa editor of the magazine, reads: “It has come to my attention that an article has been circulating on social media and been published on various websites that purports to have been written or published by The Economist.

“The article with the headline ‘The Unprecedented Level of Patience Shown to Buhari’ was not written nor published by The Economist. Any claims connecting it to The Economist are false.”

“The Presidency enjoins Nigerians to be very watchful and circumspect about the kind of information they are exposed to, and share, especially in this period when purveyors of fake news abound.”

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Monday, January 22, 2018

If the poverty line is just below the median income...

Do you know how the official poverty line in the USA compares to the median income? In Iran, those two figures are very close together. What are the political implications?

Iran's wealth gap: tens of millions struggle to get by
Recent anti-government demonstrations in Iran exposed the growing divide between rich and poor.

While one or two percent of the population enjoy a luxurious lifestyle, millions of Iranians are struggling to make ends meet.

In 2017, Iran's government set the poverty line at about $480 a month per household.

Thirty-three percent of the population lives below the line, that's more than 24 million people. But it's also a struggle for many living above the line.

The median income for an average household is about $885…

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Efficiencies of privatization

Nigeria has long suffered from a lack of electricity. Black outs in urban areas have been normal. Anyone who can afford one, has a generator. When there was a black out, the sound of generators was very loud. How to fix the problem?

It's claimed that privatization results in more efficient production and thus lower costs. For some reason, that doesn't seem to be the case in the production of electricity in Nigeria. From The Guardian, Abuja.

Electricity - the High Cost of Living in Darkness
AS was often the case in the past, officials of the Eko Electricity Distribution Company, EKEDC, recently stormed the popular Festac Town in Lagos for another round of mass disconnection due to what they claimed was the continued refusal by the residents to pay their electricity bills. But it was a mission that almost turned into a tragic misadventure.

Unknown to the disconnection team before it embarked on this mission, information had earlier filtered to the residents about what was in the offing and they proceeded to lay an ambush. So, as soon as the EKEDC officials arrived the estate, they were confronted by a group of irate residents who promptly demobilised their vehicle and seized their ladders and other tools they brought along with them for the purpose of electricity disconnection. And while the confrontation lasted, members of the disconnection team were manhandled and held incommunicado as they were prevented from making phone calls.

However, the timely intervention of security agents probably prevented the EKEDC disconnection team from getting the mob treatment. The bitterly aggrieved residents had used the opportunity to give vent to their grouse which bordered on extortion of residents by the EKEDC through outrageous estimated bills, refusal of the electricity company to provide pre-paid meters as requested by residents, frequent mass disconnection, endless power outage, etc.

Incidentally this confrontational drama over electricity supply is not limited to Festac Town, it plays out rather too often across the country. Indeed most electricity consumers across the country are angry. They are angry because power supply has continued to deteriorate while tariffs have increased way beyond reason.

Privatization of the electricity sector

All that have happened after the privatisation of the electricity sector…

After decades of inefficient service delivery by the defunct National Electric Power Authority, NEPA… the Federal Government under former President Olusegun Obasanjo decided to privatise the electricity sector…

Although the Obasanjo administration made a significant progress in the power reform process, it dragged on until the Goodluck Jonathan administration completed the privatisation exercise in 2013… However, four years after, the companies were either sold or given to private firms to manage, the Nigerian public continues to suffer the same inefficient service delivery…

There is no correlation between current tariffs and quality of service delivery. For instance, many residents in medium density areas of Abuja pay between N8, 000 to 15, 000 [$22-40], up from an average of N3,000 to N6, 000 [$8-16] pre-privatisation. However, there has been no significant improvement in service delivery…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed. Use the search box to look for country names or concept labels attached to each entry.

Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


Just The Facts! is available. Order HERE.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Ideological amendments

Amendments to China's constitution don't look like amendments to the US constitution. The newest proposals are primarily ideological guides to government action.

Revisions to Chinese constitution will be key task for top cadres at plenum
A closed-door meeting of the Communist Party’s most powerful cadres begins on Thursday to discuss revisions to the constitution that include the addition of President Xi Jinping’s political theory…

The second plenum normally sets the tone for the upcoming National People’s Congress, when the new president, premier and other top cabinet figures will be formally named. This time, the two-day meeting will focus on the proposal to revise the constitution…

Next week’s meeting will discuss making the first amendments to the constitution for 14 years, which will then be endorsed by the NPC…

But a Beijing-based source familiar with the issue confirmed to the South China Morning Post that “Xi Jinping Thought” would be included in the preamble of the constitution.

Xi
The preamble states that the party is guided by Marxism and Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the Three Represents – the latter three being the theoretical legacies of Mao, Deng and former president Jiang Zemin.

Xi’s tongue-twisting contribution to Chinese political theory – Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era – was enshrined in the party charter at the congress in October.

His interpretation of the “principal contradiction facing Chinese society” would also be added, along with some of his other ideas, according to the source…

It will be the fifth time the Chinese constitution has been amended since it came into force in 1982. Previous revisions include the replacement of “planned economy” with “socialist market economy” to describe the country’s economic system in 1993.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The "emperor" is not that far away

In traditional China, deviations from central authority directives were explained by saying, "The mountains are high and the emperor is far away." President Xi seems to explaining that the Communist "emperor" (with Chinese characteristics, probably) is not so far away.

Xi calls for fundamental improvement of CPC political ecosystem
Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, on Thursday called for more anti-corruption efforts to "fundamentally improve the political ecosystem of the Party."…

"All-round efforts should see the Party's political building enhanced, its theory strengthened, its organizations consolidated, its conduct improved, and its discipline enforced, with institution building incorporated into every aspect of Party building," Xi said. "Socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, and the CPC's leadership is a must for the country to advance its great cause."

Xi said that "the Party itself and its members have gone through essential and profound changes," which required higher quality of Party management and enhanced political and organizational functions of Party organs.

"We should push forward the campaign with heroism, and takes the bull by the horns with a fighting spirit that never steps aside in face of an enemy," he said.

"Senior Party members should be subject to higher and more rigorous standards and placed under tighter scrutiny, though all Party members should follow the rules," he said…

Xi asked CPC officials to remain loyal to the Party "at any time, and under any circumstance."

Xi said Party officials should "always be reliable, align themselves to the Party's central leadership in thinking and deeds, follow the Party's instructions and fulfil (sic) their responsibilities."

"Decisions and plans made by the CPC Central Committee should be implemented in full, by each and every Party organization," Xi said.

Xi warned against the resurfacing of undesirable work styles -- formalities for formalities' sake, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance…

To maintain close ties with the people, Xi said Party officials should "resolutely oppose privilege-seeking and work with and among the people to resolve their pressing concerns."…

"Those who work in disciplinary agencies must discipline themselves first," Xi stressed.

He urged all discipline inspection and supervision organs to follow higher standards and stricter discipline, and called on their staff to be loyal, resolute, responsible and maintain discipline and law, ensuring that the power bestowed by the Party and the people would not be abused…

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Decentralization or secession?

Escaping politics and drug gangs by building "walls."

Losing Faith in the State, Some Mexican Towns Quietly Break Away
The road to this agricultural town winds through the slums and cartel-controlled territory of Michoacán, ground zero for Mexico’s drug war, before arriving at a sight so strange it can seem like a mirage…

Local orchard owners, who export over $1 million in avocados per day, mostly to the United States, underwrite what has effectively become an independent city-state. Self-policing and self-governing, it is a sanctuary from drug cartels as well as from the Mexican state.

But beneath the calm is a town under tightfisted control, enforced by militias accountable only to their paymasters. Drug addiction and suicide are soaring, locals say, as the social contract strains…

Tancítaro represents a quiet but telling trend in Mexico, where a handful of towns and cities are effectively seceding, partly or in whole. These are acts of desperation, revealing the degree to which Mexico’s police and politicians are seen as part of the threat…

Each is a haven of relative safety amid violence, suggesting that their diagnosis of the problem was correct. But their gains are fragile and have come at significant cost.

They are exceptions that prove the rule: Mexico’s crisis manifests as violence, but it is rooted in the corruption and weakness of the state... 

Tancítaro: Nearly four years in, long after other militia-run towns in Michoacán collapsed into violence, the streets remain safe and tidy. But in sweeping away the institutions that enabled crime to flourish, Tancítaro created a system that in many ways resembles cartel control…

Cinthia Garcia Nieves, a young community organizer… set up citizens’ councils as a way for local families to get involved. But militia rule has accustomed many to the idea that power belongs to whomever has the guns…

Officially, Tancítaro is run by a mayor so popular that he was nominated by the unanimous consent of every major political party and won in a landslide. Unofficially, the mayor reports to the farm owners, who predetermined his election by ensuring he was the only viable candidate…

The citizens’ councils, designed as visions of democratic utopianism, hold little power. Social services have faltered.

Though the new order is popular, it offers few avenues for appeal or dissent…

Monterrey: Rather than ejecting institutions, Monterrey’s business elite quietly took them over — all with the blessing of their friends and golf partners in public office.

But their once-remarkable progress is now collapsing…

Monterrey’s experience offered still more evidence that in Mexico, violence is only a symptom; the real disease is in government…

Mexico’s weak institutions, Jorge Tello, a security consultant, [said], make any local fix subject to the whims of political leaders. Countries like the United States, he said, “have this structure that we don’t have. That’s what’s so dangerous.”

Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, a million-resident sprawl outside Mexico City, was once known for poverty, gang violence and police corruption so widespread that officers sometimes mugged citizens.

Today, though still rough, it is far safer. Its police officers are considered “a really promising model,” John Bailey, a Georgetown University professor said, in a part of the country where most are seen as threats.

Neza inverted Monterrey’s model: Rather than establishing an independent police force and co-opting the political system, Neza established an independent political system and co-opted the police.

Mexico’s establishment parties are more than parties. They are the state. Loyalists, not civil servants, run institutions. Officials have little freedom to stretch and little incentive to investigate corruption that might implicate fellow party members. Most are shuffled between offices every few years, cutting any successes short.

Neza, run by a third party, the left-wing P.R.D., exists outside of this system. Its leaders are free to gut local institutions and cut out the state authorities…

But Neza’s gains could evaporate, Mr. Amador said, if crime in neighboring areas continued to rise or if the mayor’s office changed party…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed. Use the search box to look for country names or concept labels attached to each entry.

Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


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Friday, January 12, 2018

New Chinese Empire

Edward Wong, recently the Bureau Chief in China for The New York Times, offers an analysis of China's rising empire as a successor to the 20th century American empire.

This is probably too long and too complex for students, but I think it offers teachers opportunities and ideas for lesson planning.

A Chinese Empire Reborn: The Communist Party’s emerging empire is more the result of force than a gravitational pull of Chinese ideas.
Though unabashedly authoritarian, China was a magnet [in 2008]. I was among many who thought it might forge a confident and more open identity while ushering in a vibrant era of new ideas, values and culture, one befitting its superpower status…

From trade to the internet, from higher education to Hollywood, China is shaping the world in ways that people have only begun to grasp. Yet the emerging imperium is more a result of the Communist Party’s exercise of hard power, including economic coercion, than the product of a gravitational pull of Chinese ideas or contemporary culture.

Of the global powers that dominated the 19th century, China alone is a rejuvenated empire. The Communist Party commands a vast territory that the ethnic-Manchu rulers of the Qing dynasty cobbled together through war and diplomacy… Once again, states around the world pay homage to the court, as in 2015 during a huge military parade.

For decades, the United States was a global beacon for those who embraced certain values — the rule of law, free speech, clean government and human rights. Even if policy often fell short of those stated ideals, American “soft power” remained as potent as its armed forces. In the post-Soviet era, political figures and scholars regarded that American way of amassing power through attraction as a central element of forging a modern empire.

China’s rise is a blunt counterpoint. From 2009 onward, Chinese power in domestic and international realms has become synonymous with brute strength, bribery and browbeating — and the Communist Party’s empire is getting stronger.

At home, the party has imprisoned rights lawyers, strangled the internet, compelled companies and universities to install party cells, and planned for a potentially Orwellian “social credit” system. Abroad, it is building military installations… and infiltrating cybernetworks. It pushes the “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure initiative across Eurasia, which will have benefits for other nations but will also allow China to pressure them to do business with Chinese state-owned enterprises…

So far, Chinese soft power plays a minor role. For one thing, the party insists on tight control of cultural production…

President Xi Jinping is the avatar of the new imperium. The 19th Party Congress in October was his victory lap. Party officials enshrined “Xi Jinping Thought” in the party constitution, putting him on par with Mao Zedong…

China’s domestic security budget has exceeded that of its military in recent years, even as both grow rapidly, highlighting the nation’s investment in hard power…

Chinese citizens and the world would benefit if China turns out to be an empire whose power is based as much on ideas, values and culture as on military and economic might. It was more enlightened under its most glorious dynasties. But for now, the Communist Party embraces hard power and coercion, and this could well be what replaces the fading liberal hegemony of the United States on the global stage…

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