Archives for June 2011

Mix it up

Nick Ericsson Nick Ericsson | 14:47 UK time, Thursday, 30 June 2011

The windows at Bush House have attracted much interest this morning. That's because thousands and thousands of public sector workers have been demonstrating in central London over proposals to slash public sector pensions.
The government says they are unaffordable, the striking workers say the government is targeting the lower earners unnecessarily to bring the deficit down. That's the main battle line anyway.
But the strike action has sparked off ideological debates - the most interesting of which is the issue of the public verses private sector. Obviously the public sector is, by definition, there to serve the public.But can the private sector dip its toe in the public sector's domain too? Does being driven by profits necessarily have to preclude any kind of public service?
Well an article in the latest issue of the magazine looks at how this is being played out in countries like Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast. Specifically, the piece looks at so-called 'export opportunity zones' or 'special economic zones' (SEZ) which are springing up. These are often warehouses where private money comes in from abroad and invests in business - say producing mangoes - in a tax-free environment with a predictable and regular power supply.
Some of these investors also insist on ethical practices, such as child-free labour.
All of this will hopefully promote wider industrialisation and development. Critics say that SEZs in places like Nigeria, Madagascar and Mauritius have not worked worked and have failed to create jobs and find links with local businesses. Others would disagree. But it does all suggest that the two - public and private - don't always have to be mutually exclusive.

To serve and protect

Nick Ericsson Nick Ericsson | 15:43 UK time, Thursday, 16 June 2011

A couple of years back we carried a feature on police forces around the continent. It wasn't a very flattering look, mind you. We were interested in how some law enforcement agencies in Africa act with what seems to be little restraint.
At the time we knew that the feature could hardly be conclusive - police brutality is an issue which doesn't seem to go away. Since then human rights groups have pointed fingers at Nigeria and Kenya as two countries suspected of having heavy handed police forces.
One police force that is thought to have shaken off its poor image is South Africa's. In the years before 1994 - particularly during the turbulent 1980s - the country's cops were a derided symbol of violence. But that was supposed to have changed.
Not according to this piece - and certainly not according to a column by Antony Altbeker carried in the latest issue of the magazine. Using this shocking incident as a starting point, Altbeker says that police brutality points to other things, most importantly how difficult it is to build a stable, democratic state. So who are the forces actually protecting - the rulers or the ruled?
It seems the thin blue line is very thin indeed.

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