Sunday, February 24, 2013

More on (race + poverty = Africa)

A few days ago, in "Race and poverty by the numbers", Walt posted statistics from the United Nations Human Development Index (as listed in The Economist's Pocket World in Figures, 2013 edition) confirming that the poorest, least developed countries on earth are for the most part in sub-Saharan -- i.e. black -- Africa.

There are other ways of measuring poverty and general hopelessness. One Arthur Okum devised The Misery Index, which looks at two basic things -- rates of unemployment and inflation. The idea is simple. If you haven't got a job, and the price of the necessities of life is soaring, you're going to be miserable. So, the higher the sum of these rates, the more miserable the country.

Yahoo!'s Business Insider looked at 197 countries and territories, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, to compile its Misery Index for 2013.

You may be surprised, gentle reader, to learn that the 10 most miserable countries are not all in sub-Saharan Africa. And they're not all black. Here, with Walt's comments, are numbers 10 through 7.

10. Syria - Not really a surprise that a country torn apart by a civil war should be miserable.

9. Kosovo - In the Balkans. Mostly Muslim.

8. Nepal - Small, landlocked, backward. Chief export: prostitutes sent to India.

7. Namibia - Another lately independent southern African country, formerly run by South Africa. Unemployment rate around 85%.

6. Djibouti - Check your atlas. On the horn of Africa. People chew qat all day and all night. That's all you need to know.

5. Turkmenistan - Part of formerly Soviet central Asia. Muslim.

4. Belarus - An unreconstructed Communist dictatorship between Poland and Russia. Chief export: see Nepal, but the chief importer is Turkey.

And now we come to the Most Miserable Three.

3. Burkina Faso, a.k.a. The Land of Upright Men. Formerly part of French West Africa. Large population (mostly Muslim) and very limited natural resources. Still reeling from the after-effects of a severe drought in 2011. Unemployment rampant. Chief export: nothing.

Even so, things are better than they used to be. According to CIA Factbook used by Yahoo! for this project, "The risk of a mass exodus of the 3 to 4 million Burkinabe who live and work in Côte D'Ivoire has dissipated and trade, power, and transport links are being restored."

2. Liberia. In the 19th century well-meaning American liberals tried to solve the "black problem" by sending freed slaves "back home" to a small chunk of west Africa which they called "Liberia". The capital is "Freetown". The flag has red and white stripes, like the US flag, but, like Freetown's best hotel, only one star.

Like many other sub-Saharan African countries, Liberia is heavily reliant on foreign aid. Its economy was destroyed by civil war, government mismanagement and corruption. 85% of the country's labour force cannot find steady employment. Maybe they should have stayed in the USA?

The worst of the worst, the most miserable country of all, is... Wait for it...

1. Zimbabwe

It's the same old African story -- sloth, ignorance, incompetence and corruption -- writ large by the kleptocracy of Comrade Bob Mugable, which denies Zimbabweans basic rights like freedom of assembly and the protection of the law.

Zimbabwe's economy is actually shrinking (source: Pocket World in Figures). So is the population with literally millions having fled to the UK, Canada, the USA, Australia, or any other non-black country. Or even South Africa which sends them back as fast as they can but still can't stem the tide of refugees.

After the Zimbabwe dollar (a.k.a. "Zimkwacha") reached exchange rates of billions for one US dollar in 2009, Comrade Bob was forced to abandon his worthless currency and adopt the US dollar, which reduced inflation to "normal" levels. However, the Zimbabwean unemployment rate is estimated to be 95%, and the CIA Factbook warns that the true rate is "unknowable" under current conditions.

Those who accused Walt of distorting reality and "blaming the victim" in "Blaming the white settlers for the plight of black Africa" don't need to take my word for it. Read the Misery Index! Better yet, go to Zimbabwe. If you can find any old-timers -- the few still alive who can remember what their country was like before "majority rule" -- ask them if they're better off now than they were in the days of "the racist white settler regime".

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