FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Notes on Bates' Markets and States in Tropical Africa

BONUS LINK:  My entire (so far) grad school notes collection can be found here. 

Markets and States in Tropical Africa: The Political Basis of Agricultural Policies (2005)
By Robert Bates

*African (lack of) development is the story of broken links (leakage).  Between marketing boards and farmers—between marketing boards and infant industrial and manufacturing industries.  Lack of transparency at so many stages is a real breakdown of the social contract—this is amplified by indirect taxes—and by the inefficiency of bureaucracy and non-competitive middling industrial base.
*Failure to embrace/espouse regionalization of markets has stunted all economies—they need market integration. 
*Fragmentation, coercion and co-optation
*Collective irrationality in the face of individual rationality      
*Rent is an administratively created resource (by government)—in which they are getting something for nothing.            
*True purpose of the marketing boards—theoretically—is for them to even out commodity/crop prices—during good years they should save the money for the bad years so they can offer farmers prices above market value.                                                                

DISCUSSION/MAIN POINTS (all the bold points below are repeated here):
- This is part of larger African trend—funds originally designated for farmers and instead used to impose (indirect) taxes on them (p. 12-19).
- Regulation of internal markets is difficult in practice, so another strategy governments espouse is the increase of domestic farm production—ultimately this does little to increase much of anything and instead just creates a new rural elite (in the form of large-scale mechanized farms) at the expense of the small-scale farmers—a politically fruitful venture (but not an agriculturally fruitful one) (p. 45)
*One problem of this book is Bates’ propensity to provide figures in local currency which gives the reader NO scale by which to judge them.  He may as well just make up words for a currency like 600 million poopoos)
- All patterns of protection (resulting from barriers erected to protect domestic industries) in Africa have a common feature:  Effective protection level > nominal protection level
(p. 65)
-furthermore hampering profits and efficiency are prevailing conditions in Africa—a lack of infrastructure means that it’s hard to get parts quickly which means long delays in production and delivery.  This is a prevailing theme in AFRICA! (p. 72)
- In Africa, food takes up 60% of the average urban dwellers budget!!!! (p. 74)
-to date farmers are a relatively inactive interest-group politically—there are definite technological breakthroughs today that would make it easier for them to coordinate
- Do small farmers coordinate and organize better today with growth of mobile technology?  (p. 87-91)
-  If Bates just updated this book in 2005, why didn’t he update any of his examples to reflect the last 20 years at least?  (p. 87-91)
- Paradox of agricultural Africa: coexistence of indirect taxes (through low commodity prices) with subsidies on input factors.   This statement here is one of the main points of the whole book (p. 109)
- Marabouts seem like the original sellouts and bums (p. 108-113)
- Bates never mentions anything about agricultural aid (ie Gates Foundation which contributes more $$$ to farming in Africa than USAID)

Entire notes here:


  1. Thanks a lot, this really helped!!!

  2. You are welcome, glad it helped!