Monday 8 February 2010

Nigeria’s Alaskan Utopia

A few weeks ago, I read an article recommending an Alaskan scheme for Nigeria.

In Alaska, citizens get money directly from oil companies. This has made Alaskans among the richest Americans. A similar direct payment should solve Nigeria’s problems.

And how much could the Nigerians expect? $ 20 a year. Not a small amount in that part of the world, the reporter assured.

I’m not so sure. Even with all the purchasing power parity and hocus-pocus $ 20 cannot be a fortune in any country. But $ 20 multiplied by a several million, in the hands of a honest government, can mean roads, hospitals and schools.

Except that there are no, and cannot be, any honest government in Africa. Or so the article seems to imply. Hence, western oil companies have decided that they will bypass the administration and deal directly with the people, village by village.

When one compares the economic sizes of villages and oil companies, one is no longer sure that doing good was the only reason behind the oil companies’ undermining government authority. Would any Western government allow such direct contact and contracts between foreign miners and local bodies? Would, say, Obama let the Chinese government negotiate carbon credits directly with his voters?

I don’t know how corrupt the Nigerian government is. Perhaps it is very corrupt. But the way out, for Nigerians, is unlikely to be no government at all.

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