Friday, July 21, 2006

Resistance to Privatization in South Africa

I just came back from a packed house of activists from around the world and a presentation by three master's students on their continuous work in Soweto and Jo-berg on the struggles against privatization of water and electricity (Anti-Privatization Forum) for the poor communities of the area. Interesting work by Prishani Naidoo, Trevor Ngwane and Ahmed Veriava on the idea of prepaid water and electricity meters in communities and the impact on behaviour, resistance, rights, and acceptance. Should there be a limit to the consumption of water or should it be a human right for all people? The assumption is that the poor will pay and 'learn' to not waste water and be good citizens by paying. Prepaid became a way to get people to pay when the parastatals could not stop the people who were not paying their bills. However, when does reducing the consumption of water start to affect how people behave in fighting over the use of water and finding ways to steal water because they simply cannot afford to pay the rates set. It is a never ending struggle to connect the working class together and organize to resist and fight for their constitutional right to water. We have not even covered how wastage is not 'learned' by the ruling class who fill their swimming pools, wash their driveways and cars. So 'who is the real thief' was the question arised by Trevor and where is the justice when the resources are controlled by the elite few? Trevor also eloquently puts an image of government by applying apartheid in an example of an individual on life support removed from the machines. However, now apartheid re-appears as commodification of resources like water and electricity as to how the body parts can be used for other purposes. Morbid example, but well put.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

World Cup 2010 in South Africa!

Well, now that Germany is over and the Italians have finished celebrating around their country with pride, South Africa gets their chance to shine by hosting the 2010 World Cup. All I hear about in the news is about the preparations for the World Cup and whether South Africa will be able to compare in standards to the well-organized event that took place in Germany. Well, yesterday, there was the city of Cape Town stating the price of their 2 billion rand new stadium and negotiating on who will be responsible for the hefty sum, FIFA, national government or the city? In my class there will be one guy doing his research on the socio-economic effects of the World Cup which could be interesting.

South African Fact: 11 official languages: Afrikaans, English, Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi, Ndebele, Southern Sotho, Northern Sotho, Tsonga, Tswana and Venda

This will probably be my last blog for this month as I head up to Kruger National Park next week to see the Big 5 in the game reserve. All I want to see is a lion.

World Social Forum (Nairobi 2007) Preparations here in South Africa!

UKZN Centre for Civil Society is preparing for the World Social Forum in Narobi, Kenya January 20-25th 2007. The World Social Forum is an opportunity for activists around the world to collaborate on social and economic justice, and environmental sustainability. Starting today there will be seminars on social movements taking place across Africa particularly here in Soweto and Johannesburg. On Saturday, the day is called "African and International Critical Perspectives" and will see the likes of some prolific people who have fought the struggles of apartheid South Africa as well as the fight for rights to water, housing and life. Other exciting CCS events will be happening next week.

The photo is a book I am currently reading called the Liberal Virus by Samir Amin. I just started it but it looks like it is comparing Europe and The United States in their ideologies about capital accumulation and how the US model is much more dangerous in exploitation and increases of poverty around the world.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Why our lives veer as they do.

Meth also makes us look back into our lives and try to see what different events and ideas led us down this certain path in life. We are somewhat directed on our own and somewhat veered by the constraints of policy in our daily lives. If Canada didn’t have universal education or health care, how would citizens develop as a nation? If they didn’t attempt to provide loans and scholarships, could I (or you) be where you are today? Why does Canada have strong campaigns of multiculturalism? Is our government leading us down a path promoting individual freedom through markets which are benefiting a more elite group, increasing the rich-poor gap and slowing diminishing the size of the middle class as seen in some parts of the United States? Canada is no different in its issues and politics as it is here in South Africa. The government that they choose must make important decisions such as whether education should be a universal right even though resources allocation is inadequate and unequal and teaching can be so poor in some parts of the country. Can some young people actually be worst off going to school?

South African National Anthem

Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika
Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo Iwayo
Yizwa imithandazo yethu
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.

Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,
O fedise dintwa la matshwenyeho,
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso,
Setjhaba sa South Afrika – South Afrika.

Uit die blou van onse hemel,
Uit die diepte van ons see,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
Waar die kranse antwoord gee.

Sounds the call to come together,
And unite we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom,
In South Africa our land.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Durban Bus Rant: One Wrong Turn

Today’s reflection on the bus: Well, it is not odd that once again Durban Transport had a few buses not show up on their regular route so the 4:40pm 318 Fynnland bus saw it packed with people standing (first time I’ve seen this) of Bluff folks just trying to head home to their families. When you think it can’t get worst, the bus, trying to follow its regular route, has been detoured by road work and we are now cruising through the side streets of this quiet neighborhood with the working women on the bus screeching in horror (maybe delight?) due to the detour then yelling “right!” or “straight!” “ NO, left!” while kids and homeowners smirk at the bus manovering through the back lanes. We made it through and I don’t think I have ever heard so many relieved thank-yous from both the passengers and driver.

Why Small Things Count in our Lives

Everyday I have been taking this Political Economy class I'm put into great headspins and critically trying to make out where I stand in terms of ideologies to political and social development. It almost comes to a point of depression because of the seriousness of some of these issues and how as I become more knowledgeable in this field of development economics, I may need to make these crucial statements of what I strongly believe and the implications that fall behind those statements that I make. I guess that is a reflection back to why I set up this website and understand how the small decisions and statements that we make can really affect, both good ways and bad, the way in which the world works. It happens to everyone, everyday as we make decisions which can make us happier at the expense of others or try best to seek ways to be happier without making others worst off. So expert or not, I suppose it's important to consider our responsibilities to our communities both local and global and how are interactions, shopping, demands and needs can dictate the lives of others on the other side of the globe.

Billabong Pro Surfing Competition

South African Surf News: Billabong Pro: Looks like yesterday, 2nd Round at Jeffrey’s Bay’s competition saw dolphins and head high surf for this competition. Apparently, the Iron brothers have been eliminated but Slater is still in (wearing the signature white wetsuit). These waves had no comparison to the barreling waves caught by Andy Irons from first round last Friday; he pulled in like nobody's business, disappeared for a lifetime in the barrel and popped out like he's been doing this since kindergarden. Hot stuff equal a score of 10!

This morning will have the call at 8am (I'm watching the sunrise live online right now; beauty). I wish I wasn't living 10 hours drive away from the action...

the fad... straight outta Totem.

I thought it was a fad when I first heard from Esler on Kyle’s whole oneredpaperclip website scheme. It must have been major slow business news in South Africa on the weekend's Sunday Independent if he’s caught first page in the Business Report for the trade for a house in Kipling, Saskatchewan. Seriously, those from the UBC Totem legacy years know what were talking about. Word kyle.

Nelson Mandela's Birthday

South African News: Madiba’s birthday. Today, on television had Nelson Mandela and wife, Graca Michel celebrating his 88 Birthday. Niceties like pleading to business people to provide funds for education and then threw in the presents from Fidel Castro (rum and cigars). Nice SABC news.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Six in the Morning Roll-Call.

Canadian Asian Student: check.

For the first time, I caught the 6:05am bus to school so that I can start to prepare for my exam on the comparing and contrasting the ideologies of Barr (liberal), Lal (libertarian), and Mkandawire (democratic socialist) to economic and social policies... and there I was part of the "working man's" bus. I'm one of the first one the bus so trickle in the city workers one by one with their own agendas and characteristics. The sun hasn't even risen, yet the day has started for many on the bus. While I pretended to snooze off, I watch the two in front of me speaking through sign language rapidly moving their hands in conversation. crazy.

Most of the weekend I spent catching up on readings and notes that I have neglected from the week. This class has really tried to closely ask what you really believe in and what is right for a country in terms of social and economic policy. For example libertarians like Hayek, Lal, the World Bank and Friedman would say that the market is the most efficient method to growth and social safety nets are residual and left only for those who are unable to fend for themselves (those in absolute poverty). Liberals such as Barr would see social policy as an efficiency because it attempts to correct those market failures that exist. For example, he states that people are poor because the market does not provide full information, it is in imperfect competition and the government is necessary to provide the fair environment (through regulation and distribution) equality and social justice. And there is Mkandawire who I have decided is a democratic socialist who believes social policy is embedded in economic policy and you cannot leave one without the other. Social policy must be included in macro decisions as it sees the bias in economic policy: deflationary (aims for stability but not necessarily high growth or investment), and the "male breadwinner" mentality (that one household member will be able to fund and provide all needs in the family, while other member, unpaid, cares for the home). Social policy is necessary to create a community of citizens who are productive, cohesive health members of society. Is this enough information for a two hour essay?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

UNDP Working Paper on Privatization and Public Services Sector

"Can Privatisation and Commercialisation of Public Services Help Achieve the MDGs? An Assessment*", by Kate Bayliss and Tim Kessler.

I just found this article (haven't read it yet) on how the the authors argue that public services should not be privatized as it will go against the Millennium Development Goals and will not provide affordable services to the poor. Let me know if anyone has read it and what they think.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

South Africa and fighting poverty

Our Political Economy class is currently reading a journal article, "Neoclassical and structural analysis of poverty: winning the 'economic kingdom' for the poor in southern Africa." by Sarah Bracking at the University of Manchester. She combines many references which I was reading the last quarter, Ravillion, Dollar & Kraay, and Rodrik on trying to understand whether inequality have effects on growth. She also brings up the points on how econometrics have weakly proven its case in connecting openness in trade and strict macroeconomic policies with efficiency and growth in developing countries.

"To my mind, capitalism went wrong when it divorced wealth from its true purpose. The true purpose of wealth is to satisfy very simple needs: the need for food, the need for shelter, the need for education, and so on. In other words, the end of wealth is the banishment of poverty - and wealth is to poverty what light is to darkness." (Julius Nyerere in 1965, cited in Charlick, 2003)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Nice sunny winter in Durban

This has been the longest, sunniest winter I have ever experienced in my life and I have nothing to complain about that. It makes for good times watching World Cup soccer (gotta love the italians) and running on the beach in the mornings. So as of August, I will cruising around in a shiny red (Leanne calls her "ruby"), 1991 Mazda 323 (damn, another standard). purchased at only 18,000 rands ($3000 USD) and only at 82,000 kms (formerly owned by a granny)... well, she'll be taking us to the university and back and saying goodbye to the aqua blue Durban transport bus as of July 31, 2006.

What else? Political Economy course has us reading inserts by Nicholas Barr's book on Economic Theory and the Welfare State, mainly comparing libertarian, liberal and socialist views on the economy. Interesting stuff.

Also reading stuff from the United Nations publication by Thandika Mkandawire basically summarizing that social policy is embedded in economic growth.

Friday, July 07, 2006

IDRC Internship Awards 2006: Due Sept 2006.

For those Canadians interested in conducting research in International Development, here is an opportunity to do so through the IDRC.

Adbusters Ed#65: Why are Students Leaving Politics Out of Economics?

Interesting quotes from economists and students on the current study of economics! it's why I'm in South Africa not Canada studying this concept: Adbusters.

Adherence to Antiretrovirals (ARVs)

Yesterday was an article, "New AIDS Pill to Treat People in Poor Countries" in the New York Times which refers to the FDA approval for a new 3-in-1 antiretroviral (ARV) pill which can be taken by HIV/AIDS patients. It is produced by an Indian generic drug company and this approval means that the US, the largest distributor of ARVs can start releasing this drug to the rest of the world in their USAID programmes. Currently the WHO has approved another 3-in-1 ARV pill and it is being used by around 400,000 patients. Why is this important for the patient? After completing this course on HIV/AIDs in Southern Africa, I learned that a major barrier for the success of ARV treatment is whether patients are willing to adhere to the requirements necessary. In countries where HIV+ are discriminated by major stigma is placed on families and friends, and poverty is prevalent, adherence can be hindered. Even simple this like finding transportation to your medical appointment, taking time off work, hiding one's status and the drugs from the family, etc. can be major dilemna. Having the chance to take only one pill twice a day can alleviate a few of the difficulties in adherence. It seems that adherence becomes a collaborated effort by medical staff, the individual, family and community to support the patient. These social actors can truly assist in successful treatment and healthy lives.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

back in class. Political Economy

Def: "social laws of protection and distribution". It's great yet tiring to be back in class. I'm in this intensive 3 days a week, 3 week course called Political Economy in the Welfare State taught by Charles Meth. Today, we are reviewing theoretical aspects of the welfare state: objectives such as efficiency, reducing inequality, social integration and administrative feasibility (book by Nicholas Barr). Also reviewing ideologies of libertarian, liberal and socialist theories. Interesting quote from the instructor of capitalism - "goals of creative destruction". thought to ponder. Socialism looks at trying to ameliorate the worst effects of capitalism. According to socialism, capitalism is this inevitable place that causes inequality as it exploits modes of production for goods to sell. Someone will get the short end of the stick unfortunately, but how can one make this as least inequal as possible.

I've got two papers to write: first is on the "spirit of ubuntu" or the South African ideal of solidarity and the second paper on evidence-based policy formation... apparently there is little information on either topics so YEA! I guess I should probably start researching now. Let me know if you have any leads.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Mr. Price Pro

So I found out that this week, Durban hosts the 6 star WQS surfing competition called Mr. Price Pro. Big names like Occy, Sunny Garcia, Andy Irons and my fav, Kalani Robb are strolling the beachfront of North Beach... crazy. I'll be sure to head down and see what kind of festival this is really all about. In the meanwhile, here is a shot of yesterday's offshore from Garvies... crowded lineup by 10:30am.

Cathedral Rock at Waterfall Bluff

I'm back within distance of communication via cell phone and internet after being in the Transkei for one week. I have been helping out with my friend's PhD project monitoring predator marine activity during the annual South African coast sardine run. This sardine run is quite famous as filmmakers from National Geographic and BBC come down to try to capture this phenomenon of bait balls (sardines circling in a tight ball formation) and the sharks, whales, dolphins, gannets and other predatory fish follow them along the coast. Apparently this year's sardine run was a flop because of the consecutive fronts that hit the coast the last two weeks of the run. Unfortunate times for filmers but could be useful information for researchers like Sean. Basically I was hiking 1 1/2 hours through high grass (tick-infested), prickly bush, boggy patches of mud, cow patches all over the place and crossing river streams to the research site. The view was spectacular and you can see the other photos by clicking on the Catherdral Rock photo. Great times near the campfire with Nowelee's delicious stews, a porter house steak with bbq'ed gem squash and potatoes... besides the polony sandwiches, the appetite was satisfied. The weekend before coming back to Durban, we stopped off at the hippy town called Port St. John's. Apparently, this was an area that people who were trying to avoid the whole apartheid era escaped to this coastal town and hide from the policy in the high cliffs and bush. Being there now, I can see all those possibilities. Enjoy the photos and on we go with the last of my Master's courses....