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Friday Lay Day – Travelling all day today

Its my Friday Lay Day blog and, today, I am travelling for most of it on my way to the US. I will be giving a talk on Monday morning in San Francisco on employment guarantees at the ASSA meetings. Later next week (Wednesday and Thursday), I will be in Los Angeles. I have some free time each of the next several days if anyone out there would like to catch up. I will be back into blogging action on Monday (and the quiz will be available tomorrow). Note also that I won’t be attending to moderating comments for an extended period today. That means that those with external links might sit in the queue for some time and I will get around to dealing with them when I have a connection again. For the next several hours I will be immersed in a novel about post-Colonial Jamaica, the CIA, gangs, and that sort of stuff. I am currently reading – A Brief History of Seven Killings – which is a very long and detailed book written by the US-based, Jamaican author Marlon James. Here are a few more snippets.

The novel won the 2015 Man Booker prize. It is a deep analysis of the post-Colonial period in Jamaica and the struggle between rival drug gangs, with their political affiliations, the interference and culpability of the CIA, and, of course, rocksteady and reggae music.

It builds up from independence in 1962 to the failed assassination attempt of The Singer (a.k.a. Bob Marley) in 1976, and the aftermath of that attempt.

In the aftermath we trace the Jamaican influence in the so-called ‘crack wars’ in New York City in the 1980s and the way in which Jamaica changed in the 1990s as a consequence.

While the novel is fictional it is heavily based upon documented history and the real-life characters that were part of this era in Jamaica and beyond.

I’m now well into it and so far I would recommend it. It will keep me company on my long flight today.

Tanzania’s new President

The out-going Tanzanian President Dr Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, was given an honorary doctorate in laws by the University of Newcastle in July 2015.

He retired at the recent October general elections.

The new president – John Pombe Joseph Magufuli – took over on November 5, 2015. He is the leader of the – Chama Cha Mapinduzi – party, which is dominated Tanzanian politics and government since 1977.

It started out as a African Socialist party with an emphasis on collective agriculture but, now, like many of the originally progressive political movements in the world, it is been corrupted by neo-liberalism.

It’s current political platform reads like something out of an IMF textbook (free-market policies, privatisation, cutting fiscal deficits).

To see how far the Left has deviated to the Right, the CCM party was inducted into the – Socialist International – at the February 2014 SI Congress.

How a worldwide Association of socialist political parties can dare admit and openly neo-liberal party into its midst is a sign of how far things have deteriorated on the Left.

The new president has already started to enforce austerity, although some of his targets are not without justification.

He has began to attack corruption and public waste. He has abandoned the extravagant Independence Day celebrations and deferred funding into street cleaning and sanitation to reduce the likelihood of cholera.

He reduced most of the planned outlays on a state dinner associated with the opening of Parliament and averted the funds into the purchase of more beds and mattresses and bedding for the public hospital system.

On November 21, 2015, he downsized a group of 50 people who were planning a junket to various Commonwealth countries to just four and saved around 600 million.

He has banned the use of expensive hotels for public sector workshops and seminars and instead has indicated that such meetings should be held in less opulent surrounds.

He recently toured a public hospital and sacked the director and its board of management and ordered that all non-functional machines should be repaired in two weeks and put to use to improve health care.

He has avoided the use of the presidential private jet in favour of a small car and has downsized all travelling delegations that accompany the president and his convoy.

The point is that I would support almost all of these public spending cuts because they free up resources, which typically in poorer nations only improve the circumstances of the elites.

However, that does not mean that I support austerity. Tanzania still has an unemployment rate of 10.3 per cent and a youth unemployment rate of 13.7 per cent.

In particular, youth unemployment in all African countries is excessive and undermines any hope for future prosperity. There has to be significant extra investment in education, vocational training, and job creation to ensure that the next generation of African adults enjoy a better life than their parents.

The IMF-type policies that this new breed of austerity-obsessed African leaders have embraced will not provide that future. It is good that the Tanzanian President is fighting corruption and waste.

But for every shilling he takes out of the economy, he has to put several extra shillings into the spending stream to improve employment and living standards.

This is a point that a substantial number of progressives do not understand when they introduce their ‘tax the rich’ strategies. It is one thing to alter the composition of government spending towards more desirable objectives and away from hand-outs to the rich, military equipment and such. And it might be equitable to reduce the purchasing power of high income earners (‘taxing the rich’).

But if the economy has elevated mass unemployment levels then it signifies that the fiscal deficit is too small relative to the non-government spending and saving plans and actions. It means that while the government is shifting the composition of its spending and taxing the hell out of the rich it will also need to actually increase its net spending – by increasing its spending overall and/or cutting taxes elsewhere.

Changing the composition of spending does not change its level although it might alter the level of government spending necessary to maintain full employment if it shifts the purchasing power from people with a low propensity to consume (typically, high income earners) to those with a higher propensity to consume (typically, low income earners).

Music – Peter Tosh Bush Doctor

This is what I have been listening to this morning while I have been travelling to the airport. as part of the growing violence associated with the political divisions and drug gangs in Jamaica during the 1970s and 1980s, one of the original Wailers – Peter Tosh – was gunned down on September 11, 1987 during an extortion attempt.

Several other people were killed and injured by the gang and only one was brought to justice in 1995.

This Jamaica Observer article (April 22, 2012) – The night Peter Tosh was killed – tells the story in detail.

Peter Tosh was the most radical of the old Wailers in terms of demanding equal rights and the overthrow of the political elites that took over the mantle from the Colonial oppression.

This track – Bush Doctor – is taken from the his third album – Bush Doctor – which was released in 1978.

The backing band is comprised of the whos who of Jamaican recording – Robbie Shakespeare on bass, Sly Dunbar on drums, Mickey Chung on guitar and synths, Robert Lyn on piano, Keith Sterling on other keyboards, Luther Luther François on soprano sax, Donald Kinsey on guitar, Larry McDonald and Uziah “Sticky” Thompson on percussion.

A fabulous album.

Saturday Quiz

The Saturday Quiz will be back again tomorrow. It will be of an appropriate order of difficulty (-:

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2015 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Mr. Mitchell, welcome to San Francisco. I live just down the street from the conference. If you want to grab a drink or a bite to eat, or just want some advice about visiting the City from an admirer and complete stranger, just send me a message.

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