Wealth, poverty and fragile states
MIFFed by misrule
A new category of countries mixes modest affluence with miserable governance
Jul 21st 2011 | from the print edition
MOST people think they know what a failed state looks like. An obvious one is Somalia, where an outbreak of famine in the south was formally acknowledged by the United Nations this week. Help has started to trickle in after the Shabab, an Islamist militia, lifted its ban on aid agencies that it once termed anti-Muslim. In most ways the afflicted region epitomises the collapse of authority: extremists control roads and markets; the government is powerless outside the capital; outsiders provide what little assistance exists.
But not all failed or fragile states look like Somalia. This month the World Bank issued its annual list of countries by income category: rich, middle, poor. Several African countries are faring rather better than Somalia; they have graduated from poor to middle-income status. Yet strikingly, some 15 of the 56 countries on the bank’s lower-middle income list (ie, over a quarter) also appear on the list of fragile and failed states maintained by the OECD, a rich-country club. They range from Côte d’Ivoire to Yemen; the most important of them are Pakistan and Nigeria. State failure, it appears, does not necessarily go hand in hand with other human woes, such as poverty.
Why should it matter that a group of countries has crossed some arbitrary line separating poor from middle-income status? Perhaps, some may say, it shows that state failure is an extremely elastic term, embracing both countries in total collapse (Somalia, Chad) and those which merely contain large ungoverned spaces. In fact, the emergence of a group of middle-income but failed or fragile states is more than a curiosity. The group—call them MIFFs—includes countries crucial to the future of west Africa and South Asia. The new state of South Sudan , which combines oil wealth with instability and underdevelopment, will surely join its ranks.
The group matters for several reasons. Although its members may be semi-prosperous when measured by income per person, they contain a large and rising share of very poor people. Geoffrey Gertz and Laurence Chandy of the Brookings Institution, a Washington, DC, think-tank, calculate* that MIFF countries account for roughly 180m of the world’s neediest people (those living on less than $1 a day). That is 17% of the total number of the world’s poorest—more than the 10% who live in poor but stable countries. Anybody concerned with alleviating world poverty must reckon with the MIFFs.
这样一些国家的存在有几个理由：尽管按照每个国民的收入来衡量的话，他们的收入处于中等水平，但是这些国家有大量处于赤贫状况的人。华盛顿某智囊团Geoffrey Gertz和Laurence Chandy of the Brookings组织估计MIFFs国家的赤贫国民约有1.8亿，占全球总数的17%——比那些岁穷但稳定的国家的赤贫人群（约10%）还要多。任何有意解决全球贫困问题的人都不得不考虑MIFFs。
The category has also grown fast. Failed states were once poor almost by definition. The World Bank’s fund for helping fragile states is called the Low-Income Country Under Stress fund; once countries stop being low-income, they no longer qualify as “under stress”, even if they are. In 2005, MIFF countries contained fewer than 15m people living on less than $1 a day, not even 1% of the world’s poorest. Since then, the group has expanded mostly because once-poor states have grown richer, but no more functional. It is rarer to find a middle-income state in which law and order once existed but later failed.
And that points to one broad lesson from the emergence of this new group. Indigent places are often racked by chaos; but somewhat better-off ones are not necessarily more stable. This year’s World Development Report (WDR) showed that violence plays a greater role than once thought in keeping countries poor. Yet countries do escape poverty, and do not always grow more peaceable in the process.
As a background paper to the WDR shows, almost 70% of wars and conflicts took place in the poorest quarter of countries in the 1960s; little more than 10% then took place in the next quarter up, the lower-middle income countries. In the 2000s, however, that changed. The share of conflicts in the poorest group fell below 40%; the share in the lower-middle group rose to over 40%. Strife is getting more common in lower-middle income countries, and weak government is at least as big a predictor of violence as poverty itself.
The MIFFs are a headache for aid donors. Middle-income states in general need little financial support or technical advice. Yet the MIFFs contain many poor people whom the local government cannot or will not help. As Andy Sumner of the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University has argued, the West’s aid business has grown up in poor, stable places, such as Tanzania. The UN’s millennium development goals, like most other aid declarations, reflect the old way of doing aid. Donors admit that what works in poor, stable countries probably won’t in those which are not poor and not stable.
MIFFs also pose a big problem for Western governments which want to influence them. Being no longer poor, their elites rarely see the need for aid, military or developmental. Being fragile, their governments often consist of complex, fractious coalitions that are hard to deal with. The combination is deadly. Look at Pakistan. In a warning to the country, America’s Congress this month suspended $800m worth of aid. That drew barely a flicker from the government of President Asif Ali Zardari. The aid is worth less than 1% of GDP. Internal political calculations matter more than external ones.
MIFFs也为那些想要施加影响力的西方政府出了一个大难题。由于他们不再贫穷，这些国家的精英们觉得不需要援助，不管是军事上还是发展上；由于政权很脆弱，这些政府经常面对那些复杂而又随意的组织的挑战。作为对这个国家的一个警告，这个月美国国会终止了价值8亿美元的援助。而这些援助对于Asif Ali Zardari.总统来说，不过小菜一碟。这援助占他们国家的GDP含量还不到1%。内部比重远比外部比重重要。
The MIFF phenomenon is not entirely new. Papua New Guinea and Equatorial Guinea—both undeveloped places with big extractive industries—are longstanding examples. But until recently, there were few of them and they mattered less. Now countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Nigeria may pose bigger problems to the West than traditional failed states, such as Congo, whose disasters are mostly visited on their unfortunate citizens.
MIFF现象并不新鲜。Papua New Guinea和Equatorial Guinea是两个大型采掘业所在地，都属于欠发达地区。但最近，这些国家慢慢脱离了这一行列，他们的影响力也越来越小。现在对于西方国家来说，巴基斯坦、也门和尼日利亚等国家比起那些脆弱的传统国家（如刚果）是更大的挑战，因为后者的国民遭遇得更多。