Solna och vår välfärd

Efter att ha arbetat i årtionden i fattiga och korrumperade länder blev återkomsten till Solna utanför Stockholm en ny och positiv upptäckt. Solna är en fantastisk fin liten stad och anses som Sveriges bästa stad för företagande. Kommunalskatten är mycket låg och inkomsterna relativt sett höga. Det finns mycket goda förutsättningar att Solna kan bli mycket bättre att bo i. Några aspekter känns speciellt viktiga att belysa.

Ett projekt/program har flera faser.  Första steget är att identifiera ett projekt. Det är en oerhört viktig fas  och kommer att i stora drag bestämma framtida investeringar. Här i Solna ligger fokus ofta på grandiosa byggprojekt och man bortser alltför ofta från viktiga välfärdsfrågor.

Det är viktigt att på ett tidigt stadium klargöra vilka målsättningar det är som gäller.  Solna har t.ex. ett fantastiskt bibliotek men vilka är målsättningarna?  Är det ok att biblioteket bara har öppet 11-15 på lördagar?  För några månader sedan fick vi en PC med stor skärm där det går att läsa många både svenska och utländska dagstidningar. Eftersom det finns många äldre som läser tidningar är det fantastiskt att kunna förstora texten  på skärmen.  Bara några få människor använder sig av den befintliga PC:n där tidningarna finns tillgängliga. Det  görs inget för att lära ut tekniken att välja och läsa tidningar på PC:n som står där

Solna har en stor del av kommunala arbeten utlagda i projekt till entreprenörer. Det är viktigt att vid sådana projekt ha effektiv  monitoring och resultatutvärdering. Det tycks som om Solna inte satsar tillräckligt med resurser på  den delen av arbetet. Det blir svårt att utläsa huruvida projekten är väl genomförda och resultaten tillfredsställande.

Låt mig ge ett konkret exempel. På Tottvägen har trottoarerna genom åren grävts upp av olika anledningar. Men efterkontrollen (monitoring) har varit urusel. Den här korta filmen på YouTube illustrerar problemen. https://www.youtube.com/editor?feature=upload

Till syvende och sist handlar det om vår välfärd. Nationalekonomi har en väl utvecklad välfärdsteori och kan vara till stor nytta då vi fattar beslut.

Tillbaka till Solna och några mycket konkreta välfärdsfrågor. Trafikljusen i Solna Centrum byter från grön till röd gubbe mycket snabbt. Många människor hinner helt enkelt inte över. Några sekunders mer grön gubbe skulle minska stressen hos många fotgängare. Som det nu är går eller springer ofta folk mot röd gubbe eftersom ibland är halva körbanan bilfri med en refug i mitten. Dessutom är trottoarkanterna ofta höga vilket gör att äldre och handikappade har svårt att komma upp till trottaoarerna.

Det fattas sand i sandlådan i Nyckelparkent sedan hösten 2014.

Ett annat exempel är en kvinna inom vården som ramlade på en trottoar då den var isig. För henne innebar det betydande merkostnader såsom avgift till vårdcentralen, kostnader för medicin samt kostnader för flera besök hos en naprapat. Det är kostnader som direkt drabbar en Solnabo. Men därtill kommer samhällets kostnader såsom att sjukvården liksom läkemedlen är subventionerade. Då kommunpolitikerna och de anställda fördelar våra knappa resurser tycks de ta för lite hänsyn till den mängd av välfärdsfrågor som berör oss Solnabor.

Tillbaka till frågan om knappa resurser. Nationalekonomi använder sig av begreppet alternativkostnad. Ett exempel är att en stor del av vårt biblioteks ytor står outnyttjade. Bibliotekets aktiviteter skulle kunna rymmas på en mindre yta och de frigjorda ytorna hyras ut och därmed spara pengar.  Kanske skulle det vara en bra idé att inte ta betalt för toalettbesök.

 

Solna och vår välfärd

Efter att ha arbetat i årtionden i fattiga och korrumperade länder blev återkomsten till Solna utanför Stockholm en ny och positiv upptäckt. Solna är en fantastisk fin liten stad och anses som Sveriges bästa stad för företagande. Kommunalskatten är mycket låg och inkomsterna relativt sett höga. Det finns mycket goda förutsättningar att Solna kan bli mycket bättre att bo i. Några aspekter känns speciellt viktiga att belysa.

Ett projekt/program har flera faser.  Första steget är att identifiera ett projekt. Det är en oerhört viktig fas  och kommer att i stora drag bestämma framtida investeringar. Här i Solna ligger fokus ofta på grandiosa byggprojekt och man bortser alltför ofta från viktiga välfärdsfrågor.

Det är viktigt att på ett tidigt stadium klargöra vilka målsättningar det är som gäller.  Solna har t.ex. ett fantastiskt bibliotek men vilka är målsättningarna?  Är det ok att biblioteket bara har öppet 11-15 på lördagar?  För några månader sedan fick vi en PC med stor skärm där det går att läsa många både svenska och utländska dagstidningar. Eftersom det finns många äldre som läser tidningar är det fantastiskt att kunna förstora texten  på skärmen.  Bara några få människor använder sig av den befintliga PC:n där tidningarna finns tillgängliga. Det  görs inget för att lära ut tekniken att välja och läsa tidningar på PC:n som står där

Solna har en stor del av kommunala arbeten utlagda i projekt till entreprenörer. Det är viktigt att vid sådana projekt ha effektiv  monitoring och resultatutvärdering. Det tycks som om Solna inte satsar tillräckligt med resurser på  den delen av arbetet. Det blir svårt att utläsa huruvida projekten är väl genomförda och resultaten tillfredsställande.

Låt mig ge ett konkret exempel. På Tottvägen har trottoarerna genom åren grävts upp av olika anledningar. Men efterkontrollen (monitoring) har varit urusel. Den här korta filmen på YouTube illustrerar problemen. https://www.youtube.com/editor?feature=upload

Till syvende och sist handlar det om vår välfärd. Nationalekonomi har en väl utvecklad välfärdsteori och kan vara till stor nytta då vi fattar beslut.

Tillbaka till Solna och några mycket konkreta välfärdsfrågor. Trafikljusen i Solna Centrum byter från grön till röd gubbe mycket snabbt. Många människor hinner helt enkelt inte över. Några sekunders mer grön gubbe skulle minska stressen hos många fotgängare. Som det nu är går eller springer ofta folk mot röd gubbe eftersom ibland är halva körbanan bilfri med en refug i mitten. Dessutom är trottoarkanterna ofta höga vilket gör att äldre och handikappade har svårt att komma upp till trottaoarerna.

Det fattas sand i sandlådan i Nyckelparkent sedan hösten 2014.

Ett annat exempel är en kvinna inom vården som ramlade på en trottoar då den var isig. För henne innebar det betydande merkostnader såsom avgift till vårdcentralen, kostnader för medicin samt kostnader för flera besök hos en naprapat. Det är kostnader som direkt drabbar en Solnabo. Men därtill kommer samhällets kostnader såsom att sjukvården liksom läkemedlen är subventionerade. Då kommunpolitikerna och de anställda fördelar våra knappa resurser tycks de ta för lite hänsyn till den mängd av välfärdsfrågor som berör oss Solnabor.

Tillbaka till frågan om knappa resurser. Nationalekonomi använder sig av begreppet alternativkostnad. Ett exempel är att en stor del av vårt biblioteks ytor står outnyttjade. Bibliotekets aktiviteter skulle kunna rymmas på en mindre yta och de frigjorda ytorna hyras ut och därmed spara pengar.  Kanske skulle det vara en bra idé att inte ta betalt för toalettbesök.

In 1967 or 1968 I got in contact with some young people of Frelimo fighting Portuguese colonialism in Mozambique. They were then exiled in Tanzania.

Together with the Swedish left we mounted protests against ASEA now ABB delivering heavy equipment to the hydro electrical power plant Cahora Bassa (or Cabora Bassa). 

I left Sweden in 1968 for Peru and had no idea what happened. What a surprise to see this from 1969.

After 6 years in South America, barely surviving the military coup in Chile in 1973, in 1979, I started working in independent Mozambique. What a commitment of everybody. Sad to see, today Mozambique has become very corrupt.  

 

Image

Jag har följt Varg i Veum ett par år. Han står SD mycket nära och är hatisk till t.ex. muslimer, vänsteråsikter, feminism och massmedia. Har tagit bort honom för han tillför inget nytt.

In summary the ideas are as follows.

A short summary of the origin of my ideas is as follows. My international career started with UNDP in 1968 in Peru, continued with FAO in the same country. Thereafter an employment with ECLA (Economic Commission for Latin America) in Santiago Chile (1971-74). After having resigned from the UN I worked in Mozambique in agricultural planning for SIDA (1979-81).

In 1982, I wrote an article in DN – Sweden’s biggest daily newspaper. The title was “Our aid lacks knowledge and a longer term perspective”. And now, with 40 years of international co-operation, I am even more convinced that our present aid strategies are doomed to failure in reaching the poor. “Eureka” a few months ago! Lightening struck me from a blue sky!

Why not provide child allowance through poor women?

Sweden started providing child allowance through poor women already in 1938. A few years later it was extended to all women with children. (I have written a short summary in English, if you are interested.) These would be the positive effects:

  1. A larger share of our aid would in fact reach the poor;
  2. There would be less need for costly administrative arrangements;
  3. Providing money through poor mothers would empower them;
  4. It is probable that the children would be much better off and more would attend schools and hopefully more girls.
    We know from theoretical and applied research that poor families spend a major part of their income on food. Sometimes as high as 70%. With more food children will eat more/better. This in turn would improve their health and consequently their learning capability;
  5. Corruption is widespread among our recipient countries and part of the problems could be by-passed and would result in a better use of our aid money;
  6. If this idea could be universally accepted, the right(s) of children to grow would be enhanced. It would be possible to reduce many of the inefficient and very costly UN activities;
  7. We know that as incomes increase, women would like to have fewer children; How to engage the different forms of Health stations needs to be investigated further; and
  8. Relying on mobile (cellular) phones to pay the mothers would bypass many sources of corruption. As the children grow up they will surely help their mothers on how to use the cellular phone. Thus, there will be more scope for a democratic/participatory development. There are some interesting experiences in several SSA countries such as Kenya and Tanzania to use mobile phones for payments. This technique is also spreading in Mozambique.[i]
  9. The child allowance scheme should be based on the willingness of governments to make a contribution as well. The share of co financing should depend on the Gross Domestic Product. A poor country would then pay little in comparison with richer countries.
  10. And the impact in reducing poverty should be closely monitored.[ii]
  11. One of the problems is that rural markets are very thin, not much demand. By transferring money to poor mothers markets would grow rapidly.

During latter year aid has also focussed on “private-public partnership”. The use of mobile (cellular phones) has grown exponentially in poor countries and not least among poor people.

Here, there would be a unique opportunity for Nordic co-operation. Nokia in Finland is a world leader in these phones as well as Sony-Ericsson. Moreover, Ericsson has a unique competence in mobile phones’ infrastructure.

There should be pilot programmes, tentatively in one district in Mozambique and another one in Tanzania. Both countries have received Swedish aid for decades. The time perspective should be at least 10 years with a research component attached.

More research is needed of the positive experiences of various child support programmes in Brazil, Mexico and Chile. These programmes commenced in the 90s.

Solna, May 2011


[i] Since the great majority of poor mothers live in rural areas without electricity, the mobile phones should have a small solar panel to charge the battery. The additional cost would be in the order of USD 10.

[ii] In Mozambique the restocking of animals, distribution of free fertilizers and food has too often been delivered to friends and relatives.

(Maputo) Moçambique e
África do Sul assinaram, sextafeira,
um memorando de entendimento
com vista a controlar
crimes contra a biodiversidade,
cujo enfoque particular vai para o
combate à caça furtiva nos
parques e reservas nacionais dos
dois países que, nos últimos
tempos, tem estado a sair do
controlo das autoridades.
No final da assinatura do
memorando, as partes acordaram
em trabalhar e reforçar as acções
conjuntas que já vem decorrendo
na preservação da biodiversidade
nos dois países e nos parques
transfronteiriços, como é o caso
do Parque Tranfronteiriço do
Grande Limpopo.
Entretanto, ao que tudo indica,
Combate à caça furtiva no país e
nos parques transfronteiriços
RSA exige outra postura
a Moçambique
– A falta de uma lei mais actual e a falta de
investimento sério no sentido de não colocar fiscais
em numero capaz de controlar os furtivos, são os
pontos apontados como “sérios constrangimentos”
as partes não encontraram consensos
absolutos em relação a acções futuras,
particularmente do ponto de vista de
acções que devem, desde já, ser
desenvolvidas do lado moçambicano. Uma
das questões tem a ver com a componente
legal, na medida em que o país ainda não
actualizou o seu quadro legal no sentido
de assegurar um combate efectivo à
destruição da biodiversidade.
Na verdade, o quadro legal moçambicano,
por exemplo em relação à caça
furtiva, continua a sancionar com base
em multas simbólicas, enquanto que outros
países actualizaram as disposições legais
até cerca de 24 anos de prisão.
Dados existentes, indicam que 2602
rinocerontes foram abatidos no Parque
Nacional do Limpopo e no Kruger Park,
de 2008 ao primeiro semestre do presente
ano.(E. Conzo)

SAVANA 1012

This is from an article in Mozambique.

Mozambique and corruption

Corruption in development with focus on development aid to Sub Saharan Africa

There is no easy way to define corruption. So, the first step was to consult Wikipedia, but not surprisingly: 

 

This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia’s quality standards. The specific problem is: Not enough informative material, poor quality content, insufficient detail, poorly structured. Please help improve this article if you can. (November 2012)

So instead we will highlight a few issues which we have encountered during our work in more than 40 developing countries for decades.

Is corruption necessarily bad? Bad in our view is: More could have been produced with the same resources. Corruption can in some cases be good. The bureaucracy is very complicated in many countries. To bypass it bribes are frequent and may in fact be productive. Having said this let us turn to some negative aspects.

It is obvious that big companies and governments bribe to obtain favourable contracts not least in the exploration of natural resources. And bribes are frequent at all levels. In protecting valuable forestry resources there are restrictions but officials controlling this are frequently bribed making such regulations next to useless. A Brazilian company was asked to pay so much in bribes that they stopped investing. The government officials quickly asked for a more “reasonable” bribe.

Aid is often channelled through the public sector. Public employees often appropriate PCs and other goods financed by aid. Public vehicles are used privately and in some countries higher level officials de facto own the vehicles. The police frequently stop cars for breaking traffic laws. Instead of issuing a ticket the police ask for money and less than the fine.

There are numerous international and regional meetings, mostly paid by aid money. The daily subsistence allowance is usually generous. The control is often deficient so that daily subsistence allowance can be collected twice – from the national budget and from aid money.

In one country, it was impressive to see that researchers spent months doing field work. But, they did the research where they had relatives. As a result they would in a few months earn more than their yearly income. In another country drivers got more in allowance than we in Sweden.

Poverty is widespread in Africa and under- and unemployment is growing. One would then expect that labour intensive techniques are used. But governments prefer to use the “most modern technology” which heavily relies on machines. And it then becomes relatively easy to earn extra money with the machines. As a result too little of labour intensive techniques are used. Interestingly enough, in many construction works financed by China, labour intensive techniques are used. And Chinese workers are brought to the country by airplane!

Sweden is aware of the corruption problem and is insisting on relying on externally audited accounts. Many of the problems we have raised will not be detected by an auditor. Moreover, most of the work done is carried out by junior professionals while the reports are signed by the “big guys”. In too many cases, for various reasons, these junior professionals would not raise corruption issues  

These comments illustrate how difficult it is to ensure a good use of aid money. And it also explains why the very high rate of economic growth in many African countries is not reaching the poor. 

 

Comments on Swedish aid 2013

17 May

Why aid and how to deliver it?

The underlying ethical issue
In my youth I was very concerned about the meaning of Life. Read many books by for example M. Gandhi, E. Fromm and A. Schweitzer. Alberts Schweitzer was a remarkable person and in 1922 he summarized his views with “Reverence for Life”. That was more than enough for me and decided to fight poverty. He was a Christian but the atheist Birgitta Forsman launched the same idea about a year ago in her book: “Ethics without God”. Her book impacted a lot on me and particularly her emphasis on rationality.

With more than 1 billion people living in utmost poverty is clearly unethical. 

Next steps
In 1938 Sweden introduced a child allowance scheme. The money was paid to the mothers – so the men would not buy alcoholic beverages! Our experiences have been very good. In recent years several “developing” countries have introduced various schemes and all the research suggests that a child allowance scheme is a very effective way to reduce poverty and there are many additional benefits such as better health and education of the children and the families are more willing to test innovations.

There is a new proposal for Swedish aid elaborated by the Government and is being discussed. More will follow.

Our aid needs to be completely changed
One Swedish retired ambassador with former links to our aid organisation Sida questioned my motives for criticizing our aid programme.

Let me give some background. After having worked for the UN in Peru and Chile six years I resigned from my permanent post partly because I was disgusted with the UN work and partly because I wanted ton conclude my PhD thesis in economics.

Because I was fluent in Spanish, Sida contracted me in 1979 to co-ordinate the planning of the Nordic support to the agricultural sector in Mozambique. It was a very big programme, more than USD 60 million. It was a very frustrating experience because the economic policies would lead to major disasters and Sida ignored these facts.

As a result I did not renew my contract and returned to Sweden in 1981 very depressed over the fate of Mozambique. In 1982, I wrote an article in Sweden’s biggest newspaper, DN. The title was “Our aid lacks knowledge and a long-term perspective”. Sida’s Director General then stated that this was the case when I worked in Mozambique but my dark picture was not true any more. 

Unfortunately I was right. To mention a few serious problems. The Civil War grew worse, partly as a result of the horrible economic policies. And the foreign debt had become unsustainable. Note, when Mozambique became independent in 1975 there was no foreign debt.

Since then I have mainly worked as a consultant in about 30 countries. The work has also included evaluations for various aid organisations. In total about 40 evaluations and most of them have been published. My views that aid has been a very inefficient method to eradicate poverty was confirmed by these evaluations.

A parenthesis, in the 60:s many young people were active to push the Sweden to give 1% of the GDP as aid. (U-aktionen and U-NU). It was then natural to consider that poor countries needed money. We were successful and our aid increased significantly and is now 1%. 

A major part of the discussions in Sweden has focused on maintaining the 1% goal. There has been too little focus on the impact of aid.

Swedish NGOs has become increasingly important in our aid. To summarize: “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”. BUT, Swedish NGOs play an important role in Sweden and they strongly articulate their views.

In the end, my article from 1982 did not have impact so I decided to work within the system. For example, Sida’s evaluations are often of low quality. There are hardly ever any economic analysis of the projects/programmes. Sida’s evaluation system has become less independent and the quality has deteriorated over the years. When I forwarded to senior officials at Sida a written instruction by an official to ignore gender issues nobody reacted.

The present aid structure in most countries needs to be completely restructured. As far as I know the Canadian aid organisation, CIDA, is being dismantled. Attempts by the present Government to improve the aid structure has utterly failed. Mainly because of all the vested interests in Sweden, not least our NGOs, very little has happened. Our aid lacks focus. What to do?

Some ideas will follow later.

19 May

My comments “More on aid” were sent to our Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 18 May.

18 May

To Mr. Evin Khaffaf, Press secretary at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Hej igen,

 

Jag skriver på min Facebook om vårt dåliga bistånd och har retat upp mängder av särintressen.

 

Jag hoppas du får tid att läsa det jag har skrivit och skicka det vidare till någon som kan vara intresserad på UD. Vill du veta mer om mig finns jag här: http://web.comhem.se/t.alberts/

 

Det här skrev jag idag:

 

Some more on aid

 

Child allowance through mothers would be a very effective way to improve the living conditions for millions of children living under infra-human conditions.

On the bottom line there is a need for ethical/moral codes. Reverence for Life is a good point of departure and it also addresses the growing concern over the degradation of our environment.

 

In the 70:s economists close to the World Bank stated the need for “Redistribution with growth”. With the collapse of socialism extreme forms of liberal economics were introduced in many countries. With growing global income and wealth inequalities it is positive to note that recently even the World Bank has started to recognize the importance and effectiveness of money transfers to poor people.

 

In order to reduce the fragmentation of donor support most economists would argue that budget support is better than having each donor supporting different projects/programmes. The problem is that many countries have rampant corruption and in spite of donor efforts very little has been achieved to ensure that aid money is being used wisely. Suffice to read the report from Transparency International to appreciate the magnitude of the corruption problem.

 

Mobile phones could be a very efficient way to transfer small sums of money to millions of mothers. AND there has been talks of private/public partnerships. In practice I have seen very little implementation of this interesting idea. In the Nordic countries Nokia, Finland, is a major producer of mobile phones and Ericsson, Sweden, can provide the necessary infrastructure so that child allowance will also reach the rural areas. Why not involve these companies?

 

I have worked for some years for SAREC (Swedish Agency for Research Cooperation with developing countries). SAREC has been more concerned with scientific quality than the relevance of the research. Until 1995 it was an independent agency but was then merged with Sida and today very little remains of it.

Since leaving SAREC I worked for many years for the European Commission to evaluate big policy relevant research programmes proposals. Unfortunately academics have great difficulties in producing relevant policy research. AND to develop a good research programme for the child support scheme a multidisciplinary approach will be needed. Academics have in general great difficulties to do this. So there is an important challenge ahead.

 

It is my strong view that a child allowance scheme should have a strong research component so we can measure results and successively improve the system. Recent discussions here in Sweden has focused a lot on how difficult results monitoring is. It is possible to accomplish a lot. For example there are various simple indicators to measure the health of children.

 

I have also a dream. Thinking of Tanzania and Mozambique, major recipients of Swedish aid, both Christians and Muslims should be able to join efforts to provide child allowance. One of my students at the University in Maputo, Mozambique, was a protestant priest. After some exchange of ideas he found my idea interesting. Sida is doing practically nothing in this area. It would be good if our Ministry of Foreign Affairs at least started pilot programmes in these two countries.

 

 

Bästa hälsningar, Tom

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________________
Dr. Thomas (Tom)  Alberts, Devpro AB
Nyckelvägen 4, SE – 169 54 Solna, Sweden

Phone + 46 (0)8 616 00 80; Cellular +46 (0)70 673 83 27
Best e-mail address: tom.alberts@comhem.se

WebPages:           http://web.comhem.se/t.alberts

 

“Reverence for Life” Albert Schweitzer 1923. Nobel’s Peace Prize in 1952

 

 

 

 

E-postadress: tom.alberts@comhem.se

 

Meddelande: Efter att ha jobbat internationellt med utvecklingsfrågor, även forskning, i årtionden har jag kommit fram till några slusatser.

1. Vårt bistånd är fruktansvärt fragmenterat. Zambias strategi, som du har beskrivit den, saknar fokus.

2. När skall Sverige börja med barnbidrag genom mammor? Vårt barnbidrag infördes redan 1938. Det finns även forskning som visar att barnbidrag i utvecklingsländer har massor av positiva effekter.

 

 

Saltis 50 år