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Emma, I think if you read between the lines you'll note that my comments center around the issue of 'grade liberalism' and not the personality of Pr Mbarika's which i very much respect. I don't need to unveil where i studied, which I think is not an issue. But anyway, know that the comments are informed by experiences in the best universities one could imagine.
I beg to differ with the distinguished Prof’s comparison which I think is misleading and sends the wrong signal to students that assessment in western universities is lenient. The prescription of a lax-in-the-grading remedy is based on a faulty diagnosis, which I think aims at the symptom rather than the structural problems of governance undermining the university system. My personally experiences which cut across UB, US, Germany and France, stand at odds with ‘grade liberalism.’ We must differentiate between the tools and performance of an assessment system, that is what is being graded, and the grades. At UB, like any other university in Cameroon, the options or tools employed to reveal a student’s understanding of the course material are limited to an exam and a test (CA) which comprise of 70 and 30 percents respectively of the overall course grade. This is in contrast with most western universities where there is a diverse evaluation portfolio, which usually but not limited to, written exams, class participation, assignments and term paper(s). The final grade which averages the performance across the breadth of options provides appropriate incentive for hard work to be a student’s dominant strategy. Because class participation counts in the final grade, a student comes to class prepared with the readings. Assignments are taken seriously since their share of the final grades is significant. In fact, written exams sometimes may account for only 30 percent of the overall grade. The point I am trying to make is that assessment at the university is more of capturing effort than intelligence. Unlike UB, the diversity of evaluation portfolio, constrains a student in a good western university to engage robustly with the depth and breathe of a course material. Without necessarily disparaging our system, I think if one controls for all other things like intelligence, adaptation, and exposure to technology, a student with a 2.0 GPA from A&M University would be more creative and competitive in the job market than a 3.0 student from UB. The evaluation system we inherited from our colonial masters is out of sync with the realities of today’s modern universities that premium hard work and creativity than intelligence. Rather than encouraging students to bank knowledge, policies should instead aim at transforming their critical, creative, and entrepreneurial capabilities. Grade-inflation is a sure disincentive to make our graduates competitive. The surge in numbers of Asians in western universities cannot be explained by lax-grading systems. Cameroonians do not outperformed their peers in Asia in standardized tests like GRE, GMAT into graduate schools. The deluge of Indian and Chinese graduates is reflection of the quality of reforms being carried in their educational system. Getting our evaluation institutions right would mean overhauling the governance of universities in ways that encourage partnerships with the private sector in curriculum development, improve the working conditions of lecturers and students, strengthen and encourage research, and reward students to produce alternative point of views or ‘think outside the box.’ Meanwhile, I think the policy process is not always top-down, with politicians being the ones inviting technocrats to formulate policies. Formulating policies is not linear, and Cameroon is no exception. Technocrats like Prof Mberika have the capability to set the agenda of telemedicine technology policy etc. And organizing themselves to advocate for specific technology policies is a step in the direction of appropriate policy entrepreneurism, which is a gap they need to fill and not wait for politicians to provide them with opportunities to do it. I however seize this opportunity to join others in the forum in congratulating him on the great work he is doing in crusading ICTs in Africa.
I beg to differ with the distinguished Prof’s comparison which I think is misleading and sends the wrong signal to students that assessment in western universities is lenient. The prescription of a lax-in-the-grading remedy is based on a faulty diagnosis, which I think aims at the symptom rather than the structural problems of governance undermining the university system. My personally experiences which cut across UB, US, Germany and France, stand at odds with ‘grade liberalism.’ We must differentiate between the tools and performance of an assessment system, that is what is being graded, and the grades. At UB, like any other university in Cameroon, the options or tools employed to reveal a student’s understanding of the course material are limited to an exam and a test (CA) which comprise of 70 and 30 percents respectively of the overall course grade. This is in contrast with most western universities where there is a diverse evaluation portfolio, which usually but not limited to, written exams, class participation, assignments and term paper(s). The final grade which averages the performance across the breadth of options provides appropriate incentive for hard work to be a student’s dominant strategy. Because class participation counts in the final grade, a student comes to class prepared with the readings. Assignments are taken seriously since their share of the final grades is significant. In fact, written exams sometimes may account for only 30 percent of the overall grade. The point I am trying to make is that assessment at the university is more of capturing effort than intelligence. Unlike in UB, the diversity of evaluation portfolio, constrains a student in a good western university to engage robustly with the depth and breathe of a course material. Without necessarily disparaging our system, I think if one controls for all other things like intelligence, adaptation, and exposure to technology, a student with a 2.0 GPA from A&M University would be more creative and competitive in the job market than a 3.0 student from UB. The evaluation system we inherited from our colonial masters is out of sync with the realities of today’s modern universities that premium hard work and creativity than intelligence. Rather than encouraging students to bank knowledge, policies should instead aim at transforming their critical, creative, and entrepreneurial capabilities. Grade-inflation is a sure disincentive to make our graduates competitive. The surge in numbers of Asians in western universities cannot be explained by lax-grading system. Cameroonians do not outperformed their peers in Asia in standardized tests like GRE, GMAT into graduate schools. The deluge of Indian and Chinese graduates is reflection of the quality of reforms being carried in their educational system. Getting our evaluation institutions right would mean overhauling the governance of universities in ways that encourage partnerships with the private sector in curriculum development, improve the working conditions of lecturers and students, strengthen and encourage research, and reward students to produce alternative point of views or ‘think outside the box.’ Meanwhile, I think the policy process is not always top-down, with politicians being the ones inviting technocrats to formulate policies. The process of formulating policies is not linear, and Cameroon is no exception, technocrats like Prof Mberika can also set the agenda of telemedicine technology policy etc. And I think the advocative comments are a step in the direction of policy entrepreneurism, which is a gap that needs to be filled by technocrats and not politicians. I however seize the opportunity to congratulate him on the great work he is doing in crusading ITC in Africa.
If this quality of writing could feature consecutively in The Post, then one needs to start questioning its editorial policy. Nevertheless, I do applaud the hard work of the management team to satisfy the growing anglophone readership. But I think there is still much room for improvement. The level of professionalism of The Post, to me, pales to that of Le Messenger, and La Mutation etc. This doesn't bode well for the anglophone cause. It is time for an operational defination of `the anglophone way´ of doing things.
Let me take the debate a step further, that is, from system superiority to governance flexibility. This is what I think the varsity classification attempts to capture. Looking at the list of top tier universities, one sees that it does not reveal a stark dichotomy between the Anglo-Saxon and Francophone systems. It is more of a consolidation of the trend towards privatization of higher education, which is the American model of university governance. With the exception of Oxford, the top ten universities are private universities in the US, like Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Berkeley etc. Under the model, students are customers paying for higher education, University Administration are costs to be minimized, and University Senate are shareholders interested in maximizing returns on their investment. The Senate is restructured to accommodate private sector actors such as corporations and foundations. The money from the private sector comes with influence on program content, design and even quality. The strategy to commodify higher education has an implicit political cost which has engendered opposition even in leading Anglo-Saxon universities. For example, the Oxford University management is adamantly opposed to UK’s government pressure to liberalize senate governance arrangement to private sector actors. There is an obvious improvement in program quality however, those with a marketable appeal like engineering will be favored while those with a societal appeal like humanities might be disfavored. The crucial question we need to address is whether we want to continue with business as usual and preserve higher education as a public good, which should be accessible to all, or we want to embrace the market realities of globalization and transform higher education into a commodity that should be traded on the market. This is a question that cuts across the Anglo-Saxon and the Francophone dichotomy. Even in Scandinavian countries and Germany, where higher education has traditionally been a free good, there is a growing pressure to impose fees, retrench the government, and free space to private sector actors on university boards. I think this is a technical and a political question which the Cameroonian public needs to also start deliberating on. The time has come therefore to start asking the right questions about the sustainability of our higher education system. Vito, I wish you a quick recovery.
Hi Vito, and Co interesting comments, I think Ma Mary is right in ascertaining the need to shift from systems to their relevance. I do not need to stress this even more. Nonetheless, I will like to comments on some issues that have been raised. First I will like us to differentiate between form and function. What is important to our development is not the choice of models, but our ability to endogenize them to our own realities, a fact which, I think is not inherently French or English. China and the other Asian tigers have been able to achieve technological prominence not by making the false distinction between the western models, or by eschewing them. However, their leadership has been pragmatic, opting to strategically filter the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of the models and tying them to their realities and future expectations. The ease of adaptability to our realities and the ability to unleash our innovativeness are the binding-constraints to be addressed by leadership through a pragmatic education policy. I think a good educational system should unleash abilities rather than imbue or bank in “analytical capacity and problem resolution.” On this aspect, I think both systems are comparable. We also need to be careful in attributing causality. I think there is no empirical evidence linking state of development with the colonial model inherited. There is no such thing as Francophone development model or Anglophone development model, development is development. Anglophone Africa is not more developed than Francophone Africa and the reverse is not true. Within the categorization there’s high and significant cross-country variability which cannot be explained by the type of colonial system. Mauritius one of the fastest growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa, is a Francophone country. The French colonized Northern Africa countries like Algeria, morocco and Tunisia fare better than all sub-Saharan African countries put together on all measures of Human Development not because of their heritage. Likewise, democratic transformation in Africa is not atypical to Anglophone Africa. Benin and Senegal are shinning examples of emerging democracies in Africa together with Ghana. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Cameroun etc are all examples of failed democracies. One of the significant elements in the evolution of human rights and dignity was introduced by the French revolution. Rouseau’s ideals of “equalite and fraternite’’ or better still “man is born free…...” is the starting point of human right advocacy today. On the other hand, the French two-tier university system of grand ecoles and universities has its own merits. For instance, the selection into UB inherent with Anglo-Saxon universities fails to correct for societal inequalities. A student who passes through Sacred Heart has higher chances to score the grades needed to be selected into UB, than my brother in GHS Mbengwi. The difference between going to SH and GHS Mbengwi is the family background and not the intelligence of a student. And so our “cherish” Anglo-Saxon system assumes individual starting points, status, or initial conditions as a given, a fact most of us would disagree. So if UB is the only university in Cameroon, I think the chances of my brother getting a university education are very limited. Even if the French system is explicit in perpetuating elitism with its grand ecoles, however it enables every one, who at least wants to get higher education, to have to access to a university. I am not an advocate of the French albeit I have studied in France; I myself dislike their inflation of self-importance. But I think, we need to be pragmatic, and less visceral in our disdain of the French. Outsourcing is a symptom of globalization, fretted even in the US, and UK, it is not a problem atypical to France. I always feel enriched reading the comments in the forum.
I think the issue cannot be simply reduced to system superiority; it is complex, and includes the ability or willingness to accommodate change at the individual level. Even if we accept the primacy of Anglo-Saxon education, it is equally vulnerable to change-inertia and can be made moribund by it. For instance, there is a growing opposition to the GCE Board’s proposal to introduce the widely used and accepted multiple-choice-questions-format in the Advanced Level. The opposition is not coming from Francophones but from Anglophones who are out of sync with reality. The crisis that paralyzed universities in Cameroon last year was only measured in human blood at the University of Buea. Extreme intransigence of administration and students was nonetheless uncommon to the other state universities. I think we need to shift from the narrow focus on systems to leadership. In France, the grande ecoles have adapted the Anglo-Saxon LMD format. ENA, the equivalence of ENAM offers the Americanize MPA while ENAM doesn’t. Some of the good and even best lecturers at the University of Buea are products of the French system. Moreover, some universities like Nschang have retooled the content of their programs and the format in which they are delivered to meet the realities of Cameroon, more than I would argue the University of Buea. Meanwhile, I think the fundamental difference in the two systems is the approach rather than the premium they place on the value of equality. The French are explicit in their pursuit of equality, focusing on equality of outcomes. The French look on to the state to engineer an equitable outcome for the society. While the English are implicit with the pursuit of equality, preferring to focus on equality of opportunities and chances, hoping that it would lead to an efficient outcome for the society. Both have their own merits which we need to take into consideration in designing and assessing the effectiveness of our educational system. Nevertheless, the obvious weakness of the French system is that it assumes a strong state as a given, which is a luxury in today’s globalization-engendered state retrenchment world. Worst of all, the predatory reflexes of individuals in power divorces the implementation of equality from reality. Leadership misbehavior is not uncommon to our “cherish” Anglo-Saxon system or immune to corruption. Hence, I would argue that though systems effectiveness is an important quality, individuals’ flexibility to change or effective leadership does matter too, even more in assessing performance. In fact, individuals are also the locus of corruption, power mismanagement, myopia, and rigidities to innovation in both systems, vices abhorred by most commentators in the forum.
I think the issue cannot be simply attributed to system superiority; it is more of the ability or willingness to accommodate change. Even if we accept the primacy of Anglo-Saxon education, it can still be made moribund by change inertia. For instance, there is growing opposition to the GCE Board proposal to introduce the widely used multiple-choice-questions-format in the Advanced level. The opposition is not coming from Francophones but from Anglophones who are out of sync with reality. I think we need to shift from the narrow focus on systems to individuals. In France, the grande ecoles have adapted the Anglo-saxon LMD format. ENA, the equivalence of ENAM offers an MPA. Even in Cameroon, Universities like Nschang have retooled the content of their programs and format to meet the realities of Cameroon, more than I would argue the University of Buea. I think the fundamental difference in the systems is their approaches rather than the premium on the value of equality. The French are explicit in their pursuit of equality, focusing on equality of outcomes. While the English are implicit focusing on equality of opportunities hoping that in it would lead to a fair and equal society. Both have their own merits. The weakness of the French system is that it assumes a strong state as a given, which is a luxury in today’s globalised world. Though system effectiveness has a role to play, I will argue that individuals do matter equally. Individuals are also the locus of corruption and inflexibility to change all vices most commentators in the forum have abhored.
Reader, I share your frustrations on the rising unemployment rate. And I agree with you on the need for target government investment to boost growth and employment. Notwithstanding, my skeptism shouldn't be interpreted as being unecessarily critical. I like to remind you that, I had ealier on "bought-in" into the proposal. My "cold-feetedness" is not a trait, or a criticism of the logic behind, but, it is more of a lack of conviction in the foundation of the proposal. I wish you all the best as you try to sell the proposal. There's indeed a demand for motivated policy entrepreneurs like you. God Bless
Reader, I share your frustrations on the rising unemployment rate. And I agree with you on the need for target government investment to boost growth and employment. Notwithstanding, my skeptism shouldn't be interpreted as being unecessarily critical. I like to remind you that, I had ealier on "bought-in" into the proposal. My "cold-feetedness" is not a trait, or criticism of the logic behind, but it is more of a lack of conviction in the foundation of the proposal. I wish you all the best as you try to sell the proposal. There's indeed a demand for motivated policy entrepreneurs like you. God Bless
Reader, You never addressed the microeconomic issues I raised in my previous commentary on the implications of government intervention on private entrepreneurism. What do you mean by profit maximisation? If government simplified business procedures in way that 20 new Fotsos enter the market for tomatoes, wouldn't that drive down prices? Would it be less efficient, or less doable compare to investing in the creation of 'agro-millitaire'? Predatory profit maximisation by businesses only breeds in the absence of competition. The role of government therefore is to encourge competition in the vibrant agriculture sector with tremendous profit and growth opportunities, instead of replacing it. On the other hand, I'll request you to take a look at livelihood impacts of Chad-cameroon pipeline project and see what land expropriation in the name of development means? National development is not too simplistic a notion as you may think: it means different things to different people. To my mother in Mbengwi, national development means ownership and productivity of her landed assets. To the minister of economy, national development means growth in Gross Domestic Product. It is difficult to reconcile the two, especially if the achievement of GDP growth, means expropriating land from my mother. This seems like a populist proposal, which may not be able to stand the test of economic scrutiny. Cheers
My comrades, Reader and vito, I am not an economist but I think in order to market the "golden Proposal" you need to get the microeconomic foundations right. From my read of the recent comments, I think the proposal wouldn't pass a critical microeconomic scrutiny. Responding to some specific questions raised, I think planning does not necessary means intervening. Government can still plan by steering rather than muddling with the agriculture sector.We need to downsize the government, instead of encouraging it to creep away from what its supposed to do. Market economy, today, whether we like it or not, is taken as a given. Domestic policies do not operate in an international vaccumm. The golden proposal is starkly at odds with international policy processes and trends. While i do aknowledge that we can be trend setters, i do not think the proposal is sufficently tempting for us to champion. Concerning, ketch and the rest, I think the road construction sector is different. These civil construction companies relies on the government for contracts. The government is the main supplier of contracts in the road sector. Unlike in road construction sector, there are several players in the agriculture sector. Roads are pure public goods and government exercises a monopoly on how and where they are constructed. Simmilarly, health is a public good, which government owes the responsibility to make it accessible to every citizens. Profits come second to access to health care.So government's intervention needs not be guided by business fundamentals. While in agriculture, competitition and profits are the sustainable elements needed to drive down prices and expand access to the poor. How can government create or set standards and at the same time be a market participant? Advocating for "agri millitaire" is to invite a conflict of interest for the government. My experiences at the UN, make me less sanguine with the proposal. However, i recognise the need for the professionalisation of our millitary. It has been enriching going through your contributions.
Reader, Looking closer at your proposal to transform the military into an agro industrial organization raises some fundamental economic and political challenges. Assuming the proposal gets to fruition, how will the subsidize “agro-millitaire” operate in the market? For example, is it going to sell say tomatoes at a market price? If yes, then what will be the implication for private sector agents like the Fotso who are operating without state subsidies? Under the market scenario, “agro millitaire” will not only profit from free labor of soldiers, it will also extract ‘rents’ from the market, like a monopoly. On the other hand, if it decides to sell below the market price, it will crowd out space for private businesses. If this happens, then the policy will have been effective in killing private entrepreneurism in a sector and industry that badly needs it. I am not a market fundamentalist, however, to my understanding; no country has been able to achieve sustainable economic growth by outrightly flouting market principles. From China, India, to Korea and Japan, and from Botswana to Mauritius, getting market institutions right has mattered most for economic growth. In all these countries, government has focused on correcting market failures or filling missing markets. Besides, I can’t remember any country that has been stricken by famine, even the most populated like China, and India, which has fed itself out of famine and into a net-food exporter by transforming “guns into hoes”. Meanwhile, I don’t think that a policy advocating for a heavy footprint of government in an industry that can be efficiently managed by private sector entrepreneurism is politically feasible in this era of “Washington consensus,” that is, leave it to the market. Even with renewed recognition for smart state-activism in development, there’s a strong dislike for market distortions cause by interventionism. Additionally, a policy to expropriate land, especially from villagers in name of national development raises serious equity and justice challenges. Would “agri millitaire” exercise full tenure rights? If yes, what happens if it decides to raise capita by selling some of the expropriated land assets? The case pitting Bakweri Land Claims Committee and CDC is particularly instructive on the implementation challenges confronting the proposal. Finally, how does the proposal square in with commitments to phase out subsidy-distorting trade barriers to international trade especially in agreements like the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) coming into force in 2008, which we have already committed to? . Obviously, there are profitable opportunities in the agriculture sector for private sector entrepreneurism. Rather than tinkering with the military bureaucracy, government should instead focus on creating the enabling environment, and incentives for the production of Fotsos, Kadjis, Atabongs, Mukettes, etc Some of the ways and means of achieving this have already been salience in the forum. I think government should leave to military what is military, and leave to businesses what is business. It seems “planned economy” died with the fall of the Soviet Union, but markets have continued to live longer since then.
Njinga Man, Interesting critique! While I have never disagreed with building institutions, especially the laudable proposition of Reader as the key to achieving self-sufficiency and transforming Cameroon to a net-food exporter, I think we shouldn’t confuse strategy with tactics. The strategy of self-sufficiency and net-exporter status is taken as a given, and clearly articulated in the PRSPs and other strategy documents of the government. How this is pursued is a tactical issue based on a set of policies and instruments sequenced in the near, medium and long terms. Concretely, with the financial fallouts from the debt relief, the government has opted for tax slacks in the near term for the reasons I advanced above. Without necessarily repeating the logic behind it, the tax stimulus is supposed to be automatic in terms of implementation and impact at different levels. Everything being equal, my poor mother in Mbengwi will feel the HIPC fallouts next week when she purchased rice and salt etc at ‘Bonn Market.’ At least, for now she needs to eat in order to learn how to farm rice for tomorrow. Research and training and micro credits are not instruments or policies that you actualise in a week or months. Nevertheless, they are important to achieving our strategy in the medium term. Transforming the military into an agro-industrial institution is not feasible in a month or even in 5 years from now. Adapting the curriculum of our military training schools, reforming the organisational culture of the ministry of defence, requires time. Even if a decree is signed today to that effect, the impact on the strategy will be felt at least in the next 15 years. Aside from the substantive issues raised in your commentary, you equally raised some procedural critiques which I would like to address. For example equity, in fact, who benefits from an automotive tax-stimulus? I think you need to place the automotive example which I borrowed from your text in context; ‘automation of agriculture will reduce cost and increase productivity.’ Even if my mother does not benefit from tax cuts on automotive agro-inputs today, she would definitely, in the future, buy a bunch of plantains from a tractor-farmed plantation at 200 FRS. And when this happens she will devote the 12 hours she used to spend daily on the farm to other income generating activities like sewing. She knows she can afford food. My brothers and sisters will abandon their onerous subsistence farming livelihoods in Mbengwi and relocate in other emerging growth sectors Limbe, Bamenda, Yaounde, and Douala where their labour is most rewarded. Thanks to falling prices of plantains, beans etc, brought about by the mechanisation of agriculture, they would be able to support themselves. In every policy change, there are always winners and losers. The role of the government is to enable those disadvantaged by change with the necessary skills and resources to move on with their lives. Finally, you assert that the easiest policies to implement are not necessarily the best policies. I agreed with you to some extend. However, in the real world of policy-making, what matters most is feasibility. The best policy is the right policy that can be implemented at the right time.
Great Dr Salah!! Cameroon needs proffesionals, who can still make a difference out of the dire situation. You are an inspiration. Keep up Dr
Njingaman, I think you are confused on difference between means ends. Subsidies and taxbreaks, sustansively are redistributive instruments of government.For example, a subsidy of 500 frs on fertiliser cost is the same as a tax break of 500 frs on fertilisers, the government foregoes 500 frs in tax revenues on fertilizer. While tax breaks are automatic, and easier to implement, subsidies require an institutional mechanism for their delivering. The issue here is not the differences, but which is more efficient and effective in meeting government's objectives. Basically, how can government effeciently used and maximise HIPC funds without endangering macro-economic sustainability. I argued above that the delivery mechanisms of subsidies are very inefficient at its best, and absent at its worse. In arguing for increase in agro productivity through automation, I wonder if a tax break on automative inputs would not enhance labor productivity. Additionally, you have raised the issue of productivity in context of Europe where "less than 20% are involved in the agric sector and they are food independent" which I think is a valid. However, European countries have been able to be net food exporters because they have efficient and less-corrupt institutions to manage subsidies to farmers which we do not have. Nevertheless, this is changing with the tide of global free trade. Even if Europe continues to maintain its farm subsidies, there is growing international and domestic pressure to phase them out in the longrun. Njingaman read between the line of my arguement before you draw conclusions.
Kumbaboy Indeed, scaling up subsitute foods make economic and political sense. However, using direct subsidies, is economically inefficient and politically unfeasible. Inline with our neleoliberal economic stance, we have dismantled institutions that used to deliver subsisidies to farmers like Marketing Board, allowing prices to be determined by market forces. The Ministry of Agriculture and other government channels that could deliver subsidies are preyed by inefficiencies and corruption. Hence , making it unlikely that promised subsidies will not be diverted to private pockets. Most importantly, we are party to a free trade agreements, like the Economic Partnership Agreements which we are currently negotiating with the European Union. This agreement calls for free trade with Europe and the phasing out of all subsidies. Also we are constrained by the IMF and World Bank imperatives of achieving macroeconomic stability,with emphasis on fiscal austerity. I will like to came back to the fiscal stimulus, which I think is the most potent option available to the goverment. A tax break on fertilizers and other farming inputs could boost domestic subsisitutes to these products. But as I have argued, a fiscal stimulus as a standlone action, is not sufficient without comprehensive institutional reforms and investment on infrastructure.
Kumbaboy, interesting critique. However, i wonder whether i am not clear enough with what I meant by consumer surplus or we differ in our understanding of the term. I think consumer surplus is the willingness to pay beyond the equilbrium price captured in terms of price not demand. For instance, a kilo of makerel that sells for 700 frs, as opposed to the market price of 400 frs taking the tax stimulus into consideration. In this case, with its relative price inelasticity, retailers have the incentive to maintain price, and cash in on the consumer surplus of 300 frs. Since consumers are still willing to pay for makerel at 700 frs. Secondly, the focus of my analysis was on the upstream of the supply chain, that is wholesalers. In cameroon, they are relatively organised hence could be liken to a cartel. As the interface of the fiscal stimulus transmission belts, the actions of wholesalers leverage the prices at which these goods are retailed. Your focus is on the downstream, with relatively robust conditions for market competition. The capital requirements for entering the upstream sector in itself is prohibitive making it difficult for most cameroonians to freely enter or leave the market. I think on the other issues of institutions, we are sounding the same chorus together with rexon and most other commentators. I would however differ with propositions to boast private consumption by increasing salaries. Though this would lead to increase in aggregate demand hence growth, it will trigger inflationary pressures consequently inviting the central bank to raise interest rates. The impact will be an increase in the price of money, and reduction in money supply. This might turn out to be a zero-sum game. As a member of the central african monetary union, cameroon has outsource its monetary policy making to the Beac. However, a plausible alternative is for the government to proceed with the tax slacks, incrementally. For instance, the 50 percent reduction could be carried out cumulatively over a peroid of 5 months, so as to give time for the markets to adjust. In fact, there's no escape from comprehensive public service reforms.
Francis, I think the problem is not that simple to attribute to government activism; it is however, a classic example of market failure from uninformed policy. Due to imperfections in the market, fiscal stimulus on the supply-side is unable to translate into lower price expectations of consumers. Several reasons could account for these: First, this is a structural problem. The goods benefiting from the tax-slack are essential commodities which are price inelastic. In this case, irrespective of the magnitude of supply shock, demand will remain constant for at least the medium run, with suppliers unscrupulously willing to cash in on consumer surplus. In the absence of government intervention, suppliers will simply pocket the tax cuts, ignoring the price incentives or intention of the policy. Second, there’s an expectation problem which is a common dilemma in every economic policy decision even in advanced countries like US. 'The actions of private actors are driven less by current behaviour of government policy than by perception of its general rules of conduct.' This is common challenge to monetary policy decisions of central banks like the Feds and ECB. Simply, this means that the assumption that reducing or lowering taxes in the past automatically translated into reduction in prices is a necessary, but not sufficient assumption in predicting outcome of future economic policy. In short, the past is not always a reliable guide to the future. Suppliers are aware of government's budgetary constraints, and bottle necks in the way of making the policy actionable. In fact, they are not sure whether the tax stimulus will be sustained or followed through by the agents of the government. Third, there is also a legitimacy problem. Since the action is carried outside the finance law adopted by the national assembly, the business community is uncertain about the will of the government. The poor credibility problem has in fact led the government into a vicious cycle of ill-fated policy and sinking trust. Fourth, is the asymmetry of information between the consumers and the suppliers. Due to corruption, and inefficiencies of the taxation department and system, consumers do not know what has been actually reduced and how much it translate in real time price terms. Suppliers know more than the consumers. This is even worse when one takes into consideration that some villagers and rural areas, may have access to the information. Indeed, due to poor reputation and credibility, suppliers have reacted suspiciously to government tax cut. Establishing credibility cannot be done by cheap. The government cannot correct the market failure by decree. The government should have taken into consideration how the public would have reacted and proceed with the tax cuts in a more cautious way. Due to uncertainty of expectations, shocking the system would not automatically create a virtuous cycle of tax cuts, falling prices and increase demand. Meanwhile, if government decides to intervene through price controls as some commentators have mentioned, it would only lead to artificial scarcity, black market and speculations which will translate into price hikes further impacting the consumers most. Government cannot design fiscal policy without paying attention to what happened after.
Francis, I think the problem is not that simple to attribute to government activism; it is however, a classic example of market failure from uninformed policy. Due to imperfections in the market, fiscal stimulus on the supply-side is unable to translate into lower price expectations of consumers. Several reasons could account for these: First, this is a structural problem. The goods benefiting from the tax-slack are essential commodities which are price inelastic. In this case, irrespective of the magnitude of supply shock, demand will remain constant for at least the medium run, with suppliers unscrupulously willing to cash in on consumer surplus. In the absence of government intervention, suppliers will simply pocket the tax cuts, ignoring the price incentives or intention of the policy. Second, there’s an expectation problem which is a common dilemma in every economic policy decision even in advanced countries like US. 'The actions of private actors are driven less by current behaviour of government policy than by perception of its general rules of conduct.' This is common challenge to monetary policy decisions of central banks like the Feds and ECB. Simply, this means that the assumption that reducing or lowering taxes in the past automatically translated into reduction in prices is a necessary, but not sufficient assumption in predicting outcome of future economic policy. In short, the past is not always a reliable guide to the future. Suppliers are aware of government's budgetary constraints, and bottle necks in the way of making the policy actionable. In fact, they are not sure whether the tax stimulus will be sustained or followed through by the agents of the government. Third, there is also a legitimacy problem. Since the action is carried outside the finance law adopted by the national assembly, the business community is uncertain about the will of the government. The poor credibility problem has in fact led the government into a vicious cycle of ill-fated policy and sinking trust. Fourth, is the asymmetry of information between the consumers and the suppliers. Due to corruption, and inefficiencies of the taxation department and system, consumers do not know what has been actually reduced and how much it translate in real time price terms. Suppliers know more than the consumers. This is even worse when one takes into consideration that some villagers and rural areas, may have access to the information. Indeed, due to poor reputation and credibility, suppliers have reacted suspiciously to government tax cut. Establishing credibility cannot be done by cheap. The government cannot correct the market failure by decree. The government should have taken into consideration how the public would have reacted and proceed with the tax cuts in a more cautious way. Due to uncertainty of expectations, shocking the system would not automatically create a virtuous cycle of tax cuts, falling prices and increase demand. If government decides to intervene through price controls as some commentators have mentioned, it would only lead to artificial scarcity, black market and speculations which will translate into price hikes further impacting the consumers most. Government cannot design fiscal policy without paying attention to what happened after.
By likening international politics to a game of football, where there can only be winners and loosers, the writer, misses the point. Unlike the world cup, there's a win-win equilibrium in international politics. And the role of the UN, is to facilitate the achievement of this equilibrium between states. Koffi Annan leadership will be credited for shifting the unit of analysis of international politics, from states to individuals. Though the UN apparently seems to watch as 'genocide' proceeds in Darfur, the recent security council resolution to send troops, reinforces the notion that state soveriegnty cannot be an excused for the international community to fail to intervene in the face of gross human rights attrocities. As the moral concience of the world, Koffi Anann has raised humanitarian intervention with or without state consent, to the top of the global agenda. We saw this in Kossovo, with the intervention of US-led NATO. I think we have to differentiate between legitimacy and credibility in assessing Koffi Annan's leadership. Koffi Annan has enhanced the legitimacy of the UN, by deepening the scope of human rights issues addressed by the UN. Whether the UN has been credible in addressing these issues, is more a governance problem inherently with the interstate state system, rather than Annan's leadership. Annan could have only delivered concretely on the expectations of the UN as much as the states, particularly, the influential ones like the US, France and UK, are willing to do.
Vally, I won't like to give the debate a normative bend. A contract simply is a framework, arrangement, or tool for enforcing agreed expectations between parties. A signature appended on a paper, is just one of the options for managing the expectations. I think the issue i am alluding is more of useability, rather than usefulness. In advanced countries or universities where research is more of a culture than a product, there's little or no assymetry of information as per research expectations. An explicit contract, with targeted research output, in this light is more of a constraint on creativity, rather than a stimulus. An implicit contract, in a context where peer pressure is greater, provides a stronger incentive to go beyond the limits of expectations. This is an issue of efficiency, and effectiveness, rather than 'legal correctness or appropriateness'
I think Tekum's question on how much is allocated for research and publishing is central to the effectiveness of the 'publish or perish' rule. I think the issue is not whether UB should be coercive or soft with its performance assessment indicators. Rather, would the 'perish or quit' rule narrow the research 'capability expectation' gap of UB? This is an implementation problem and Tekum's questions are insightful in this light.
Rexon, I think you haven't read between the lines of my arguement. I think the issue is not whether 'perish or publish' rule is a customarily stipulation in contracts. A contract can be implicit or explicit depending on the context. Research and publication are not only tangible outputs but cultural frabrics of a university. In universities where the culture of research is entrenched, research expectations are taken as a given. You have to understand that the trend now is towards self regulation even in the labour markets. At Columbia, where i studied, the publish or perish rule is informalised but very effective due to peer pressure.
Hi folks I am really impressed by the quality of the debates and I think this is one of the most focused so far in the forum. Coming to the issue of ‘publish or perish,’ there’s a strong consensus on research as the quintessential expectation of a university both in the medium and long-run. However, how a university gets about it, is a function of capability, context, system and politics. Besides creating the minimum incentives to translate research expectations into fruition, a university may elect to formalise its research expectations into contractual agreements with lecturers, or relies on peer pressure to constrain lecturers to deliver research ouputs. A university may opt to blend ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ laws to achieve its research objectives. Advanced countries, especially top-notch universities like Harvard, Columbia, Yale, can achieve their research goals efficiently and effectively by maximising peer pressure. In young universities like UB where peer pressure is low or almost absent, maximising coercive instruments can be more effective to achieving research expectations. Meanwhile, one can’t be oblivious of the conditions in which some of our compatriots in UB are working in. However, these deplorable conditions are not an anomaly in Africa. Some lecturers nonetheless are singling out themselves by translating the nominal research grants given by UB into publications in standard and renowned journals. These hard working individuals deserved to be encouraged and the ‘publish or perish’ law can act as an incentive. The question is how are these individuals able to maximise the research grants given to them? Can lecturers account for how the yearly research grants they received are spent? The constraints of resources shouldn’t be an excused for lecturers to free-ride their contractual obligations. The crucial question is whether UB administration will be consistent in implementing the rule. Experience has shown that ‘publish or perish’ has been selectively implemented to victimise lecturers with opposition sympathies, or to settle personal scores. If the new administration opts to follow this path, then the effectiveness of the law will be undone. Every one, in the teaching hierarchy must play by the same rules. I think the debate is more about the effectiveness of the instruments to achieve the research goals rather than the strategy which UB wants to pursue.