|Tuesday 27th of April 2021
What Shakespeare Actually Wrote About the Plague @NewYorker
Shakespeare lived his entire life in the shadow of bubonic plague. On April 26, 1564, in the parish register of Holy Trinity Church, in Stratford-upon-Avon, the vicar, John Bretchgirdle, recorded the baptism of one “Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspere.”
A few months later, in the same register, the vicar noted the death of Oliver Gunne, an apprentice weaver, and in the margins next to that entry scribbled the words “hic incipit pestis” (here begins the plague).
On that occasion, the epidemic took the lives of around a fifth of the town’s population.
By good fortune, it spared the life of the infant William Shakespeare and his family.
Such outbreaks did not rage on forever. With the help of strict quarantines and a change in the weather, the epidemic would slowly wane, as it did in Stratford, and life would resume its normal course.
But, after an interval of a few years, in cities and towns throughout the realm, the plague would return. It generally appeared on the scene with little or no warning, and it was terrifyingly contagious.
Victims would awaken with fever and chills. A feeling of extreme weakness or exhaustion would give way to diarrhea, vomiting, bleeding from the mouth, nose, or rectum, and telltale buboes, or swollen lymph nodes, in the groin or armpit.
Death, often in great agony, would almost inevitably follow.
Innumerable preventive measures were proposed, most of which were useless—or, in the case of the killing of dogs and cats, worse than useless, since the disease was in fact spread by rat-borne fleas.
The smoke of dried rosemary, frankincense, or bay leaves burning in a chafing dish was thought to help clear the air of infection, and, if those ingredients were not readily available, physicians recommended burning old shoes.
In the streets, people walked about sniffing oranges stuffed with cloves. Pressed firmly enough against the nose, perhaps these functioned as a kind of mask.
It was early recognized that the rate of infection was far higher in densely populated cities than in the country; those with the means to do so escaped to rural retreats, though they often brought infection with them.
Civic officials, realizing that crowds heightened contagion, took measures to institute what we now call social distancing.
Collecting data from parish registers, they carefully tracked weekly plague-related deaths.
When those deaths surpassed thirty, they banned assemblies, feasts, archery contests, and other forms of mass gathering.
Since it was believed that it was impossible to become infected during the act of worship, church services were not included in the ban, though the infected were not permitted to attend.
But the public theatres in London, which routinely brought together two or three thousand people in an enclosed space, were ordered shut.
It could take many months before the death rate came down sufficiently for the authorities to allow theatres to reopen.
As a shareholder and sometime actor in his playing company, as well as its principal playwright, Shakespeare had to grapple throughout his career with these repeated, economically devastating closings.
There were particularly severe outbreaks of plague in 1582, 1592-93, 1603-04, 1606, and 1608-09.
The theatre historian J. Leeds Barroll III, who carefully sifted through the surviving records, concluded that in the years between 1606 and 1610—the period in which Shakespeare wrote and produced some of his greatest plays, from “Macbeth” and “Antony and Cleopatra” to “The Winter’s Tale” and “The Tempest”—the London playhouses were not likely to have been open for more than a total of nine months.
It is all the more striking, then, that in his plays and poems Shakespeare almost never directly represents the plague.
He did not write anything remotely like, let alone as powerful as, his contemporary Thomas Nashe’s haunting “A Litany in Time of Plague”:
Rich men, trust not in wealth,
Gold cannot buy you health;
Physic himself must fade.
All things to end are made,
The plague full swift goes by;
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!
Beauty is but a flower
Which wrinkles will devour;
Brightness falls from the air;
Queens have died young and fair;
Dust hath closed Helen’s eye.
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!
In Shakespeare, epidemic disease is present for the most part as a steady, low-level undertone, surfacing in his characters’ speeches most vividly in metaphorical expressions of rage and disgust.
Mortally wounded in the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues, Mercutio calls down “A plague on both your houses.”
“Thou art a boil,” Lear tells his daughter Goneril, “A plague-sore, or embossed carbuncle / In my corrupted blood.”
“Here’s gold,” the misanthropic Timon of Athens offers his visitor. “Be as a planetary plague, when Jove / Will o’er some high-viced city hang his poison / In the sick air.”
“All the contagion of the south light on you / You shames of Rome,” Coriolanus spits at the plebeians:
There is one passage in Shakespeare’s work that vividly conveys what it must have felt like when the whole population of a city or a country fell into the iron grip of plague.
It comes in “Macbeth,” which was probably first performed in the spring of 1606. (In the summer of that year, the plague erupted and forced the theatres to close for seven or eight months.)
Memories were still fresh of the horrendous epidemic of 1603-04, which began around the time that Elizabeth I died, and which led her successor, the Scottish King James, to delay entering London and to postpone the public festivities planned for his coronation.
Shakespeare’s lines conjure up a country so traumatized that it no longer recognizes itself, where the only smiles are on the faces of those who have somehow not followed the news, and where grief is so nearly universal that it scarcely is registered:
Alas, poor country,
Almost afraid to know itself. It cannot
Be called our mother, but our grave, where nothing
But who knows nothing is once seen to smile;
Where sighs and groans and shrieks that rend the air
Are made, not marked; where violent sorrow seems
A modern ecstasy. The dead man’s knell
Is there scarce asked for who, and good men’s lives
Expire before the flowers in their caps,
Dying or ere they sicken.
Taiwan mobilises forces to thwart Chinese invasion @Telegraph @niccijsmith
Law & Politics
On Friday, Taiwan's top military brass gathered in secure rooms within the fortified walls of the sprawling ministry of defence to prepare for war with China.
Computer screens in front of them likely displayed the island nation's F-16 fighter jets taking to the skies, precision-guided cruise missiles blasting China’s west coast ports, and its Tuo Chiang-class corvettes, dubbed “aircraft carrier killers,” deployed to pick off high value targets in the Taiwan Strait.
But outside the gated compound all was quiet. Welcome to Taiwan's virtual war room, where decorated generals and officers this week are being tested against the most chilling scenarios – from a full-scale invasion to cyberattacks and blockades of critical infrastructure.
The highly classified annual “Han Kuang” military drills come under the shadow of very real threats from Taiwan's hostile superpower neighbour.
Recent months have seen an uptick in warmongering rhetoric from Beijing matched by intensifying air force and naval activity around the island 110 miles off the Chinese coast.
China’s Air Force has made sorties into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on a near daily basis since last September, hitting a record high of 25 fighters, including nuclear capable bombers, on April 12.
The daily screech of jets has alarmed the United States and nearby Japan, prompting Washington to warn China it would be a “serious mistake” to take Taiwan by force.
While there are no signs of an imminent Chinese attack, China appears to be setting the stage to make good on a long-promised threat to annex the island, by force if necessary.
The Chinese Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan - a democracy of 23 million, which functions like any other nation with its own government and military – but it claims the island as its own territory.
Military strategists warn Taiwan does not have the luxury of time to practice defending its shores.
China could invade within the next six years as Beijing rapidly steps up its challenge to American forces in the Indo-Pacific, Admiral Philip Davidson, the outgoing head of the US Indo-Pacific command predicted in March.
His warning is likely to weigh heavily on Taiwanese military chiefs over the eight-day Han Kuang war games, where computer simulations switch between mock threats of conventional beach landings and aerial assaults to electronic attacks and psychological warfare.
In July, the military will shift to live-fire exercises – landing fighter jets on highways and testing its tanks and artillery for combat readiness - to project a more overt show of force to deter Beijing from aggression.
Taiwan is not only crucial to the global supply chain of semiconductors but also lies at a strategic point of international trade routes.
Control of Taiwan would grant China its much-desired open access to the Pacific coastline, presenting a challenge to Washington’s free and open Indo-Pacific strategy.
Global leaders are also being forced to consider the worst-case-scenario of a Chinese invasion that could draw the Indo-Pacific region and the West into armed conflict with China.
Joseph Wu, the Taiwanese foreign minister, said this month that Taiwan “will fight the war if we need to fight the war,” pledging that “we will defend ourselves to the very last day.”
But Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the US-Taiwan business council, said he did not foresee an impending “D-Day-style” invasion.
“My own view of what’s going on right now is that Chinese operations around the island are primarily focused on psychological operations,” he said.
This had the twin goal of trying to “up the pressure on the people of Taiwan” and to “test the mettle of the US government” during the transition to the Biden administration.
Analysts have cautioned that China could also opt to target Taiwan’s infrastructure and economy or seek to cut off its energy supplies.
“To me the path for them is much more blockade, potentially taking an outlying island, something that ups the ante significantly but is not actually them shooting at Taiwan,” he said.
“I think that creates much more political problems for the US and Japan on how to engage than starting to mobilise forces.”
Kitsch Liao, a Taiwan defence analyst, said this week’s drills – which pit joint staff members against a hypothetical enemy “red team” of advisers and retired officers - will be key to training wartime decision-makers and predicting the pressures of battle.
The exercise also trials Taiwan’s war plan to protect its Air Force and deploy its Navy for “decisive engagement against [China’s] amphibious landing group,” said Mr Liao.
Oriana Skylar Mastro, an expert on the Chinese military at Stanford University, said Beijing did not view the current conditions for invasion as favourable but she cautioned the international community against losing a “sense of urgency” to take timely measures to avert a military move in possibly 6-7 years.
Chinese confidence had been boosted by the restructuring and modernisation of its armed forces under President Xi Jinping, prompting a bolder strategic calculation about its ability to take Taiwan, she said.
“I think under Xi Jinping there has been a shift in mentality away from just preventing independence towards promoting progress towards reunification,” said Ms Mastro.
“He has given the impression that this is going to be part of his legacy.”
Pentagon data estimates China’s defence expenditure is about 25 times larger than Taiwan’s and its active ground forces of 1,030,000 dwarf the latter’s 88,000.
It is widely believed that without outside help, Taiwan could only withstand a full attack for days not weeks.
But despite its military dominance, China’s forces in recent memory have rarely been put to the test on the battlefield.
“The main factor that imposes caution on the Chinese is that they don’t know how well they are going to perform,” said Ms Mastro.
China also did not want to risk its “rejuvenation process” or its economic rise through a protracted conflict or potential punitive sanctions, she said, referring to the Communist Party’s long-term goal of building the nation into a global and military power.
“I think the good news is that China doesn’t want to do this now. So they’re not going to be pushed by some low level slights..because they don’t feel like they are 100% ready,” she said.
Prominent local media coverage in Taiwan about the military drills has generated little sense of alarm among the public, which is largely inured to decades of Chinese intimidation tactics.
“There is general consensus on the existence and nature of the threat,” said Mr Liao, but he said the public was divided over the ability of the military to repel an invasion.
While many would be willing to step up to defend Taiwan, there was a poor perception of the military’s bureaucracy, but an overarching view that the US – the island’s biggest arms supplier – would help. “Belief in US intervention is quite strong,” he said.
"The Dark Forest," which continues the story of the invasion of Earth by the ruthless and technologically superior Trisolarans, introduces Liu’s three axioms of “cosmic sociology.” @nfergus
First, “Survival is the primary need of civilization.”
Second, “Civilization continuously grows and expands, but the total matter in the universe remains constant.”
Third, “chains of suspicion” and the risk of a “technological explosion” in another civilization mean that in space there can only be the law of the jungle.
In the words of the book’s hero, Luo Ji:
The universe is a dark forest. Every civilization is an armed hunter stalking through the trees like a ghost ... trying to tread without sound ...
The hunter has to be careful, because everywhere in the forest are stealthy hunters like him. If he finds other life — another hunter, an angel or a demon, a delicate infant or a tottering old man, a fairy or a demigod —
there’s only one thing he can do: open fire and eliminate them. In this forest, hell is other people ... any life that exposes its own existence will be swiftly wiped out.
Kissinger is often thought of (in my view, wrongly) as the supreme American exponent of Realpolitik. But this is something much harsher than realism. This is intergalactic Darwinism.
The Hollow Men Mistah Kurtz - he dead
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
For Thine is
For Thine is the
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
.@narendramodi and the perils of Covid hubris @FinancialTimes @gideonrachman
Law & Politics
“It can be said with pride, India . . . defeated Covid-19 under the able, sensible, committed and visionary leadership of Prime Minister Modi . . . The party unequivocally hails its leadership for introducing India to the world as a proud and victorious nation in the fight against Covid.”
Those were the words of a resolution passed by India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party, just a few weeks ago in February.
But now India is reeling from a surge in cases. Hospitals are running out of oxygen and acute-care beds.
Mass cremations are taking place in makeshift facilities.
Heart-rending pictures of suffering are being broadcast around the world.
Surveys of mortuaries suggest that the number of Covid-19 deaths may be two to five times higher than the official figure of around 2,000 a day.
The pandemic punishes hubris. Narendra Modi is not the first world leader to have paid the price for acting too slowly — or declaring victory too early.
In China, where the virus originated, Xi Jinping government’s first disastrous reaction was to suppress bad news coming out of Wuhan.
In the US, Donald Trump, then president, repeatedly predicted that the virus would miraculously disappear.
In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro addressed rallies of anti-lockdown protesters.
In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson locked down the country too late.
The EU messed up the purchase of vaccines.
But the Modi government has made some distinctive and disastrous errors. Having called the end of the crisis too early, the Indian government opened up too fast.
Driven by a desire to win the crucial state of West Bengal, the BJP staged mass election rallies.
Modi declared himself “elated” by a large crowd that turned out to hear him speak a few days ago, even as Covid-19 cases soared.
The Kumbh Mela, a religious festival that allows millions of pilgrims to converge on a single town, was allowed to go ahead and even promoted by the Hindu nationalist BJP.
The Indian government failed to use the decline in infection after the first wave to prepare properly for a second wave.
Emergency oxygen supplies were clearly too low. Despite the fact that India is the world’s largest producer of vaccines of all sorts, the government was woefully slow to place orders from local manufacturers.
It also slowed the approval of proven foreign vaccines for Covid-19, such as the BioNTech/Pfizer jab, while promoting a more experimental Indian-designed vaccine.
National pride played a part in India’s willingness to keep exporting vaccines, even as domestic supply lagged behind.
The Indian government has promoted the idea that the country is the “pharmacy to the world”.
Geopolitical rivalry with China, which is using vaccine diplomacy to win global influence, was a background factor.
Delhi’s willingness to export vaccines to the world also contrasted favourably with the lack of exports from the US and UK.
But the Indian government has now banned vaccine exports. It is also speeding up the approval of foreign vaccines.
Modi went into this crisis with sky-high poll ratings, but is clearly vulnerable to a backlash.
Having centralised power for many years, he now seems to be shifting the burden of responsibility for dealing with Covid-19 on to state governments.
India’s plight has worldwide implications. There is still a tendency in the west to treat the pandemic as a series of national crises in which countries compete to see who can deal with the virus better.
But this is an interconnected global crisis.
As Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization puts it, Covid-19 is an international fire and, “if you hose only one part of it, the rest will keep burning”.
Eventually, the fire is likely to spread once again, reigniting in places where it was thought to be extinguished.
There is already cause for concern that the UK was too slow to introduce stringent quarantine measures for passengers arriving from India.
That is particularly dangerous, given the emergence of new variants of the virus in India that may be more transmissible and vaccine resistant.
Getting medical help to India is now both a humanitarian and a pragmatic necessity for the outside world, which is beginning to respond.
For the US, it may also be a geopolitical necessity, given that America regards India as a crucial ally in its growing rivalry with China.
The Biden administration’s refusal, so far, to allow the emergency export of vaccines to India is feeding anti-American sentiment in the country, which may not be offset by airlifts of ventilators and other equipment.
The outside world should also guard against the kind of complacency that was prevalent in India until recently.
The fact that case numbers are falling and vaccination rates are rising in Britain could easily create a dangerous relaxation, similar to the one that India went through a couple of months ago.
A recent article in The Times proclaimed that “Britain could feel like paradise this summer.”
The lesson of India is to guard against premature celebration or hubris.
Any improvement in the coronavirus situation should be used as an opportunity to prepare for future waves and to help the international fight against the pandemic.
India will not be the last country to witness a tragic resurgence of Covid-19.
They fancied themselves free, wrote Camus, ―and no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences.
―They fancied themselves free, wrote Camus, ―and no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences.
―In this respect, our townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up in themselves; in other words, they were humanists: they disbelieved in pestilences.
A pestilence isn't a thing made to man's measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away.
But it doesn't always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they have taken no precautions
Turning To Africa
We are getting closer and closer to the Virilian Tipping Point
“The revolutionary contingent attains its ideal form not in the place of production, but in the street''
Political leadership in most cases completely gerontocratic will use violence to cling onto Power but any Early Warning System would be warning a Tsunami is coming
Recipe for conflict: Northern Mozambique’s tinder-dry fields of straw are ripe for burning @dailymaverick @MatsinheDM
To understand the roots of the insurgency in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, one has to look at how Maputo, in pursuit of coal and gas wealth, has dispossessed communities, banished them from their home ecosystems and stripped them of their economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, as well as human dignity.
Tomás Vieira Mário, a well-known veteran Mozambican journalist and civil society leader, likens the root causes of the brutal conflict in Cabo Delgado province to fields of straw.
His point is that abysmal governance had drained Mozambique’s central and northern regions dry as hay, making them prone to fires (conflict).
Mário’s allegory begs the questions: how were these regions transformed into fields of straw? What are the material conditions that constitute the straw? And how did they come into being?
The Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (Mistra) has published Land in South Africa: Contested Meanings and Nation Formation, a book about connections between land governance and economic, social, and political conditions in southern Africa.
In the book, 13 authors sound the alarm about how various aspects of land governance transform southern Africa into dangerous fields of straw.
My chapter, titled “Land, Rights and Dignity”, documents this process in Mozambique, where the current regime of land governance encourages the scramble for resources in the name of economic development — often without human rights due diligence, just compensation, and free, prior and informed consent — a prolific production of fields of straw.
The transformation of large parts of Mozambique into fields of straw occurs within structural conditions of possibility, which negate the Frelimo-led government’s legitimacy.
These structural conditions operate as centrifugal forces with the real possibility of throwing the parasitic Maputo-based political class off-balance.
Part of the colonial legacy, the referred structural conditions, include:
the vast majority of the population (78.4%) is concentrated in the central and northern regions;
poverty is overwhelmingly concentrated in rural areas; the central and northern regions are overwhelmingly rural;
mineral resources are by far concentrated in the central and northern regions;
two thirds (66.6%) of the population lives in rural areas;
the central and northern regions are strongholds of the opposition;
the asymmetric regional economic, social and political (im)balance favours the southern region at the expense of central and northern regions;
and the extraction of resources from central and northern ecosystems benefits a small political elite tucked away 2,500km down south.
From Frelimo’s standpoint, governance entails balancing these centrifugal forces on a tightrope.
In Maputo, governance is understood as ensuring the economic, social, cultural, and political docility of the central and northern populations while amassing personal wealth and practising grotesque conspicuous consumption enabled through the exploitation of resources from the central and northern ecosystems.
To better appreciate the central and northern regions’ transformation into fields of straw, which are prone to tensions, conflict and violence, let us substitute ecosystems governance for land governance.
The UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment describes ecosystems as dynamic complexes of plants, animals, microorganisms and inanimate material and elements interacting with one another, forming a functional unit.
Ecosystems can be comprehensively transformed and systematically managed landscapes (for example, through agricultural land and urbanisation activities); they can be relatively intact (for example, untouched natural forests or wetlands).
Ecosystems give and preserve life through (a) food, water, timber, medicinal plants, and fibre supply; (b) floods, disease, waste, water and air quality regulation; (c) recreational, aesthetic, identity, and spiritual benefits; and (d) soil formation, photosynthesis and nutrient cycling support.
Self-preservation depends on the flows of ecosystem services.
Due to economic and social exclusion, communities in the central and northern ecosystems are barely buffered against environmental changes through technology and public services.
During the four decades of independence, the central and northern regions experienced weak and ineffective governance, little investment in public services and infrastructure including education, health, housing, water and sanitation systems, roads and bridges, and internet and telecommunications networks.
The effects of this neglect include poor performance in all the three-dimensional human development indicators: health (child mortality, nutrition), education (years of schooling, enrolment), and living standards (water, sanitation, electricity, cooking fuel, floor, assets), and unemployment (notably of youth).
Such an economic and social vacuum ensured that communities relied on their home ecosystems for their economic, social, cultural and environmental necessities.
The discovery of mineral resources changed this time-honoured dynamic — the central and northern ecosystems rapidly attracted both the government and mining, oil and gas companies.
Communities became a nuisance that stood in the way of economic progress. They had to be evicted from their home ecosystems through misinformation, manipulation, deception, intimidation and threats.
Tete and Cabo Delgado
To illustrate these regions’ transformation into fields of straw, let us consider the expulsion of communities from their home ecosystems in Tete and Cabo Delgado provinces.
Tete province has a little over 2.6-million people, most of whom depend on their home ecosystems services for survival.
Yet, as the map of coal mining projects shows, the government licenced 61% of Tete to mining companies.
To do this, the government dispossessed communities, banishing them from their home ecosystems, stripping them of their economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights, as well as their human dignity.
Contrary to the grandiose promises, dispossession and mining aggravated impoverishment in the province.
Tete is a mind-boggling irony — it is the energy capital of southern Africa as it supplies power to Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, and coal to the international markets.
Yet, of Tete’s nearly 500,000 households, only 11% are connected to the national power grid for lighting — the majority live in darkness and shocking poverty.
In Palma, the northernmost district of Cabo Delgado province, lies the Afungi ecosystem, home to farming and fishing communities for centuries.
Here, Anadarko (now Total) has been building infrastructure for the logistics of gas, people and machines.
The offshore gas pumping would require a network of underwater pipelines to transport the gas into the liquefaction plant on land.
Such an undertaking would also entail traffic of ships travelling between the offshore gas wells and the liquefaction plant on land.
Afungi and Mocimboa da Praia’s coastal ecosystems, vital for local communities’ survival for centuries, would now be off-limits.
Palma residents tell the tale of how eviction from the Afungi ecosystem took place through misinformation, deception, intimidation, threats and aggression.
Without free, prior, and informed consent, illiterate peasants were conned into signing the forfeiture of their home ecosystem, only to learn much later what they had signed.
Working with and on behalf of gas companies, government officials corner a village leader and ask him, isn’t it a good idea that the government bring economic development such as foreign investments, jobs, roads, hospitals, and schools to Palma?
When the village leader agreed it was a good idea, the officials would order him on the spot to sign a document he could not read.
With such contempt for core human decency, Palma communities lost their most valuable economic, social, cultural and environmental assets (their ecosystems) to foreign investors.
On 24 March, the armed group locally known as “al-Shabaab” attacked the town of Palma, and for the first time, killed white expatriates, sending shockwaves across the globe.
What is conveniently forgotten is that years before the alleged foreign radical preacher came to town with his matchbox, the Maputo-based political elite had completed all the necessary groundwork for the preacher’s convenience: the transformation of Cabo Delgado into fields of straw.
All it would take was a few sparks of the preacher’s deviant religious ideology to ignite the fire in a grotesque distortion of Islam. DM
31 OCT 16 :: Mozambique from Boom to Bust - A Cautionary Tale
I said "Mozambique could be the next Qatar." as we stuffed ourselves with wonderfully flavour some tiger prawns.
Then I noticed that Credit Suisse and VTB sold some ‘’Tuna’’ Bonds on behalf of Mozambique. The story around these bonds was opaque.
Ematum’s results pointed to the fleet catching just $450,000 of tuna a year, compared with sales of $18-million forecast at that stage of its life in a 2013 feasibility study circulated by the government.
Further loans were uncovered spanning not only Empresa Moçambicana de Atum (Ematum), but other companies Proindicus and Mozambique Asset Management (MAM). The Total is around $2 billion.
Africa Confidential reported that Chancellor Angela Merkel asked President Nyusi when he met her in Berlin on 19 April 2016, ‘Where is the money?’ and also, ‘Are you in charge?’
If you are mortgaging the future, you need to make sure can first afford the mortgage payments and second that the investments you are making are going to provide a meaningful return on your investment
Mozambique @Total LNG project suspended indefinitely (April 22, 2021) @OxfordEconomics
Total’s termination of contracts suggests that resuming LNG projects in the area is unlikely, at least within the next year.
Despite the government declaring a 25km-radius special security zone around the project, insurgents were still able to carry out multiple attacks well within the area.
In the most recent Palma attacks, they were evidently better prepared and better coordinated than before, so going ahead with operations now faces new challenges which need to be taken into careful consideration.
The global focus on the alleged IS involvement, rather than on the local root causes of the jihadist movement (poverty, lack of socio-economic development) in Cabo Delgado, makes it easier for the government to ignore the policy failings and the corruption that drive the insurgency.
Additionally, its refusal to accept international intervention suggests that it is still trying to hide the realities of the security situation in the area, which has caused embarrassment in the past.
Mozambique’s goal was to become a gas exporter by 2024, but LNG projects, such as those planned by Total and Exxon Mobil, will fail to launch in such an environment.
As such, the government’s response to the insurgency needs to go beyond military intervention and also include socio-economic development.
Accordingly, security risks in Cabo Delgado will remain elevated over the foreseeable future.
Sep 2012 The Swahili Coast is a Potential TinderBox
Then, last week, on the 27th of August, Aboud Rogo Mohammed was shot on the always busy Bamburi Road, not far from Pirates. This proved the spark that ignited a tinderbox
My concern remains that what appear like uncorrelated spikes and paroxysms of violence conflate, become more broad based and amplify.
Ethiopian telecoms sell-off flops in wake of economic and security concerns @FT @davidpilling & @AndresSchipani
Ethiopia’s sale of two telecoms licences, billed by the government as the “deal of the century”, has flopped, dealing a blow to the push to market capitalism championed by Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister.
Two bidders put in offers for telecoms operating licences in the fast-growing but politically unstable east African country of 110m people, the biggest remaining telecoms monopoly in the world, the finance ministry said.
The sale was supposed to be the centrepiece of the country’s privatisation drive.
“The telecoms bid is monumental in showing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has remained consistent in the past three years in his vision of driving economic growth through technology,” said Billene Seyoum, Abiy’s spokesperson.
But potential participants from Europe, the Gulf, India and China stayed away.
Some complained about the opacity and restrictive nature of a process that banned new participants from offering mobile-money services or bringing in specialised telecoms tower operators to build new infrastructure.
MTN, the South African operator, and a consortium of Kenya’s Safaricom, Vodafone and Vodacom bid for licences. The amount they offered is expected to be disclosed later this month.
Other companies that had shown initial interest, including Etisalat, Orange, Saudi Telecom Company, Axian and Telkom SA, did not bid for licences that the government had said could raise billions of dollars.
As well as economic concerns associated with an overvalued currency and difficulty of repatriating profits, some potential bidders were thought to be concerned about political risk.
The government is fighting a protracted conflict in the northern Tigray region and Abiy faces an election in June amid insecurity in much of the country.
Ethiopia has shown further signs of strain by asking for debt restructuring under a G20 framework to help countries battered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Two licences, two bidders. This is not a tender,” said one frustrated potential investor.
Asked if the meagre interest showed lack of confidence in the government’s liberalisation effort, the person said: “When nobody shows up how else do you interpret it? When you refuse to write a cheque, you’re making a statement.”
The government has indicated that, if financial offers fall short of expectations, it might retender the licences.
Ethiopia also plans to sell a 40 per cent stake in Ethio Telecom, the state monopoly, later this year.
Eyob Tolina, the state minister of finance, told the Financial Times last year that the sale would be very competitive.
“This is going to be the deal of the century. It is the last frontier as far as telecoms is concerned,” he said.
One adviser to a potential bidder complained that the Ethiopian government had been convinced it was selling “the last Coca-Cola in the desert”.
But there were doubts on the terms and conditions of the leasing of towers and also over the level of control Ethio Telecom would exert in the market even after the licences are awarded.
Under its state-led model, engineered by former leader, the late Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia racked up years of double-digit growth through heavy investment.
But it was left with chronic foreign exchange shortages and a state-run banking and telecoms sector technologically far behind those of more open economies such as Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria.
“When the plans were initially announced, we saw excitement across the board. But now the radical transformation of the country’s political and economic landscape is presenting a host of uncertainties,” said Margarita Dimova, head of intelligence at strategic advisory firm Africa Practice.
“Those ready to commit to a long-termist view of success, and in the short-term — to sharing infrastructure with Ethio Tel — are unsurprisingly not many.”
One company that had considered a bid but ended up pulling out said the process had been opaque with little information on vital topics such as the price for accessing infrastructure.
“You’re totally blind . . . you don’t know how you will invest, how you can take your cash out, and if you will have access to the foreign currency from the central bank,” he said.