Jun
03

Nationalisation in Saudi Arabia

Some books are available in book shops globally and others only in local or regional markets. The Doha International Book Fair is a great place where regional publishers come together, and where the local and regional books are available. One example was "Nationalisation and Labour Market Policies in Saudi Arabia" (2023) by Abdullah Al Fozan, published by Obekan (Saudi publisher). Under 200 pages, the book is a brief summary of the nationalization efforts undertaken over the last decade. A few notes on the challenges and unique approaches:

"The failure of the Saudistation programme to reduce unemployment among Saudi nationals led the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD) to introduce the Nitaqat programme as a re-implementation policy in 2011. Nitaqat programme imposes penalties on non-compliant companies and provides incentives for those who comply to advance the Saudistation goals." (p. 21)

"One of the negative consequences of Nitaqat is "fake Saudistation" in addition to other demerits brought about by the way Nitaqat was implemented or the way it was designed along with its policy. In the same vein. The number of Nitaqat female employees exploded from 77,000 to 202,000, bringing about manipulation and phantom employment of Saudi Nationals who do not show up at the workplace where they are supposed to be. The number of student workers also skyrocketed from about 26,000 to 97,000, which also reflects its inefficiency. Furthermore, some would receive a small salary in return for keeping their names listed on the company's small payroll" (p. 82)

"The MODON Oasis located in Al Ahsa in the east of Saudi Arabia, is the first industrial city in Saudi Arabia to be entirely run by a female labour force. The Oasis operates on an area of about 500,000 square metres. Equally important, it has 80 factories operating in the service and trade sectors. Of note, the Royal Decree issued on 16 September 2017 allows women to drive cars. This means that women will be more involved in the labor force than before. Now, the Saudi women's political participation is gaining momentum, so to speak, and the female representation is a case in point." (p. 118)

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May
09

Explaining Successes in Africa

Erin Accampo Hern's "Explaining Success in Africa: Things Don't Always Fall Apart" (2023) is a great teaching book (upper undergraduates or generalist graduate students). The book is easy to read, presents a clear methodology, and integrates theory / variables / data in a most-similar most-different approach. In a class, this could be the foundation, with further readings on the theory and the countries. And, as the author points out, provides an important counter narrative. Recommended, particularly for consideration as a teaching tool. I am also using this as an example for graduate students for thesis ideas. One quote:

"The case comparisons included in this chapter suggest that governments' policy choices have been a key factor distinguishing the countries that have flourished from those that have floundered. Importantly, those policy choices do not exist in a vacuum, but in all cases discussed in this chapter have a clear relationship to the logic of political survival each leader faced. Despite starting with different resources, backgrounds, and timing, Seychelles and Gabon have used policy to nudge investment toward the "next" sector. They both also had political incentives to diversify and distribute government revenue. Neither approach has been perfect, but they have both consistently outperformed their neighbors and other similarly situated countries in both GDP per capita and ­quality-of-life indicators." (Page 41) 

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May
03

The Power of Positive Deviance

In 2010 Pascale, Sternin and Sternin published "The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World's Toughest Problems", published by Harvard Business Review. I am not sure how this book landed on my desk, but takes an outlier sampling approach to be utilized in a self-driven learning context for social change (and in one chapter, corporate change). The book is summative and chapters are essentially extended case studies and there is a methodology at the end. A few quotes:

"This book comes from years of hearing "We've tried everything and nothing works". Positive Deviance (PD) is founded on the premise that at least one person in a community, working with the same resources as everyone else, has already licked the problem that confounds others. This individual is an outlier in the statistical sense – an exception, someone whose outcome deviates in a positive way from the norm. In most cases this person does not know he or she is doing anything unusual. Yet once the unique solution is discovered and understood, it can be adopted by the wider community and transform many lives. From the PD perspective, individual difference is regarded as a community resource Community engagement is essential to discovering noteworthy variants in their minds and adapting their practices and strategies" (Page 3)

"The positive deviance process is not suitable for everything. As noted earlier, it is unnecessary when a technical solution (e.g., drought-resistant corn; a vaccine for smallpox) exists. But the process excels over most alternatives when addressing problems that, to repeat, (1) are enmeshed in a complex social system, (2) require social and behavioral change, and (3) entail solutions that are rife with unforeseeable or unintended consequences. It provides an alternative when problems are viewed as intractable (i.e., other solutions haven't worked). It redirects attention from "what's wrong" to "what's right" – observable exceptions that succeed against all odds." (Page 10).

"… what separates the PD approach from the alternatives. Unless the community itself spearheads the discovery, it doesn't own the "answers". Unless the community designs and staffs the workshops to practice successful strategies, participants will not successful "act their way into a new way of thinking," nor will the practices be sustainable." (Page 155) 

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Feb
23

Travesty in Haiti

I cannot recall where or how I was directed to "Travesty in Haiti: A True Account of Christian Missions, Orphanages, Food Aid, Fraud and Drug Trafficking" (2008) by Timothy Schwartz. The book appears to be self-published, and Paul Farmer is quoted on the back as saying "This book knocks it out of the park" (assuming that is the Paul Farmer, who better to speak on a book about Haiti and the NGO sector?). The author spent ~10 years in Haiti, for graduate school research and then consulting work in the NGO sector. This is an academic book, and closer to a reflective personal history as well as quasi-expose of the aid industry. The personal stories make it an engaging and easy read. There are some errors here and there. For anyone seeking out a reality check on the non-profit sector, this is the book. One lengthy note:

"...beneath the surface it was a fiasco. Massive reforestation projects had consumed millions of dollars but when I investigated they turned out to be decades long failures. Irrigation projects meant for the poor turned out, when I investigated, to be owned by congressmen and senators, doctors and nurses, engineers, and lawyers, some of whom were living in the United States. I could tell about a dike that became a dam and caused flooding and about a dam built at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars but that with the first heavy torrent snapped like a stick. I could tell about roads the NGOs built that became massive gullies. About twenty years and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on BIGs (Bio Intensive Gardens that are small, highly productive vegetable gardens) that the peasants never paid the slightest bit of attention to but into which CARE International went right on pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars of aid. I could tell about a massive seed project in which, despite the fact that the Jean Makout rainy season is only three months, the NGO agronomists distributed long season seed varieties, causing the peasants who accepted and planted the seeds to lose their harvests, to be driven deeper into poverty, and I could then tell how the project was continued for four more years, how the peasants instead of planting the seeds took to soaking them to remove the pesticides and then ate them. I could tell about hundreds of barefoot doctors trained to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars and two years of effort, but when we tried to hire them for the survey, we found only five of whom could accurately take a pulse. I could tell about networks of local agricultural extension agents who are even more poorly trained, about the United Nation's million dollar fishing projects that were flops as well: Smoking pits going unused gran neg (political bosses) commandeering refrigerators and solar panels meant for the storage of lobster, motor powered fiberglass boats that never went to sea for any other reason than joyriding and sightseeing when local and visiting VIP's could afford The US$2 per gallon for gasoline. I could tell about all these failed projects and most bizarre of all I could tell the same stories several times over for they have been repeated in Jean Makout and throughout Haiti for over half a century the same projects, often in the same places, and always with the same result, failure." (p. 70-71) 

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