Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Creation and Maintenance

A piece in the Washington Times today--White House eyes billions for Iraq maintenance Newspaper:
"The Bush administration is considering asking Congress later this year for at least $2 billion in new reconstruction money, primarily for maintaining completed Iraqi facilities.
Administration officials say the additional funding is needed to prevent completed projects in Iraq from falling into disrepair while the new government tries to establish a steady flow of revenue from oil and other sources to sustain the nation's infrastructure. "
The Bush administration is learning some home truths: time and decay happens to everything and that new ideas/facilities/organizations need to make connections to survive. It's rather like rooting a cutting. A cut flower may look beautiful, but will wither and die. If you can root a cutting, you've got a plant that can survive. That encapsulates one problem with "nation building" and "development aid". We can build facilities, whether roads in Afghanistan or water treatment plants in Iraq, but without rooting them they won't last. We have only to look at the history of many of the facilities colonial powers built across the world.

What do I mean by "rooting"? First is the knowledge. If Americans did the work, then Americans have the knowledge of how to repair and maintain the facility. It may be faster and more efficient to import equipment and the expertise to build a facility, but it's short-sighted in the long run. Second is the system--who is responsible for maintenance? Someone has to "own" the facility (or idea), someone who's going to be there year in and year out. And third is the money--is there a tax system in the case of Afghan highways or a fee system in the case of Iraqi water plants to get the money needed to make repairs? Knowledge, responsibility, and money all go together--it's difficult to have one without the other.

In short, you need a bureaucracy that works.

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