Thursday, 18 January 2007

Learning About Somalia

I was in a taxi yesterday and the when you’re in a cab you either get the driver that doesn’t speak and shares his awful taste in music with you, or the driver who speaks plenty but turns out to be racist/stupid/dull or all three. This time however, I had a young Somali driver who thankfully educated me on all matters relating to Somalia and also had time to explain the intricacies of the Dutch tax system.

Before we got onto Somalia, the young man explained a life spent growing up in the Netherlands and how a heavy taxation system, structured around the Social Economic Council (a brilliant idea, where the trade unions, the employers and the governments guide economic policy together) had led to a tough burden being placed on those at the lower end of the working spectrum in an effort to support those at the very bottom. I argued that this was to create a more just and balanced social policy and that if you fell on hard times in the Netherlands, as in the UK, you’d be backed by a generous welfare system. I also argued that the Netherlands, at around 3%, has the lowest unemployment rate in Europe and is in the GDP Top 20.

In fact, upon further research, I discovered that tax revenue is well below the European average and that what the taxi driver was complaining about was the rather stiff business regulation, as favoured by many European nations, which held back his small business efforts as an entrepreneur and self-employed cab driver. He said he favoured the UK and its greater deregulation and lack of bureaucracy in comparison with the Netherlands. Fair enough I said and understood a little better the difficult job that all politicians face of pleasing all of the people all of the time with fiscal policy.

However, it was when he talked with a fervent passion and an all encompassing, first-hand knowledge of the situation in Somalia that I was grateful to be educated on a matter I know shamefully little about. I shall not list here his blow-by-blow account of the development of the current malaise in his homeland but leave you with some choice quotes that are as accurate as I can remember them:

“We have had no government since 1991, before then things were ok, imagine your country without government, without all the things a government does. We are good people but we need government!”

“There was trouble long before white man come along and drew lines in the sand, the British, the Italians. There has been war there ever since man stood up and learned to walk.”

“My homeland is a home for Islam also, for over a thousand years but America doesn’t like Islam now so it funds people causing trouble in my land to drive it out. How can they destroy something in a few years that has been there for a thousand? It is impossible, they cause only pain to my people and to themselves.”

“Our leaders are not only old men, with old minds but warlords! How can they do what it best for the people, without filling their pockets with money, when they are mad old criminals? These men have blood on their hands and we need a new start.”

Before I got out, I asked him what he would do if he were President of Somalia; he smiled and said we’d need to go on a very long journey to find the answer to that question.

10 comments:

  1. This subject deserves more attention.

    Somalians have a choice now, between Islamists and Warlords supported by the USA.

    The Ethiopeans are the US proxy, plain and simple.

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  2. Nice, but what he glossed over is the continual bloodbath that goes on there, with the Muslims killing the Christians on a regular basis. You see, Somalia is officially an Islamic state and conversion is prohibited. There is a small, extremely low-profile Christian community that is regularly persecuted. ...Not such a great place to live.

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  3. Renegade Eye: couldn't agree more, the taxi driver really opened my eyes to a situation that needs investigating. Shamed into action is better than no action at all.

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  4. My taxi driver the other day started laying into on the National Football League playoffs but I didn't really care to follow up w/ any research or anything....

    Interesting.

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  5. Poor christians. They are always the victim.

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  6. Sorry anon but racist comments have to go the way of the dodo bitch!

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  7. I flew into Mogadishu in 1993 and it was a bit sporty. They were shooting at those of us in military planes and I couldn't wait to turn around and leave. I did look around the airport facilities, which were largely abandoned and showed signs of much violence. I don't know what the answer is, but I hope a government, almost any form of government, takes control.

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  8. This is certainly a big mess, thanks for posting this.

    absurd thought -
    God of the Universe loves
    warlords ruling...
    .

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