What It Costs to Run Somalia

Oromsis Adula*

It’s been almost a quarter of a century since Somalia has plummeted into the state of lawlessness. And there is no hope of law and order in sight. Every attempt by the “international community” to form a government outside Somalia’s shores and delegate back into the country has been an utter failure. Prehaps, the first most promising such attempt, the current Transitional government of Somalia, proved spurious due to an unholy alliance with neighboring Ethiopia.

A little over a week ago, Opride Contributor from Addis Ababa, reported that Ethiopian forces are prepared and ready to go back into Somalia, to clear up their unfinished job. A decision which, by the way, Ethiopia hinted at in the wake of the Twin bomb blasts that rocked Ugandas capital. Ethiopia ousted the Union of Islamic courts in 2006 with an alleged covert United States support. Ethiopia later found itself in a quagmire and withdrew its forces in 2009. Since that time, the United Nations backed fragile Transitional Government of Somalia has been battling hardliner Islamist groups, who are fighting to reverse the loss to Ethiopians and gain some footing.

In recent weeks, the islamist groups have exerted more force, casualities abound, and are now calling on the President of Somalia to step-down. The government of Sheik Sherif Sheik Ahmed, formerly part of the Union of Islamist Courts himself, is marred by corruption and inability to stabilize the country. Meanwhile, Foreign Policy’s Elizabeth Dickinson has the rundown on what it costs to run such a country. I slightly disagree with the respected journalist on the question of whether the corruption amounts to a maddof Affair? She doesn’t think so. I say, subtle it maybe but according to my sources, undoubtedly worse.

By Elizabeth Dickinson

Want evidence that the government in Somalia — a country that tops the 2010 Failed States Index — needs desperate help?  Allow me to show you the money. Literally.


According to the Annual Financial Report released by the office of the Prime Minister today, Somalia’s budget in the fiscal year 2009 was just over $11 million. (The budget of Minneapolis Minnesota, by contrast, is $1.4 billion.) The two largest sources of revenue collected were customs duties from the main Mogadishu port ($6.2 million) and exit fees from the airport ($351,920). Taxes couldn’t be collected due to security. The government recieved $2.875 million in bilateral aid — the largest total, $1.6 million coming from Libya (the United States gave just $25,000 — about the equivalent of a very entry-level staffer’s annual income.)


Bad. News. But where the situation really comes home is in the line items: While $9.8 million of the country’s $11 million was spent on salaries and wages, they are hardly anything to write home about. The president’s chief of staff earns $2,250 a year. The governor of the central bank earns $1,000. And $325,000 of the $501,000 that covers the Prime Minister and President’s offices goes to travel. Wages in the military and other defense roles account for $6 million (The Economist recently estimated that it costs $1 million to keep one U.S. soldier in Afghanistan for a year.)


Of course, there are other ways that the government is getting help — ways that won’t show up on a budget like this: African Union peacekeepers, for example, and U.S. training programs for their soldiers in Uganda. But still, this is pretty incredible stuff. Even Liberia had a budget of $80 million to work with after its civil war. And it wasn’t actively trying fight an insurgency.


Meanwhile, Islamist militant group al Shabab is, I’m gonna guess, far better resourced (alas, I can’t confirm this one since rebel groups don’t put out financial statements — props to Somalia’s PM.)

The result is literally deadly. Which raises a frustration that the Somali government undoubtedly has: the international community helped put together this experiment in government, but there’s less buck behind making it work. Not that this is easy; corruption is rumored rampant among government staff. Then again, you would have to pay me a lot more than $1,000 to be the central banker of Somalia… Not saying it justifies corruption, but it’s also no Madoff affair.

Full Story (What it costs to run Somalia) – FOREIGN POLICY

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Collaborative stories written or reported by OPride staff and contributors.

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