Why is Somaliland sound?

For years, studies of state formation in early and medieval Europe have argued that the modern, representative state emerged as the result of negotiations between autocratic governments in need of tax revenues and citizens who were only willing to consent to taxation in exchange for greater government accountability.

This paper presents evidence that similar dynamics shaped the formation of Somaliland’s democratic government. In particular, it shows that government dependency on local tax revenues — which resulted from its ineligibility for foreign assistance — provided those outside the government with the leverage needed to force the development of inclusive, representative and accountable political institutions.

So argues Nicholas Eubank in a new paper.

2 thoughts on “Why is Somaliland sound?

  1. I think to conclude the success of Somaliland nation building was solely based on the absence of aid is misleading. With financial and technical support, Somaliland democratic institutions would probably have been stronger and more secure. There were other mechanisms at play. However, it is obvious aid on its own doesn’t solve problems or improve accountability. There has to be a willingness to protect and safeguard the democratic institutions within the society and Somaliland people have a common endeavour to do that. Aid can be a bad force particularly when it gets into the hands of warlords or corrupt politicians who are keen to use the money to further their own power but even that there has to be underlining problems to make that happen. For example, aid can have a negative impact in Somalia if it gets into the wrong hands. This is because there is no mechanisms to prevent the warlord to use that money to buy influence or even amass militias as there are people ready for recruitment. Basically, there is nothing between the politician and the people if he wants to misuse it. In the case of Somaliland, however, before a politician gets to the people he has to go through the elders first and the elders have to go through their respective constituencies, which happens to be the communities they come from. These checks and balances even existed well before the colonial times in Somaliland. On the other hand, these ingredients are missing in Somalia. So basically the democratic institutions that you see in Somaliland are an extension or rather the modernisation of the things that have already underpinned the Somaliland success in comparison to Somalia. With access to aid and other resources the outcome would have been the same the least if not better.

  2. Wow.

    So what does this mean for South Sudan? More generally, is it better to not be recognised and have few friends than to have an aid stream that makes up a sizeable chunk of your government revenue?