David Leonhardt asks how the new government of South Sudan can best improve the lives of their citizens. (h/t MR and Ezra Klein)
First of all, I would try to convince them that a key priority would be to invest enough money and talent in running good quality social services for the poor, including free access to good schools, preventive medical care, and hospitals…
Second …I would like to advise them to always keep some margin to experiment, in order to find the best programs to reach those goals.
…A small universal cash grant to everyone over 12, based on biometric identification. This guarantees that no one has to face the humiliation of being totally indigent, and from our evidence, makes people more productive as well. Making it universal is important, so that they do not attempt to identify the poor (which is very difficult to do effectively in poor countries).
Second, a free universal health insurance policy that covers catastrophic health events, which allows people to go to private or public hospitals. Catastrophic health shocks do enormous damage to families both economically and otherwise, and are easy to insure, because nobody gets them on purpose.
I’m going to be provocative and say: these would be my last priorities for the new government.
If Leonhardt had asked, “How best to relieve poverty today?” Banerjee and Duflo might be exactly right–there are no better poverty experts alive. But South Sudan is no Uganda or Bihar. It is an entirely different animal. I would follow their recommendations, but in 2021 rather than 2011.
Today, South Sudan is a state in name only. The long term welfare of its citizens means sustained stability and security and order. Without it, all the anti-poverty impacts, no matter how great, will evaporate in months.
In fact, huge and expensive anti-poverty programs could be counter-productive. Trying to build a 21st century welfare state (or even a 19th century welfare state) in a new and fragile nation, with virtually no legislative or bureaucratic capacity, may be a burden too great. Ignore for a moment whether vast aid flows would distort or corrupt, since those aid flows will happen anyways. I think an anti-poverty push would be a distraction, possibly an existential one.
States, like people, have attention problems, only more extreme. The new government may only accomplish one or two big things in their first five years. If, fifty years hence, we want the poor of South Sudan to prosper, paradoxically the last thing we need to do is push for the Millennium Development Goals today.
I know too little about Sudanese politics to give specific recommendations, but here’s a sample of suggestions based on what I think I know:
1. Build compacts, possibly unequal and unsavory ones, with warlords and other big men, giving them a stake in continued peace, even if it means they control crucial ministries or development organs.
2. But for goodness sake try not to give up the ministries or development organs. There are non-pecuniary ways to buy people off. And spread it out so you get petty barons rather than oligarchs. They’ll be easier to deal with in 20 years when you have the strength.
3. Next, give every incentive for elites, especially the ones apt to war, to invest in fixed assets whose value depends on stability and growth. Make them entrepreneurs. Oil rigs don’t count. Property in Juba does. So do plantations and small factories, even if they need subsidies to operate at first. This is hard, and will require attention and dedication.
4. Aim for minimal corruption in twenty years, not two.
5. Create a minimally competent police force, one that is less criminal than the criminals. And a court system, with particular attention to the places where ethnic groups repeatedly clash over land or rights or respect. Target programs to these hotspots to buy some measure of content.
6. Train and educate the military like the bejeezus, and at all costs do not let it slip into factions.
7. Roads, roads, roads. Not only are they good for growth, they are good for exerting state control and building a sense of nation.
With these accomplished, I’d next aim for economic growth. Which may or may not involve pro-poor transfers. Given the choice between three big resource firms and 1000 microenterprises, I’d choose the firms. (And remember: I work on fostering post-conflict microenterprises for a living.)
You may argue: it’s not a zero sum game, we could do both. I say you’re partly right: we can do a little poverty reduction, but it’s a zero-point-one sum game, and there are some hard trade-offs to be made this decade.
You may argue: but relieving poverty reduces the incentives for people to revolt! I say balderdash. This was a plausible but naive theory of conflict that has turned out to be mostly wrong. Poverty is a third or fourth or fifth order factor in a decision to revolt.
You may argue many more things, and I am eager to hear them. Dissents from my dissent?
Having lived in South Sudan for 3.5 years, I’d say that Anton is spot on.
I concur that stability, security should be the New States Long Term focus, but a disagree with some of the approaches suggested by Chris. From the onset, I will like to make it clear that my lnowlegde of political science is limited but I guess I my insight as a Southern Sudanese can add to the points raised.
Firstly, I don’t see how a strategy of” accommodating Warlords “could possibly lead to long term sustainable peace and development. I think such approach can easily backfire negatively on any future attempts to build strong institutions that can foster economic growth. In fact, the GOSS has been implementing this kind of strategy over the last six years (militias were brought in, posts were allocated..ect). Now, judging from this experience, I can assert that this approach succeeded to freeze militia offensives. The facts on ground is that to-date these groups have perceived rebellion as the only means for gaining bargaining power!
Secondly, I failed to understand how Chris’s suggestions fit together. For instance, how can the government accommodate “big men” and warlords and deny these access to key developmental ministries (finance, Roads etc)?
Again, point (7) on incentives to calm down trouble makers, seems okkish, but the pivotal question that needs answer is: “how can we make sure that these incentives are invested locally? Such approach actually one of the causes of the massive flow of capital to other economies during the interim period, from my view point.
Allow me also to disagree with suggestions (4) & (5). Putting corruption (inshort term) in the bottom our to-do things only encourages more corruption: so undermining corruption now can have serious implications on our long term objectives. The same argument stands for the police forces or the army. Weak police harass citizens and bend the law.
In my view the (7) suggestion should be our priority in the mid and long term. Goss should INVEST in infrastrure instead of Expending on its huge salary base. In the short term roads can actually contribute to some of the current security issues. In the long run, good infrastructure will pay off.
“rump Sudan where gender segregation is the norm under Islamic law and mixed gender institutions are absent.”
Ohwilleke, fyi: Sudan does not = Saudi Arabia.
There are squillions of mixed gender institutions here; universities, ministries; civil society orgs; public and private firms – you name it, we mix it!!
Come over sometime and see for yourself.
Thanks Chris as a Southern Sudanese I believe you have it spot on. Now getting all the development partners & AID agencies and others (who “profit” either by expat salaries, big budgets, or just big names) to agree and allow & encourage GoSS and others to do so I’d love to see that….Thanks for this.
I have to agree with Chris that South Sudan is no Uganda and no Bihar. It is also no Afghanistan, a country which in the 2005 – 2007 period of Southern Sudan’s development framework influenced much of what was developed, probably because a bulk of the people planning Afghanistan’s post-conflict development programs shifted to Southern Sudan with the CPA’s signature in 2005.
Having recently spent three years in South Sudan I agree with the spirit behind many Chris’ recommendations on what may work in South Sudan. Points 3 – 7 that is. Yet more than anything Chris is right when he says that GOSS needs to focus on tone or two “big things” it is going to accomplish in the next five years and do those (I would argue that three or even four things might be ok given the oil revenue and current donor attention on South Sudan – which will fade over time and with it the financial resources to support it).
The “big things” need to be communicated to the people of South Sudan, much the same way the Chinese communicate their five-year plan. Visible achievement of results needs to be possible so that the people can see what their government is doing. Managing the expectations of the South Sudanese of their newly formed country will be important for the GOSS’s legitimacy going forward.
What should those one or two “big ticket” items be? Security is obviously one. The recent violence across some of the most volatile areas of South Sudan is one indicator of this and for this Chris’ points are key.
And transportation. I 100% agree with Chris. Roads, Roads, Roads. Roads that will last. While hundreds of millions of dollars has already been poured into the transportation sector the main mode of transportation between the three main cities of Juba, Wau and Malakal is by plane. In the rainy season it can take you five hours to travel 120 kilometers, and this between one state capital and another. Yambio, the capital of Western Equatoria is often completely cut off from transportation from within Sudan. How can a government provide basic services for it’s citizens and fulfill promises of peace and security if it is not able to move freely within the country.
Once you have roads monies then spent on expanding access to basic health and education services are more efficient. Drugs can reach facilities easily, text books to schools, people to both.
While I could go on and on I will finish by highlighting two additional but related “big things”: communication (internet and mobile technology) and better private sector integration in the development agenda. A handful of large enterprises will provide a counter balance to the oil dependence that currently exists and will likely continue for the near future and stand a greater chance of contributing to long term economic growth and stability.
I think South Sudan provides a huge opportunity to build a top-rate first world country from scratch.
To look at Britain, the factors that provided growth about 200 years ago were political stability, stable property rights, a strong and loyal military, along with free trade and technological development.
Before the welfare state was built in the early 20th Century, a welfare society had been rapidly emerging, provided by non-state institutions like unions, the Church and mutuals.
In those respects I think the article is spot-on. You need to lay the groundwork for stability for a market to work: namely security. Britain didn’t even have a proper police force until the mid 19th C so it may be worth concentrating on just the army, as you suggest.
The big problem for South Sudan will be state capture by special interests. As the state is the only institution able to legitimately use force, this monopoly on force has to be established first. But then public choice theory problems have to be prevented by keeping the state out of key areas like the economy, and even welfare provision. Otherwise legislation and regulation will inevitably only benefit the already-powerful and rich, and at the expense of the poor. I would caution that even nominally re-distributive policies may be used by special interests to serve their own constituencies, creating dependency cultures that only reinforce the local control of warlords. For the less extreme version of this, you only have to look at pork-barrel politics in the US.
Remember that the money for these policies would have to come from somewhere. Faced between the choice of a positive-sum game of just economic growth, and the zero-sum game of redistribution of current resources, I would choose the first for stability’s sake, because it leaves fewer opportunities for state-capture, and because economic growth is the fastest route towards eradicating poverty.
Once security is established, there’s a lot going for South Sudan as a deregulated, high-growth economy, benefiting from the technological advancement of the West’s past 200 years or so (look how fast China is growing – it’s just catching up, but without waiting around for people to invent and innovate!) This would have the most dramatic effect on eradicating absolute poverty. Other than security, the next steps for the emergence of a welfare society are already there in the form of religious organisations, and unions should be given the chance to emerge too.
(As a side note, I’d like to point out that infrastructure need not be built by the government. Britain’s roads, railways, canals were often built by the private sector. Allowing this kind of investment would again keep the state from being captured by special interests wanting pork-barrel investment in their own areas or for their own business interests).
For those of you who haven’t had time to kindle your way through “poor economics” yet, you might want to watch Esther Duflo’s presentation at CGD from 6th April. I was a bit sceptical and still have my doubts re sustainability and scalability, but that presentation set out very clearly (and persuasively) the idea that focusing on policy at the micro-institutional level rather than politics at the macro-institutional level, might be a more fruitful way forward.
It’s a must watch.
I wish things were as straight forward as suggested by all. I have no reason to disagree with Chris Blattman. His instincts are right. Holding the state together and doing so pragmatically is really the essential challenge. To this wish list – i would add that South Sudan needs to secure the political & military support of the EAC ( and IGAD) a couterweight to security challenges leftover from its disengagement from the North. One lesson we have learnt from neighboring Congo is that domestic rebels draw license and support from the sovereign squabbles around them. This was certainly the case with the LRA during the North/South war. Today 4 out of the 10 states in the New Sudan have severe security challenges while Bashir in Khartoum, facing pressure from far right radicals, and without the direct support ironically of Gadaffi and Mubarak is being forced to return an aggressive policy- of divide and rule to the South. In fact this policy has been until recently fairly covert- principally by working to filibuster reforms in the south in the period of transition ( offering hungry rebels oil money and increasing corruption in the South while keeping the eyes of international diplomacy in Khartoum) but is now fairly overt with the clashes on the border. As long as local warlords understand that Khartoum could suffer a backlash from supporting their actions- they will agree to some settlement. Beyond that South Sudan’s deep seated tribal identities need to waited out by a deluge of transformational investments i agree- roads, industry etc. That work can only keep the peace but to sustain it requires another discussion on South Sudan’s leadership
Sounds like someone has been reading the new WDR…
Thanks for this comment.
We feel that you slightly over-reach when you imply, without having read the book, that our emphasis on redistributive policies is based on not realizing that politics is primary. We have an entire chapter arguing why we think that the primacy of politics is way over-sold. It is easy to say that they should get buy in from warlords. But who do you think will take on that job (another warlord? why would he be trusted?). Our recommendations were based on a simple idea, very much rooted in politics: An effectively implemented redistributive policy is a very good way to give a new state a clearer identity in the minds of the voters. This can create ownership and start a virtuous cycle where the majority has a stake in fighting against the take over the state by one group. It also creates a basis for developing state capacity; focusing on doing one or two things well is the best way to give the state’s agents credibility and build their skills.
It is interesting that you chose to remove a little part of what Esther said: “Second, I think I would try to convince them to run anti-poverty policy in a more intelligent way than what we see in most countries. In particular, I may try to encourage them not to listen too much to the elevator pitches of all the other experts, and stake their entire policy course on the basis of those…”
We think the key is that these are problems that will probably not be addressed in the format of a blog (which is why we wrote a book…) so we will leave it at that. Hopefully this will be enough to give you and your readers the desire to find out where our ideas come from.
Abhijit & Esther
Does GoSS has enough resources to carry out an “effectively implemented redistributive policy”?
In order to do that, don’t you need to have some wealth to transfer from the rich to the poor?
South Sudan has the economy of Afghanistan without the opium revenues. It may be able to capture some oil wealth, but not enough to have a functioning economy on that alone or even primarily.
From the little that I’ve seen reported, South Sudan is not like pre-land reform Zimbabwe or pre-independence Mexico or the antebellum American South with a society that is dominated by a wealthy oligarchy. Instead, the problem seems to be that almost everyone is poor, or at best middle class. The problem seems to be more one of poverty than of maldistribution of wealth.
International aid could bridge that shortfall for a little while, but it is hard to see international support lasting long as South Sudan’s strategic importance wanes once it is disentangled from the remainder of Sudan and war receeds.
GoSS has had and will continue to have a lot of oil revenue, at least for the next few years–on the order of $1000/capita.
Oops–sorry, that figure isn’t right. I meant to say that oil revenue is on the order of $1000 per household. Average household size is about 8.
I’m a bit puzzled. Why wouldn’t another warlord be trusted, if competent at being a warlord? Isn’t that what the European and Chinese states were originally based on? Why would warlords be more likely to trust someone who isn’t a warlord?
Your list matches very closely the strategy employed in Afghanistan since 2002 (right down to the roads!) and, I think, they share the same logic. But the strategy of co-opting factional leaders is now being looked back on as a missed opportunity to ‘tackle’ the phenomenon of factionalism. The fact that a strategy you reccomend for SS is considered to have been unsuccessful in Afghanistan doesn’t say much of anything, since they’re so different; and there are so many other factors involved in Afghanistan that its experience probbaly isn’t a good model for anything else. Still, prioritizing state consolidation through political-economy cooption can backfire.
@Poverty is a third or fourth or fifth order factor in a decision to revolt.
Not arguing or dissenting but agreeing maybe & asking: Which are the two or three or four prior factors for revolt other than poverty – in your opinion?
coming from Somalia, I have have to agree numbers 1,2 and 6 and 7. But I think you underestimate the importance of what Duflo & Banerjee said. All of your steps all about preventing more war while Duflo & Banerjee are about building the country. Over the past 20 years Somalia has pretty much violated everyone of the 7 issues in the list, but I don’t think the war would have last half as long if people were educated and healthy. In the words of Lucky Dube, “the only way to get our economy Strong, is to have An educated nation”. You don’t need to be rich to have good health and good eduction.
One more key point: This is the time when national symbols are developed. It is critical to avoid cults of personality around living individuals. Deify dead revolutionary leaders. Cover the country with flags and pledge allegience to it, rather than a person. Build up a brand around a logo. But, do not under any circumstances put the nation’s President de jour’s pictures on every public building, item of currency and public document.
If a national persona must be associated with a living human being, make that human being a powerless figurehead. Rotate leadership jobs like cabinet offices, even if it is among the same cast of usual suspects.
“And a court system, with particular attention to the places where ethnic groups repeatedly clash over land or rights or respect.”
Here, and in other respects, a key issue is leveraging scarce human capital. Not many people can even read. You can’t hope to have a functional court system built around higher education trained lawyers; you can’t hope to have a functional medical system built around formally educated physicians. Dump too much scarce human capital capacity into the miltiary and you will inevitably get a military dictatorship because it is the only institution that is half way competent. (Also, prefer a large thinly trained military to a small elite one – an important empirical driver of coup likelihood is the easy with which senior military officers can conspire together – the smaller and more elite and stable the force, the easier it is for this to happen.)
When it comes to courts you need something like Justice of the Peace courts run by local wisemen and elders, many possibly illiterate, relying on common sense and custom more than written statutes. You may have little choice but to follow the colonial example of favoring corporal punishment over incarceration because you can’t afford to run prisons. Save your literate people who follow statutes for big disputes, involving mostly conflicts between powerful private entities and public law.
When it comes to health care, you need barefoot doctors on the Chinese model, not people with college degrees. Think mature boy scouts and babysitters level of training, not applied scientists.
When it comes to organizing a professional/governmental class, you need generalists not specialists – the early Chinese revolution approach of having an all purpose government office staffed by one or two people handling ever governmental service from every part of government for people who live in that office’s neighborhood might be a good one to follow. When it comes to taxation and governmental bureaucracy, you need a system that does not rely on extensive written rules and paperwork – in a society like this with a thin monetary economy, a courvee type service gang might be the main form of taxation and a right to join a government sponsored day labor gang for minimum wage might be a good form of welfare.
Decentralizing is important. Smaller, democratically elected local governmental units are easier for minimally trained political leaders to run, are more homogeneous and hence less prone to interethnic conflict, discourage authoritarian control of the entire system in ways repugnant to the residents of those local government units, and make misbehaving local potenates easier for the central government to keep in line because local officials have less power.
Most of the governmental activities that really define the gap between developed countries and undeveloped ones are managed by local governments in the developed world – things like water purification systems and sewer systems, local roads, local schools, local policing, fire protection, emergency medical treatment, trash collection, and building codes.
As much administrative responsibility as possible should be vested in democratically elected local governments with small numbers of elected officials (since qualified people are in short supply) much like county governments in the U.S. Even if you must have a national postal system, let the local post office be run by local government and have the national part of the system handle only post office to post office deliveries. Even if the central government funds hospitals or schools with international development aid, let local governments control them.
Even militarily, a locally controlled militia model as the core of the force may be preferrable to a highly cnetralized force.
Higher level government management needs to be mostly indirect management in support of local government by the core of better educated people that is available. Rather than running schools, run teacher’s colleges. Rather than running hospitals, train barefoot doctors. Rather than micromanaging agricultural production, run agricultural extension offices. Reinforce and support local authority, rather than trying to direct it.
In essence, I agree with your dissent. Even though I’m even less of a Sudan expert, I’ll play devil’s advocate.
I think the second rebuttal you pre-empt – “relieving poverty reduces the incentives for people to revolt” – is faulty, as you rightly argue. But if we change “relieving poverty” to “promoting equity,” I think it becomes much less clear. Poverty per se is probably fourth or fifth down the line for an insurgency, but poverty relative to the elite strata bears much more heavily on the mind of the would-be rebel. Your recommendation (which could be summarized, in DFID-speak, to building a political settlement centered around peace and stability) has the potential to leave enough people outside the state compact as to undermine it. This might not kill the GoSS now, but it could prevent the sort of consolidation you advocate.
So my criticism is essentially the need for an add-on to what you already say: make sure the elites whom the state co-opts are able to spread their entrepreneurial talents to all major communities. Try to achieve a balance of big men that is spread among regions, ethnies, religions, et cetera. Even if it is sheer patronage, it needs to reach citizen-clients equitably.
Political patronage appointments of governmental officials, which isn’t exactly corruption in the conventional sense, has a lot to be said for it in the GoSS. It needs the local equivalent of 19th century ward healers and elections need to relevance that patronage appointments can provide. If government is concentrated at the local level, the local big men will indeed create balance in the overall mix of governmental officials. Patronage appointments teach the lesson that elections matter in a very concrete way that is regularly reinforced. They also reduce the tensions associated with enforcing civil service and labor law protections for governmental workers and reduce the need for elected officials to micromanage and closely monitor the employees whom they manage.
I think you are right here. In a newly formed state, law and order comes first than any other activity.
The government derives its power from legitimacy and soft power more than the force of arms. So long as it is easier to win an election and get a piece of the political power than to take up arms, people will use the electoral process rather than violence. The goal is not so much to stop all crime and disorder as it is to protect the essentials of a free and democratic state. You need to focus central government law enforcement/military power on protecting people from neighboring countries, on keeping elections free and fair, and on preventing local governments from going to war with each other. As much as possible, you want to respect local perogatives to maintain law and order in their own way, they have legitmacy that a central government prefect does not.
I think your main point here is exactly right. The objective function here is not social policy goals, it’s the continued existence of a functioning state.
I’m by no means an expert, but it seems to me corruption might be something that is easier to deal with quickly at a moment of great change rather than slowly over the course of decades.
If corruption is endemic already, this event can provide the excitement and momentum needed to clear the system.
At the same time, the rapid reduction of corruption seems critical to a number of your other notable goals, namely a well functioning military and police force, and the rapid deployment of a high quality road network.
I would say that the growth experiences of Europe, America and Asia suggest that enormous corruption is not incompatible with growth. Anti-corruption is of course valuable but we need to be realistic about what can be accomplished in a fragile state, and we need to be suspicious of anything that gets attention simply because of a Western fetish for the concept.
Controlling corruption is a good place to launch a feminist agenda. Many successful third world development programs have at their root the observation that third world women tend to be less corrupt than third world men. Require every government office, local and higher up, that handles money to have a woman as at least a co-official in charge of it. Require that women be on committees that allocate resources. Have non-trival local Justice of the Peace court matters handled collectively by three judges that include at least one woman, rather than by a single individual judge (probably male).
In addition to relying on the experience that institutions with women in them are less corrupt, this also accentuates the GoSS’s identity as distinct from that of the rump Sudan where gender segregation is the norm under Islamic law and mixed gender institutions are absent.
I think your third point is a really good one. The rest, particularly 1 and 6, are things that you would have a hard time persuading the government not to do anyway. You would have a harder time persuading them after 21 years of war that peace and stability is not the top priority. And they know plenty about balancing different armed factions in the pursuit of peace, having already brought different independent militias into the SPLM. So: a big chunk of the budget is effectively already ring-fenced for salaries, the army, and road construction. The question then is what to do with the small amount that that is discretionary and remaining, and I do think that there is space to deliver some social services in the simplest and most effective way possible, which might just be cash and/or health services. I do have a hard time with the poverty alleviation/growth trade-off, and don’t know what the answer is. Its interesting that Duflo/Banerjee make no mention of macro/growth policy, contrasted with Lant Pritchett’s advice which is all macro/growth and no mention of social policy.
I think you’re right about GoSS. The tougher audience, and the one I aim to persuade, are the donors and foreign ministers and ambassadors and lenders and UN, who are going to prioritize these poverty goals over stability, refuse to fund security and justice adequately, balk at giving money to a government or ministry with warlords, and hold the state to an unrealistic standard right away.
Ditto on Lee’s comment that these are mostly things that GoSS is doing anyway. Salva Kiir and the SPLM founders spent decades trying to hold together a fractious coalition during the war, and without a doubt he sees holding the country together and preventing a civil war within the South as the top priority. I’m not worried about donors convincing them to do something different. GoSS has lots of oil money to spend and doesn’t need the donors OK to fund its top priorities.
The argument for efforts under the broad banner of social policy (health, education, cash transfer, public works employment, etc.) is two-fold: 1) unlike most other things these could improve the welfare of the average South Sudanese, and 2) seeing evidence that the govt. can accomplish something will generate broader support for GoSS, which is needed to avoid a new civil war.
The second point is speculative, but I have the impression it’s part of GoSS’s thinking.
Important clarification. I get the impression that the int. community does complain about the size of the SPLA budget, but at the same time DFID and the US government are supporting the army directly. In a way it is perhaps a sensible division of labour for the donors to focus on funding social services (implemented in some kind of partnership with gov, if only in terms of “branding”) allowing GOSS to focus on security.
Justice is definitely an area which risks being neglected. There is also a bias amongst elites for tertiary institutes – MOH doctors want hospitals before primary health clinics and MOJ lawyers want a grand supreme court – which may have some value in terms of state-building, I don’t know, but leaves little left for funding local institutions.
In the South Sudan Development Plan one of the main “pillars” is security, but I have yet to see something as harshly logical and refreshingly realistic as what you have posed here. Unfortunately what I have seen of watching the development priorities fall into place is that security is being seen in a very narrow way and that the future of funding in South Sudan will be more of the same – broken aid systems and the whites who love working in them.
Not exactly a dissent from your dissent, but a note of skepticism. These kinds of policy wish lists sort of assume that you’re passing along a memo of recommendations to a benevolent dictator. It’s not clear to me who is the party in a position to act on any of these things. The elites, warlords, and unsavory characters will be at the table from Day 1, won’t they? In fact, they’ll probably be the ones dominating the whole discussion. Who will be in a position to buy them off for the greater good?