Sunday, December 18, 2005

Van wie is Bolivia

Which in English translates as "To whom belongs Bolivia?". This dutch documentary, by Mariëtte Heres, was filmed during the june riots in La Paz that ousted Carlos Mesa from the presidency. It is mainly based on interviews made to very different social actors, the first an indigenous woman market seller and the other a fairly wealthy white occupying the position of hydrocarbons overseer (Superintendente de hidrocarburos).

Our market seller raises three children by herself in a room deprived from electricity due to lack of money. On the other hand our man has a quite enormous house, a SUV car, healthy children and much material comfort. Heres contrasts their different living conditions and especially their differing opinions on the management of Bolivia's most precious natural resource: gas.

Our market seller supports nationalization, in fact, she actively participated in the turmoil I already mentioned above. She motivates her choices, saying that the multinational corporations are plundering Bolivia together with the white elite. She sincerely believes that she is fighting for the best future possible of her children. On the other hand the man thinks (also sincerely, I presume) that the nationalization is a mistake. He offers the usual reasoning: capital, international agreements, etc.

The movie offers more interviews to the social movements leaders, some presidential candidates such as Evo Morales and Samuel Doria Medina and some other persons.

From the film I gather that Heres supports the market seller's view, that market economies are evil and multinational corporations too. I could not follow the debate after the screening very well (it was in dutch), but I believe it confirms my impressions.

I don't claim the issues don't exist. They do and they are serious. However, the film simplifies them and it doesn't offer anything new.

However, we can interpret the film in a way that Heres did not intend. Forget for a minute the merits and demerits of our market seller and our government official for a second. Instead, note that the film might well be about mistrust in Bolivian society. Our market seller thinks that the government official is under hire by multinational corporations, while this one believes that she does not have a say in this matters because she is not well-informed on them.

This lack of trust can be seen in many places in Bolivian society, even more so in the presidential elections: Indigenous leaders and leaders of social movements would doubt Tuto Quiroga's will to govern for the benefit of the majority of bolivian society. Now consider the other side, medium and high class persons might doubt Evo Morales' statesmanship.

The political actors may be doing (some of them at least) what they sincerely think is the best action. But they don't trust the actions of the others. It is important to address the sources of mistrust, make political actors acknowledge the gripes of each other and work towards a common solution that minimally satisfies their needs. Without this understanding and acknowledgment of these issues, more conflicts are inevitable, whoever becomes elected.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Dario said...

Hello Alexey! ...i see you didn't sleep to make this new post...so maybe you were too tired;)

I don't understand this issue about mistrust...i don't think political conflicts are originated by mistrust, but rather by divergent values. Some politician, say Mr.X, may be absolutely sincere and convinced of his ideas, but his ideas may be wrong, dangerous, or whatever. For example a typical Mr.X from the right may be really convinced that the key to development is to let some people, owners of factories or else, become rich because their richness would bring through their factories money and development to the entire nation. On the other hand a typical (not so much nowadays unfortunately) Mr.Y from the left would disagree because that doesn't turn out to be the case in poor countries...in general these few people get rich, and nothing good comes to the common people. So where does trusting each other fit in this?
It's rather a problem of different values, like the belief that it's a duty of the governments to create a more fair division of goods versus the belief that the free market will approximatively do the job one day. Often political debates are around very difficult issues, and people tend to trust the politicians who seem to share their same values. Or should the market seller trust in the generosity of the hydrocarbons overseer waiting quitely for him to share his richness with her?
So i think that the only points where trust comes in is in trusting certain values, and in trusting that certain politicians also trust in those same values (which often turns out to be only appearence unfortunately...but that's another problem).

The elections are today, isn't it? Let me know...

See you!
Dario

7:57 AM  
Blogger Alexey said...

I actually slept very well but my blog is not in the right timezone! :)

After seeing this movie I had many thoughts that I had a lot of trouble articulating. I was thinking about this for days. But I don't want this to become my job so I wrote a quick and dirty post. Let me reply to you, though.

Values may simplify the discussion about certain issues too much. In the gas industry case, ultimately it doesn't matter whether it is nationalized or not. But rather how much income it would generate, how many jobs it would generate, how efficient and competitive it would be and how the generated resources would be distributed. These are complex issues that should be handled by experts in the domain.

Now, the expert's position on each of this individual aspects would reflect the values of the party that he/she represents. The discussion should happen at the level of these specific issues, not blurring it behind values or political dogma.

On trust. I don't propose that politicians go about trusting each other in good faith, nor do I propose the same for everyday people. In Alexey's ideal planet you would try to eliminate the sources of mistrust by only having experts as people who have a say over affairs. Unfortunately experts and scientists have their own dogmatic beliefs and personal agendas but at least, I think, there is a higher chance to have positive results.

I don't suggest the market seller to be naive and trust the hydrocarbons overseer. Instead, I expect her to trust some knowledgeable person (say a fellow former market seller who worked as executive in a petrol company) who will be regarded by the hydrocarbons guy as a legitimate negotiator. In this way, people from both political spectrums will have confidence in the resulting agreement.

My post had very few details over this. I still don't know how everything fits together so it is clearly only a semi-informative rant ;).

About the elections, I don't have information so far. I will post something as soon as I have more news!

Nice to know you are still reading! ;)

11:44 AM  
Anonymous dario said...

of course i still read!

and I know of course that what we are writing here is not to be taken as our final opinions about this stuff...

and i just pick up some passage of yours, i build on it maybe something different from your full idea, i then feel pricked by that and reply....:)

now for example i urgently feel i have to reply about the experts idea!
unfortunately the administration of the public Thing is not an 'exact' science like it can be math, physics or computer science...for this reason even experts will disagree drastically on most issues. Of course people who take care of the state should be experts (this should always be the case even if i agree it's not often so..), but still that's not enough. It's so direct to say how much work will be created with this and that. For example some people (supposed to be 'experts') think that lowering taxes to rich people will permit them to hire more workers. They also think the same would happen with more freedom of firing (called "mobility" to make it sound nicer). But of course nobody can prove or disprove that like a theorem. Other experts indeed think that that's bullshit.
The same i think happens on the privatization issue. Some think that competition between privates will lower prices, but often privates raise the prices all together, and the competition goes in who raises less!

For this reason people (experts as well) are led by their human background. Usually economics experts see what they want to see. You can put some data to argue on this and some to argue on that.
And here is the point where values enter i think. One needs them to choose between alternatives.

An alternative i have now is to keep thinking and writing about politics, or start working on my own little useless research...
mmhh... i think i have to opt for the second...
ciao!

6:17 AM  
Blogger Alexey said...

Hi Dario! I agree that most issues about public administration are not clear cut, even to experts. However, we should try to keep the discussion at this level. For the layman (like us) you would want to simplify the discussion keeping some choices and consequences visible.

It would be nice if both sides of the discussion acknowledge that any of the choices carry bad consequences, instead of satanizing the other's position. I guess that trust has something to do here, trusting that your negotiating oponent is not trying to cheat on you.

Anyway, I agree that we should do a bit of research in our domains :).

3:07 PM  

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