What it costs to run Somalia

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.

Ahem, for context -- Somalia's $11 million budget is ....

-  20 times smaller than the 2010 budget of Topeka, Kansas

- A mere 1/2  of Derek Jeter's 2010 salary

- 890 times smaller than Starbucks' 2009 annual revenue

- About equal to the budget of "High School Musical 3"

- About equal to the amount that the Scottsdale, Arizona school district had to cut from its budget this year.

- But good news -- you could start between two and three franchises of the Hard Rock Cafe with that amount!



Kenya's Obama invite

On August 27, tomorrow, there's going to be a big, big party in Kenya. The date marks the signing of a new Constitution, and everyone from Desmond Tutu to Obama has been invited. "People are calling [this occasion] the rebirth -- people are calling it the second republic," Kenyan ambassador to the United States, Elkanah Odembo, told me on Tuesday.  "Heads of state have been invited, including President Obama [who] has received an invitation to attend the signing."

Kenyans approved the new Constitution overwhelmingly in a referendum on August 5. The new code will, among other things, move the country toward a presidential system and decentralize the civil service. Most analysts believe that the new framework will help consolidate stability in the country. Obama applauded the moves as well, releasing a congratulatory statement on the occasion: "This was a significant step forward for Kenya's democracy, and the peaceful nature of the election was a testament to the character of the Kenyan people. My Administration has been pleased to support Kenya's democratic development and the Kenyan people."

Which begs a question: Obama was said to have visited Ghana in praise of its good governance. This is arguably one of the most impressive democratic moves that the Kenya government has taken in decades. Will Obama show up in support?

The answer is not likely; Obama's on vacation. But says John Maina, President of the Diaspora association, Kenyan Community Abroad Obama has been supportive in other ways. In an e-mail to FP, Maina declined to comment on whether the president should attend. "I believe President Barack Obama will send a message of hope and unity to our leaders and country. ... The U.S. government played an important role during the making of this constitution and I sure her blessings will not be forgotten by Kenyans."

There's reason to believe that this will be literally the celebration of a lifetime in Kenya, whether Obama goes or not. "The level of excitement of the people who were in the country in 1963 when the British flag was brought down and the Kenyan flag went up -- it is that level of excitement [now in Nairobi]," said Odembo. Also in attendance will be at least 10 African heads of state, including the presidents of Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. And maybe one of these days, Obama too.