Tuesday, August 13, 2013

as pure as a bag of water

Next City offers a nuanced take on 'pure water' -- the system of selling plastic sachets of drinking water.  'Pure water' is the municipal water system of cities that don't have a municipal water system. Equally necessary and nasty, sachet water is, as the article notes, a grand conundrum -- simultaneously "a huge urban economy, its very own black market, an environmental disaster and a private-sector-driven public health coup."

Do laugh at the last quote of the article, though. While it comes from the mouth of a University of Miami professor, it's a great example of one of the favorite sports of West Africa--Nigeria-bashing. I dey go Las Gidis many times, and I've never seen river water bagged as 'pure water.' Indeed, all pure water companies are registered with and inspected by NAFDAC--Nigeria's National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control--and I don't know anyone there who would drink any bag of water that didn't have NAFDAC certification.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

the world's most open border

The Associated Press reports on the people who smuggle goods across the 227-mile-long border between the Domincan Republic into Haiti.

Factoid: The Dominican Republic estimates that the country's "14 border markets host more than 50,000 vendors and says Haiti's informal merchants earn about $165 million a year reselling the goods back home. That's in addition to the country's $1.1 billion in formal exports to Haiti."

History: "The Dominican government opened the markets in the early 1990s, when a military regime ruled Haiti and the U.N. imposed an embargo. The markets have since bustled because Haiti's ports are notoriously expensive and rife with red tape and poor infrastructure."

In June, Haiti banned imports of Dominican poultry and eggs, claiming it was defending the country against avian flu. In response, the Dominican Republic closed its border markets for a day.

Perhaps in pursuit of tax revenue, Haiti's government has been trying to crack down on the smuggling, pushing to cut tax-free border trade to just one day a week. This has led to charges that the government of Michel Martelly is soaking the poor while subsidizing the rich, particularly by giving tax breaks to hotel owners so they can build lodging and attract tourists.

As Mario Joseph, a lawyer whose clients have been critical of the Martelly government, told the AP, "The only people paying taxes are the street merchants. The big shots aren't paying."