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Reviews

Limited relevance

The World Bank:
Doing Business 2009.
Comparing regulation in 181 economies.
The World Bank / IFC / Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, 185 p.,
US$ 35, ISBN: 978-0-8213-7609-6

Every autumn since 2003, the World Bank Group has regularly announced in their “Doing Business” report (DB) in which country it is easiest to conduct private business and where relevant reforms have last been implemented. Using ten indicators, the DB measures the costs a company incurs due to state regulation. These indicators range from first registering a business, to the transfer of property and employing staff, through to closing a business. The indicators describe standard situations, which means the data can be collected worldwide with quite a low number of respondents.

The DB has enjoyed a great deal of attention since it was first published. It is an undisputed fact that bureaucratic expenses can hinder economic development and that rankings can give important impetus for reform.
However, there is also criticism. It was already noted early on, for instance, that the DB measures the cost of de jure regulation, which is not implemented de facto in many developing countries. Furthermore, trade unions and the ILO warn of a “race to the bottom” with respect to labour laws.

The DB assumes that removing bureaucracy facilitates economic development as a matter of principle. This corresponds to the Anglo-Saxon paradigm of the freest possible market but does not reflect perfectly successful models of economic policy from Asia and Europe. The DB does not go into why a competitive state is necessary. It also ignores the fact that the economy in many developing countries is insufficiently diversified and scarcely capable of innovation, which means deregulation per se does not go far enough.

The Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) of the World Bank recently reviewed the DB. It appears their criticism, which is worth reading, has had an impact. Much more prominently than before, the latest DB acknowledges its own limits in the introduction. Accordingly, the DB should only be used as one of many sources of information for reform policy, particularly since it does not cover country-specific factors such as infrastructure, the financial system, trade policy or the workers’ level of education.

This is an important step towards assigning the correct weight to the DB. But where should it go from here? The widespread marketing of the DB 2009 through the media does not reflect the adjustment after the evaluation. If the limitations of the “DB approach” are not consistently laid open, there is still a risk that reformers will base their strategy on a document that covers only a fraction of the relevant factors in a particular location.

By the way – Singapore once again topped the “Ease of Doing Business” ranking this year. Germany ranks in 25th place. Azerbaijan is the “top reformer” this time. However, the DB does not present evidence of what this means in concrete terms for economic development or poverty reduction.

Christian von Drachenfels

Security and environment

Hans Günter Brauch, Ursula Oswald Spring, Czeslaw Mesjasz, John Grin, Pál Dunay, Navnita Chadha Behera, Béchir Chourou, Patricia Kameri-Mbote, P. H. Liotta (Eds.):
Globalisation and environmental challenges.
Reconceptualising security in the 21st century.
Hexagon Series on Human and Environmental Security and Peace, Vol. 3, Springer Verlag, Berlin / Heidelberg / New York 2008, 1148 p., € 245.03, ISBN 978-3-540-75976-8

At the beginning of the 21st century, the ecological challenges of globalisation are presenting a new threat to collective security. Limited access to natural resources, global environmental changes and the consequences for the affected societies require a holistic approach with regard to the integration of various security interests. In this comprehensive compendium, 92 authors from five continents and various disciplines analyse the mulitfold interrelatedness of security, peace, development and the environment. The authors address the key issue of why and to what extent structural changes or events at regional, national or global levels have brought about a conceptual rethink in international security discourse.

Taking as a starting point an extension and re-evaluation of the various dimensions of the concept of security since the 1990s, in a total of 75 chapters, the ecological, philosophical, ethical, religious, social, military and spatial context of security is considered closely and the term security is examined in the areas of international law, commerce and industry and political science. The institutional security concepts of the United Nations, the European Union and NATO are also analysed. Finally, alternative environmental and security strategies for the 21st century are presented and checked for feasibility to facilitate future research and decision-making processes.

However, this compendium is not only a valuable contribution to the subject of environmental security. The specific regional perspectives of many realities, for instance the understanding of security in Hinduism, give the reader a deep insight into the problem as a whole.

The third part of the “Hexagon Series on Human and Environmental Security and Peace” was co-edited by Hans Günter Brauch, political science lecturer in the Otto Suhr Institute at the Free University in Berlin and fellow at the Institute for Environment and Human Security of the United Nations University (UNU-EHS) in Bonn since 2005. The other editors include experts from the USA, India, Kenya, Mexico, Tunisia, Hungary, the Netherlands and Poland. Forewords by Klaus Töpfer, former German Environment Minister and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, and others.

Jürgen Wilhelm

Forget about the “white norm”

Kien Nghi Ha, Nicola Lauré al-Samarai, Sheila Mysorekar (Eds.): re/visionen. Postkoloniale Perspektiven von People of Color auf Rassismus, Kulturpolitik und Widerstand in Deutschland (Postcolonial perspectives by people of colour on racism, cultural policy and resistance in Germany).
Unrast-Verlag, Münster 2007, 456 p., € 24, ISBN 978-3-89771-458-8

“The present, with all its hierarchies and constellations that have evolved historically, is undergoing a re/vision – in other words, a critical re-evaluation.” The anthology, which includes different perspectives and experiences, follows this claim. The authors are people with various non-European migration backgrounds as well as black Germans and Roma. They critically examine present-day power relations, as well as patterns of exploitation and inequality in German society.
The book breaks down stereotypical ideas of white, mainstream German culture, in which people with a skin colour other than white feel like objects of science and politics. Analysing and standardising “others” without their participation reinforces social prejudices which are considered given realities. The editors promote heterogeneity and pluralism with an aim to blur existing categories of social order, such as gender, origin, social class or sexual orientation.

The book is a reaction to “white normality” which has evolved historically from ideas of a while, male minority. Social constructivist theories and methods run through the entire volume. A constructed “majority culture”, in which the privileged define “their” minorities, is discussed on this basis. Concepts of the enemy from colonial times are thus replicated.

The provocative originality and diversity of opinions in the collection of texts are impressive. However, there is no realistic political direction. No doubt, there are many arguments for criticising German migration policy, but pragmatic alternatives seem to be few and far between. Once the deconstruction of existing structures has been accomplished, the reader is left wondering which mechanisms the “people of color” feel should be institutionalised. After all, any system to be established would be based on presuppositions, which in turn involve generalisations. It would have been interesting if the heterogeneous mix of authors could have agreed on a common stance. When existing policies are criticised, it is helpful to give an alternative view. Alexandra Janda