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Date: 2020-10-30 Page is: DBtxt001.php txt2009A10300
Metrics about the State, Progress and Performance of the Economy and Society
Metrics about Impact on People, Place, Planet and Profit


See more about Peter Burgess:
... a Peter Burgess overview
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After the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1991, the UN mounted a post-war assessment and planning mission to assist the Afghan authorities in their critical recovery from years of Soviet occupation and violence. The US and others provided substantial assistance for many years to assist in pressuring the Soviets to withdraw. The UN mission was headed by Winston Prattley, a highly respected veteran of the United Nations system with vast experience on handling difficult situations. My role on the team was to help identify and analyze the available data about the state of the country, its needs and potential. For security reasons the project team was based in Islamabad, Pakistan and did field work into Afghanistan from there in cooperation with a UNDP cross-border development initiative based in Peshawar. The team completed a preliminary planning missions and reported back to the UN headquarters, and to the leading international actors who had been engaged with Afghanistan for many years. For reasons that were incomprehensible from the perspective of our field analysis, the potential supporters of a comprehensive post-war rebuilding initiative for Afghanistan decided to withdraw completely from the region, effective instantly. This was the response in Washington, in London, in Paris and in Brussels to my knowledge.

Our team already knew that there were important tensions in the area, as there have been for hundreds of years, and there were growing fund flows into Afghanistan from various regional countrieslike Iran and Saudi Arabia in support of a variety of ethnic, religious and polical agendas. These were the early signs of what eventually became the rule of the Taliban in the political sphere and the expansion of drug production in the economic sphere ... results that were quite predictable when the broader international community decided to withdraw totally.


My first working contact with Bangladesh goes back to the late 1970s when we tried to arrange a joint venture shrimp fishing venture in Bangladesh. Our company was already a major purchaser of shrimp in India for sale in the United States, and we were looking at opportunities to produce a higher value product to international standards in the region. As it turned out a competitor convinced the local authorities that they should monopolise the Bangladesh shrimp fishery rather than our company. They won in large part because they had a fleet of shrimp trawlers rapidly available while we would have taken almost two years to build and deploy new trawlers. Our competitors trawlers were available because of a failed venture in South East Asia ... but that was not common knowledge in Bangladesh!

I have been a follower of the Grameen Bank and BRAC stories since the early 1980s. These two organizations founded in Bangladesh are arguably among the world's best development organizations. Bot Muhammad Yunus and Fasel Abed, the founders of these organizations, have been recognized internationally for their initiatives. There are many important lessons that I have learned from their work which have been incorporate in my work for a very long time.


There was a time when I was consulting with a shipyard, St. Augustine Shipbuilding in Florida. They had built several shrimp trawlers for our international clients, and I joined a joint marketing effort of the shipyard to sell high speed US built patrol boats to the Navy of the Bahamas. It proved to be an interesting experience since we were competing against a British shipyard that had the support of the UK government. Our vessels had far superior performance and a lower price. Compared to the UK government involvement, the US government was MIA. We lost the contract. The Bahamas got a 'solid' British product, but in addition the Bahamas got all sorts of bilateral aid that had been essentially conditional on giving the contract to the British shipbuilder in the UK.

It would have made sense for the US to have supported this project since the main duty of these patrol vessels would have been the interdiction of high speed vessels carrying drugs into the United States.


Government Financial Management Reform Project
This was a project funded by the InterAmerican Development Bank (IADB) and implemented by the Barents Group of KPMG. I was recruited by KPMG and initially assigned to some work in the former Soviet Union. I was relocated to Barbados to define the requirements of the Barbados Government Treasury as the government upgraded its existing legacy mainframe computer systems to a comprehensive distributed client server architecture.


I was associated with Benin (then Dahomey) in the 1970s when Continental Seafoods had a small operation based there. We closed this operation and merged it into our operations in the Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia. Years later I returned to Cotonou on an evalutation mission for one of the UN agencies. The project had to do with training, and encouraging transparency, but it was structured in a way that made it almost impossible to be successful. This related to the nature of the state at that time ... it was controlled by a communist government, and the project was under the oversight of the Ministry of Justice. While the individuals did their best, the basic structure of the project ensured a poor outcome.


See Myanmar


I did work in Burundi just before the Rwanda genocide, and the regional turmoil that ensued. I was working for a World Bank project that was reorganizing the coffee industry in the country in order to introduce a coffee auction system for coffee exports and otherwise modernise the industry. My work was to do the analysis required to show that the project was being successful, and demonstrate that the coffee auction should be adopted by the government as the primary method for determining prices. I was able to demonstrate that the prices being obtained by a government controlled export company were considerably lower than would have been obtained by an auction system, and projected a substantial improvement as a result of the auction process. In the actions that subsequently were started, the actual prices achieved were way in excess of what I had predicted. This would have been incredibly important for Burundi, but this major improvement in their economic situation was not to be realized because of the Rwanda crisis and the spillover into Burundi.


My first contact with Cameroon was in the 1970s when Continental Seafoods has a small operation based there. We closed the operation and merged it into our operations in the Cote d'Ivoire and LIberia.Subsequently I returned to the Cameroons in order to assess the potential of establishing a larger fleet operation there.

Cote d'Ivoire

My first contact with the Cote d'Ivoire was in the 1970s when Continental Seafoods (CSF) was reorganizing the operation there to make it profitable. Part of the strategy was to operate a larger fleet with better support facilities. This worked well and the operations in the Cote d'Ivoire made a good contribution to CSF for a number of years.

I worked on several UN assignments in the Cote d'Ivoire doing project evaluation missions. This included a sensitive mission to assess the management capacity of several ministries in the government. Some of my other work in the Cote d'Ivoire involved the African Development Bank that was based in Abidjan. One of these assignments was involved with the management training being conducted in the bank, and how well it satisfied the needs.


IGAD ... the Inter Governmental Agency for Development ... has been based in Djibouti since it was founded (under a slightly different name) in the late 1970s. IGAD has been a partner agency in several UN assignments I have worked on in the Horn of Africa during the 1980s and 1990s. Because of this some of the workshops and meetings have been held at the IGAD offices in Djibouti.

In more recent years Djibouti has become the base for US forces in the area (this area includes both the Arab penninsular, the Horn of Africa and to some extent North Africa). I am not convinced that leaders in the most powerful countries appreciate the negative impact of military bases in small and essentially very weak countries ... and are doing enough to offset this.

The meetings I have had in Djibouti in the 1980s and 1990s suggest to me that everything is a lot more complex than most people will ever comprehend ... and the misinformation that floods into the news cycle is a tremendous problem for effective decision making.


My first visits to Ghana were in the 1970s. My company, Continental Seafoods, was always on the lookout for joint venture shrimp fishing opportunities in West Africa, and some of our management staff had moved on to work for bigger tuna fishing companies based in Tema. As it turned out we were never able to arrange to operate in Ghana while I was employed by the company. This was to some extent because the people involved ... the reason is readacted!

Later, I came back to Ghana in connection with work I was doing to understand the role precious minerals were playing in economic development. Gold has been an important product for Ghana for centuries, and the industry is important to the performance of the country. It is also fairly apparent that the value of the gold does not translate very well into prosperity for the country. At one level, international companies are structured to export the wealth, and at another level relatively few local partners are organized to make substantial profit for themselves, while doing rather little for the country in general. This is not what the propaganda says, but it seems to be what the money flows show. On one of my visits to Ghana in 2000, I was arrested ... it appears my inquiries were bothering some of the more powerful people in the country ... and while it is true that my inquiry was leading me to the conclusion that all was not well in the Ghana gold business, I was a little surprised that there was this level of concern over my investigations. Of course, what was somewhat ironic, I met in jail some others who were involved in different aspects of the gold business who were also in jail for their roles outside the visible (controlled) gold sector of the economy. Gold is shiny on top ... but underneath, the reality is somewhat different.


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El Salvador

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Guinea Bissau

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Guyanne Francaise

This assignment was in connection with the possible development of a deep shrimp fishing operation in Guyanne Francaise starting off with the acquisition of a local company. The potential of the fishery would have supported a medium sized fleet, except for the problem of employment regulation and taxation which was following French practice in Europe. With this constraint the financial analysis showed that the acquisition and subsequent investment would not be viable.


India ... Multi-State Cashew Development Project
July 1978 – December 1978
My first consultancy assignment for the World Bank was to do financial analysis on an appraisal mission of a Multi-State Cashew Development Project in India. I already knew something about India as a supplier of shrimp for my previous company Continental Seafoods. I was impressed by the competence of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) who coordinated our work, and the potential of the work of the World Bank to make a significant difference in development progress. I also learned that rational analysis can also be trumped by local behavior that I do not understand. The project was subsequently implemented successfully. less


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Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR)
1983 – 1986
I participated in a team of the Mariculture and Fisheries Department of the Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research undertaking a multi-year study of the Economic Effects of Effort Limitation in Kuwait's Fisheries. My corporate fisheries experience was used to clarify the impact of investment on the fishery, and to demonstrate that in the fisheries sector, more is not always better.


I did some assignments in Laos for the World Bank in connection with their program of privatization. My task had a focus on the financial valuation of parastatal units owned by the government that were to be sold. One of the lessons learned was the dangerous disconnect between policy and reality. The policy was that government owned units should be privatized because the conventional wisdom was that the private sector could operate business entities more profitably than government. This may be true, but in the process private business owners in their effort to maximize profit are often willing to damage the environment in dangerous ways.

Chinese and other foreign businessmen were will to pay high prices relative to the financial balance sheet for sawmills being sold by the government under the privatization program. The key asset was not the physical plant, but the access to Lau forests for the lumber, something that was difficult to value, but huge. Lower level government officials did not understand this issue, and nor did the junior level World Bank project staff. I argued that no sale of these sawmills should go forward until there was a clear policy in place for the management and preservation of the Lau forests.


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I have done a number of assignments in Liberia. My work in Liberia started with my work with Continental Seafoods which had a fleet of around 20 trawlers based in Monrovia. This operation was closed down just before the coup by Sargent Doe which killed President Tolbert.


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Integrated planning for refugee affected areas in Malawi
1987 – 1988
I was team leader for UNDP in this multi-agency planning exercise for the refugee affected areas of Malawi. During the 1980s a long lasting civil war in Mozambique resulted in several million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Mozambique and large scale refugee flows into Malawi and Zambia. When the work was launched there were about 300,000 Mozambican refugees already in Malawi, and six months later the total had increased to around 1.1 million.

This required substantial mobilization of resources for Malawi and for the UN system, especially UNHCR. The planning work our team did was the basis for fund raising and effective use of funds.

I was fortunate to be working with a very competent group of experts from different agencies, and also local counterparts who kept senior level government officials appraised of the work so that government's formal approval of the work was given within hours of the work being 'finalized'. This proved problematic, because the UN system could not do the same from its side!

About a year later the World Bank became concerned that the resources being deployed in refugee affected areas of Malawi would have macro-economic side effects that would be damaging to the national economy. I participated in this World Bank analysis, and learned from this something of the massive disconnect between monetary analysis and the economics of real people, and how this was contributing to policy dysfunction and failed development.less


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Myanmar (Burma) Fisheries Sector Development Planning
June 1981 – December 1981
Worked with a World Bank project appraisal team on a Fisheries Sector Development Project in the Irrawaddy Delta. My work on the analysis of the People's Pearl and Fisheries Corporation (PPFC), the parastatal enterprise responsible for the government fishing sector showed that there was massive over-investment in the fisheries sector funded irresponsibly by many international donors. As a result the World Bank did not proceed with its planned project ... mitigating to some modest amount the problems being faced by the sector.


Development Planning for Namibia
March 1990 – 1991
Namibia gained its independence on March 20, 1990. The next day I started work on the first development plan for the newly independent nation working for UNDP and the National Planning Commission. I was part of a three person team comprising, Pekka Korpinen, Amadou Sarr and myself. We assisted in the development of a plan to support a request to the international community for development assistance, and in May 1990 a UN pledging conference in New York obtained pledges amounting to $700 million ... exceeding all expectations. Subsequently I was called in by the National Planning Commission and UNDP to assist with aid coordination and the mobilization of the pledges. It proved a challenge to align the needs of Namibia with the wants of the various donors ... but considerable progress was made ... and lessons learned, by me if not the donors!


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Nigeria ... Nigerian National Shrimp Company
1974 – 1979
Continental Seafoods Inc (CSF) entered into an agreement with the Federal Military Government (FMG) of Nigeria to build and operate a shrimp processing plant, fish port, and fleet of vessels in Mid West State, Nigeria. Soon after I became CFO of CSF, it became clear that this project was not progressing well, and I had to take on the role of acting project manager pending recruitment of a new project manager. There were hundreds of 'lessons learned' and the project was completed successfully, though there was the Gowan coup in 1975 and subsequently the assassination of Murtala Muhammed and massive changes in the economy of Nigeria from the conceptualization of the project to its operational launch. Sometime after I left the company, the NNSC was effectively nationalized by the government. I had fortunately arranged for OPIC insurance against political risk!less


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Saudi Arabia

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South Africa

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South Sudan

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Sudan - Planning for relief and development in refugee affected areas ... UNDP and UNHCR
1982 – 1983
Based in Juba, my work for UNDP was to assess needs for relief and development assistance associated with Ugandan refugees in the Equatorial Region of South Sudan. The problems were compounded by the closing of the borders and no practical land routes in or out of the area. My experience with UNHCR was very positive, and I consider them to be one of the best of the UN specialized agencies.


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Yemen ... Yemen Arab Republic (YAR)

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Yemen ... People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY)

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See more about Peter Burgess:
... a Peter Burgess overview
... about Peter Burgess corporate employment history

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