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Reparations for colonialism and the complicated business of compensations

How does one calculate reparations? Who decides how the money will be spent? If it is to be distributed, who will get how much - and as cash, or in some other form - wonders T N Ninan

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Colonialism | Weekend Ruminations | Slavery

T N Ninan 

T N Ninan

A year ago, Germany agreed to pay Namibia for what the European country agreed was colonial genocide. The amount involved was pitifully small (1.1 billion euros, spread over 30 years, to be spent on developmental projects), and the word “reparations” was avoided. The result of this compromise was strong opposition within Namibia, and a stalled agreement. Separately, the American city of Evanston in Illinois state began last year to pay an eventual total of $10 million in reparations to a select few of its 12,000-strong African-American population, money that would help with housing as compensation for discriminatory housing policies of the past. Critics say this too is much too little. Meanwhile, Joe Biden during his election campaign had supported creating a commission on reparations to African-Americans. Pressure groups are now asking him to deliver, but legislation on the subject is unlikely to pass.

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First Published: Fri, May 13 2022. 19:30 IST
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