March 3, 2015 By Dr. Michael N. Wundah, London, UK (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Historically Ancient Greece was known for its Ancient civilisation and how it impacted on the Romans and the rest of the world. Great Greek educators including the sophists, Plato and Socrates to name a few, left their marks on the history of philosophy and education. Today, the celebrated Olympic Games and priceless medals which athletes, the world over, hold dear to their hearts, had their origin in the Ancient Greek capital Athens.
Unfortunately, these great stories of Greece’s historic cultures, treasures and pride to behold, are threatened by the bizarre and debilitating effects of debts, bailouts, and job cuts. But I trust the fighting spirit of the Greeks, especially when what they hold dear to their heart is threatened.
It is about their national pride and dignity. And in an amazing elections, few months ago, they came fighting back, and elected an Anti-austerity government. The new government has vowed to challenge the philosophy and logic of the EU austerity project. Hence the Greek Minister of Finance, Yanis Varoufakis is on collision course with his counterparts in the Eurozone.
The political earthquake that has stemmed from the economic crisis in Greece is a virus of a completely different kind set to split the European Union, especially the states in the Eurozone that share the single currency. The UK reckons that the Greek conundrum requires skilful handling.
Of course economic viruses kill indiscriminately. In faraway Scotland, the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Nicolas Sturgeon, MP, in her review of the wider impact of austerity, recently made a scaling attack on the architects of the policy.
Among other things, Nicolas Sturgeon lambasted EU governments for their drastic and uncompassionate deficits reduction policies. She sustained that their policies have failed categorically and comprehensively at the expense of the poor.
Quoting a recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report, she revealed that the UK is the eighth most Unequal Developed Country in the world. To back up the OECD claim, she upheld that the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) is worried that by the year 2020, UK households, especially those in the low income range will incur debts to the tune of 184%.
Still adamant that the policy is working, the European Central Bank (ECB) will flood the Eurozone by printing £60million every month from next month in March and April. Are there any adverse effects? Some seasoned economists argue that the policy will trigger massive inflation and might drift the European, and by extension world economy into further negative territory. And the effects will reverberate around the world. But the UK might dismiss the criticism as scaremongering after all, its consumer price index has fallen to the lowest level in history. It is now 0.3%. Doe that signal a complete economic recovery and growth? Have your say!
Don’t forget, the so-called economic recovery in UK, US and elsewhere has been due to falling oil prices at the expense the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). It is a windfall consumers are enjoying relatively, all over the world. But economists say this windfall might not last for long, let alone forever. Besides, real economic recovery depends on sustainable performance at home and by implications, on the engines of growth elsewhere in the world.
The World Economic Forum and the Africa Union summits converged on some important interrelated themes. The themes are global security and world economic recovery. In particular the menace of Boko Haram, Ebola epidemic, and related matters dominated the African summit. Thankfully, the Ebola epidemic has begun subsiding in the three affected countries, but there is more to be done.
The scourge of Boko Haram has forced the Nigeria Electoral Commission to set new dates for March and April respectively. In addition, there are worrying signs in the security community that if the militants are not stopped, they might impact the entire region. It is hard to believe that tens of thousands of people from Africa’s wealthiest country have sought refuge in neighbouring Cameroon.
Few days ago, the Republic of Niger’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to contribute to a Regional Force, billed to take on Boko Haram. But it has not gone down well with the ultra-nationalists in Nigeria and some around the world. Their contention is that the very idea of importing foreign troops to fight against an internal military threat, is a dent on the prestige and credibility of one of Africa’s largest and bravest national armies.
But it is educative to note that this position is not as strong as the imperative that urges the total elimination of Boko Haram within and without Nigeria. Unless this is achieved soonest, it will become a regional security virus. Any force that accomplishes the job successfully, once and for all, is all that matters.
Besides, once upon a time, the Nigerian dominated Economic Community Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) registered military successes in both Liberia and Sierra Leone, for which they will be ever remembered.
On the political front, the realists argue that the political will to degrade and defeat Boko Haram has been rather lukewarm. Also the postponement of the elections leaves a bad taste for some critics. They claim that the sudden postponement has an unexplainable political undertone. Having said that, conflicts and national elections have their peculiarities.
What is indisputable is this. There is more to the Boko Haram threats than the daily bread and butter politics discussed on the streets of Nigeria and beyond. Whoever emerges victorious as the next president of Nigeria, must muster concerted national efforts in order to put the Boko Haram threats to bed. Mind you, even though it is a national issue, it has unpredictable regional implications.
Africa’s ailing economy is a make or break phenomenon. There are relatively encouraging signs of economic growth in some places, including Senegal, Rwanda and Ghana. The Sierra Leone economy showed signs of economic growth prior to the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic. We pray it recovers from the menace of Ebola and revive the economy.
My reservation, like most people, more enlightened than me, is the forecast that Africa is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. This euphoria should be treated cautiously. Of course economic growth in the continent is achievable, but not soon. There are spellbound political and socioeconomic errors which Africa and her partners need to put right in order to accomplish this long awaited dream.
Some economists and social planners argue that fast economic growth requires structural reforms and diversification. They are the lubricants for economic development in the continent. Even in Senegal and Ghana, that are showing relative growth, they fall short of comprehensive structural reform, according to IMF and World Bank.
Christine Largarde, the IMF boss was in the Senegalese capital Dakar recently to render more economic development aid. In her own words, she intimated journalists and President Marcky Sall’s government. ‘I am here to facilitate substantial structural reforms that will nurse the economy in order to grow sustainably.’
I am constrained to ask these questions as throwbacks at the Forecasters and the power houses in the west. For decades since Westphalia, Africa has depended more on cash crops and mineral resources as engines of economic development. Not only that, the enduring global dimensions are weighted heavily against Africa. They include the menaces of unequal trade, punitive, raw resource and related extractions. For ages, these factors have hampered not cured the economy.
In the wisdom and spirit of one of Bill Clinton’s classic sound bites, I ask these questions. Is Africa’s economy stupid? Or, is it the case that the forecasters, strategists, think tanks, and economic experts are simply not saying the truth?
Even after the painstaking makeovers of industrialisation, the economies of Europe and America took decades to pick up and grow in real terms. Besides, forecasts for economic recovery and growth, like any theory, is not an end in itself, but means to an end, and such means, like an unknown route, must be carefully mapped. Believably speaking, based on decades of concrete evidence that route has not been comprehensively mapped yet.
The claims of the forecasters sound illogical, unsound and patronising, to say the least. Segments of service economy, pitched here and there, without a very strong manufacturing base sustained by modern industrialisation skills and knowhow! These factors are hardly the ideal engines, drivers of fast economic growth anywhere on planet earth.
To exacerbate the problems, the continent suffers from massive capital flights, brain drains, punitive tax frauds, corruption and massive tax avoidance in concert with shady deals by big western businesses. To reiterate, these are not promising catalysts. They are neither accurate measurements, nor the ideal incentives for a dramatic, massive, economic growth in Africa.
I know you may want to counter my arguments and claims, by citing the Malaysian and Singaporean development modules that worked the economic miracles for them without acquiring debts from the World Bank, IMF, or the historic Marshal Plan. But the fallacies of such a comparison are glaring. These modules are not contemporaneous with Africa’s, am I right or wrong?
Africa is also aware that since she acquired political autonomy, the problems of the continent have emerged from diverse and complex sources, most of them from the very former colonial masters, capitalist west. So why should Africa fall easily for such flimsy patronising stunt? In other words, the stubborn problems of this continent should be understood in the filters and lenses of the big issues found in her gloomy, colonial past (nuances of the underbellies of realpolitik).
It is amazing how the West continues to wash their hands clean, and blame Africa for its chronic, internal political, social and economic woes. They cite bribery and corruption in Africa as the main stems of the continued economic degradation as if the failures in the continent have absolutely nothing to do with them.
Hang on my dear! The Chair of the Parliamentary Publics Accounts Committee, Margret Hodge (Labour MP) made a shocking revelation recently. It is the massive tax avoidance saga. Under the shady scheme, some western companies connived with their rich customers to abuse the tax system of the largest economies in the world, to which Africa’s economy is tied. So, how on earth can Africa be convinced that it is the fastest growing economy in the world? You must be on another planet, I guess!