30.01.2004 Feature Article

HIPC, Poverty And Development

HIPC, Poverty And Development
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Ricardo used the word Political Economy in the 19th century to describe his writings on the science of economics-ever since then economics and science have been treated as separate discipline.

And for any nation to move out of poverty (or HIPC), its politicians and policies must first and foremost objectively focus on what is i.e. economics –rather than on what ought to be i.e. politics. Because, politics subjectively focuses on what ought to be –rather than what is. It is why economics is referred to as a positive science and politics normative.

Basically what this means is that HIPC countries whose poverty level rises after pursuing and implementing the so-called HIPC or Poverty Reduction Strategies are focusing much on politics and political expediency–rather than economics. And so:

Are still not implementing the right economic policies

Or are implementing the right policies wrongly

And must stop implementing, or refine these policies very fast. The speed with which economics policy turnaround takes place is what separates developed, wealthy nations from under developed, HIPC ones.

In fact most of the economic policies now being implemented in Africa, are policies that could be proven – have consistently failed to alleviate poverty over 20yrs ago. A typical example is the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) and its poverty reduction precedents.

The GPRS has been written, refined, edited, re-edited, polished, re-polished, blue cover, white cover, volume I, volume II etc.

But no contest! It is difficult to appreciably alleviate poverty or grow an economy @7% in a country undergoing a wholesale foreign exchange (i.e. depreciation) and trade liberalization like that of Ghana. It goes without saying that Ghana’s per capita income which stands between $300-$355 now. Instead of growing to $1000 by the year 2010 as envisaged in the GPRS, is likely to fall below $300.And rather raise its poverty level by 2010.

Yet who cares? Because in Africa political parties and politicians have their pet journalist, pet economist and spin-doctors, most of who capitalize on the ignorance and illiteracy of the African poor-to miss politics and economics. And the degree to which economics has been flavored with politics has turned a rather naturally endowed continent, into a rather hopeless continent with cancerous problems.

The problem is partly with the culture of Africa and Africans. A culture, which states: q That the African politician, assemblyman, pastor and elder cannot be objectively contested. Because he knows all that is good for his country and people during is tenure of office. q That immediate-previous government has put the economy in so bad a shape that it would take a little while for the poor to have relief. q That the poor must be patient, sacrifice and tighten his belt for macroeconomic stability and prosperous economic take off-whilst the politician, his wife, children and girlfriends grow fat and fresh. KW-SEASEM

About 26 years ago the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) enjoys monopoly over radio news. And people have to subscribe to their radio set like telephone of today. You pay-they climb the pole, fix it and bring you the bills. And with black and white TV, even the fortunate ones would have to bath or pound fufu before being given the permission to watch that of their neighbors. And so information and economic data is mostly the preserve of the politician, rich and a few educated ones in the core cities.

26yrs later, radio stations and newspapers are all over Africa–but most Africans are still under-informed, misinformed or uninformed. And so politicians could still not be held accountable for their leadership positions.

The reason: Africa’s poor still lives in the past. No toilet. No ‘light’. No TV .No hospital .No computer. No roads. No information. And the African politician also lives in Ricardo’s pre-19th century (1800-1901) world. No economics. No statistics. No Planning. No management. No sacrifice. Only subjective politics.

20yrs ago, Togo and Togolese are economically better off-than they are today 20yrs ago, Nigeria and Nigerians are economically better off than they are today 20yrs ago, Liberia and Liberians are economically better off than they are today 20yrs ago Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans are economically better off than they are today etc.

But there is one economic miracle that researchers the world over still marveled at. And that is: as poverty level rises (or per capita income falls) in Africa-the ratio of expensive cars per 100 cars (say those above the $40,000) on Africa’s dirty and traffic congested streets, in relation to other higher income countries keeps rising.

And it is why the USA Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) keeps sending assistance to these African countries, the positions of these countries on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) gets worse. And financial connoisseurs coin words like HIPC for them.

23 out of the 27 HIPC countries are from Africa. But that is not even the nightmare of Financiers. But, that the conditions in most of these HIPC countries are moving from bad to worse. Because most of these HIPCsians are still pursuing their pre-HIPC economic agenda’s, economic politicization and project mismanagement. Projects in most these HIPC countries are shoddy and inflated by around 250% instead of the 10-15% allowed in project management. And so, HIPC social amenities like toilets, gutters etc. are fast decaying whilst those put up in colonial and early independence days still stand solid.

At independence,most Africans have 2 legs,2 hands Today some have their hands amputated

At independence, mounted police chase truants to go to school for free Today, the African poor voluntarily drops out-because he cannot pay the school fees

At independence, the few who left our shores, left for school Today the embassies are full with visa beggars who want to go and mop, clean mortuaries etc

At independence, we queue not to go to neat public toilets Today we have to queue at no 18 at Kwashieman, La, Nima, Kaneshie etc dirty public toilet every morning

At independence, one lady one boyfriend Today, one lady 12 boyfriends, one man 12 girlfriends

At independence privatization and re-colonization is a no-discuss topic Today privatization and re-colonization could be discussed in the African development agenda.

And this is an indictment for the basic reason for our independence. A reason based on ones deep love and sacrifice for his country and neighbor-as oneself.

It is the sharp rise in urban poverty and its impact on peri-urban and rural community that dazes the NDC out of power. And it is the same factors that could send the ruling NPP party packing this year. A CATCH-22 ELECTION YEAR INDEED. Nsiah Adjei Current Solutions 1st Floor ,Mobil Dansoman [email protected]

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