Patrons of poverty – A review (2)

 Continued from yesterday
THE writer states also that Africans literarily have a hand in the creation of their own problems; what with the notoriety of the post-colonial ruling class who not only plunder the treasury but also engage in and uphold financial profligacy in the face of the continent’s debt burden. This is in addition to the intolerable illegitimate means of power struggle which often leads to social violence and contributes to an unstable polity. The writer notes that the post-colonial elite attaining position of power through complicity of and their serving the neo-colonial interests of the West is the primary key to understanding why Africa has remained impoverished.

In the third chapter, the writer examines the emergence, role and functions of the development agencies set up by the west to spearhead their economic assistance to laggard economies. The IMF and the World Bank agencies popularly called the Bretton Wood Institutions were created first for the purpose of stabilising and helping the European economy recuperate after World War II for the reason that “… and when single nations and small groups of nations attempt by special and different regulations of the foreign exchanges to gain trade advantages, the result is instability, a reduced volume of foreign trade, and damage to the national economies. This course of action is likely to lead to economic warfare and to endanger the world’s peace”.

Thus, it is stated that the initial manifest function or the altruism of the Bretton Woods system notwithstanding, “these institutions have not been set up for the interest of the poor countries but rather as mechanisms of control by the very rich countries – to beat them into line”. The author notes that in the search for a way out of the woods, the leaders of these economies have had to resort to these same past colonisers who had milked them dry of all sources of development who then refer them to these agencies which appear neutral but are actually under their control dictating terms of operation and deciding on policies and conditionalities that are favourable to their own economy while leaving the borrower in a situation worse than before acquiring the loan, thus creating more room for greater economic hegemony by the west.

Chapter Four deals with the specific efforts that are outlined by the west as effectual to solving Africa’s economic problems. Thinking erroneously that the key to economic success in developing countries is three things: Macro-stability, liberalisation (lowering tariff barriers and market deregulation) and privatisation…. and which the international economic agencies are asked to promote. First, the modernisation approach which the writer notes does not consider the imbalances and developmental disparities between the west and the developing nations, especially in the area of take-offs. This results in policies and efforts which skew off the intended path of economic recovery.

Next is the Washington Consensus which mainly recommends policies that are utilised in and transferred from the western world. The writer points out the ineffectiveness of such because the policies that do not take into consideration the peculiarities of the African situation; a continent still struggling to catch up with the modernity of the western world, being called upon to suddenly strictly enforce and adhere to the policy provisions and mode of operation that are practised in that world. This in areas like fiscal deficits, tax reform, interest rate, the exchange rate, trade policy, foreign direct investment, privatisation, deregulation and property rights.

The writer stoutly objects to these, and latterly, the sneak through the back stratagem termed Mission Creep which he says were never proposed for the good of developing countries but were meant to expand and entrench the development gap between the rich global North and the poor South and make the continent surrender sovereignty and economic assets to foreign interest with the promise of attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) and achieving current account balance which nonetheless seems elusive. This, to him, is a form of tele-guiding through transferred policies with the aim of maintaining and perpetuating financial hegemony.

In Chapter Five, the writer states that Africa has not been sitting arms akimbo, watching as a stranger while outsiders tackle her problems, as many are wont to think. In fact, he outlines previous steps taken by Africans themselves to create a path for economic development for the continent – a sort of home-grown effort. Stating the repeated attempts which have been either quashed by western economic powers through the aforementioned economic developmental agencies or given no support, he cites and calls for a reconsideration of one very laudable and relevance blueprint, The Lagos Plan of Action (LPA), an initiative by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1980, which he deems profoundly insightful and relevant in the key areas of food and agriculture, industry, natural resources, human resources development and utilisation, science and technology, transport and communication, trade and finance measures to build up and strengthening of economic and technical cooperation, including creation of new institutions and strengthening of existing ones, environment and development, energy, women and development, development planning, statistics and population.

Chapter Six concludes the book in what is a summary of the whole content which is a discourse on the dialectics of economic and political power-play among nations. Interestingly, Akhaine suggests the way forward, stating categorically that working on and providing home-grown solution to Africa’s problems with a view to upgrading the level of her wealth to suit her needs, especially by building her base of capital good and knowing that ultimately, help is never going to come from outside but from within, would be the panacea to a stumped economic development.

Stylistically, this work is an advanced line of reasoning, quite vast, extensive and well researched. In a plain, straightforward, down to earth persuasive tone and simple diction punctuated with economics and political registers (found mainly in references) and as dictated by the topic at hand, the dialectics of the advanced lines of argument are brought down to common understanding so that the flow of the argument becomes easily comprehensible, so does the cross-referencing provide a unified understanding. A huge recommendation for any scholar who needs to have a fair knowledge and account of how Africa landed into the current socio-economic milieu and the right path it should thread away from the forage for help it has so far done in foreign fields.

•Otomewo is the Editorial Director of The Constitution, Journal of Constitutional Development. The book, Patrons of Poverty, will be publicly presented today, June 30, in Lagos.

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