Continued from last week..
Those who honestly care for the poor should scrutinise how much the budget empowers the poor, how it will help the poor themselves. A poor country like Malawi cannot have field days that involve banquets. Instead of talking about sharing the fruits, we must start by sharing the efforts. Let us learn from those countries which have successfully pulled themselves out of the quagmire of poverty: The Tigers of the Far East.
In a book of essays titled Globalisation, and the challenge of a new century edited by Patrick O’Meara et al there is one titled Preparing for the 21st Century, Winners and Losers by Paul Kennedy.
On the second page of the essay, Kennedy writes that in the 1960, South Korea had per capita GNP exactly the same as Ghana ($230), whereas today, it is ten or twelve times more prosperous. Both possessed a predominantly agrarian economy and had endured a half century or more of colonial rule.
This comparison between Ghana and South Korea has been made in quite a few other discourses on developing countries. How Ghana lost in the race can perhaps be gleaned out of the account below, Kennedy tells us that though the countries of the Far East are not identical, they share the following common features.
First and perhaps the most important is they all give a lot of emphasis to education with its confusion tradition for competitive examinations and respect for learning.
The second, common characteristic is the prosperity to save. In his autobiography, Lee Kuan wrote that the Singaporeans were saving up to 25 percent of their incomes. This is rare amongst us Africans governments of the Tigers encouraged savings through fiscal measures and import controls, large amounts of low interest capital were made available for investments in manufacturing and commerce.
The fruits of economic prosperity were ploughed back into further expansion. With us African if in one or two years there has been a boom in the economy we assume that the country is now rich both as individuals and collectively as a nation we start engaging in conspicuous consumption. It was only when the economies of the Tigers had genuinely taken off as Rostlow would have put it, that the system began to change. Now, there was increased consumption, foreign purchases, capital investment in new homes was permitted. The motto was prosper first before you adopt the life of the p[prosperous.
The third feature was a strong political system. By western standards, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea were ruled by dictators. The state actively participated in economic management, no laissez faire. There was a variety of supports: export subsidies, training grants, protection from foreign competition, trade unions operated under restrictions, strikes were rare. New industries were earmarked for extra support especially those geared to exports.
The fourth feature was commitment to exports. Unlike India and Latin American countries, the Tigers were more devoted to export promotion than import substitution. Managers and workers were more devoted to export promotion than import substitution. Managers and workers were trained to produce what foreign consumers wanted. In Malawi, whenever the Kwacha depreciates, there is an outcry from people who prefer cheaper imports to cheaper exports, yet it is cheaper exports that enabled first Japan and later the Tigers to penetrate global markets.
Lastly, Kennedy refers to the fact that the Tigers had Japan nearby to inspire them. We do not need Japan near us. Reading and visiting Japan and the Tigers should afford us insight into how developmental states operate. n