Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Should Nations “Mature”?

I love to learn. I love to grow. That does not mean the learning process is enjoyable all out. Sometimes, the process is painful. As painful as it is, most of us only learn through mistakes. Some of these mistakes could be very costly – including losing a limb or ones job. I have not gone to those extremes, but I have had my own less than glamorous moments that really help me grow and mature.

I hope I am not alone on this one. So don’t front. I know you have received your mama’s whopping now and then. If not your pops or mom, mwalimu wa zamu had a feast on your butts or hands with a number canes. This could be considered some sort of abuse by today’s standards, but I went through it.

One of the ways that I learn is to read and reflect on what other have to say. As a matter of fact, I think the entire global education is based on others’ ideas and insights. Just think of Mr. Newton in Physics. I know the stuff he brought to light would have been discovered by some other crazy genius, but thus far he is attributed to the Laws of Motion. Just pay a visit to a bookstore or library; you will get what I mean. These joints are full of ideas – other people’s ideas to be precise, that are nicely put together into a binding called a book.

What’s my point? We learn through others.

So the other day I was going through Kitururu’s blog and I came across this particular post.I didn’t run out on the streets naked, but I surely got mentally stimulated. Essentially, Simon’s reflection was on whether at some point, just like babies, nations should mature and stop acting like infants.

I really don’t have any concrete answer to Simon’s challenge, but I think it is worth paying a serious attention to. See, I have personally been an advocate for developing countries, Tanzania in particular, taking responsibility for their state of affairs. I don’t believe that being on the West’s welfare recipient list will ever improve anything in Tanzania. That is due to the fact that Tanzania has received an astronomical amount of grants and financial aid in the past, but there is no evidence of improvement in the lives of ordinary, poverty-stricken Tanzanians.

I can see the spirit behind financial aid to developing countries, so I can’t say financial aid to poor countries is meaningless. In a spirit of brotherhood, financial aid is necessary to jumpstart a needy brother’s vitality. Nonetheless, we have to be honest with ourselves; aid flowing to Tanzania is not helping. If it does, it is helping to fatten the pockets of a few crooks. I believe that aid is just strengthening a beggar’s mentality and a growing justification for dependency.

It is true that countries do not develop at the same rate you would expect natural human beings to grow. Things take a while. As such 46 years of political independence for a country like Tanzania, in a wider perspective, is not much. I would equate that to a 7 or 10 years old kid. Despite the young age of Tanzania, relatively speaking, there should be signs of maturity. We would expect that a 10 years old kid to know how to read and write. You don’t expect a ten year old kid that stopped wetting their bed at four (4) years of age to revert back to those bad habits, would you? Then why Tanzania is going back to fiscal indiscipline year after year? My point is this: there are things that Tanzania should be doing right now, given her age. I don’t think a nation ought to be over 300 years old to understand that spending money on expensive cars while there are no good roads is stupid.

I know this will probably not go anywhere, but I will go ahead and suggest it anyway. Financial aid to developing countries should be phased out. These countries are out to mature and grow. At some point the West has to stop babysitting countries that are deliberating wetting their pants and crying like little kids. Tanzania is included on that list. Look, Uganda decided to grow and growing they are doing. So we can’t justify our low GDP while we have plenty of resources.

Tanzanian is growing a moustache, but we still insist on breastfeeding. That is a mega shame. So Mr. Simon Kitururu, I think you are right. At some point, age limit should be set on countries from receiving certain financial aid. Writing a blank check to Tanzania, for instance, is senseless. If that doesn’t stop, we’ll continue wetting our pants while we should be courting for marriage.

You think I am alone? Even the Tanzania former president, Mr. BWM, is getting the fact that African countries are ought to grow (though I wonder why he is providing such wonderful insights that he couldn’t fully implement while in power). Guess what? Even IMF is starting to think that Tanzania should come of age.

What do you think?


Mbwana said...

We must not forget that strong friends and parental figures will help us grow (to use your growing up analogy)- just as you have learned and developed from others Metty.
I feel Tanzania needs strong partners to prosper, foreign help restated in areas such as improving trade relations, access to technology, education and ideas that will help us improve our productivity ARE very important. I think systems to improve accountability, will give us the capacity to "absorb" aid better (I see it as a leaky bucket that needs to plugged). The "let's do it ourselves with no help "mentality conjures up too many images of closed borders and socialism a la Nyerere days- which helps no one. And I'd like to clarify this for the readers.
Do you know how much help Tanzania currently receives from NGOs in healthcare, education, the fight against HIV? To suddenly turnoff aid like a tap would be disastrous. The bucket may be leaky (aid money linning people's pockets), but we cannot just suddenly turn it off- we need to be practical about this.
Some things take huge amounts of capital- do you really think Tanzania can afford airports, seaports, roads, IT systems, micro-clinics, hospitals all under its own budget right now? We needs these things, and we will need to borrow money to invest to get them to allow us to grow- maybe not loans and aid under the old structural reform terms that the IMF & World bank put us under which has many would admit were not perfect, but under conditions that let us prosper and give us a chance- just because a country borrows, it does not mean it has not grown up. The US treasury is borrowing trillions of dollars from China as we speak and many would consider the US as a "grown up" nation (although too much of this can be bad- as we are now possibly seeing).
Metty, my point is this:
a) Fix the leaky bucket, it will allow us to absorb aid and put it to work. Europe was reconstructed pretty successfully after world war 2 under the marshall loan plan- we should be able to do this when the leaky bucket is plugged through any efforts to improve accountability and ensure people join the Govt under positions of responsibility for the right reasons- think about it, a policeman's main motive to join the force is to collect bribes to feed his family out of survival, not to protect wannanchi- it can start from the smallest of things by improving education and productivity to that this situation does not arise and people join the police force for because they have enough salary and are motivated to do their job... China & India have focused heavily on education for decades- now those 2 countries will make up a clear majority of the English speaking populations outside the US, their growth rates are spectacular, despite terrible infrastructures, and a largely socialist Govt in China.
b) We need outside help, and we need to access trade to earn our way out of poverty- this is line with your post, but I do think we still need some sort of capital (call it aid) for ideas, technology, medicines to stop our children from dying of AIDS- were is this capital? It is certainly not in sitting home, but there is plenty of it outside both east and west that can be put to good use.

Sam GM said...

I totally agree with both of you Metty and Mbwana though you both come from different angle of perspective and argument.

Metty, it is no doubt that the country needs to grow and if possible ensuring sustenance in its budget and expenditures. This means break up from the bad tradition of irresponsibility and unaccountability. We really need to focus and concentrate on better way to utilize these aids responsibly and not otherwise. The country needs to break from the norms of kulindana when people mess up every efforts of our well wishers. Just remember great opportunities come with great responsibilities.

Mbwana, I could not concur with you more, it is going to be more utopian if for a second we just abruptly cut the hand that feeds us. What might be the initial remedy into critically building a responsible society is to fix the leakage. This can only be done by the great philosophy that “ukitaka kumuuwa nyani, usimtazame usoni” Regardless of your position, social status or even affiliation, every one should be made responsible right, left and center discipline should be handled down just like a very sharp two sided sword. No exceptions and excuses. We have been marching back and forth in the same situation for far too long and it is high time that we move forward.

Jaduong Metty said...

It would obviously ridiculous to just cut off aid for ailing developing countries like Tanzania. That is why I specifically suggested phasing out the aid. I am not suggesting abruptly doing that, but gradually.

I agree with you that aid is needed, but the question is, for how long?

I like the "ukitaka kumuua nyani" thing. It seems like everybody in the leadership rank is more focused on poking a hole in the government buckets. I guess that's where Mbwana's call for dealing with a leaky bucket comes in.

Neverthess, I still think that being on the western welfare list will hurt us in the long run. I like aid in the short run, but not on a long run.