Thursday, February 15, 2007

Economic growth

Economic growth
By Trywell Kalusopa
Thursday February 15, 2007 [02:00]

Finance minister, Magande is an orthodox economist simply drunk with orthodox micro and macro economic statistics and so in that context he has indeed arrived! But most Zambians will agree that they haven't arrived and are a long way on the dust narrow road to basic human survival and dignity. The facts and figures as focused in the Yellow Book and the economic philosophy guiding these are flawed in as far as defeating poverty is concerned!

Sooner rather than later even those that went on anthills to praise this year's budget will be reeling in disappointment! Economic statistics-based micro economic indicators do not remove us from poverty and grime. One scholar, Ronald H. Coase, had this to say about orthodox economic orientation as a driving force to development: "Orthodox Economics, over the years, has become more and more abstract and divorced from events in the real world.

Economists, by and large, do not study the working of the actual economic system. They theorise about it." I am also tempted to quote what Jahan, Selim (2000) had to say regarding economic growth and human development at a conference hosted by the St. Mary's University, Institute for International Development, Halifax, Canada and also echoed earlier and many times more by the UNDP: Economic growth is necessary but insufficient for human development. And the quality if growth, not just its quantity is crucial for human well-being.

Growth as advocated by Magande (mine) can actually be jobless, rather than job creating, ruthless, rather that poverty reducing; voiceless, rather participatory; rootless rather culturally enshrined and futureless, rather that environmentally friendly. Thus, growth that is jobless, ruthless, voiceless, rootless and futureless is not conducive to human development. This is the growth that Magande is espousing.

This is not to say that economic growth is a bad thing but growth is worthless if based on foggy economic fundamentals and not anchored on a workable indigenous drive or vision. In effect, such statistics will simply remain "textbook" wish lists! Economic growth that does not bring social benefits such as the improvement of the welfare of society; promotion of ownership of private enterprises by nationals; creation of a property-owning middle class and decent employment in the economy is basically founded on crass capitalist ideology of exploitation. Economic growth that only enhances the greedy extraction of our mineral resources and consolidates a monolithic economic enclave, riddled with distortions represented in false statistics, while failing to produce real gains in the expansion of job opportunities, is treacherous to any political covenant with the people.

Economic growth bank-rolled on global capital that yearns to reduce social responsibility of the state, remove provision of services to the poor, deepen loss of the state leverage on social security, proliferate casualisation of employment and perpetuate the loss of collective rights of labour whilst quickening the pace of creation of private monopolies, is contemptuous to the national development needs of our people. Economic growth through foreign investment based on global injustice and driven by globalisation is not sustainable. Such growth only mutilates the national economy and its people to the core of their basic survival. It places a nation as pawns in this brutal global equation. We should thus resist this philosophy based on wholesale neo-liberalism and its naked drive to promote unfettered markets.

Instead of fervently promoting economic growth in the context of market-driven approaches, I believe there is need to promote human-centered strategies based on the prioritisation of basic human needs in our country. Instead of being limited, the role of the state should be enhanced to counter capitalist excesses. Thus, an inclusive path to development, through wealth redistribution and empowerment, is a better approach to one that narrowly focuses on growth through economic reforms such as privatisation and foreign direct investment. I also believe in an economic strategy with an increasing rather than the current diminishing returns to social labour.

It is no longer a contention world over that markets have not been known to break the vicious cycle of poverty. We should advocate a development strategy with a politically governed redistribution of the wealth and opportunities to our citizens. We need to develop a common and actionable strategy as a country so that we are able to engage strategically with other partners in development for the common good of the people. This is the way to go rather than continue to chorus about economic growth based on Chinese investment while "our" so called Fifth National Development Plan gathers dust in government offices.

As this happens, our politicians should not be allowed to continue abusing the political covenant with the people through their usual boisterous rhetoric on economic growth! It is not that we do not have a choice as a country; we do have a choice, a human-centered choice to national development! And that should have been reflected in the depth of facts and figures in our budget!

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At 10:49 AM , Blogger MrK said...

What is needed is someone who understands business, not economics.


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