Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Taking development to rural areas
By Editor
Thu 30 Jan. 2014, 14:00 CAT

Vice-President Dr Guy Scott is saying that taking development to rural areas is an uphill struggle. This is true. Our economy is not providing basic needs to our people, especially those in the rural areas.

Many of our rural dwellers go without medical attention because there are no adequate facilities in their vicinity. Some of our rural children go without education because there are no schools nearby.

Why is this so? The main cause is the waste of public funds. Every kwacha or ngwee misspent is a kwacha or ngwee taken away from our rural poor.

Our economy is influenced by external factors in the world market where we have little or no influence. However, it depends even more on internal factors, which we do control. Corruption, embezzlement, fraud and outright theft are things that we hear every day, in the public and private spheres, in all parts of our society, high and low.

Dishonesty is destroying us and greatly reducing our capacity to provide for the rural poor and get them out of abject poverty. This country is rich and blessed with resources which hard work can develop for the benefit of all: there is no blessing in ill-gotten gains. Only what people have worked for and earned by their own honest effort will make them prosper in the long run.

People live beyond their means; then they have to make shortcuts to maintain their lavish lifestyle, which is not really supported by earned income, and keep this 'house of cards' from collapsing.
Everybody wants an even greater share in the national cake; too few make a genuine contribution to the enlargement of this cake.

As a result, a few get even richer, while the majority, especially the rural poor, get ever poorer in real terms. This leads to social tension and may eventually even bring about strife.

We elbow and push each other out of the way in the general scramble for a share of this cake that is not meaningfully increasing in size and value. Prosperity thus achieved will never be secure and always in danger from those fallen by the wayside and envious of our 'luck'.
We must progress and prosper all of us in solidarity. There must be genuine growth, which benefits all, especially the rural poor and the disadvantaged.

We must restore among our people once more the virtue of honesty everywhere: when we travel on buses and on the marketplace, in shops and on the factory floor, in business dealings and in public administration, in doctors' surgeries and in hospitals, in the media and in politics, and at election time. We must stop demanding bribes and stop paying bribes, whether as a vendor, a driver, a businessman, a police officer, banker or politician.

To tackle our rural poverty meaningfully, we need to store the moral health of our nation. We need to create more wealth and be productive. For that, we need peace and a chance of everybody to make an honest living.

Every citizen of this country, according to our Constitution and our Christian teaching, is infinitely precious. And yet we have some of our people, our fellow citizens living like rats. How can we live with these contradiction and at the same time profess to be Christians, democrats, revolutionaries, humane and kindhearted?

We are not just the 'masses' manipulated by cynical election campaign teams in the battle for votes, we are not just material fed into our economic machinery, we are not just cannon fodder sacrificed by leaders for political convenience. Every citizen of this country, young and old, is infinitely precious.

We have been taught that the Christian commitment to the realisation of the right to an adequate standard of living for every human being is built upon the concept that Christ is in those who are poor and have no shelter, food and clothing. When these people go hungry and suffer, Christ suffers as well.

As we have stated before, the poverty our rural people have to endure are a result of human agency. At the heart of every economic system lies human needs, human abilities and human decisions, and it is the choices we make in addressing those needs, sharing those abilities, and making those decisions, that determine the justice or injustice of economic system. The more powerful our economic position, the greater our freedom of choice, with the poor and the marginalised having very little effective choice in their economic decisions. And this is where the state comes in to protect their interests and ensure their progress and upliftment by any appropriate means. Where the individuals cannot provide for themselves, the state should come in.
It is for this reason that the efforts the government is making in trying to establish an industrial development corporation deserve support.

There is thus a moral quality about an economy, a quality which has its roots in the morally correct or incorrect choices by people; and it is the moral quality of the economy that enables us to make judgements about whether or not it is a just economy.

Truly, taking development to our rural areas is an uphill struggle. But this is something we can overcome and change; it is an uphill struggle we have to conquer and triumph over. The idea of bringing about a change in the economic system, or an adjustment in the way it is run, or simply of dealing with its negative consequences, may seem impossible. But it's not something beyond us, something we cannot change.

And we shouldn't try to transfer our responsibility to improving the lives of our people, especially the rural poor, to certain abstract concepts, and pretend that it is these concepts rather than ourselves that are accountable for the way the economy works. We say this because behind these various concepts lie human actions and decisions, real economic choices made by all of us. Yes, changing the lives of our people, especially our rural poor, is an uphill struggle. But it is not a struggle we can abandon. We have a moral responsibility to our brothers and sisters who are wallowing in abject poverty. We cannot abandon our moral responsibilities to them even when it is difficult to fulfil them, even when it is an uphill struggle to free them from the shackles of poverty.

Every human being of goodwill must be committed to changing the social and economic order that is cruelly unjust. Most of our people, especially in rural areas, today find themselves in a state of poverty, the injustice of which cries to heaven for vengeance. The alienated masses in our rural areas are increasing at an accelerated rate. Changes must be made; present conditions must be improved. The present situation calls for more radical changes. This poverty situation, we feel, is the product of unjust socio-economic structures.

To change this situation, we also have to change ourselves. We are the products of a society that has taught us to look coldly on the impoverished plight of our brothers and sisters, especially those in rural areas. We therefore call upon all persons of goodwill in our homeland to cooperate in truth, justice and love in transforming the lives of our people, especially the rural poor, in bringing about the dawn of a new era for them. United in difficulties and hopes, we can make the needed changes in the lives of our people.

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