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The East African : November 25th 2013
20 The EastAfrican OPINION NOVEMBER 23-29,2013 Dictato≥ship is c≥eeping back, in plain sight of the Constitution the regimes were founded. In all of these cases, individuals With its spirit hobbled, society limps along, motivated by greed and fear.” Tee Ngugi D ictatorship, wherever it occurs, is characterised by anti-intellectualism and sycophancy. The objectives of intellectualism and dictatorship are mutually opposed, for while the one seeks to expand knowledge and advance reasoning for the benefit of the common good, the other endeavours to limit knowledge and restrict reasoning in order to perpetuate itself. Thus, in 15th century Europe, the powerful Catholic church would force Galileo to recant scientific observations that were undermining the church’s view of the world by which it maintained its privileged position. Later, various regimes — ranging from the Nazis to the Soviets — would attempt to banish all knowledge that contradicted their view of the world, and brutally punish individuals whose thinking challenged the untruths on which who found it unconscionable to restrict knowledge and reason had to escape into exile to avoid horrible deaths, some of the most famous exiles being Albert Einstein and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Restricting knowledge and rea- son in any society is always detrimental on two levels. First, there is a dearth of independent and innovative thought. Therefore, creativity dies, technological innovation in fields such as agriculture and communication stagnates, and debate on alternative socio-economic organisation becomes heretical. The result is a backward soci- ety characterised by the existence of a tiny, powerful and fabulously wealthy elite and an impoverished majority. Life for this majority is reduced to a painful and absurd pantomime, harshly directed and controlled by an increasingly capricious, rapacious and paranoid governing elite. Tribalism thrives, as communi- ties point to each other as the cause of their condition. Dissent — even within families — is expressed by machetes and clubs. Men hide their emasculated manhood by advocating and practising violent notions of masculinity based on outdated customs. But there is, perhaps, an even greater societal cost. As literary and artistic spaces become restrict- ed, society is no longer able to reimagine and, therefore, reinvent itself to meet new challenges. Imagination and reinvention distinguish humans from apes, so the process taking place is really one of dehumanisation. With its spirit hobbled, society limps along, motivated by base instincts such as selfishness, greed and fear. Do you recognise these traits in Kenya under Kanu ? As the dictatorship thrives, syco- phancy becomes a way of measuring loyalty and ferreting out for punishment those perceived to be disloyal to the regime. So even as genuine imagination and creativity are restricted, the art of praise-singing is promoted, with financial benefit accruing to those who perform it well. Those whose loyalty is suspect are hounded out of jobs, have their livelihoods destroyed, are tortured or jailed, or even sometimes killed. So a society whose spirit is already broken, is further reduced to thoughtless cheerleaders, inventing increasingly shocking ways of glorifying the powers that be. In Kenya, the president was ex- alted variously as Mtukufu, the Prince of Peace, a Daniel Come to Judgment, etc. One politician offered to have the remaining years of his life added to the lifespan of the president. By the time Kanu was defeated in 2002, a once-proud country, so promising at Independence, had been reduced to a pitiable kleptocracy wracked by ethnic violence, a society in which greed, selfishness and apathy had been substituted for honesty, dedication and responsibility. With all of the above in mind, re- flect on the following recent events: The call by ruling-party politicians for people deemed to have given evidence to the ICC to be removed from their government jobs; the improbably low intellectual value of parliamentary debates; the increasing sense that parliament has become alternately a government PR firm or a cheerleading institution; Under Kanu, the president was exalted as Mtukufu, the Prince of Peace, etc. One politician offered to have the remaining years of his life added to his lifespan the draconian media Bill passed by parliament; the Inspector-General of Police warning that the media was inciting citizens against the government; the summoning of two journalists by police; legislation to cripple the finances of NGOs deemed to be oppositional to government; the gunfight over rights to the Dandora refuse dump, which pointed to crippling levels of poverty and violence; chants of “shetani ashindwe” instead of debate; cosiness with dictatorial regimes, etc. Question: Is Kanuism creeping back in plain sight of the Constitution? Tee Ngugi is a social and political commentato≥ based in Nai≥obi in Tunisia, civil unrest and a military coup in Egypt, terrorist attacks in Yemen, an institutional vacuum in Libya, and civil war in Syria have contributed to a sharp fall in investment, tourism, exports, and GDP growth, aggravating macroeconomic imbalances. For example, Egypt’s fiscal deficit now stands at 14 per cent of GDP, with public debt approaching 100 per cent of GDP. Worse, most of the Arab Spring countries lack buffers to withstand further economic shocks. But such shocks are likely, given that, beyond the removal of individual autocratic leaders, few of the problems that fuelled the uprisings have been addressed. Indeed, unemployment is higher today than in 2010. Untargeted fuel subsidies and the public-sector wage bill have increased, crowding out much-needed public investment and relief to poor families, while impeding the development of a dynamic and competitive private sector and limiting new firms’ access to finance. Meanwhile, publicservice delivery has deteriorated. Moreover, the political situation remains unsettled, with transitional or interim governments, unfinished constitutions, and uncertain timetables for future elections. In short, the Arab world’s transition countries are much more vulnerable today than they A≥ab Sp≥ing followed by summe≥ of devastation T he turmoil following the Arab Spring uprisings has all but decimated the affected countries’ economies. Political assassinations and polarisation The transition countries are much more vulnerable today than they were at the height of the protests in 2011.” E≥ik Be≥glof, Shanta Deva≥ajan were at the height of the protests in 2011. Against this background, an external shock could bring these fragile economies to a sudden stop, leading to devastating poverty and hardship. Even if governments managed to restore macroeconomic balance gradually, the structural problems of high unemployment, poor investment climates, and inadequate provision of public services would very likely remain unaddressed. Growth would be insufficient to create jobs An external shock could bring these fragile economies to a sudden stop, leading to devastating poverty and hardship for the millions of young people entering the labour market. The Arab Spring could become little more than a blip in the affected countries’ socio-economic development. Until now, the international communi- ty’s response has been piecemeal at best. In 2011, the G-8 Deauville Partnership — which brought the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to the region — pledged that the international financial institutions (IFIs) would provide $38 billion to the transition countries over three years. But that promise was based more on existing IFI pipelines than on transition countries’ emerging needs. Furthermore, poor macroeconomic fundamentals, slow progress on reform, and political turmoil have constrained the use of these resources, while bilateral support from the G-8 and the European Union has been disappointing. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) coun- tries — especially Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Kuwait — have contributed roughly $28 billion to the transition countries. While these resources have helped to finance budget shortfalls, stabilise reserves, and calm nervous markets, they have not been sufficiently leveraged to improve the policy framework, strengthen implementation of public investment projects, or put the transition countries on an inclusive and sustainable growth path. To give the Arab Spring countries the needed space to transform their econo- mies alongside their political systems, while avoiding destabilisation or collapse, the international community must scale up financial, policy, and institutional assistance. This should include: New financial assistance linked to long- term reforms, amounting to $30-40 billion annually for about three years; Technical support to ensure that these funds are channelled toward productive public investment in short-term publicworks programmes that create jobs and longer-term infrastructure projects that eliminate supply bottlenecks; Broad frameworks for trade, regulatory reform, and investment provided by, for example, deep and comprehensive free-trade agreements with the EU; Policy and institutional support to restore trust between governments and their citizens, including by eliminating red tape and nepotism in business transactions, enabling poor people to hold public-service providers accountable, and enhancing social protection for the most vulnerable citizens. E≥ik Be≥glof is chief economist at the Eu≥opean Bank fo≥ Reconst≥uction and Development. Shanta Deva≥ajan is the Wo≥ld Bank’s chief economist fo≥ the Middle East and No≥th Af≥ica. Copy≥ight: P≥oject Syndicate, 2013.
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December 2nd 2013