Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Country Context and conversations with friends


How is it possible for a country to be worse off than in 1960!? I am on a bit of a quest to find answers ... This week I came across a Country Contex report by the International Food Policy Research Institute that I found to be very helpful in my quest. It says:
DRC has a huge land mass, approximately two-thirds the size of the European Union, with an estimated population of around 68 million, the third highest in sub-Saharan Africa, after Nigeria and Ethiopia (Afoaku 2010; World Bank 2006).

DRC is endowed with abundant mineral resources, including diamonds, gold, uranium, and cobalt; and natural resources, including rivers, arable land, and huge masses of tropical rain forests. DRC’s abundance of mineral and natural resources led to high expectations upon attaining its independence from Belgium in 1960. The period 1965–1974 was characterized by rapid growth (with 2.7 percent average annual GDP growth rate) and large investment in copper and diamonds (Marysse 2002). However, prospects for national development deteriorated quickly and were subsequently ruined by three decades of autocratic, patrimonial rule headed by the late President Mobutu and continued mismanagement and armed conflict under President Laurent Kabila’s regime (Afoaku 2010).

The initial growth achieved in the late 1960s and early 1970s has been followed by economic regression since 1975 (Marysse 2002). Since formal production could not be taxed anymore, printing money was used as a last means, which led to hyperinflation of 32,000 percent (Marysse 2002). The economy continued to weaken in the 1990s, when GDP was regressing with –2.5 to –16.5 percent growth rate (Marysse 2002).

The deterioration of the economy was exacerbated by 15 years of war and civil unrest that devastated a significant portion of its human and physical infrastructure and its institutions, giving the country among the lowest development and food security indicators in the world.
The conflict has led to an estimated 2.5–3.0 million people killed and 2.4 million people internally displaced (World Bank 2006).

GDP per capita fell from US$360 in 1960 to US$100 in 2002;

[…]
A major hurdle toward achieving recovery in DRC is the thin institutional mechanisms to ensure accountability at all levels of the government (Afoaku 2010). The system of taxation and revenue collection and investment is minimally functional, and most fee collection by government agents occurs informally and illegally, with little citizen knowledge of which fees are legal (Afoaku 2010).”

This goes in line with a comment I recently heard on national television. The problem is not corruption, it’s impunity – because we have to remember that corruption is everywhere and made possible by the West through the supply of able and ambitious tax lawyer and bankers, that help to navigate 5 times the amount of fund out of the African continent than in receives, into tax havens all over the globe. We have all kind of scandals involving corrupt officials in the West – but as mentioned: they are scandals! At least some of the guy in the west don’t away with it, and have to be accountable. The problem of the DRC is the impunity. As long as the people can’t but pressure on their elite, no scandals are revealed, corruption will continue.

And running the risk to not be completely neutral or scientific in my postings, I’d like to add notes from conversation with friends I recently had.

One problem is the support from the West: I was recently told that the last elections in 2011, were indeed not free and fair as reported, but contested and manipulated. In fact, there was huge outcry of the illegal and manipulative activities, within the DRC, from the highest ranking catholic in the country and Congolese all across the world that protested the elections. Even the UN was accused of being involved by helping moving ballots from one place to another, to fix up the final outcome. With this kind of support, in addition to the military and locally paid ‘street gangs’ (in the case of Kinshasa) the local ‘government’ is strong. With the silence of their international friends that profit from the mineral wealth of the country the election results had to be ‘accepted’.

True or not, the role of the West needs to be considered next time we talk about corruption in the African nations. Impunity is prolonged by the support the support by the West.,.. while the suffering continues And if you are reading this outside our continent, maybe you consider talking action in your country next time the news story makes it to your television screen of contested elections…. If it makes it to your screen : /

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