By Jonathan K. Weedor
C. STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT PROGRAM (SAP)
The structural adjustment program (SAP) was unveiled in the 1980s by the Reagan Administration to “deal” with the developing world debt crisis. That was a crisis caused by the said Administration’s unprecedented increase of interest rate as a core of its Monetarist policy, aimed at controlling US inflation.
The SAP consisted of two permanent pillars: (1) Reduction of Government’s role in the economy through privatization and de – regulation, termination of subsidies for key social sectors such as education, health, and agriculture couple with devaluation of the currency, trade liberalization, etc., and (2) Democratization of the developing world characterized by the conduct of regular elections.
My discussion in the preceding pages has to some extend been focus on the SAP’s first pillar. My focus, in the subsequent pages, is focus on the second pillar: Western Democracy.
D. WESTERN DEMOCRACY
Western Democracy is an Institution. In other words, it is a concept. Simply put, it is merely the rules of the game. Like globalization, it is equally a dimension of capitalism. The current age of globalization characterized by the intensive drive by capitalism in search of profit would become easy if there were homogeneity across the world. However, this is not the case. Therefore, the effort at democratization, especially of the developing world, is geared toward making the path smooth for capitalist accumulation of profit.
With no uncertainty, the push for democracy is a glaring paradigm of this concerted effort. There should be competition in politics, just as there should be competition in the market place. This is the push of the Western world. This demand is the corner stone or the foundation of the struggle across Africa and other areas of the developing world for the establishment of “democracy.”
Daunting challenges confront the efforts to build western democracy across the developing world especially Africa: Cultural Orientation that is more communal, high illiteracy rates, lack of a viable private sector due primarily to the lack of industrialization, are key among factors that ensure the current dominant nature of the state. These challenges are glaring testimonies that the developing world especially Africa is far from the climax of the transformation to capitalism.
Far detached from the pretense of the Leaders of many developing countries, the developing world is far from being capitalist. Capitalism being the individual ownership of the means and distribution of production, it is contingent on the fulfillment of certain criteria. Key among these is industrialization.
Defined as the acquisition by a state of the capacity for the internal production of finished goods or the stage at which a country graduates from the category of a mere supplier of raw materials and a market for finished goods, industrialization is a fundamental pre – condition for the building of western liberal democracy.
Africa being of a cultural orientation that is more communal, the efforts at building western democracy must be preceded by the building of a viable capitalist society evidenced by industrialization. Regrettably, the western crusade for democratization across Africa does not seem to realize this fact. Hence, Africa like other parts of the developing world, is confronted with a situation of placing the cart before the horse.
The trappings of instability cloud this reality because universal application of western democracy irrespective of the context is a recipe for chaos. For Europe and North America, industrialization preceded democracy. Why not Africa? The question then arises how one can build democracy in a non – industrialized society. Indeed, industrialization is the building block of democracy for it gives rise to capitalists. Capitalists constitute the crucial middle class that usually protects a liberal democratic system.
Robert D. Kaplan in his Article “WAS DEMOCRACY JUST FOR A MOMENT” (1997, vol. 280, PP.6 – 55) observed that “The lesson to draw is not that dictatorship is good and democracy bad but that democracy emerges successfully only as a capstone to other social and economic achievements. Kaplan also quotes Alexis de Tocqueville in his “Author Introduction to democracy in America” that democracy evolved in the west not through the kind of moral fiat that the west is trying to impose throughout the world but as an organic outgrowth of development.
European society had reached a level of complexity and sophistication at which the aristocracy, so as not to overburden itself, had to confer a measure of equality upon other citizens and allocate some responsibilities to them: a structured division of the population into peacefully competing interest groups was necessary if both tyranny and anarchy were to be averted. The fact that the west retreat to moral arguments only to justify democracy indicates that for many parts of the world, the historical and social arguments supporting democracy are not just there.”
“It is not amazing that realism has come not from the west because it has failed to realize the relevance of context. Surely, Uganda could still be a Nation of bloodbath without Yoweri Museveni, an enlightened Hobbessian despot whose country has continued to post impressive annual economic growth rates of 10% despite inter-tribal struggles in the country’s north.
In 1996, Museveni’s Army captured the Ugandan capital Kampala without looting a shop. Museveni postponed elections and saw that they took place in a manner that ensured his victory. China, under its authoritarian system has dramatically improved the quality of life for hundreds of millions of its people. Evidently, this achievement could have proved almost impossible with western democracy because of the problem of Muslim Turkic Uighurs in western China.”
Kaplan further observed “In Rwanda, the parliamentary system the west promoted was a factor in the murder of thousands of Tutsis by Hutu Militias. Indeed, the west often moralistic attempts to impose western parliamentary systems on other countries are not dissimilar to the attempts of nineteenth century Western Colonialists many of whom were equally idealistic to replace well-functioning chieftaincy and tribal patronage systems with foreign administrative practices.”
Any country with a sensible development strategy has the opportunity to grow its economy with assistance from trade. Developing countries such as Liberia must therefore resist the “big bang” trade liberalization policy that is being push or advocated by the developed world.
A leadership committed to development and standing behind a coherent growth strategy counts for a lot more than trade liberalization. The fate suffered by Haiti should serve as adequate guidance against “shock therapy” liberalization that mostly benefit countries of the metropoles. Chinese style gradualism and its two-track reform program, emulated by Vietnam, must serve as a paradigm for the developing world in order to break the shackle of poverty.
More focus must be placed on addressing the unbalanced “TERMS OF TRADE” instead of directing all attentions to the acquisition of access to the markets of the Northern countries. To achieve progress, the developing world, especially Africa south of the Sahara, must make an unambiguous choice: Political Unification of the Continent or abandonment of the classical Ricardian trade theory and its accompanying comparative advantage in favor of the construction of the “ capacity for internal production of finished goods.”
With reference to democracy, it is an indisputable fact that the effort to give this western concept a universal application must be reviewed. As a dimension of development, democracy must be contextualized since development is a contextualized concept.
Election violence that has plagued the developing world in recent times, ranging from Algeria to Ethiopia, Kenya and Zimbabwe, among others, is a clear indication that the concept of democracy must undergo modification in order to make it applicable to other contexts. Ignoring this salient fact, as the west has continued to do so far, will ensure an increase in the rise of what Fareek Zakaria calls “Illiberal Democracy”.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JONATHAN K. WEEDOR earned a Master of Arts (MA) Degree with honors in Sustainable Development with emphasis on Development Management from the Graduate Institute, School for International Training (SIT), Brattleboro, Vermont, USA. He also earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Forestry with honors from the University of Liberia. During his academic sojourn at the University of Liberia, the Author was a leading Student Activist who served in various positions with the University of Liberia Student Union (ULSU). He was also a ranking member of the Student Unification Party (SUP). Since 2004, he has worked as a Commissioner at the National Elections Commission (NEC), 9th & 10th Streets, Sinkor, Monrovia, Liberia.