Saturday, May 21, 2011

We have a problem in Africa: We observe some democratic principles and ignore others.

A democracy is based on the model that not everything the individual or family needs can be provided by the individual or family e.g. roads, education, health… So the individual pays a levy, a tax and elects a central body to provide these things.

Obviously the central body, the government, has administrative expenses. These have to be carried by the taxpayer as well. But generally speaking, the big chunk of the money collected, the money that rippled up from the ordinary people needs to be spent in a way that benefits the ordinary people. You don’t collect money from everyone and then use it to benefit mostly those who are in government, those who have their hands on the money—that would be corruption. You can devise many clever ways of hiding this corruption, e.g. tenderpreneuring, but it is still corruption.

We invent a voting system to elect who will do the governing. This is democratic and the government is elected democratically.

In Africa this is where the wheels come off in a big way. The elected body abuses the money contributed by the ordinary people: They deploy cadres, they have buddies who tender and get contracts and then mess up the delivery after being paid too much for what they promised. They just mess up the whole system—the money is wasted and lost and stolen before the benefits ripple down like it is supposed to.

This is an oversimplified model. I intend expanding it. But it contains the basic flaws of a system that works upwards in the collection of taxes and election of public “servants” and falls apart in the downward application of the money so collected. This is not democracy. It is abuse.

No comments: