Nothing for you where everything is for you
This week’s column is made up from Fiona Hill’s autobiography entitled There is Nothing Here For You: Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century and President Joe Biden’s Bill waiting to be signed into Law “$1trillion package of highway, broadband and other infrastructure improvement”. Fiona Hill comes from the coal belt of Northern England. She finished high school in the 1980s when merely 10 per cent of high school leavers had something waiting for them to do. Fiona Hill was one of the remaining 90 per cent that had nothing. Her father called her and said “There is Nothing for you here”. He suggested she emigrated to Europe or the United States. She obtained a scholarship to study at Harvard majoring in Russian language and politics through which she ended in the White House as special adviser on Russia and Europe.
The fall of coal and the end of manufacturing in England compares with the end of the collapse of primary products that had provided money for the education of a generation of Nigerians. With the drop of the price of primary products including petroleum, there was no money to fund universities properly.
What about the development fund provided by ex-colonial countries for their ex-colonies? It came just in time to fund the corruption that was erupting among the politicians of the governments of the third world.
Once money ran out, roads ran out. Bridges could not be rebuilt and connections were severed. It was educated people who started leaving the country in the first place. Then the uneducated, those who had no certificates, who presented and sought no visas began to get on their feet and left through the forests, through the deserts and the Mediterranean Sea. Finally, anybody and everybody began to leave.
With the exception of one or two countries, not one country in the third world has suggested that the present inadequacies of the country constitutes opportunities for the people of the country. They could rebuild schools and colleges, syllabuses could be changed and the future could be refocused.
The government of Nigeria set up a commission of inquiry to find out why people were leaving the country. After the commission had done their work in Nigeria, they packed their baggage and went overseas to continue. But it was rumored that this was a trick. Depending on which country you wanted to settle in, you were sent to that particular country to do your inquiry. If only one could see the report of the commission.
In the numerous cases in which funds were allocated and released to each relevant ministry, and ‘eaten’ by the relevant ministers and deputy ministers. In fact, this process of allocation and re-allocation of resources became a sure way of finding money in the ministry. The more money allocated to repairs, the less work was done. Thousands and thousands of federal, state, university and government companies were abandoned.
In some countries where funds were allocated for repairs work, continuous inflation and increase of costs ensured that the job was never finished.
There is one example that keeps coming to mind whenever this discussion occurs. It is the iron industry in Ogun State belonging to the Federal Government. Minister after minister accepted re-allocated funds for re-opening the industry.
Unlike many well-developed western countries, the United States of America does not have any state supported child and health system. The nearest to such was introduced by President Barack Obama. And the fellow who came after him did everything in his powers to cancel it in spite of the fact that his supporters greatly benefitted from it.
Over the next eight years, highways will be upgraded, as well as roads and bridges. City transit systems will be modernised. Passenger rail networks would be brought up-to-date. That’s not all. “The agreement also sets aside funding for clean drinking water, high speed internet, and a nationwide network of electric vehicle charging points.” This is seen as a once in a generation investment that’s “going to create millions of jobs, modernising infrastructure, roads, bridges, broadband, all range of things.”
How will such spending be financed? One of the ways it will be paid for is through “unspent emergency relief funds from the COVID pandemic.” Moreover, for the first time the rich will pay their fair share in taxes.
In many ways, this arrangement will help in solving issues such as racism through indiscriminate development and fair and equitable taxation. There is an accompanying bill, a separate social welfare bill “that allocates $1.75tn for healthcare, education and climate change initiatives.”
There is also a very interesting dimension to the law. This is a law that guarantees that the money must be spent on what it is passed for. Otherwise there would be consequences. It would be of interest to law makers in Africa to see how such laws are framed.
If the Democratic Party of the United States of America can carry through this program, they would teach their country and the African countries and the world great lesson in morality. Nobody would claim that it could not be done.
One of the reasons why democracy is failing today is because democracy cannot get things done. It is only dictatorship that can get things done and done on time. In a dictatorship, there are fewer people to consult before decisions are taken. And as soon as decisions are taken, they are immediately carried out. Look at the case of high level criminals in democracies.
There is an endless process of appeals before judgment is finally passed. Nobody outside of the leadership of the Democratic Party is putting his life on the line that they will succeed.
Nothing is impossible. The reason that dictatorships usually succeed is because the point of departure is always so far that the low lying fruits are so many that by the time those fruits have been plucked most of the people of the country would have been satisfied. Once the poorest of the poor have been satisfied, so many would have been satisfied.
The next stage of development will be more difficult and there are no low lying fruits anymore. At which point dictatorships become difficult to run.