Hunger a threat to democracy

06 December 2018 | Columns

In her book titled 'Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy Is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth - and How to Fix It', Zambian-born international economist and author Dambisa Moyo argues that liberal democracies, as copied by African states from the West, cannot deliver economic growth without substantial reform.

Moyo, who analyses the macro-economy and global affairs, opines that without fundamental changes, democratic politicians will struggle to address the numerous headwinds the global economy faces today. She writes that the myopia within democracy leads to the misallocation of scarce resources, such as capital and labour, and short-sighted investment decisions by politicians and business.

She mentions specifically that two decades after its first democratic election, South Africa ranks as the most unequal country on earth.

She continues that a host of policy tools could patch each of South Africa's ills in a piecemeal fashion, yet one force would unquestionably improve them all: economic growth.

Moyo argues that, in general, emerging economies with a low asset base need to grow faster and accumulate a stock of assets more quickly than more developed economies in which basic living standards are already largely met.

Although on a significantly smaller scale, Namibia mirrors South Africa's grappling with the fundamental issues relating to unbridled capitalism.

Former South African public protector Thuli Madonsela argued recently in an opinion piece titled 'Rebooting our democracy' that capitalism assumes that everyone has the same starting line and fair chance to succeed. However, she intimates further that in the context of a society in which racial discrimination was previously legislated and the minority were given “unearned advantages”, the starting line was obviously not the same for everyone.

In the Namibian context, where political freedom has meant the insertion of a political elite class into the current system, issues of hunger, unemployment and poverty represent a direct threat to democracy and peace.

Words and slogans are beginning to lose their gravitas. The desperation of those left behind will certainly be a rallying point for populist and dangerous forces.