Change with Stability and Continuity: A Political Home Work Part VI

As pointed out in the previous article, there is lots of literature, based on empirical research conducted over long period of time (consensus built) , that point that, unless a developing country sustains stable political systems anchored on strong leadership, such country’s development is bound to be erratic, uneven, in most cases stalls in some cases reversed fundamentally.
Prof. Nshuti Manasseh.
Prof. Nshuti Manasseh.

As pointed out in the previous article, there is lots of literature, based on empirical research conducted over long period of time (consensus built) , that point that, unless a developing country sustains stable political systems anchored on strong leadership, such country’s development is bound to be erratic, uneven, in most cases stalls in some cases reversed fundamentally.

This research draws from the previous episodes of sustained growth and development, from western economies as well as in newly industrilialised Asian Tigers, and are all in agreement that, those which latched into virtuous cycles of development happened to have strong leadership that spanned over a long period of time (no less than thirty years on average).

Thus for instance, empirical research done by Edwards (1998, 2003) on Asian Tigers, found out that, sustained strong leadership accounted for the development of such countries as Singapore, South Korea, and Malaysia.

 

He points out that, such sustained strong leadership reduced the degree of political instabilities, and uncertainties and instilled confidence among savers both local and foreign, which in turn enable these countries to usher into material accumulation (high sustained savings and investment levels over time), leading to their miraculous growth and thus development. Such research holds that, the political climate created such levels of certainty that, development agents both local and foreign, were able to forecast and plan long-term, to the extent that, these economies developed at unprecedented levels.

 

The reverse was true for other East Asian countries that did see their growth stagnate due to sporadic and chaotic leadership. This same research point to such countries as The Philippines, Vietnam, North Korea, Thailand, many other examples of similar countries abound in East Asian.  

This empirical research then points out to SSA’s (Sub-Saharan Africa) chaotic changes in leadership by way of coups and term limits reversed gains made by newly independent African states; a few Asian Tigers which maintained stable and visionary strong leadership, marked the difference in growth path for regions that were at the same levels of development in 1960s.

 

These observations reinforce views expressed by most commentators on previous articles with regard to our political home work. A big section of readers of these articles believe that, if our context is highly unpredictable at this point in time, and may remain so in the medium term, why even debate change.

Especially so, given that, most changes documented in Africa so far, point out to the change for the worse. They invoke Prof. Rugege earlier observations … “Folk wisdom also says: ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. We ignore that adage at our peril”. This adage is held dearly by a number Rwandans that have reacted to these series and who in their opinion, change for the sake of change; is but, a call for doom.

They do observe that, what is the end state of any political economy? Economic growth and better standards of living for themselves and their children, security for their lives and property, social cohesion, etc. if these are in place more than any other time in our history as a nation, why should we change the architect of this political economy?
 
Sustainability: Case Studies?

Thus, the proponents of no change paradigm point out to the history of successful of other nations that, have had tremendous transformation in the recent past. For instance, in the case of Singapore (whose model of development is a case study to most developing nations, including ours) had as their leader Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew for a period of thirty years (1959-1990), and became very instrumental to the transformation of a very small country of 723.2 km sq, with current GDP of $ 319 billion.

In comparison, Rwanda is 49 times the size of Singapore, but with GDP of $ 6 billion (or 53 times smaller than Singaporean GDP). Singaporean GDP is 9 times the size of Kenyan GDP, but Kenya is 568 the size of Singapore. One can go on and on… but the point here is that, it is not the size of the country that made a difference in the comparatives above, as for the stable and visionary leadership in place that made fundamental differences to Singaporean economy.

Prime Minister Lee leadership was able to grow Singaporean GDP per capita by 17 times for the time he was in power, and lay down institutional framework that saw a very small country take on giants in every sense of development. That Lee Peoples’ Party had to remove term limits to enable him lead Singapore for over thirty years was aimed at ensuring that, he delivered to his none people the much of his peers would at that point in time, and he did.

In neighborhood South Korea, Prime Minister Park Chung  Hee (1961-1979) also over saw the transformation of South Korea to the industrial giant it is now. The constitutional term limits were done away with to allow his transformational leadership to bear. That his industrial master plan transformed South Korea into a developed nation is a fact of history. This trend also happened in the west where great leaders such as UK’s Winston Churchill guided the against tyranny and led UK until the war was over.

In USA, Franklin Roosevelt who ruled under similar emergency situation was in office for good four terms, and his transformational leadership left a mark on the development of USA.

Botswana’s Seretse Kama whose tenure (1984-1996) was also seen as instrumental to the social-economic transformation of Botswana is a case in point where a transformational leader was in power for such a time as to allow him to have his economic policies to bear.

All the above leaders had many things in common: first, they all faced unstable, volatile and uncertain and very difficult developmental environment that demanded strong leadership to take their countries to sustainable development stage. Secondly, these were visionary leaders who sacrificed self for the sake of their countries, including dying for such cause in some of the case. Thirdly, their developmental environment was in such state of emergency, that required rare real leadership skills and political experience; that were necessary to get their countries out of such cross-roads and they did.

All these leaders also possessed not only higher levels of integrity, but also unrivalled moral legitimacy, which enabled them to mobilise their people towards national unity of purpose ie socio- economic transformation of their countries, and they succeeded in doing so, thereby becoming heroes in their own right. That we have such a hero amongst us, as our President, change thereof sends lots anxiety, and rightly so.

Leaving our country to the twist of fate is not an option a responsible Rwandan would settle for, but rather a predetermined destiny that has been prudently thought over is what the continuity-stability debate should be geared to.

As has been pointed out, history will be harsh to our current crop of leadership if we don’t count the cost of what we are doing today to please pundits. Not doing so, is being irresponsible above irresponsibility. This should not be Rwandan.  

To be continued … 


The writer is the Chairman, Board of Directors of the Crystal Ventures Group

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