Please tell the governor of Cross River that building a superhighway is great. Only an insane person will fight progress. The question is whether the superhighway is a means to an end or an end in itself. The governor has yet to answer this fundamental question.
My thinking is that when a government is heavily indebted it must avoid by all means capital intensive projects that would involve accumulating more debt where the financiers will take 50 to100 years to recover their loans. This mentality has resulted in the collapse of many economies.
Second, when the end of development is the exploitation of the poor and the rape of our economic destiny, a superhighway will have very little to do with development but the expansion of the market system to the benefit of the owners of the means of production.
Unfortunately, this market system hasn’t been clearly defined in Cross River as the governor is yet to articulate a clear and realistic economic philosophy.
Third, the governor has been frequenting Asia. Recently we saw photos of his visit to Thailand. Please tell him to find out why Thailand has some of the tallest skyscrapers on earth with no occupants. But don’t stop here.
Tell him also to dig up some literature on why the World Bank failed in the Brazilian Amazon rain forests, in India, and in many countries it has attempted to implement or fund massive development projects.
I didn’t read this from any book. I heard directly from my instructors at the World Bank Institute, the men and women who shape the process and outcome of global development. They too acknowledged the bank had made mistakes in the past. My governor need these examples.
Please tell my governor to buy a book written by the Nobel Prize winner in economics, Professor Armatya Sen. It’s called “Development as Freedom,” a strong philosophical discussion written in the context of the famine in India.
Sen essentially argues that development is about entitlement and capability. Development takes place when people have an entitlement to something and the capability to function as true human agents.
Building a superhighway in the midst of hunger and mass suffering doesn’t guarantee freedom. Without good health, education, and basic income that allows people to make choices, what Sen refers to as “functionings”, they can never experience freedom. People need these basic functionings to escape poverty and realize their full potential.
I know that someone will ask me to propose solutions. Here is my solution.
It would be meaningful if the superhighway was designed by local engineers and constructed by local contractors.
Did I hear that the state is broke? Then the governor should take advantage to challenge the ingenuity of local engineers at the Ministry of works. He should challenge the professors in the civil engineering department at CRUTECH.
He should also challenge the young men and women with diplomas and degrees in building, civil, mechanical and electrical engineering. He should help them to put theory into action instead of importing German and Asian labor.
The advantage is that many people will integrate in the labor force as wage earners who are then able to participate in the economy through spending and savings. The government can then devise ways of increasing its revenue base through taxation. And the economy will grow gradually with more innovative ideas.
There’s therefore a correlation between increase in income through productive employment and the capability to function as a literate and healthy citizen. This is because increase in income will help wage earners to make reflected choices.
I maintain that the link between the superhighway and poverty reduction in Cross River is weak because it aims to concentrate wealth in the hands of a few elite while leaving the state with a debt burden that cannot be paid in the next 50 years. This I where the development conversation must begin.