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Development Lessons from Asia

There are various theories that explain why poverty exists. The evolutionists believe that the best way to get rid of poverty is to get rid of people. Hitler tried to get rid of the Jews and many massacres around the world may be a bid to get rid of races, in order to create the perfect world. The revolutionaries, made up of those who fought for their liberation believe that the best way to get rid of poverty is to redistribute wealth. Both of these theories do not tackle poverty at its root. At the bottom of poverty is a belief system that has people bound in the belief that they were born poor and will die poor. Often they feel that the world owes them and someone else has to solve their problem. It doesn’t matter where people are born, what colour their skin is, where they live, if people feel that they are poor they behave poor and continue in a cycle of poverty for generations. Africa has continued on a steady decline while other continents facing similar challenges have broken out of that cycle of poverty and are contributing to the global economy. Africa can learn much from the policies adopted by Asia to get their economies booming.

The facts

  • Cameroon and the DRC have abundant resources and 21 people per square kilometer. Holland has 461 people per square kilometer. China has a fifth of the population of the world. Taiwan has 670 people per square kilometer.
  • Somalia has no resources, 16 people per kilometer and is poor and stricken. Japan is the same size as Somalia with 335 people per kilometer square.
  • Switzerland and Sweden have become wealthy without being colonists.
  • Australia, USA, Hong Kong are wealthy even though they were colonies.
  • Nepal and Afghanistan are very poor even though they were never colonized.
  • 1965 Nigeria had a higher per capita gdp than Indonesia.
  • By 1999 Indonesia had three times more per capita gdp than Nigeria.
  • Ghana had a higher GNP per capita than South Korea. Today Koreans earn more twenty times Ghanaians.
  • At the time of 1997 crisis East Asian economies accounted for nearly a quarter of global gdp.

 Asia and Africa face similar challenges, but decades later Asia has come out of the challenges strong, while Africa continues to limp on. What has been the catalyst for growth in Asia and why has Africa continued on a downward trend. Understanding this may provide a little bit of insight into the African phenomenon.

Development is more than working or even working hard. It is not about how educated the people are and how much resources a nation has available to it. Development has a lot to do with what people think. If a nation is locked in wrong thought system, they may have everything handed to them on silver platter and they may still remain poor. Any development programme that fails to take into consideration the prevailing belief system of a people and the possible influence this belief has on them will not succeed.

 A look at Malaysia can bring to light how one nation turned around its economy when faced with challenges. Following the financial crash in 1997, Mahathir the Malaysian Prime Minister called for austerity measures and sacrifices from his people. Malaysia encouraged families to become self sufficient to reduce spending on imports. Farmers were urged to grow vegetables on a large scale. “We must be willing to face challenges and be willing to sacrifice to defend our independence and dignity.” Mahathir. The irony of shifting focus from technology to cauliflower was laughed at and brought scorn on then nation.  From the sidelines it may seem that growing vegetables is a short term solution, but in a crisis the most important thing is to eat. By growing their own food, they reduced spending on foreign foodstuffs keeping their money in Malaysia.

Framework for growth

  • Eradicate poverty and restructuring of the economy.
  • Correct social and geographic imbalances.
  • Changes to structure of state owned businesses.

Development didn’t happen overnight. Different decades focused on different areas.

  • 1970’s- Industrial growth
  • 1980’s- Development of petro chemical industry and the assembly of IT products

What can we learn from Malaysia?

  • Initial focus on agriculture and land reform.
  • Use of infrastructure spending to stimulate economic growth
  • Link between economic growth and social equality through the development of Bumiputra.
  • Encourage public and private sector partnerships.
  • Focus on education, health and poverty alleviation.
  • Importance of stable relationships within and without region.
  • Need for skills building, both inside/without government and wider economies.
  • Key role played by state and industry in policy making

As an agriculture economy Zimbabwe needs to focus on agricultural reform. Years after the controversial land reform programme, another land reform still needs to happen. Land needs to be transferred from the hands of the greedy land grabbers into the hands of farmers who can actually farm. It is a shame that productive farms have been left idle and under capacity while Zimbabwe imports genetically modified produce from the region.

If Zimbabwe is to effectively lure investors into the country huge spending on infrastructure is required. The Beitbridge Harare Road linking Southern Africa to the rest of the continent has been under construction for the past four years with very little progress observed. Roads and transport infrastructure are vital to the development of the economy and spending in this area is a vital for the growth of the economy. Power supply is crucial for the production and manufacturing sector, with sporadic electricity supply, business run huge losses as a result of power cuts. Infrastructure development is essential to make our businesses competitive and focus needs to be placed on the development of infrastructure.

Looking and crying over past injustices will not change the circumstances we face today. Government needs to come up with a framework for growth that is realistic and workable. Saying the right things and promising miracle will do nothing for the growth of the economy. What is required is a for a strong commitment from government to create an enabling environment for growth in every sector of the economy. With the resources available, Zimbabwe can once again become the bread basket of Africa. The times are challenging, but there a lot of scope for growth.

There is no easy road to development and there are no free rides. The price needs to be paid. If growing cauliflower instead of developing technology will take the economy to a more positive outlook, then so be it. There is need to implement policies that are appropriate for national success. The state needs to take its place in creating the right conditions to attract local and foreign development.


Categories: General
  1. April 6, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Howdy, i read your blog from time to time.

    • April 17, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      Thank you gimnasia

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