By Morenike Taire
There are jokes on every profession, particularly on doctors, lawyers, journalists. The jokes on economists, though, are a little more serious.

The science of economics has been confounding people for centuries, and will continue to do so as long as the world is changing, and as long as a thousand and one factors, including politics, will be in the way of theories being true to themselves.

It has become a cliché to say where there is no justice, there will be no progress, and progress has been rare in our climes in the last 50 years of our independence.

Anywhere there is an imbalance, there is a constant struggle for resources, which then results in a permanent shift in focus from general progress to keeping certain segments of society under others.

There is no better example of this than South Africa, which is First World in many parts and many respects, and Third World in others.

South Africa is the world’s largest producer and exporter of gold and platinum and also exports a significant amount of coal. Another major export is diamonds.

South Africa has made great progress in dismantling its old economic system, which was based on import substitution, high tariffs and subsidies, anti-competitive behaviour, and extensive government intervention in the economy.

The new leadership has moved to reduce the government’s role in the economy and to promote private sector investment and competition Oddly enough but not surprisingly, improvement to the country’s economy in recent years have been attributed to this rather than their Apartheid past.

In 1886 some of the world’s largest gold deposits were discovered in the Witwatersrand region of Transvaal, quickly transforming the economy into a resource-dominated one.

In 1948 the National Party won the national elections, and immediately started implementing an even stricter race-based policy named Apartheid, effectively dividing the economy into a privileged White one, and an impoverished Black one. The policy was widely criticized and led to crippling sanctions being placed against the country in the 1980s.

The legacy of Apartheid will still have a major impact. The government of South Africa demonstrated its commitment to open markets, privatisation and a favorable investment climate with its introduction of the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) strategy – the neo-liberal economic strategy to cover 1996-2000.

Introduced by Finance Minister Trevor Manuel in June 1996, the policy set government the goals of achieving sustained annual real GDP growth of  six per cent or more by the year 2000 while creating 400,000 new jobs each year.

The policy was meant to increase investment, especially Foreign Direct Investment, in the country to help achieve these goals.

The outcomes of the GEAR strategy have been mixed. It brought greater financial discipline and macro-economic stability but largely failed to deliver in key areas.

Formal employment continued to decline, and despite the on-going efforts of Black empowerment and signs of a fledgling Black middle class and social mobility, the country’s wealth remained unevenly distributed along racial lines.

The desperately needed FDI also remained elusive, and consequently the ambitious economic growth targets were never realised.

The policy came under stringent fire from many critics, especially when growth slumped to only 0.8 per cent (later revised even lower to 0.5 per cent by Statistics South Africa) in 1998.

Let Nigeria decide what she wants: The development of the whole nation supported by peace and progress, or the propagation of meaningless theories that have failed even those that propound them.

The chameleon complex

Ojo Maduekwe has been uncommonly active in our democracy in the last 10 years. A force to reckon with from the inception of the Obasanjo administration, Maduekwe has continued to be active in the definition of our political economy.

How come, then, that the Minister who suggested using bicycles for transportation  is now more resigned than average to globalisation?

The question is: How did this foremost preacher of bohemian gospel of sustainable development, environmental friendliness and clean energy, become a man who would say in an international forum:

“Globalization has come to stay?”.

While his critics might not agree, there is a sense in which Maduekwe can claim his submission was a statement of fact rather than an opinion. It is a widely accepted fact that you do not have to agree with a concept to repeat it and even if you do agree, you did not necessarily have a hand in the state of things.

There is a sense in which it can be argued even that having a hand in the state of things is not evidence of complicity.

The latter can only be established when there is evidence of prior knowledge of how things will turn out.

But his critics would surely wonder about the inconsistencies of a bohemian Transportation Minister turned global Foreign Minister.

While Professor Dora Akunyili has shown incredible consistency in her very different constituencies, there is a general culture in our government of people carrying on like chameleons, and changing colour depending on whatever environment they find themselves in.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.