Heko Rais Magufuli

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Is Tanzania ready for its Lee Kuan Yew and Dr. Mahathir?

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              When Singaporean founder Lee Kuan Yew took the reins of power, he gave the Malaysians the choice between democracy in penury and benevolent dictatorship in opulence. They chose the latter; and thereby offered Yew the baton to do things the way he thought. It was an experiment that became a miracle after Yew pulled Singapore out of stinking poverty which put it at par with African countries in the 60s. The BBC (24 March, 2015) quotes professor Ilian Milhov as saying that “Lee Kuan Yew performed a miracle transforming Singapore from one of the poorest countries in the world in the 1960s to being among the most advanced today.” Again, what is the secret of this success, Yew cited by the BBC (22 March, 2015) answers the question noting that “I did some sharp and hard things to get things right. Maybe some people disapproved of it… but a lot was at stake and I wanted the place to succeed, that’s all.”
    Under Yew, Singapore became a one man show that at last borne fruits by propping it up to join rich countries. As I write, Singapore is one of the donor countries, especially to the countries it once shared a plight with. The secret behind Singapore’s advancement lies in the leadership of Yew who was rough and tough. The BBC goes on noting that “Mr Lee contended that in a developing nation some freedoms had to be sacrificed.”
    Another leader who changed his country is Malaysian former PM Mahathir Mohammad. His philosophy was simple. Buy foreign last and look inside. He’s quoted by the freemalaysiantoday (14 June 2012) asking “why has democracy not delivered the good life we had expected of it?” He answers his own question noting that “instead of accepting the failures of democracy, we should make some adjustments and sacrifice some of the liberalism of democracy so we may extract something from the system.” He goes on concluding that “democracy can only work when people understand its limitations”.
    I don’t intend to justify violations of human rights. However, when the country seeks to develop, some of the rights can be curtailed or regulated in order to allow some experiments to be successfully conducted. Apart from introducing disciplinarian regime, Yew controlled the population. This is missing out in Tanzania. The size of population has a lot to do with the development of the country. Try to imagine. If China had not controlled population, where would China and the world be?  Another area Yew threw his weight on is industrial power which Tanzania is currently trying to do despite the opposition from some quarters.
    When it comes to Tanzania today, I don’t feel any guilt to equate its predicament with that of Singapore so as to need its Lee Kuan Yew and Mahathir Mohamad provided that there must be some agreements and negotiations about how to address some issues of development. This is because the world realpolitik has changed. The politics of the 60s is not the politics of today. By then, rivalry between the capitalist West and communist East enabled many rulers to get away with murder. Currently, to achieve what Singapore achieved, we need to sit down and agree on our priorities as a nation that is tired of begging while it has the potentials of developing itself without necessarily depending on handout and aid with strings attached.
    When I look into what President John Magufuli is into, I find that he fits in Mohammad-Yew’s analogue. Like Yew, he has embarked on industrial power based on his stickler approach which has caused a lot of brouhahas from opposition. Again, if, indeed, as a nation, we want to launch ourselves off poverty, we need to get our priorities straight. Understandably so, I would candidly argue that our Yew needs to accommodate the signs of time in that we need to sit down as country and decide what our priorities are. As a nation seriously aspiring to pull itself out of the curse of miseries and penury while sits on immense resources of value, we need to sacrifice some less important things that cannot bring food to our tables.
    I am not trying to invent the wheel. But historically speaking, many developed nations reached their apogees by sacrifice of the rights of others. Britain, the US, and other ex-colonial monsters attained their development through colonialism and slavery. Others such as Australia and Canada did so by grabbing the land of indigenous people. Also, once these countries go to poll and get results, they stop politicking and shinding; and go to work.  It is only Botswana which attained its development democratically thanks to its small population and good policies based on consensus which can be mixed with Singapore’s in order to get hybridity of process. We must choose to develop then become democratic amidst penury. I emphasise that if we can, we must incorporate Botswana’s and Singapore’s models.
    To this end, I can conclude by inviting Tanzanians to sit down and agree on the modus operandi by which all good things the government has already initiated can be fully achieved without necessarily causing disharmony and fracas needlessly. Tanzania is ours all equally. Our development or failure affects us all equally.
  • Source: Citizen, April, 2018.

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