True direct taxation must precede the demand for accountability, it helps in creating what I call the people pull, it increases their propensity to control those who govern them thus creating the right conditions for building a democracy.
However there are a few other things that must be done before we get to the issue of broadening direct taxation, the current levels of poverty make broadening and deepening taxation rather politically expensive, in their lies the reason why FDC/NRM chose to abolish it. We must first make meaningful progress against poverty in order to have the incomes to tax. However we should continue to collect whatever can be collected for the reasons I gave before and then broaden and deepen as the incomes grow.
Also, it is equally important to keep an eye on institution building, we cannot neglect that front. Without working institutions our governments will not be able to apply the Aid and Loans plus whatever is realisable from internal revenues to quickly improve the economic situation of the masses.
The whole thing is a viscous circle of needs that are not easy to balance, you need to tax the people so that they can own their government and hold it accountable, but these people are poor, so you fund the governments through IMF & World Bank while you wait for poverty to reduce. Then you realise that governments will not achieve much without functioning institutions, but these institutions won’t function because accountability is not yet feasible, it is not feasible because the people are not yet taxable. Back to where you started
This is a challenge which the African elite must find a solution for there is an acute shortage of leadership in Africa, the kind that would seriously exert the required effort to innovate test and apply the appropriate governance systems that would fit our conditions. I concur with him in his pessimism.
The main reason why this sad situation persists is the fact that our population is vulnerable, poor, ignorant and diseased, such a lot have no capacity to provide any meaningful democratic pull or push that would encourage the leadership to be that innovative. The people as good as not being there and our elite can misbehave to unbelievable extent with no consequence whatsoever, the people factor is absent, you only have to hope that you will get someone who will do this good work without any demands or expected reward from the people. Unfortunately God created too few Mandela’s and Nyerere’s instead with we have Bokasas, Mubutus, Abachas and others i dont need to name.
You need a selfless leadership willing to put in place mechanisms that will gradually increase the peoples capacity to demand more accountability. Problem, the stronger the people get, the harder they are to misgovern for long, so most of our leaders selfishly sustain the weaknesses of our people so as to keep getting long peaceful tenures Bongo style. A leadership that can seriously alter our conditions does not merely need to be selfless but actually suicidal; it needs to saw the seeds that will make life harder or even shorter for itself.
Because selfless individuals are few and where they exist they may not get a chance to rise to power in our undemocratic, instituitionless politics, it more realistic to assume that we may never be able to serious address these matters.
That being the case we better counted ourselves to dressing our porcupine with a kanzu, it will keep tearing the kannzu to shreds but hopefully over time all the spikes will be lost and the Kanzu will work.
(Oshobeirwe, ashwera kambe nkwine) One who is desperate will marry any woman available.
The western model of democracy is not our dream bride, but it is better than remaining unmarried.
I have just remembered something I used to observe in the village where i grew up, mothers would go to the market and buy clearly oversize clothes for the kids, and you would see kids running around with big shorts assisted with a string to keep it from falling off and shirts or sweaters pulled on one side and tied to stop the shoulders from escaping through where only the head should pass.
If you inquired why they have to dress the kids that shabbily, the universal answer would be “Oh the kid is growing he is going to fit into it with time”
I agree entirely that political structure should be determined by economic structure, problem is our world has not yet invented a stable equitable and fair political system for economies that are still in transition to where western style liberal democracy can work well.
It is very tempting to want to dress these infant economies in the liberal democratic dress they shall hopefully wear when they reach maturity, this ill fitting dress is shabby and sometimes makes our walking difficult. but until someone clearly tailors for us a better dress we shall have to make do with the cutting and stringing loose ends until when we grow into it.
Better than remaining naked.
FDC Representative in England