Monday 28 April 2008

Nigeria: Why Poor Countries Are Poor

Why Poor Countries Are Poor

It is important that people who are involved in the development in developing countries recognise the task ahead of them and the difficulties they face.

When I read the chapter “Why Poor Countries Are Poor”, in the Undercover Economist, I was taken aback by both the insight and truth of the things the author say.

I found an online version of “Why Poor Countries Are Poor” which I implore you to read.

The role of bureaucracies

There are many issues I cannot address here but one interesting issue is the role of bureaucracies in stifling development, progress and economic growth.

Corruption is exacerbated by the layers and hoops of unnecessary bureaucratic requirements that simply keep pen-pushers and deadwood in their positions of unwarranted privilege as enemies of change – people need to get things done and the only way to smooth out any activity is to grease grubby palms.

All certificates ever had

One interesting example of this useless bureaucracy is the story of someone who has had most of his education in Europe which includes a PhD from a reputable university along with 2 Masters degrees in different but related disciplines, a smattering of certificates and professional qualifications, almost countless.

He had recently been appointed to a senior directorial role in the government sector in Nigeria and he has been asked to produce all certificates he has ever had since he was in primary school.

So, after a 30-year career, you need to find the yellowing pages of teacher opinions when he was in primary and secondary school to do a job his peers already think he is well qualified for.

Documentation and searches

We have bureaucracies in the West, but also structures and institutions that work after a fashion and we recognise that the highest qualification attained might be the person satisfied the requirements for being granted that qualification, preceded by the person having satisfied the entry requirements for that course and all that down the line.

Another thing is the way we document and computerise records such that the search for any information or confirmation of any detail is at the behest of the enquirer rather than the giver of the information.

Unfortunately, these structures are disjointed in Nigeria, there is very poor record keeping that most legal deeds have to be given as sworn affidavits with no corroborative authority apart from the hope that the person has been truthful.

In those circumstances, one may not question too strongly the need for all certificates going back to the birth certificate.

Now, this is ridiculous

I was however thrown when I heard they also want the birth certificates of the parents; they have been long dead and were born sometime in the 1910s or 1920s, probably a tree was planted when they were born as was when my father was born, but birth registration and certificates?

What you may ask does the birth certificate of parents have to do with someone satisfying the requirements for job and being vetted to assume that position?

The birth certificate of the principal would if registered at birth have contained the names and professions of the parents, that should suffice, but bureaucracies breed mountains of useless data accumulated for no other purpose than to give mandarins and bureaucrats undue relevance and power to oppress or inconvenience the citizenry without helping anyone.

The best thing any government of a developing country can do is reduce layers of bureaucracy, bureaucratic irrelevance and the people who feed that system – time to register companies, accumulation of unnecessary information, provide access to relevant economic data without strictures and nip all sources of patronage in the bud.

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