ColumnistsOpinion

THE STATE AS AN AGENT OF CHANGE

By DARLINGTON CHILUBA
THE ability of countries to evolve from one stage of existence to another remains one of the most fascinating phenomena to observe. These nation states we know today were once city states much smaller geographically and in stature than they are now.
Before that, they were mere unions of kings, merchants and nobles. In the course of time, some kingdoms became republics while others became either despotic or democratic. There are several forms of states today at different levels of governance.
Whether by force or consensus, countries appear to have the unique ability to adapt to any form of leadership, good and bad – for a time.
The question is, how is a nation able to adapt to a given set of ideals or vision and imbue that into its daily operations? In other words, how do you drive change at state level?
Part of the answer is that change is driven through national structures found in nearly every country, with slight variation. These structures or pillars are political, economic and social (see Frederick J.T Chiluba The Challenge of Change 1995).
The political structure includes government and its polity, or local councils, defence and security. The economic pillar is mainly private sector commerce while the social structure includes unions, religious organisations, media, cultural groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in their variety.
When Government is too active in the economy, the political structure will often be the most important structure. Private business can only exist through connections to the political class and therefore the economy will not have progressive and conducive laws in most cases (see Adam Smith Wealth of Nations 1776).
The social structure is the most dynamic structure because it is composed of human or mental capital. This is where ideas, political or economic are birthed; where entrepreneurship and wealth creation are conceived; where intellectuals share ideas on national progress.
So, to restrict this structure is equivalent to impeding the life-force of a nation to thrive. This is what made the change of 1991 critical because it rekindled that life-force and freedom, and restored life back to the country.
Given this scenario, one can contextualise the difficult decisions that must be made and have been made before in Zambia in some related areas, to move the country forward.
For example, in 1991 the country owed over $8 billion to various creditors who were (initially) not willing to pardon the debt. Government had no real source of revenue or a thriving business environment to create jobs with real earning potential.
No free press, no human rights by law or by recognition. No medicines in hospitals, nurses and teachers were underpaid – if paid at all- and this was not the end of it.
In practical terms, the first course of action was to unbuckle the social structure. This action simultaneously increased participation in politics and business by citizens.
In other words, barriers to human capital participation in various spheres were removed. Resultantly, a new middle class was created. Free press and freedom of speech were introduced and the Human Rights Commission was conceived among others.
The tougher decisions such as introducing user fees, which ended free health, bore a huge toll on mortality rates. This was compounded by the existing lack of medication in hospitals. With the advent of HIV/AIDS in the late 80s to mid-90s, the huge cost to life was something that can never be paid back.
Out of such tough decisions, we now have privately owned clinics and hospitals countrywide. Nowadays, it is nearly impossible to be in formal employment without medical insurance.
Money paid by companies into insurance companies fuel the total flow of funds into the banking system. Banks use these funds to lend to various sectors, companies and individuals thus creating a cycle of progressive activity among the three pillars. Decisions must be consequential and deliberate (See R.L. Sakala Difficult Decisions: Changing a Nation 2001).
Five or ten years from today the decisions made now will be analysed from every angle. Some will arrive at logical conclusions for or against some decisions, while others will remain perpetual sceptics in whose eyes nothing good can be.
The political pillar must be observatory and interventionist when necessary. Policy is its weapon of choice. Consensus will not always be possible, but national interest should override self-interest.
The social pillar remains the most important because it lends human or mental capital to all other structures. Elections are won here, debate is won here, legacies are made here.
Consequently, the economic pillar will only retain dignity if citizens partake of its benefits. Whatever the case, tough decisions must be made at state level.

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