Your ABC & 123 of Political Economy by Sarjo Bayang Part 4: Elites are Biggest Burden on the National Economy 

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By Sarjo Bayang, UK

With their crafty hands they design the superstructure and put a mechanism in place where all operatives fit the parts to keep resources flowing one direction.

Elites take advantage of confusion shrouding politicians who play the front line big people of society in the good name of leadership and keepers of instruments for governance. In real life scheme of things invisible hands that organise and operate the economic superstructure belong to elites.  

Without any consultation thereby considering real choice and priorities of key stakeholders like tax payer public, elites choose to decide how the national cake is allocated. They hold meetings in boardrooms which now goes smoother with teleconference facilities at hand.

High profile intellectual attribution; low level resourceful contribution

Entry level for top positions in organisations and institutions are designed in a pyramid structure. That is the beginning of alienation against those who gathered all the dust through storming, forming, and norming. Yet, everything that is earned by bitter sweat of the toiling lot, counts to nothing when it comes to selection.

It will be misleading to assume that all those occupying top position at institutions and organisations wear the same size elite cap. There are progressive elites who anchor well enough in doing what it takes to be industrious and resourceful.

The rest prefer to feed on title without the rightful occasion of meeting their obligation. They feed on resources and not compensating the cost of what keeps them in that seat.

Progressive elites know the difference and do what it takes to create value adding results. They help not just to spin the wheel but equally ensure proper delivery with utmost commitment to increase collective gains optimally.

Institutions, organisations, and even governments fail largely due to high maintenance cost of least resourceful elites who remain as high resource cost without much benefit.

Uneven distribution of the national cake

Planning and budgeting is done behind closed doors without representation from tax payers as key stakeholders. Once they fit and fix all figures neatly on the accounting table, nobody cares how much goes to marginalised sectors of society.

Elites bear utmost contempt for the general tax payer public. From narrow and biased perspective of elites, anyone without book knowledge cannot hold valid opinion. On that wrong drive, critical decisions are made without asking key members of the tax payer public.

Distribution of the national cake during planning and budgeting is designed to keep exploitation of tax payer public by allocating elites lion share. This is done with clear aim of sustaining the economic superstructure as supply chain for values directed at the few leaving the many to suffer in tongue biting silence.

It would have been fair enough in situations where tax payers are not only represented from their lot but also to ensure budgetary allocations cater for highest priority felt needs of those who matter most. Elite manipulation of planning, budgeting and allocation of gains is a global menace that needs urgent remedial solution.

At end of day, governments come and go leaving behind crafty elites in charge. The economic superstructure stays the same.  Regime change does not readily translate into system change. Old wines are put in new bottles as we all see one government replacing another in a succession of unending musical chairs. Those who play the tunes continue dancing all along.

Lack of value adding capacity

Operating cost of elitism is a deep cut on the national economy. Sadly, such costs seldom bear any gainful returns.

Unproductive and least resourceful human capital is a condition that cause failure for organisations, institutions, or government all over the world. The extent to which human capital performs at utmost gainful value adding input levels determines higher output on the scoreboard towards progress.

To keep idle human capital on payroll without gainful returns will only create conditions for failure in whatever way of looking at it.

While elitism is sometimes defended with claims that they constitute the cream of society, that is not always translated in value adding counts.

Organisations, institutions and governments will be doing better where those that are allocated fattest share of resources are compelled to making most gainful contribution in return for what keeps them on the payroll.

By experience of what obtains in many situations, elites strive harder when seeking high paid jobs. Once they get hired, not many of them care about doing the job right. They relate to the job as milking pot for boosting personal finance and economic gains.

A robust system hinged on better conceived and highly relevant policy provisions will easily pick out productive and idle human capital stock; thereby ensure optimal shared gains.

Busy from dawn to dusk without productive engagement amounts to idle human capital as input to the value chain.

Power of words does not always translate in gainful results no matter how long. Plans and budgets are neatly presented on colourful cover page documents or power point screens. Reports are organised to give highest impression with facts and figures only for keen statistical consumption.

In the count of idle and unproductive human capital elites are not alone. Whole bunch of idle hands are kept on the payroll without marking anything on the scoreboard. Failure in orderly dispensation is caused by such underlying elements. Idle and unproductive human capital is major cause of collapse for organisations, institutions, or governments.

Empire building at institutions and organisations

Forming, norming and performing is what team work seeks to achieve. In contrast working teams are far different from interest groups.

Group formation in the manner of empire building at place of work can sometimes be counterproductive especially when everything evolves around personalities rather than getting the job done.

Empire building at place of work or institutions comes about when individuals who do not see eye to eye have separate poles of influence to hang their flag of authority.

Persons of influence and authority operate within a circle of followers. In some organisations and institutions, those responsible for human resources tend to be considered as though commanding different influence from those in control of finances. Other departments also build up into kiosks of individual groupings.

During meetings, those who belong together demonstrate their allegiance by supporting views expressed by their empire building camp mates especially the high seat holder.

In extreme situations, those belonging to separate camps in the empire building system at organisations hardly speak to each other. This can lead to counterproductive negative consequences if not tackled.

Bureaucracy is stumbling block

Elitism requires a platform for sustaining and no other than bureaucracy does it better. What needs doing in limited period gets spread over longer time span thanks to bureaucracy.

Nothing feels so bitterly painful than staying in a long queue as prevails with officialdom. Even more distressing is the experience of being told that what you require could not be done because the person in charge is on vacation or out of reach.

Bureaucracy extends beyond words. Having entire office stuffed in a briefcase and dumped in the boot of a car is common to elite operations. The office to them is so personalised that certain matters can only be dealt with by the big man or big woman in whose absence everything comes to standstill.

Elites find bureaucracy conveniently instrumental to the extent that it serves to justify their systematic delays and resource misallocation. Getting what needs doing at the right time can cut down on transactional costs. Cutting down red tape bureaucracy enhances the gains in value adding results.

Elitism corrupts education

From elementary school up to higher education, elitism has visible traces. Who says knowledge building cannot be enhanced without giving low or high marks? Why is the education system designed to impose teaching rather than encourage independent learning especially from elementary school? Being taught and having to learn, where does knowledge building take better effect? There are so many other good questions requiring clear answers about system of education imposed to fulfil and sustain elite ideals.

If it is tested and proven that independent learning is enhancing at university or other higher education, what stops elementary school designers encouraging such along the way from early stage onwards?

From the scheme of marking to associated job prospecting, elitism operates a long hand in education by various ways.

Having said this much about challenges imposed on society by elites, eliminating elitism is not by any means the aim. A more enhanced progressive elite will perform better as resourceful human capital so much needed for sustaining the economic superstructure everyone requires

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  1. Should New Gambia Follow in Senegal’s Footsteps or Nigeria’s?
    It has been a year since President Barrow and the Coalition took the reins of government. The New Gambia is at a cross-road: For our leaders, follow in Senegal or Botswana’s footsteps and prosper–or follow in Nigeria or Zimbabwe’s footsteps, and be relegated to a state of decrepitude and irrelevance–on the World stage. It is your pick! Gambia’s leaders do not have to look far for a country to emulate. It is our neighbour: Senegal.
    First, emulate Senegal’s system of strong government institutions. When Abdoulie Wadda reneged on “Term Limits”, the Courts upheld the Constitution. Anyone who follows Senegalese media knows that they are free to criticise the government. The only barriers between citizens and a demagogue or dictator are strong government institutions, and a “Free Press”. Can you imagine what America under Donald Trump would look like if there were no checks and balances on his powers? It would be as chaotic as any African or Third World country, under a Dictatorship. Remember, Trump’s party controls both legislative branches of government, but it is the Courts that curb his powers.
    Second, strive to add value to our produce and raw materials. Senegal’s Industrial Zone near Dakar does a lot of “Value Added” processing. By that I mean, transforming crops from harvest, and raw materials into the finished goods. In the case of groundnuts, it is the processing of the harvested groundnuts into consumable goods like candy bars, biscuits, peanut butter, cooking oil, and a host of other products, requiring groundnuts as an ingredient. Fish caught by fishermen should be processed, packaged, and placed on supermarket shelves, for the consumers or exported. Cotton should be turned into yarn, and textiles, not export it to Europe, and then import as fabric or textiles. It is all about controlling the production line, from cultivation or extraction, to the consumable finished goods, and—ultimately–creating jobs.
    A large percentage of The Gambia’s groundnuts is bought by Unilever in London, The Roasting Company in Lincolnshire, England, Nestle in Switzerland, Hershey in Pennsylvania, or to other Nut Processing companies around the world. The workers at these companies “add value” to the Gambian groundnuts and produce all sorts of end products or finished goods. These workers earn high wages and have a high standard of living. Meanwhile, a farmer in Jokadou Bakang or Karantaba, who toils under the sun for 6–8 months a year to cultivate the groundnuts, on a few acres, can barely feed his/her family. What a disparity? Subsistence Agriculture or small scale farming does not pull farmers out of poverty. Trust me–my parents were farmers! Agriculture should be mechanised (use of machines). Mechanised Agriculture or large scale farming requires less farmers, yet produces more output than Subsistence Agriculture or small scale farming. In 1900, over 75% of Americans worked in the farming sector. In 2000, less than 2% of Americans worked in the farming sector, yet their harvest was greater than the harvest in 1900. This exponential growth in crop yield, in a century, was due to new farming equipment, fertilizers, and cross pollination–thanks to the advances in the Sciences.
    Those of you familiar with accounting or manufacturing know the 3 stages of production: Raw Materials, Work-in-Process, and Finished Goods. The Work-in-Process is the “value adding” stage of manufacturing, and it is where the most jobs are created. Economists don’t call the “Work-in-Process” stage of manufacturing the “Value Adding” stage–for nothing–because it is. This is the reasoning behind Britain and other European countries’ “Value Added Tax” (VAT) policies. Denmark processes imported milk into all sorts of dairy products; Switzerland turns imported cocoa into various confectionery, candy bars, and beverages. Their citizens have the highest standard of living, according to the United Nation’s Development Index. On the other hand, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which are richly endowed with natural resources and export them to be processed in European and American factories, have the lowest standard of living, according to the UN. Denmark and Switzerland cannot compete head-to-head against big Economy countries of France and Germany; instead, they find their comparative advantage niche or sectors and focus on them. In their case, Dairy and Cocoa products respectively. The bottom line is–when you export raw materials or produce to other countries for the “value added” stage of production, you are actually Exporting Jobs.
    It would have been great if the markets for our crops and raw materials were not Europe or America. Nigeria should have been the destination of our produce and raw materials. However, Nigeria has been a huge disappointment for Africa, especially West Africa, where one in four is a Nigerian. Under ideal circumstances, Nigeria should be the economic engine of our region: providing markets for our produce and raw materials. Instead, she is mired in tribal conflicts, rampant corruption, and bad governance. Germany, Britain, and other northern industrialised countries of Western Europe provide markets for the farmers of Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Southern France. America provides markets for the farmers of South America. Japan provides markets for the farmers of the South East Asian nations. The trade between these countries mutually benefits them. That is partially what led to the advancement of these countries. It is obvious that Spanish vegetables will be cheaper in Germany than Gambian vegetables, all things being equal, because Spain is close in proximity to Germany, unlike Gambia, which is thousands of miles away.
    Gambia being a small and resourceless nation does not destine us to be poor. Singapore, Malta, Luxemburg, Denmark, and Switzerland are prime examples of small, resourceless nations–but they are rich. To be endowed with natural resources does not equate to prosperity. Sierra Leone, Liberia, and The Democratic Republic of Congo are endowed with natural resources–but they are poor. It comes down to good governance, zero tolerance for corruption or tribalism, and an educated workforce. Completion of High School is essential for a skilled workforce; therefore, attaining a High School Certificate should be one of the government’s top priorities. As a result, government should invest in education, because an educated workforce will be vital for operating the machinery in the factories. Government should aspire to reduce youth unemployment; it is critical for social and economic stability of the country.
    The Gambia and African countries should position themselves to inherit some of the manufacturing that will inevitably exit China, as Chinese workers become more affluent and demand higher wages. As the cost of labour increases in China, the owners of capital will seek cheaper locations for manufacturing. That is how manufacturing moved from Britain, after the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, to Europe, America, and today, China. Forty years ago, the Chinese and South Korean landscapes were littered with rice fields; today they are the hub of manufacturing in the world. We can replicate what China and South Korea did, if we are determined. There are 3 stages of Economic Development of countries: Agrarian/Agriculture, Manufacturing, and the Services. The developed countries of Britain, Switzerland, France, and The United States are Service Economies. In Service economies, Banking, Insurance, Hotels, Restaurants, and Entertainment become the largest sectors of the economy.
    The transition from an Agriculture/Extraction Economy to a Manufacturing Economy should be facilitated by the government. Government can guarantee low interest loans to Gambian entrepreneurs, through the African Development Bank, World Bank, Islamic Bank, IMF, or Direct Foreign Investments. Reduce taxes to attract Direct Foreign Investments. In this age of Globalisation, it does not matter who builds a factory in one’s country, be its citizens or foreigners. Where the jobs are located is more important. The local workers employed by a foreign company spend their wages in local shops and pay local taxes. Attracting Direct Foreign Investments is what China did to pull hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. While attracting Direct Foreign Investments to build factories, the government should protect the new startup companies from competing with the large multi-national companies, head-on, through tariffs and quotas. Once they are firmly established, government can lift those trade barriers. All the developed countries protect their young companies from foreign competition. It is similar to a mother protecting and nurturing her young, till they are strong enough to face the harsh realities of the world. When your citizens buy locally manufactured goods, they are reducing their country’s use of foreign currency reserves. Having a strong foreign currency reserve translates into a stronger currency and a favourable exchange rate.
    Third, promote a local language that can be spoken by most of the population. Former President Senghore of Senegal, who was a poet, understood the importance of language and deliberately promoted Wollof, so that Senegalese, of all tribes, could understand one another. The Serrers in Sine, the Lebous in Dakar, the Fullahs in Mattam, the Mandinkas in Tamba Kunda, and the Jolas in Casamance have one thing in common: understanding basic Wollof. That does not mean that they give up their culture, language, or traditions. Commonality in language enhances understanding and national cohesion. Another route for a common local language is that of our English speaking neighbours of Sierra Leone and Liberia: Creole. All Sierra Leoneans and Liberians can speak Creole. If our leaders cannot agree on Mandinka, Wollof, or Creole being the local lingua franca, English is an excellent alternative. It is spoken in every part of the globe; it is the language of Commerce, International Diplomacy & Organisations, Air traffic Control, and the Internet. Another benefit we derive from our usage of English is Tourism, being the only English speaking country in our immediate neighbourhood.
    Today, we see all Germans as one nationality or tribe, but the Bavari of Bavaria, the Saxons of Hanover, and the Allemanni of Baden Wurttemberg and Swabia were Germanic tribes, speaking different Germanic dialects. However, today, all Germans understand basic standard German. Another example is the tribal setup of Saudi Arabia. While most Saudis identify themselves as belonging to the Al Sudari tribe, there are the Al Sharma, Al Hashemi, and other smaller tribes. In fact, the Prophet Muhammed belonged to the Al Hashemi tribe and the Qurasey clan. These Saudi tribes have their dialects, but they understand basic standard Arabic.
    Africa’s newest country, South Sudan, is embroiled in tribal warfare between the Dimka and Nuer tribes, after they jointly fought for independence from Sudan, rendering the country ungovernable. Robert Mugabe’s Shona tribe fought alongside Joshua Nkomo’s Ndebele tribe, for independence. After attaining independence, Mugabe selfishly turned his weapons against his wartime allies, Joshua Nkomo’s Ndebeles. After he subdued the Ndebeles, he waged another war against the white farmers, who were mechanised or large scale farmers. The white farmers’ confiscated lands he divided among his followers were not large enough for “Mechanised Agriculture” or large scale farming. Within a generation, Zimbabwe transitioned from being an exporter of food–to an importer of food.
    We should emphasise our national identity rather than our tribal identities, just like Senegal. No single tribe has ever achieved greatness—ALONE! The great empires were comprised of multiple tribes and ethnicities. Be it Mali, Ghana, Rome, Egypt, or Mauryan (roughly modern India) empires!
    Tumbul Trawally
    Seattle, USA
    206 225 9782

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