Render unto Caesar?

Wrong Rights recently wondered if we had ever had it so good, enjoying an unsustainable plethora of public goods and services, underwritten by rich country donor countries (sheesh! Is this my first language?). These are important things to think about.

A plethora of public goods and services? We’re about to move house – to what some expect will soon be one of the more swish Dar suburbs (the new Mbezi Beach? Heaven forbid!). Security? No choice: we provide that. Water? No choice: we have dug the well. Rubbish disposal? We’ll manage that, thanks. Electricity? We finish installing the solar on Monday.

And heaven forbid that our children should attend government schools, which receive less than half of the pitiable funds allocated to them.

In the continent of ubuntu and the land of pamoja we have serious problems with addressing the common good and not just the needs of interest groups. Ubuntu/umoja is a useful  trope if, as a foreign power, you want to prop up certain interests in the 2010 elections, as we have seen. It is also useful for state bureaucracies and tractor dealers, as we have also seen*.

In reflecting on umoja/ubuntu, Louder than Swahili notes that the reciprocity in personal relationships in Denmark is reflected in the social contract. You get what you pay for. But in a country like Tanzania with only 500,000 tax payers and 30-40 percent of its budget paid for by the foreign powers, that ain’t gonna work, is it? And we can’t rely on our families and clans because they are all feeling the pressure. There is a big gap.

We are on our own. And will remain so unless we change things radically.

*can anyone confirm that it was SUMA JKT – , the commercial wing of the National Service – that got the tender to import USD50 million worth of tractors, funded by an interest free loan from India?


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