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Capital And Governance

by Dickson Igwe
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Dickson Igwe for CaribDirect

Contributing writer Dickson Igwe

The quality of a country’s capital: the various combinations of both private and public capital, decides quality of life, standard of living, and wellbeing. Capital Mix: wealth generating assets and resources, from land and technology, to enterprise and human resources, decides the level of national prosperity.

Good governance is synonymous with a capital mix that drives up prosperity and wellbeing: the public or national good. 

If we look at countries that underperform, overwhelmingly, it is down to their poor governance. Governance is an octopus with tentacles that affect every area of national life. Poor governance results in a capital mix that fails to deliver.

Now, leadership is top down, and even though the values and cultures held by a population are factors in deciding the quality of leadership, poor governance will destroy a country’s culture. Countries get the governments they deserve, yes. However, like a fish, where the rot starts at the head, poor leadership delivers mass misery.

In Africa, a continent blessed with vast and abundant natural resources, poor governance is a synonym for unethical cultures. Poor governance has been a top down affair corrupting everything and inflicting war, underdevelopment, and poverty, on hundreds of millions of people.

Countries may have abundant natural and human resources, like Nigeria, Venezuela, and much of Africa. However, no matter the abundance of natural wealth, poor and dishonest governance has placed these lands at a disadvantage, keeping them in poverty, under-development, and conflict.

Countries with far less natural wealth possess a higher quality of life and standard of living owing to the fact of honest, progressive, and thoughtful governance. The governing culture of a country appears to have a more lasting effect on prosperity and welfare than the gold, silver, copper, aluminum, and uranium, sitting under the earth.

The modern Caribbean is a tourism haven, but limited in natural resources unlike many an African nation with oil, gas, minerals, and arable land. The Caribbean owes any positive economic growth and social development to the fact that most islands possess a reasonable degree of honest governance.

That is, honest governance, relative to countries in Africa and Latin America. Honest and good governance, results in a capital mix in the Caribbean of a relatively sustainable social and economic infrastructure. Much of the Caribbean would have resembled Haiti or Venezuela had it not been for governance that has adopted a degree of honesty.

Consequently, the islands – including overseas territories of the USA, UK, France, and the Netherlands- are safe for tourism and offshore administrative and financial services: key revenue earners.

Then, much of the Caribbean possesses adequate power and water supply, and a connecting road network that borders coastlines, and links with hubs and towns, inland. Again, this is the consequence of sustainable public investment; public cash that has not ended up in Swiss Accounts, as is the case with too many naturally wealthy but corrupt and undeveloped economies.   

There remains much to be improved, but Caribbean roads beat regions of the world where potholes become craters, and collapsed bridges left in disrepair for many months, even, years. A drive through a land where corruption is rife will be a shock to anyone living in a safe, sustainable, and stable country with good governance.

A Caribbean Island nation such as Haiti, can blame poor governance for driving a capital mix that has resulted in poverty crime, and underdevelopment, especially in recent decades.

Today, the Virgin Islands is going through the trauma of a Commission of Inquiry and its aftermath. That exercise aims at strengthening its governance. Getting governance right will be more of an influence on long-term prosperity than the natural beauty and majestic geography of the islands.

A country can be beautiful and endowed with natural wealth but remain poor, and under-developed, if governance is poor. Conversely, a country with limited natural wealth will prosper if it possesses good governance.

Dickson Igwe

Dickson Igwe

Dickson Igwe is an education official in the Virgin Islands. He is also a national sea safety instructor. He writes a national column across media and has authored a story book on the Caribbean: ‘The Adventures of a West Indian Villager’. Dickson is focused on economics articles, and he believes economics holds the answer to the full economic and social development of the Caribbean. He is of both West African and Caribbean heritage. Dickson is married with one son.


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