The constitution, the budget organic law and the financial regulations form the legal framework within which the annual budget law is prepared, approved, executed, and audited. But development planning is vulnerable to democratic fatigue, referendum fever, truth decay, government paralysis stemming from relentless media scrutiny, widespread public distrust, change in administration, and upheavals. The electoral fundamentalists venerate elections and hold the unshakeable belief that democracy is inconceivable without elections. Elections become a doctrine with intrinsic and inalienable value. One consequence is that sustained long term development planning becomes tenuous. The drastic decision to divorce the EU through a primitive one-round referendum catapulted the British economy into a spiralling downturn and a complete stall in the first quarter of 2019.
Wang Xiaohong argues that Western political systems are associated with fractured societies, inefficient governments, and endless power transitions; and when governments change new constellations of beliefs guide the economy. The priorities of the previous group are shelved. This shift impinges on everything that touches the financing of development everywhere from former plantation societies to Post-Brexit European states.
To forge resistant development plans, Jamaica’s Vision 2030 states that ‘Previous planning efforts floundered, partly because they were perceived as being owned only by the Government of the day. This Plan is therefore, broad-based in scope, non-partisan and inclusive, the recipient of input from the public and private sectors, Trade Unions, NGOs, external agencies and ordinary citizens. The final product is a National Development Plan which captures the very diverse needs and aspirations of our people.’ But plans everywhere crumble.
Electoral fundamentalism has ultimately led to blind faith in ballot papers as the basis for popular sovereignty. Lord Diplock in the Privy Council Judgement No. 47 of 1980 in the Endell Thomas case noted that under a party system of government as exists in Trinidad and Tobago and was expected to exist after independence in other commonwealth countries there is a possibility that leaders of the ruling political party may be tempted to treat the proper performance of their public duties as subordinate to the furtherance of that party’s political aims. Truth decay has exacerbated this problem.
People are now virtually free to believe whatever they want. Truth is tentative. Regardless of where the divisiveness resides, truth decay is beneath it. Truth decay is a set of trends that include: disagreement about facts and analytical interpretations of facts and data; a blurring between opinion and fact; an increase in the relative volume, and influence of opinion and authentic experience over fact; and diminishing trust in cherished sources of facts. The most damaging effects include the erosion of civil discourse, political paralysis, alienation and disengagement of citizens from political and civic institutions. These trends are driven by political, sociodemographic, and economic polarization and disrupt sustainable development.
The precise legal framework to fund development establishes the constitution as the highest authority in the legal hierarchy. The constitution clarifies: (1) the relative powers of the executive and legislative branches with respect to public finances; (2) the definition of the financial relations between national and subnational levels; and (3) the requirement that all public funds be paid into designated accounts, and that these funds be spent only under the authority of a law. Fiji’s model of financing its development programme has a 5-Year plan (2017-2021) nested inside a 20-Year transformation plan (2017-2036). To achieve a target of 1,100 Solar Home Systems by 2022 the plan sets out a cascading set of annual targets: 400 homes (2017-18), 300 homes (2018-19), 200 homes (2019-20), 100 homes (2020-21) and 100 homes (2021-22).
Squatter upgrading and resettlement targeted 1,189 lots by 2022. This will be achieved by resettling 349 families in (2017-18), 150 families in (2018-19), 230 families in (2019-20), 230 families in (2020-21) and 230 families in (2021-22). Sixty locations are targeted for solar power projects: 15 locations annually from 2017- 2021. But this does not insulate Fiji from truth decay and other troubles. In Ghana the causes of development programme failure include: (1) poor monitoring (2) corruption (3) political interference (4) changes in government (5) bureaucracy (6) lack of continuity (7) fluctuation of prices (8) delays in payments and (9) release of funds.
China’s Deng Xiaoping once initiated a series of experiments that is the source of China’s talent-thick workforce and prosperity today. He started with something small, learned from it and then propagated iterations of the pilot. He established economic zones in places like Shenzhen where foreign and domestic companies could trade and invest escaping all ‘red tape’.
Xiaoping’s ‘one country, two systems’ created Xi’s Open China- a China that is not building Walls but embracing the World. China’s political orientation may be officially communist but it is one of the strongest proponents of capitalism compared with publics elsewhere. Xi Jinping stated that China today is an Open System that has historically integrated Buddhism, Marxism and Islam. Its capitalist economy, 5G technology, capacity for innovation, and Belt and Road Initiative now set it apart from those clinging to ballots as an expression of democracy. The Mimic Men of Copycat-China are now economic Moko Jumbies and Xi Jinping is delivering on his development promises to his people.