In 1853 the US government authorized the Perry Expedition (a naval expedition named after Commodore Matthew Perry of the US navy) to Japan. The mission was to make sure Japan is once again reintegrated to the world system, which she willingly abandoned (literally) about a quarter of a millennium ago. Perry flexed his fleet’s iron muscle and the Japanese signed an agreement on issues of trade, etc., (not all favorable to them) on March 31, 1854. Soon there after, their rigidly hierarchical ways (fiefdoms/feudal lords) gave way to the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912.) It is during the Meiji Restoration the Japanese were seriously initiated into the art of cranking out stuff, leveraging science and technology in earnest. It was the old system of ‘zaibatsu’ and later the ‘keiretsu’ (after WWII) that was chosen to lead the implementation of its development agenda, a la technology and modern organizations. The rest is history!
The South Koreans tackled their particular development agenda in more or less the same manner. After WWII, emphasis was put on educating the youth, particularly in the hard sciences & engineering to prepare the way for manufacturing industries that also leveraged technology. After all, like Japan, Korea hardly has any natural resource worthy of its name. Therefore, it had to zero in on its human resource. South Korea created, like its regional neighbour, plenty of dedicated, nationalist and very able work force. Consequently, South Korea managed to muscle its way, along with the other big boys (western nations) inside the exclusive arena of global manufacturing. The South Koreans decided to seek out the best and brightest amongst them (some would say, in their characteristic fashion) to spearhead their new development paradigm; be it in planning, implementation, marketing, etc. This new approach allowed them to foster a way of thinking that solidly incorporated anticipatory foresight in almost all areas of endeavors. When they opted for an economic planning board, they were adamant in not letting usual/regurgitated ideas to seep through their bold initiatives, mostly by not allowing individuals fixated on conventional theories (in economics, etc.,) to dominate their transformative agenda. By contrast, Africa is still wallowing in all sorts of stupid ideas emanating from all sorts of stupid places. That is why we seem to be stuck in perennial quagmire. The Samsungs (various licenses negotiated by the gov’t, Motorola, etc.,), the Daewoos of this world (to say nothing about projects like Pusan, etc) were the creation of the foresighted state of Korea, (literally) public propaganda aside. Again, the rest is history!
Enter & exit the USSR (United Soviets Socialists Republics) with its satellite states, near and far. Besides losing the political grip (unlike China), the USSR also lost the ideological leadership across the board. Its economy collapsed and the situation allowed day light robbers (facilitated by western banks/other institutions, etc.,) to take over the resources of the state/people. Russia is now famous for creating globetrotting oligarchs, (some have even reached Ethiopia’s internal shore) whose sole claim to wealth is the iron chain connections to the state and its massively corrupt apparatchik! The situation is such that it suffices to quote one of New York Times regular scribe; ‘Today, Russia is a Burkina Faso with nuclear capabilities.’ There are evidences to suggest the current Russian administration is trying hard to bring back a semblance of decency within the state bureaucracy and society at large. We wish them all the luck in the world. This also is history! Ethiopia’s case is not very dissimilar from that of Russia. What redeems our system (compared to others in Africa); is probably the fact that there is a party in government with strong commitment to its original ideals and some proven capacity to confidently tackle issues on its own. In Africa such capacity is rare, hence should not be undermined. We also believe, (difficult as it is) there are still elements in the ruling party that genuinely regard outright embezzlement/injustice as some sort of crime. Contrast the following two stories and decide whether we are on our way to becoming a ‘Korea’ or just another debt-ridden banana republic that will ultimately be forced to face the music, (like many of our member states in the AU setup.)
A story was told by a CEO of one of Korea’s Chaebols (multibillion dollar company) during its formative years. The CEO said, he used to refuse snacking on a chocolate bar, because it was an imported item requiring hard earned foreign currency. Here is our perverted version. A party operator lamented about his miniscule 1000 USD per diem, while he does the ‘hardship tours’, procuring factories from Europe. He admitted; he is/was continuously wooed by potential suppliers. More than once, he was forced to sail the French/Italian Rivera with gorgeous ladies, who were ready and willing to satisfy all his needs aboard a private luxury yacht. Stupid as we are, we wondered why all the fuss then? The poor chap finally confessed the causes of his distress. He said he gets embarrassed even depressed every time a billionaire-oligarch pops out 50,000USD (unearned wealth of course) as an entertainment budget for the night. That is why our comrade (aspiring closet oligarch) dreads such austere travel. What a drag, ah! Be that as it may, after pumping tens of millions of dollars, the factories the dud so diligently procured, have finally managed to produce a whole lot of nothing! Entrenched interests (including hangers-on from the private sector) are clamoring; it is because of lack of finance! Sounds familiar, welcome to our version of the Korean way!
As usual we have decided to coin words for the above two major operators within the formal private sector. Our ‘investors’, by and large, are peonage (the Amharic translation captures the real farce behind the whole racket-‘balehabt.’) Nobody tells you where their so-called ‘habet’ (wealth) came/comes from, how it is acquired (earned, looted, etc.,) etc. These characters don’t understand what it means to earn one’s keep, let alone create actual wealth. One can’t blame them, since they are only used to spending wealth and not creating them! Naturally and by implication, this perverse system targets (genuine) entrepreneurship for elimination! In the case of business managers of the party/state, like the above dud/dude, we have a word for them. They are ‘partypreneurs’ and their business model ‘partypreneurship.’ In both cases, the above operators don’t really need to account or pay back the money they accessed under various investment guises! Again in both cases future consequences will be catastrophic. Generalized peonage leads to a country becoming like one of the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, …) or worse! Since ‘partypreneurship is only an aspect of ‘crony capitalism’, our country can easily become a Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, etc., and most certainly not a Japan nor a Korea! “Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth, because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.” – Friedrich Nietzsche. Good Day!