The Millenium Development Goals of 2000 focused the international community on the development and health advances of the developing world. To succeed in completing these goals, massive amounts of aid have been sent to developing countries, though many conditions have been attached. Many countries have not been able to progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Several reasons underlie this failure, including corrupt governments, overpopulation, new infectious diseases, and a failure in implementing foreign aid efficiently. One variable, government systems of the developing countries, is stressed as a key factor for reaching the Millenium Development Goals. There is a common belief among aid donors that democracy is essential for development. I hope to dispute this claim.
Liberal democratic ideals are what brought much of the Western world to a phase of development. The United States can look back on their era of free market and liberal development at the turn of the century and note that the mortality rate dropped from 17 deaths per 1000 people in 1900 to 9.6 in 1950. Because of statistics like these and the ideals of Westerners, it is believed that liberal democracy is the only way to real success in both the economic and health sectors.
Despite the success many countries have had within a liberal democratic framework, there is much to support the idea that a more authoritarian government style could foster development more efficiently. One factor which is often overlooked in the comparison of the West's industrial revolutions and modern African development is the presence of massive amounts of aid. Aid creates new problems within governments, which changes the relative effectiveness of governmental frameworks.
Two reasons the democratic system may be failing when aid comes into the picture is competition and stability. Internal competition is a major problem in the aid-based developing countries. Aid provides money to the group of people in power, so that the democratic process is more a competition between two groups over who has access to the money, than who has the best ideology to further develop their country. Since in a democracy, the vote could go either way in just a few years, the ones in power are focused on gaining as much as they can from the aid stream while they are in power.
A more authoritarian government could add stability to the picture. When a government or a governmental administration is permanent, there is little internal competition and there may even be more accountability (though this is not always the case). If the people in power are more worried about a general uprising than being voted out of power, they may use the aid given to them in a very productive way, to increase the health and welfare of their constituents.
[...] He turned Zimbabwe into an authoritarian state officially in 1987, but the country still seemed to be able to develop economically and through health and education. However, corruption rose and so did opposition. Mugabe became more and more suppressive, and a disastrous economic downturn was an effect. To this day Mugabe holds on to power through suppression and violence and development is faltering as a result. Zimbabwe has experiences negative progress on five of the Millennium Development goals and received a 1.0 on the MDG progress index. To clarify the meaning of [...]
[...] This comparison used the Center for Global Development's MDG performance index and the Economic Intelligence Unit's Index of democracy for a variety of African countries. The MDG progress index gave a score of .5 for every MDG the country was on the right trajectory to meet and a 1 for every goal that the country was surpassing the given trajectory. The Index of Democracy ranked countries on at authoritarian-democratic spectrum using Electoral process, functioning of government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties as variables is completely authoritarian and 10 is completely democratic). [...]
[...] This percentage of the population dominates business and because they have so much money coming from the government, fair free market competition does not occur anymore. This brings us back to the comparison of the stability and corruption of democracies and authoritarian regimes. A good historical example of growth comparison between developing nations with different governments is India and China from 1978 to 2004. India, with a democratic government, had an average growth of output of China, with a more authoritarian government, had an average growth of output of Of course, there were many other factors involved in these growth statistics, but it can be said from this data that a liberal democratic system is not always the better than a stable authoritarian government for growth. [...]
[...] Infrastructure is good for the country in the long run, but in a democracy the regime in power will not be there long enough to reap the rewards, so they fail to bring this basic infrastructure to the people. William Easterly, another important developmental economist has very different views on what should be focused on when it comes to growth in developing countries. Easterly stresses the importance of people on the ground and bottom-up programs. Easterly says that the most important factor for growth is innovation in the communities. [...]
[...] The Index of Democracy ranked countries on at authoritarian-democratic spectrum using Electoral process, functioning of government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties as variables is completely authoritarian and 10 is completely democratic). Country MDG scorecard Democracy Index Congo Figure Comparing Development with Democracy There are many confounding variables in comparing these two studies, such as GDP, geography, and economic diversity, but the basic trends can be used to analyze the correlation between democracy and development. When the two Indexes were compared there was not an obvious trend, as seen in figure A. This supports the idea that Democracy is not always the best form of government for development. [...]
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