Interview: Dambisa Moyo on democracy, China’s economic model and foreign aid
|On reforming democracy, the international economist argued that citizens should have to take a test in order to vote|
The bestselling author goes Head to Head with Mehdi Hasan at the Oxford Union:
· Argues that it is “mad, it’s crazy” not to see major problems in Western democracy today, asserting that today’s rise in populism; “has its roots in economics.”
· Says short-sighted policies coming from the West have created “more impoverished people” around the world and “fed into issues of political instability.”
· Asked if Goldman Sachs had a role for the 2008 financial crisis, asserts that her former employer had “no special responsibility” for what took place.
· On reforming democracy, proposes that all citizens should take a test to ensure a “good knowledge of what exactly they are voting on.”
· Whilst discussing aid in Africa, Moyo asserts that aid is a “corrosive force” to African democracy because countries cannot hold their governments accountable “if actually Oxfam is going to solve the healthcare problem,” or “somebody else is going to solve education.”
In a far-reaching interview with Al Jazeera (www.AlJazeera.com) English’s Head to Head, Dambisa Moyo argued that there are major problems with Western democracy today.
“The notion that democracy is not a problem is mad, it’s crazy,” Moyo said.
Discussing why she believed liberal democracy was “under siege,” Moyo asserted that today’s populism “has its roots in economics”, describing how “real wages have come down…over the past 30 years, social mobility has declined” and “income inequality has widened.”
She blamed short-termist Western policies, such as farm subsidies in the US and Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy, for locking “out the goods that are produced in places like Africa and South America” which has led to “more impoverished people” and “fed into issues of political instability.”
A former Goldman Sachs banker, Moyo was asked whether the company had a particular role for the 2008 financial crisis, she said that it had “no special responsibility” for what took place and that “we all have to take responsibility”.
Goldman Sachs agreed to pay $5.1bn in fines in January 2016, following an investigation by the US Department of Justice for its role in the crisis.
On reforming democracy, the international economist argued that citizens should have to take a test in order to vote and that people must have a “good knowledge of what exactly we’re voting on” before being allowed to vote.
When she remarked how voter participation was at all-time low, presenter Mehdi Hasan responded by asking “so the idea is then you make it harder for them to vote by putting a test in front of them?”
In her new book; Edge of Chaos, Why Democracy is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth – and how to fix it, Dr Moyo proposes a system of weighted voting where some individuals have more voting power than others.
When defending her proposal, which presenter Mehdi Hasan suggested was elitist and would actually “help populism”, Moyo asserted that her idea was “based on participation, not on education” and that a degree of weighted voting already existed around the world.
Speaking about China and its economic model, Moyo commented how “over 300 million people have been moved out of poverty in 30 years” and that the West should be careful not to “point fingers” when commenting on the country’s democratic record which was on its own particular “path”.
Addressing a question on the benefits of China’s economic model, Moyo noted how Chinese politicians “don’t need to seduce today’s voter in order to remain in political office” in comparison to the US, where there is a “mismatch between long-term economic challenges and short-termism in the political system.”
Economist Dambisa Moyo first made waves with her book Dead Aid, which argued that rather than alleviating poverty in Africa, aid was actually preserving it. Asked whether she believed aid had had any beneficial effects, the economist described its “corrosive nature” on “democracy on the African continent.”
“We do want to be able to hold our governments accountable but we can’t do that if actually Oxfam is going to solve the health care problem, somebody else is going to solve education, how are we able to hold our governments accountable from a public policy stance if they are not the ones who are delivering these outcomes?”
The best-selling author argued that whilst she accepted that there have been “significant wins” across Africa, “the notion that those are because of aid…is wrong.”
Moyo pointed out that China has played a hugely significant role on the continent: “We’ve had China come in, there’s been significant investment…we’re able to trade with the Chinese, for better or for worse.”
Mehdi Hasan was joined in the discussion by a panel of experts: Ann Pettifor, economist and Author of The Production of Money; Jason Hickel, anthropologist at the University of London and author of The Divide: A brief Guide to global inequality and its solutions; and Jamie Whyte, research director at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA).
The interview is part of a brand new series of Head to Head, Mehdi Hasan’s hard-hitting discussion show on Al Jazeera English. Other guests were former Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, former Trump campaign National Security Director J.D. Gordon, and feminist Germaine Greer.
Is it time to rethink Democracy? with Dambisa Moyo will be broadcast on Friday August 3rd at 20:00 GMT, and will be repeated on August 4th at 12.00 GMT, August 5th at 01.00 GMT and August 6th at 06.00 GMT.
Note to Editors
· This Head to Head interview with Dambisa Moyo airs Friday Aug 3rd at 20:00 GMT (21:00 BST). The show will be available online at the same time here: AlJazeera.com/headtohead – Please add this link to your copy if quotes used.
· Please credit Al Jazeera English and ‘Head to Head’ for quotes.