WHY ARE SOME NATIONS RICH AND OTHERS POOR?
Time to Debunk Some Silly Notions and Stop Deceiving Ourselves
By Austin Inyang
The difference between the poor and rich nations of the world has nothing to do with the AGE of nations and when they achieved their independence and national sovereignty. This can be demonstrated by countries such as India and Egypt, which are more than 2000 years old but are still poor nations. Liberia and Haiti gained independence in the 1840s, but are among the poorest countries in Africa and the Americas, respectively. On the other hand, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were insignificant on the world stage 150 years ago but are rich and developed countries today.
Neither does the difference between poor and rich nations depend on AVAILABLE NATURAL RESOURCES. Japan, for example, has zero natural resources. It has limited territory – 80 percent of which is mountainous and unsuitable for agriculture and farming – but it is the third largest economy in the world, after the USA and China. The country is like an immense floating factory, importing raw materials from the whole world and exporting manufactured products. A second example is Switzerland; this small landlocked country in central Europe does not grow cocoa, but it produces the best chocolates on the planet . In her small territory, she rears animals and cultivates food for only four months in a year, but produces the best milk and cheese products. Not to mention finished goods like wrist watches, stainless steel implements and pharmaceuticals. In addition, Switzerland has managed to project a universally recognized national image of efficiency and reliability, hence its status as the world’s unofficial ‘bank’ and the home of many international financial and inter-governmental organizations.
Nor does the difference between poor and rich countries have to do with DIFFERENCES IN INTELLECTUAL CAPACITY; executives from rich countries who interact with their counterparts from poor countries show no significant intellectual superiority. Race, colour and creed do not play a part as significant factors, either; migrants who are seriously lazy and unproductive in their home countries suddenly become super-productive when they go to rich European countries and are forced to work and generally function according to a different set of standards.
WHAT, THEN, IS THE DIFFERENCE?
The difference, simply, is in the ATTITUDE of the majority of the people in these two groups of nations. This quality is molded for years, even generations, by culture and education. When you analyze the conduct of most people from rich and developed countries, it can be observed that the majority abide by the following life principles:
– ETHICS (adherence to principles agreed upon by honest people as being necessary for the good ordering of society);
– INTEGRITY: People generally do – and mean – what they say.
– A SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY (not just for oneself but also for one’s physical and social environment);
– RESPECT FOR RULES AND REGULATIONS (as inconvenient as they sometimes are).
– RESPECT FOR THE RIGHTS OF OTHERS, as well as insistence on one’s own rights.
– LOVE OF, AND BELIEF IN, WORK as the surest route to success.
– A CONSCIOUS EFFORT TO SAVE AND INVEST.
– THE WILL TO BE PRODUCTIVE and make a meaningful contribution to society;
– PUNCTUALITY (doing things, or simply showing up, on TIME).
In poor countries, only a small minority of citizens follow these basic principles in their daily lives, work and dealings with others.
We are not poor because we lack natural resources or because nature was cruel to us. We are poor only because we lack the right ATTITUDE. We lack the will to follow the principles that have made some nations rich and developed, let alone teach them to our young ones.
We are in this state because we always want to take advantage of everything and everybody else. We are in this state because we see something done wrong, and we say, “Let it be.” (Or as some Yorubas would say, “Ko mean.” It doesn’t mean anything).We must change our ATTITUDE to change our ALTITUDE and our developmental trajectory – which at present is in free-fall. Only then can we change our condition to a better one. Otherwise, we will continue our slide to the bottom of human civilisation. There is no law that says Nigeria and Africa must remain at the bottom of the class as far as global developmental indices are concerned. We can change our story – with the right ATTITUDE.