Relations between Democratization & Development [Archives:1999/20/Viewpoint]

May 17 1999

There has been a constant debate between various schools of thoughts about the relationship between democratization (political transformation) and socio-economic development (including market-oriented liberalization). Some people argue that rapid economic development can take place even within an authoritarian political system. They point to the examples of the Far East Asian nations – the so-called Tigers. The Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and others have achieved spectacular growth levels under dictatorships.
The new wisdom, which is the driving force of the New World Order, insists that a democratic set-up is imperative to achieve sustainable development. The basic argument, even using the present difficulties of the Far East Asian Tigers as examples, is that a democratic framework, given the requirements of transparency, accountability, and a constant and regular transfusion of new blood into the system, is a prerequisite to development.
Today, the world is adopting the so-called parallel or twin approach. Democratization goes hand in hand with economic development. While political transformation is necessary, it will not succeed with empty belies, so to speak.
The Republic of Yemen is an example of a nation trying the twin transformation. Democratization proceeds along with economic reforms. Unfortunately, the perception is that the economic reforms are not doing well. Unemployment, especially among the young, is growing; poverty is hitting hard leading to serious malnutrition; the infrastructure is falling apart due to lack of maintenance; inflation continues to haunt Yemenis, especially the fixed and/or low income people; etc.
Many countries in the West are touting Yemen as a model for the region, in terms of political change. If this model is to succeed, then the economic performance of Yemen must also succeed. Otherwise, the whole experiment may go down the drain. That is why, I believe, the Western nations which value Yemen’s political transformation, should come to the support of the development process of the country.