Friday, May 16, 2008

Botswana and Zimbabwe: A Tale of Two Countries.

In most African countries, even those that are nominally democratic, the leaders are so far removed from day-to-day public scrutiny that they behave with impunity and in an embarrassingly rapacious manner. Of course, Botswana’s free media plays a vital role in keeping her politicians honest. My visit to Botswana, to give one example, coincided with President Festus Mogae’s last “state of the nation” address. One of the country’s weekly newspapers, Mbegi, carried a page-long response to the president written by the leader of the opposition, who railed against the government’s “laissez-faire” policies. Though I disagreed with the substance of his arguments, I was happy to see his freedom of expression honored, especially considering that Botswana has been ruled by the same political party, the Botswana Democratic Party, since 1965.

That brings me to probably the most important legacy of Khama’s presidency: a limited government and one of the freest economies in Africa. (In its 2007 Economic Freedom of the World report, Canada’s Fraser Institute ranked Botswana’s economic freedom on par with that of Belgium and Portugal.) According to Scott Beaulier, an economist at Beloit College, “Khama adopted pro-market policies on a wide front. His new government promised low and stable taxes to mining companies, liberalized trade, increased personal freedoms, and kept marginal income tax rates low to deter tax evasion and corruption.”

h/t Maggie's Farm

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