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Opinions of Friday, 8 August 2014

Journaliste: The Post Newspaper

When politics and economics don't mix


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During the 2011 presidential election campaigns, bigwigs of the ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement, CPDM, were making what political scientist Prof. Mathias Owona Nguini described as "very dangerous and irresponsible statements that could have a devastating effect on Cameroon's international image and its relations with our main economic partners".

In effect, senior CPDM operatives including the then Secretary General, Rene Sadi in concerted statements all over the country, condemned what they called "interference in the internal affairs of Cameroon" and insisted that the destiny and development of the country lies solely in the hands of Cameroonians themselves.

All this anti-western rhetoric started when the then U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on the occasion of Cameroon's National Day on May 20 addressed a message of goodwill, not through the Cameroon leader, but directly to the Cameroonian people pledging US support for their legitimate aspirations for free and fair elections and for good governance.

Eventually, three envoys from Barrack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron went to Unity Palace to talk to Paul Biya with messages that were perceived by Biya and his Government as 'ultimatums' to Biya to 'step down or else'. Ever since, the Yaounde Government seems to be tuning down its rhetoric and chewing its own words. Politics aside, economic realities seem to be dawning on the Biya Government.

The realisation seems to have dawned on the Yaounde authorities that political rhetoric and declarations whipping up national sentiments don't build roads, health centres and schools, neither do they feed starving children in the northern regions, nor stop Boko Haram from attacking our military and abducting our people.

Speaking at the signing of a loan agreement between the French Development Agency and Cameroon some time ago, the then Minister of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development, Louis Paul Motaze, insisted that Franco-Cameroon relations were "not suffering from any constraints nor contestation" adding that any declarations to the contrary were "mere speeches and this is confirmed by the present convention".

The present convention Mr. Motaze was referring to is a loan agreement for US$131 million which is being used to partially financed by the construction of a second bridge over the Wouri River in Douala.

The bridge is a very important economic artery in Cameroon as it links Douala, the country's economic capital and main seaport to the Southwest, West and Northwest regions which are the bread basket of the country.

The truth is that Biya himself has realised that over-zealous ruling party stalwarts are ruining relations between the Government and its main donors and financiers by their reckless and undiplomatic rhetoric so there is a frantic effort to save face and mend fences before all taps are closed.

"You cannot be a beggar, arrogant nationalist and insolent to your sponsors at the same time", Prof. Pogoue, a political scientist and opposition party leader opines. "What these people are doing as they struggle to hang on to power could cause irreparable damage to our national diplomacy and international relations", the university don adds.

It should be noted that about 25 percent of Cameroon's annual budget is spent on paying civil service salaries alone and almost double that amount goes to finance the running of Government services. Part of what is left goes to service external loans and the remaining little that is supposed to be invested on capital projects is embezzled outright.

Cameroon's national budget is never balanced without external assistance. The country depends on external largesse to provide the most basic amenities such as water, health facilities and educational infrastructures. In 2009, 80 percent of the investment budget was concentrated in Yaounde and only 20 percent was sent to the ten regions, which divides at approximately 2 percent per region.

The reason behind this is clear. It was intended to be embezzled by officialdom in Yaounde, otherwise how does one explain that the national capital alone would consume 80 percent of the national investment budget and only 20 percent goes to the rest of the country?

I am not inferring here that Cameroon should continue to remain a neo-colonialist bastion, but the truth remains that throwing slangs at those who pay for the basic needs of the populations that helps to maintain the lid on an increasingly disgruntled and restive youthful majority does not make for the political security of those currently in power.

Biya knows this and he should realise that those of his henchmen biting the finger that feeds them are his real enemies and not the opposition who want to accede to power through legal and democratic means.

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