Sunday July 20 2014

Pick a leaf from deprived Brazilian citizens

By Matsiko Kahunga

In the run-up to national elections in Norway in 2013, one citizen was quoted by the BBC saying: “We need to vote someone who can mess up things, so that we get something to complain about. Life is boring. We have everything.”

Fast-forward to World Cup 2014. The only episode I watched in the entire World Cup were the protests by the deprived citizens of Brazil against the squander of $11 billion on hosting the World Cup, while they are living in squalour.

Brazil has been (perhaps still is) the torch-bearer for growing economies, given her position in the BRICS, a group of emerging national economies . Despite this success, poor Brazilians are poor. It was thus only expected that they had to protest at the wastage that was the hosting of the World Cup, and their prayers were answered.

What accounts for the difference between Norway and Brazil? A small monarchy of five million people, the country makes us wonder whether we should go by Schumacher’s ‘small is beautiful’?

Its oil resources granted, but this does not dwarf Brazil’s natural endowments. Where is the magic? Brazil, with a population 40 times Norway’s, besides landmass and other resources, should be the country where people are bored, because they have everything.

True, Brazil is a soccer power, but that does not justify this wastage. Actually even if they had won the cup, the difference to the country would only be sentimental. The billions spent would make no big difference in the lives of the deprived citizens.

Soccer has evolved from a sport for participation (in the Olympic sense), to a multi-trillion dollar industry. Its pinnacle, the Word Cup is essentially a ‘G8-level’ business, whose hosting should be as natural as the G8 Summit. Participating is good, but hosting at $11 billion is a crime and sin.

Great lessons emerge out of this for the developing world. Are we really participants in the globalisation hype or merely ‘also-ran’ entities? Hardly are we into 2015 than the Millennium Development Goals are already ‘upgraded’ to SDGs, with pomp and ceremonies.

All literature, studies, publications and policy documents will soon speak the SDG language. Waiting for a re-branding to something like PDGs ( P for perpetual), a decade down the road, with no big difference in the lives of African citizens.

Are we then part of this globalisation agenda? How much influence in our interest can we make to all this? The victory of the Brazilian deprived has great lessons to our thinkers and planners.

Matsiko Kahunga,