Cameroon’s Public Health Minister Dr. Manaouda Malachie did not mince his words when on Monday he said the central African nation is entering the most complicated phase of the novel coronavirus. He is privy to the true figures of positive cases and the exact number of deaths – he may just pity the masses who may not know the reality like he does.
In fact, the Minister had taken to twitter with the following words: “It is important to note that we are entering a complicated phase of the pandemic. Therefore, more than ever, we must protect ourselves, protect our families and protect others by observing barrier measures. Wear a mask when going out and wash your hands regularly.”
But as scary as the situation appears for the poor masses, government seems to see the situation from a different lens. For them, it is business as usual, time to “chop broke pot” like journalism Yerima Kini Nsom once said.
President Paul Biya, 87, is known to have coughed out only FCFA 1 billion from government coffers to the special fund for the fight against COVID-19 and made an empty speech that could well take sleep from a baby’s eyes. And then bathing buckets and soap said to cost about FCFA 2 billion are being shared in the president’s name by Minister Paul Atanga Nji – what thoughtlessness!
With the number of confirmed cases now flying above 5400, government quickly rolled out FCFA 4.2 billion for the purchase of cars for Members of the National Assembly. As if that was not enough, and without listening to the outcry that followed the decision, government has now decided to gift new cars for Ministers. Where will they drive these new cars to when coronavirus is sweeping through the country and killing at will?
In the heart of a health emergency, government is only devising means to bleed the masses and enrich those already swimming in affluence.
Cameroon does not yet have the capacity to conduct mass testing for COVID-19. Those who are lucky to be tested even die without knowing their results.
Cameron is a country that evokes mixed but mostly sad feelings. It is well-endowed with natural resources but many Cameroonians languish in poverty. The country is one of striking diversity, unfulfilled promise and tantalizing potential. It abounds in variety – in geography, climate, people, culture, language, education and economic structure.
Yet, despite these natural and human endowments, since 1985 the country has slipped into a profound crisis marked by economic collapse, political and social discord and a silent crisis of deepening poverty.
The sharp and well-documented economic collapse marked a reversal in economic performance. GDP per capita declined by 6.3 per cent a year between 1985 and 1993, which translated into a 6 per cent annual decline in private per capita consumption.
President Biya and his followers swim in corruption and greed. That a huge portion of his former ministers and close aides are in prison is testament of the gangster nature in which the state is run by a cult of self-seeking gluttons.
An average Cameroon minister has no fewer than five porch cars, including a state run home, domestic servants and state security. They manage the state purse like their personal servings and use state power as though it was willed to them.
To paint the picture clearer, the Governor of the South West Region, Bernard Okalia Bilai, for example, has at least six cars at his disposal. Added to his being Governor, he is Board Chairman of the limping Pamol Plantations Plc from where FCFA 60 million was given to him for the purchase of a new car when workers have gone for months without even bread on their tables. It will be aching to talk about the fat allowances he gets from here and there. That’s by the way!
The current situation is the outcome of poor internal management, a collapse of the rule of law and deepening socio-economic and political crises. The crisis started with the drastic fall in export earnings and the depreciation of the dollar.
Government reaction to these changing fortunes was slow and its response was to borrow externally, thus accumulating large debts. Cameroon’s current external debt is more than US$ 9 billion dollars and repayments of both principal and interest are taking their toll by stifling investment and stunting economic growth, thus worsening poverty.
This deterioration is also a result of poor management of both the economy and the country. Mismanagement and misplaced priorities began at independence, with an emphasis on the development of the public sector and a neglect of the private sector, which led to the growth and dominance of the public sector in the economy.
This dominance led to the transfer of resources from the private, mostly rural, sector that produced tradable goods to the urban-dominated public sector that produced non-tradable goods. This policy had a devastating effect on the economy’s competitiveness. To add to this unfortunate situation, mismanagement and misappropriation of common resources has led to a skewed distribution, which is very evident in the urban areas.
This process also encouraged the migration of unskilled labour from rural to urban areas, creating large poverty pockets in the latter. As a result of the changing economic and socio-political environments, poverty in Cameroon has manifested itself in many different ways including: unemployment of university and high school graduates, thus creating a fertile ground for all the problems the country is unable to deal with today.
With schools to resume on June 1 in the heart of COVID-19, government is not thinking of building more classrooms, equipping them, providing potable water for all and making teaching and learning plausible even for the rural poor.
The IMF recently gave Cameroon a financial disbursement of about FCFA 113 billion. They can now buy cars and live in luxury again before the next loan is got. Once again, they have proven that they are ready to bleed the country dry before they die. May God help us!
Mimi Mefo Info