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3 Market Transactional and Political Freedoms

Following the hypothesis, first put forward by Amartya Sen (2001), that no major famine has ever occurred in a democratic country that has regular polls, opposition parties, and a relatively free media, we examine the countries of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, for political and market transactional freedoms, using the Human Development Index, HDI, the Democracy Index and the World Press Freedom Index. Figure 1 shows low but stable HDI rankings for ECOWAS countries. HDI ranks countries of the world on a composite index of three dimensions of human development: living a long and healthy life, being educated, and having a decent standard of living (Tristam 2014). Figure 2 depicts an undesirable relationship between HDI ranks and scores for ECOWAS. A desirable relationship will be lower ranks and high scores. ECOWAS has high ranking and low HDI scores.

ECOWAS has relatively superior performance in growing its economies compared to the other regions of the World shown in Fig. 3.

Fig. 1 ECOWAS, Human Development Index. Source: United Nations Development Program (2014a). Table 1: Human Development Index and its components

Fig. 2 Ranks versus scores. Source: United Nations Development Program (2014b). Table 1: Human Development Index and its components

Fig. 3 Regional GDP growth around the world. Source: The Conference Board (2014). Global economic outlook 2014

In Fig. 4 we observe a rather embarrassing destruction of the relationship between economic growth, vertical axis and economic development, measured by the Human Development Index, horizontal axis.

4 Market and Transactional Freedom

Economic growth will no doubt aid the availability of the inanimate objects of pleasure and material comfort for West Africans. But the apparent lack of deliberate and active policies to integrate political freedom and market transactional liberties into the agenda for growth is hurting all efforts to develop the region both individually and as an economic, social and political bloc. Such breakdown in transactional liberty and political freedom is portrayed in Figs. 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Freedom is, indeed, the primary objective of development; that is, there can be no development without human freedom. Freedom is the end to development efforts. So, a rise in GNP and a huge advancement in technology by themselves will not cut it! For development to take place, we have to ask the question, “What are the effects of rapid growths in GNP and technological advancement on the ways people choose to live or on the freedom to choose the lives the people desire”? Freedom is the principal means of development. Various forms of freedom are consistent and mutually reinforcing. Some of these forms of freedom are (Sen 2001, p. 507):

I. Economic Opportunity

II. Political Liberties

Fig. 4 Economic growth and human development in ECOWAS: Global Index. Source: United Nations Development Program (2014a). Table 1: Human Development Index and its components

III. Social facilities and infrastructures

IV. Good health

V. Basic education

VI. Freedom of speech and of association

Sen (2001) compares freedom to carrying out transactions and freedom to exchange in the market place to the freedom we enjoy when different people engage in conversations in their ordinary business of living. Constraining transactions and exchange in the market place will seriously limit or deny the existence of progress of any kind. In particular it will scuttle the ability to produce, consume and to give. Free markets exist, they will spur and spun all kinds of material and psychosocial benefits to the society that creates them.

Without the interconnections and co-variability in all of these, an efficacious human agency cannot emerge from the development process (Sen 2001, p. 507). This is important, as a focus on freedom as an end in itself allows us to see development for what it is about: individual liberty and quality of life. This also contrasts with the more traditional and rather narrow look or approach to development which emphasizes technological advancement, the growing of GDP and the availability of more gadgets.

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