Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Wealth Divide in Mozambique

Mozambique has one of the highest real GDP growth rates in the world, at 7.5 per cent.

 “It certainly is boom time for the Mozambican economy,” Markus Weimer, a senior analyst at Control Risks, an independent global risk consultancy based in London and Maputo. “The country is performing strongly in a gloomy global context, and GDP growth rates are predicted to be high (above seven per cent) for the coming years.”

Yet it ranks 185th out of 187 countries on the 2013 United Nations Human Development Index by the UN Development Programme. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 55 per cent of its 23.9 million people officially living below the poverty line. Analysts say Mozambique is a glaring illustration that the “trickle down” effect of development capitalism does not work.

The Mozambican civil war began in 1977 and ended 15 years later in 1992.  In 2011 Mozambique discovered offshore gas fields.

 “There is a growing divide here: between old and young, between rich and poor. We are the new generation, born in the war. We are educated, we want jobs, but we can’t get them. We live in areas where the roads are awful and there is no public lighting, no sewage system,” Feling Capella, a journalist and poet tells IPS.

Lined up along the streets of central Maputo, Mozambique’s capital city, are expensive European-style bars and restaurants with sophisticated names like Café Continental, Nautilus and Mundos. And the residential houses and flats in the capital of this southern African nation are a flabbergasting and bewildering array of 1960s modernist and Art Deco icons, mixed with new-money skyscrapers. Further away in the new Chinese-built airport that was completed in February 2013, aftershaves sell for $230 and bottles of Dom Pérignon, a vintage champagne, cost $320. That is literally three months’ salary for the average worker, who lives on 3,000 metacals ($100) a month.

Who are these new super-rich? A variety of answers emerge: They are government ministers; they are friends and relatives of the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo), the ruling party; they are people working with and for the UN; and a small handful are oil and gas investors and associated traders. Dentists and doctors here do not own the newest cars and their sunglasses are not international brands such as Gucci or Prada.

Sebastien Marlier, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit who tracks developments in Mozambique, explained: “Corruption has become a major concern in Mozambique. A small elite associated with the ruling party and with strong business interests dominates the economy.”

The director of Mozambique Human Rights League and Mozambique’s national winner of the Secretary’s International Women of Courage Award for 2010, Dr Alice Mabota, is candid about corruption. “People are very angry about corruption. They want the right decisions taken by the right people. Frelimo knows they have a problem. I hope the next generation is able to address these problems,”

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