Can we learn something from Liz Truss?
Something important happened yesterday at Number 10 Downing Street, London that cannot pass without comment by the Today Newspaper. What happened, to us here in Africa South of the Sahara is unprecedented. We know that not all countries use the same parliamentary of governance. But the point is, Liz Truss resigned as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK), yesterday, 20 October 2022. This, after only six weeks in office. We note that the series of resignations including that of the previous Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the ministers of state have been remarkable.
What is important is that the resignation of Liz Truss was due to the negative consequences of her economic policies. Virtually all of her signature tax cuts were being reversed. One sentence in her statement of resignation stands out, “I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected.”
While the change brings a firm end to Ms. Truss’s tax-cutting economic agenda, it introduces even more political instability to Britain at a time when households and businesses are grappling with a cost-of-living crisis. Ms. Truss stepped down days after her new Finance Minister/Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, reversed virtually all of her planned tax cuts, sweeping away a free-market fiscal agenda that had plunged the country into economic and political turmoil.
We recall that Kwasi Kwarteng, the U.K.’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, was sacked by the then Prime Minister Liz Truss on a Friday morning only a few days ago, after her government’s recent mini-budget—which promised large tax cuts for the wealthy—triggered major backlash both from the public and the markets. Ms. Truss’s political viability became tenuous after her proposals for broad unfunded tax cuts disturbed markets and sent the pound’s value plunging.
We find the series of events quite interesting and worth studying in the African context. Whenever there have been difficult economic circumstances in Africa, ministers of state, Heads of State dig their heels in, hug the ground and stay. Resignations are unheard of. When the people complain, many African governments become rather more dictatorial and clamp down on dissent or negative publicity forgetting that there is no way to wash away or cover up the hard times experienced by citizens. When times have gotten rough, it has taken military coups to push aside the ruling leadership. We ask, can we not change this experience?
Democracy must bring economic dividends of the positive type. Otherwise, what’s its value? So let us learn from the happenings in the UK. More important, we ask African leaders to pay attention to the economy at home and focus on bringing prosperity to the masses. We do not want chaos. We don’t call for resignations. We want good times. Jobs. And greater prosperity for all.