Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Heranças soviéticas

Finding Hope Where the Streets are Named for Lenin and Mao, de Richard Tren

"Driving around Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, is like driving through the pages of a socialist history book. Avenida Vladimir Lenin leads into Avenida Mao Tse Tung and Avenida Kim Ill Sung runs parallel to Avenida Salvador Allende. So, in fact, it is more like driving around a history book of disastrous economic policies and human catastrophes. And yet Mozambique is not the desperate failure that the capital's street names would suggest. By abandoning years of failed socialism and embracing economic freedom, life for ordinary Mozambicans is improving.

After years of socialism and bitter civil war that destroyed most of the country's infrastructure, to say little of the destruction of human lives, the country has been at peace for more than fifteen years and has had several democratic elections. Successive peace time governments have steadily increased economic freedom and have been rewarded with increased economic growth.

According to the Heritage Foundation's index of economic freedom, the Mozambican economy moved from a score of 4.39 in 1995 to 3.34 in 2005, where 5 measures the least free and 1 the most free. There are still many aspects of the Mozambican economy that are not free and, overall, the country is ranked as "mostly un-free". Yet the trend is towards greater freedom and given the obvious benefits that the country has reaped from freedom, it is hard to believe that it will regress.

Economic growth was over 7% last year and inward investment has been impressive. According to Heritage, "Mozambique allows 100 percent repatriation of profits and retention of earned foreign exchange in domestic accounts."


I first came to Maputo seven years ago and was shocked to see many dilapidated buildings and roads in a shocking state of disrepair. Yet then, as now, I was struck by the fact that so many Mozambicans were not sitting around in the street begging or waiting for a handout, but were busy selling, trading and creating something out of nothing. This attitude of self-reliance, perhaps borne out of years of adversity, seems to have paid off. There is still a great deal of poverty now, but the streets are cleaner and improved and the buildings are smarter and there are several new, gleaming hotels and office blocks. My own hotel, on Avenida Julius Nyerere, was one of the nicest I have ever stayed in and I used the wireless connection to submit the piece you are now reading."

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