THE TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS

The problem of corruption is such a broad topic that I’ve decided to continue the thread by discussing the uncomfortable position that government officials have placed their citizens in.

It’s disheartening to see the unsafe state of roads, poorly maintained government schools and fluctuating power supply due to a lack of funds. However, even if officials were to magically receive some empathy and stop money laundering, building pointless statues, creating positions for their family members (‘Hi Nepotism!’) and wasting money on exorbitant allowances, where would they start from?

The tragedy of the commons is an economic theory that addresses this question (and yes, that is the name of the theory; I did not make it up). It explains that in situations like these, every individual tries to reap the greatest benefits from a given resource. As the demand for the resource continues, it would get to a point where it overwhelms the supply and every individual who consumes an additional unit directly harms others who can no longer enjoy the benefits.

Expecting the government to diversify the export base and generate more money for public use is too much to ask for so we know that the available resource (i.e money) is limited. This limitation fosters tough competition between the different stakeholders. Governors feel that their respective states have the greatest needs and when their needs are prioritised, the local governments start to compete. Once this is sorted, another fight starts between the government parastatals and when this is quenched, another between the different levels within the parastatals.

After prioritising these different needs, the funds are distributed. However, due to years of theft and mismanagement and the level of competition, these stakeholders are starved of funds and would most likely need more money than originally thought. As such, distribution of the funds would get to a point where every additional amount paid out, to a state or parastatal, would result in harm in others that the money could have gone to. This harm could be in the form of increased mortality in government hospitals or illnesses due to lack of clean water. Issues the government has limited resources to deal with leading to tough competition.

So while we complain about our leadership, let us also consider those who would suffer from our use of additional resources as a result of poor spending and little to no savings. It’s rather unfortunate that we have inadvertently become selfish while making basic decisions due to the choices made by corrupt officials.

Thanks guys!!!

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