February 22, 2011

When democracy dies in the cradle

Sir, Arvind Subramanian is absolutely correct arguing that democratic forces stand no chance against the economic rents of a State, “Arab spring will not see an economic bloom”, February 22.

As an oil-cursed citizen (Venezuela) and therefore an expert on the issue let me assure you that societies where citizens are not paying directly for most of their government expenses, and are mostly positioned as receivers of government favors, there is absolutely no chance to develop a functional democracy. The most one can do is to hope for an illuminated oil-dictator, in the sad certainty that sooner or later one will have to suffer a truly dysfunctional one.

If for instance in Iraq oil revenues were shared out directly in cash to citizens the political dynamics there would have been different, and real democracy could have had a chance to be empowered. As is they are just waiting for the next petro-autocrat, and who could then perhaps even count on an oil production that doubles the highest under Sadam Hussein´s regime.

By the way even taxes can produce a tax-curse, if these are not transparent enough. Currently the UK taxman perceives through taxes on petrol consumption more per barrel of oil than those who give up that non-renewable for ever… and few UK motorists are really aware of how much they pay in these taxes.