In recent years, Cameroon has recorded unstable development outcomes that are articulated within the framework of her ailing political, economic, and social institutions. In an attempt to suggest possible ways forward, several arguments have cropped. The vulnerable (poor, unemployed youths, graduates, pensioners, lone parents, widows, orphans, incapacitated, homeless, aged, idlers) who constitutes a majority as opposed to the affluent are the most caught in a poverty bracket. These groups of people can barely meet their needs through personal efforts and even with some form of meager contributions from the government and other voluntary organizations, they still need more and more push. But how can this push be possible when inequality and social exclusion is becoming a way of life in Cameroon?
My interest in the welfare system stems from its role in the process of economic, social and political modernization; the welfare state has taken on a bridging function between the economy, democracy and the social world more like no other institution. However, it can only be effective by popular acceptance, recognition, and support from both the government, the private sector and the people. In Cameroon, subjectively, it seems there has been a shift of the provision of welfare from the state to the market in meeting social security needs of citizens! This shift of responsibility from the state to private provision is accompanied by a shift in the ideology behind welfare security from a collective to an individual action (self-help). The questions to be asked is whether indeed the welfare system can contribute to improving the lives of a people? Can their needs and wants be guaranteed by such a system? And can such a system work effectively in Cameroon? Further, striking questions like; who works? who pays? who benefits? are equally taken into consideration with regards to the welfare system.
In practice, the welfare system operates through the citizens, by the state guaranteeing basic social utilities such adequate healthcare, education, employment, and the right to economic protection in an event of unemployment or sickness, and some forms of disability assistance. In which, these services are to be financed by the tax system and open to everyone according to the principle of proportionality “the rule of law”. Many Cameroonians will ponder on what the tax payers’ money(s) are used for? This question is left for the government to decipher!!!The welfare policy is ideologically and practically motivated by the right to “freedom”, “equity”, and “solidarity”. All inhabitants in a society must have equal rights and opportunities to education, healthcare, employment, and security regardless of economic resources or political status quo. This strengthens social cohesion and solidarity guaranteed via mutual consideration and dependence by the inhabitants of that society.
Helping one another is a tendency common in all societies, societies at every development stage tend to devise ways of providing services for all those in need especially the most vulnerable; every person belonging to a particular social grouping benefits from certain rights and privileges as a member of that group no matter his or her physical, mental or psychological status. The present day political situation in Cameroon and economic hardship have reduced access to such rights and privileges and this has triggered the persistent occurrence of many social problems needing urgent solutions. This necessitates a continuous “importance of the state” in welfare provision. At the level of the state, there are some policies geared towards improving the welfare of Cameroonians.
The state has well-defined welfare policies through the Ministries of Social Affairs, Youths Affairs, Women Empowerment and the Family… but the fact that these policies are more of theory than practice deserves an urgent call for concern. For instance, following Decree N° 2011/408 of December 09, 2011 the state grants the Ministry of Social Affairs in Cameroon (MINAS) the responsibility to elaborate, implement the government policy in prevention, assistance and protection of socially vulnerable persons. These policies are executed to a certain level to benefit the Cameroon population mostly those residing in urban areas. What then happens to the rural population which equally constitutes a bulk? The poor methods of execution of these policies, lack of accountability and monitoring, makes the welfare system in Cameroon ineffective. Individual efforts and initiatives become very important in meeting welfare needs. On this note, Franklin D. Roosevelt a famous US president in the 1930s quotes: “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort”, through personal efforts and with the help of private welfare providers, the local people organize themselves in small groups with an action plan of meeting their needs and the needs of the vulnerable in the society. Thus, the local people embrace other welfare providers with open arms!
Despite the fact that the welfare system has been criticized for making a bulk of the population lazy, solely dependent on the efforts of others, as they become redundant and passive to allow others to solve their problems, the system can work properly for Cameroon if they put in place an effective tax system as well as monitoring bodies that will be carrying out routine checks and balances, and if they’re able to reach out to everyone particularly the rural poor, prosperity will be guaranteed at least to a certain level. For now, let me take a pause and look at a more pressing issue: the politics and poetics in our dear Fatherland, when the political situation is relatively stable, every other thing will follow suit, per se, the welfare system, and its benefits!!!
By Akame Gerald For BaretaNews