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When social welfare makes democracy meaningful

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WHAT is social welfare policy? In a paper presentation in a book, Philosophy and Dimensions of National Communication Policy (Vol2) by Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization, edited by Tony Nnaemeka etal, in a topic: Planning Communication System: Critical Models and Variables, Professor S.A Adekola, pointed out that “one of the principal aims of government is to succeed in the art of governance, usually, through an execution of well thought-out political and socio-economic policies directed at taking care of the welfare of the populace.

Since government requires the support of its people to achieve this objective, it is mandatory that the populace be positively mobilized and government policies well disseminated and digested by the populace in advance.

Furthermore, feedbacks from the governed to the governor are of viral importance because such feedbacks when noted by the government can be used to modify tentative policies in the light of new inputs. Needless to say that a well informed and enlightened populace is easier to govern. “

Morereover, Prof S.A Adekola revealed that “in this manner, government can make and enact laws, which given the input of the populace, constitute the best options under a given set of circumstances. The populace, in turn, will be satisfied and convinced that government is doing its level to look into its welfare since it is informed about the goals and objectives of various government policies.”

Graycar A (1994), writing on Social Welfare Policy, Government, Politics and Policy in Australia, painstakingly informed that “social welfare is a big business and big politics. More money goes through the welfare system than through other public system, not only in Australia but in all western countries”.

To him, “the decisions about how that money is raised and spent are intensely political, as are the processes and debates which determines the structure and distribution of this social investment are complex, and include complications arising from common wealth-state relations and arguments about the appropriate balance between public and private provision.”

He cited example to buttress his point saying ,“consider the difficult and controversial policy questions which arise with the respect to just the area of support to unemployed people. Should people who do not have jobs be supported by government? Or should they be responsibility of their families (parents, spouse, children, aunts and uncles, Cousins?)

Moreover, if government should provide support, does it mean common wealth government, state government or local councils? How much support should the unemployed get as much as people who have jobs? (Low paid Jobs? Three quarter?) What support should unemployed people get? Money? What if they waste it? Would it be better to give food vouchers or rent vouchers? Would it be even better to provide further education and training so that they can skill or reskill themselves to take place in the labour market?

Adam Graycar, argued, a similar range of questions can be posed about every welfare activity: “child care, support of development elderly people with chronic illness, support of newly arrived immigrants, support of children who are physically and sexually abused. Where does such a list stop? How about people who are ‘information poor’ in a society that regards information as a major form of currency?”

Sir Ivor Jennings, Vice Chancellor, University of Ceylon, in his book: The British Constitution, in a topic, Government by Party, the Polity of Parties, informed and quoted John Stuart Mill, who wrote a book on Representative Government without mentioning parties.

A realistic survey of the British Constitution today must begin and end with parties and discuss them at length in the middle.

He revealed that there are some who deplore the influence of parties. They asserted that the tasks of government are too urgent and complicated to be the subject of partisan controversy .They would wish Parliament to be a “Council of State” to consider, free from party bias, the nature of the problems that beset the community and the solutions that might be devised to meet them.

According to the learned scholar “they want to pool the intelligence of the nation not to divide it into two parts by the parliamentary gangway”.

In this connection, Sir Ivor Jennings, informed that “the policies which a government can adopt are necessarily conditioned by the circumstances of the time. Free trade did not spring suddenly into the mind of Adam Smith and gradually win approval by the persuasiveness of its reason. It grew out of the economic conditions produced by the industrial revolution. Nor was the movement for social reform in fields of factory conditions, public health, housing, pensions, social insurance and the like produced merely by suggestions of benevolent publicists.

To him, even Benthamism  which was the administrative law has depended on the accidents of personality and the chances of political predominance, yet it is not by imitation that all highly industrialised communities have followed much the same road. There is inevitability about social movements that is obscured by quarrels of puny politicians. For the most part, the real question has not been what policy shall be followed, but the speed at which the nation shall move towards an almost predestined end.”

Adam Graycar, still writing on social welfare policy caught the vision and said, “social welfare policy helps determine how people live. ‘Social welfare’ is a broad term which describes systems of allocation in any society in which benefits are distributed to individuals and communities so that they might attain a certain standard of living and for quality of life.

This structure of benefits and distribution, as already noted, is an intensely political phenomenon, for there is often great disagreement about why anything should be allocated, what it is allocated, who the recipients ought to be, how generous the allocation ought to be, who should do the allocating, and how it might be financed.”

Moreover, he revealed that, “traditionally, social welfare has been thought of as those allocations which benefit those deemed the poorer, less fortunate and less capable members of the society. In recent times, according to him, broader definitions of social welfare have been put forward which include the “quality of life for all citizens.”

There is a corresponding debate about why a social welfare allocation should be made. Some of the options included: to provide a basic subsistence standard of living below which no citizen should be allowed to fall, to compensate individuals or communities for personal accidents, injuries, or disabilities or societal induced malfunctions.

Others included to make investment for the future of the society through the education system, preventive health programs, rehabilitation programs and so on, to protect community against Juvenile and adult delinquents, to ensure that members of the workforce (and potentially of the defence force) are sufficiently healthy and literate to be able to perform adequately and to redistribute income, resources, and life chances between the more advantaged and less advantaged members of the society.”

Furthermore, he argued that the biggest issue on the welfare agenda is how to spread, in effect, 40 years of earners across eight years of life. Financial dependence in childhood is widely accepted. Financial dependency in old age (whereby everyone was ‘entitled’ to the age pension) used to be similarly accepted, but how government policy vigorously encourages superannuation (through generous tax advantages to those who can afford the contributions) in order to limit dependence on government provision.”

Above information points to the questions: Has federal and state governments since inception of Nigeria as a democratic nation fared well in the issue of social welfare policy and implication over the years? Has social welfare policy impacted positively on the lives of the citizens?

Adam Graycar, caught the vision and  said, ‘the theory and practice of the welfare state’, Janowitz has argued depended on the ability of the central government to collect and redistribute a portion of economic surplus of an advanced industrial society.

The economy can make use of its economic surplus for the sheer accumulation of wealth, for investment in further capital-goods expansion, for higher private consumption, or for expanded governmental expenditures, including welfare expenditure rests on the productivity of the economy, an effective tax system, and a system of social and political control that defines the legitimacy of welfare expenditure (Janowitz 1976:41)

In this connection, those that are coming newly or serving their second tenure to represent us in the National Assembly and state House of Assembly should see that welfare of the people be their priority. They should use that God given opportunity to serve their father land to make laws or legislation that will remove poverty, pain and agony in our people.

In conclusion, Adam Graycar, writing on Social Welfare Policy in a book: Primary Health Care, Faculty of Sciences, Department of Nursing, selected readings 2, the University of Southern Queensland, Australia, said “the argument over how and according to whose interests this ‘surplus’ is to be allocated has for a longtime been one of the fundamental arguments in politics, and in recent years, has significantly shaped the welfare arena.”

He argued that “two traditions manifest themselves in the objectives of social policy. One tradition sees the objectives of social policy as a quest for social objectives and in organizing the mechanisms of social change to achieve these objectives.

This is an optimistic approach which seeks to build a consensus addressing the big questions about the theory of benefits and their distribution. The other tradition focuses on the concept of scarcity, on the premise the demands for services and allocations always exceed the capacity of the society to deliver. Welfare is thus regarded as playing an ameliorative role.”

Moreover, he informed that “likewise, two competing and contradictory demands present themselves in the debate about welfare: demands for greater equality and demands for greater efficiency. A central dilemma in welfare politics is how to arrange an appropriate tradeoff between equality and efficiency.

To him, when economic conditions are tough, one school of thought argued that welfare expenditure need to be cut drastically so that government spending, as it becomes leaner, is better targeted, is not wastefully applied and goes only to those in ‘genuine need’.

Another school of thought argues that difficult economic conditions impact most several on those already in poverty, and drag into poverty those who previously had been just out of its clutches; hence, while many areas of government may need to be cut back, those dealing with the most vulnerable and dispossessed need continued support and financial strengthening.”

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