Educating ourselves

In 2010, when the government announced that 1,000 acres of land had been allocated to build the Education City, I had worried that, “government policy is being formulated around a particular project.”

Formulating government policy to benefit one particular project is never a good idea. There’s simply too much room for conflict of interest, favoritism and corruption.

But the government is not satisfied. They want to bestow even more support to the Education City project. They now want to enact a law specifically designed to benefit this one particular project.

So today, the government introduced the Education City Bill in the National Assembly. They argued that without this legislation the legal framework would not be adequate, that foreign investors would not show up, that international education institutions would not be interested, and that the project would fail.

Without even considering the merits and demerits of the proposed Education City itself, I argued that framing laws around a project must mean that relevant laws are absent; that relevant policies are missing; or that the new law would circumvent existing laws and policies.

If relevant laws are absent, frame them, especially if other similar other projects would require them. If relevant policies are missing, develop them, especially if such projects are a priority for the government. But don’t pass new laws designed to bypass provisions of existing laws or the government’s own policies just for the sake of a single project.

That would not be good governance. And that is putting it very mildly.

The Education City may be a good idea. It may attract foreign investment, it may create jobs, it may become a centre of excellence, and it may strengthen our economy. Or it may be a bad idea. It may become a white elephant, or, worse still, a breeding ground for large scale, low quality education catering to tens of thousands of foreigners.

But good idea or bad, by enacting the Education City Bill, we would make it legal. And that’s a terrible idea.