Why is “Development” just the Economic Growth?
I quizzed several experts who know everything about everything and even “google” who is the undisputed god of knowledge in the cyberspace, but none could explain satisfactorily why development should only mean economic growth, industrialization or modernization. I even searched dictionaries and no English dictionary said that they are synonymous. But, personally I don’t trust dictionaries because people can change the meaning. Look what they did to the holy word ‘Jehad’.
Now if you shout, Jehad, some tall people with long beard will line up, holding Ak47 or funny plastic packages tied to their waist and a button in the hand. And you will have to run for your life. A wise friend informed me that some nasty people high jacked the word ‘Jehad’ from Islam and are trying to set up a new religion called ‘terrorism’, offering instant entry to heaven at the press of the button!
Similarly, if you shout, ‘development’ – a lot of people dressed like the executives of multinational companies will line up and bombard you with stock market charts, GDP chart, fiscal deficit charts, industrial growth chart or shout back with the bullets points of globalization, FDI, economic reforms, privatization, liberalization, WTO rules, housing bubble, austerity measures, bail-outs, double-dip depression. And you will again want to run for your life. My wise friend told me that some rich people of the West kidnapped ‘development’ a long time ago; since then it is under house arrest confined within the boundaries of economic growth and industrialization. Poor “development”! It came to make people’s lives better but became a slave of some rich and nasty characters!
But for me this was a “Eureka” moment! I suddenly felt enlightened, without meditation!! Suddenly, a lot of things became clear, which were quantum physics to me.
Since all development only take place in the US or the West – they call themselves the most ‘developed’ people in the world – the rest of the world must be inferior and underdeveloped. This is the profound truth; the whole world believes in it, and this is the current world order. There is no difference between the communists and capitalists, in their understanding of “development.” They may not agree on anything in the world, but on “development” they have no disagreement. They can both stand on the Everest peak and proclaim that the US or UK are more developed than Afghanistan or Somalia. And people will nod in agreement.
This, however, stimulated some cells in my tiny brain – if the US and UK are really better developed then their people must also be more developed than rest of the 7 billion humanity. But, I have yet to find an “expert” who can convince me that an average American (or a Briton, for that matter) is more “developed” than an average Indian, Nigerian, Iraqi or Afghan. To me, they are all the same differing maybe only in their level of cockiness – the later will be definitely on the sober side. But no English dictionary has ever suggested that cockiness is a synonym of development. Probably, because the dictionary writers don’t yet consider themselves “developed”!
Time to go Beyond the Narrow Boundary of Economics!
This is a serious question for the sober people of the world, not just the West – I know most people there are as nice and likable as anywhere on the planet. They must come forward to find out that there is much more to “development” than mere economic or industrial growth. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen shows the path to “real development” through his capability approach which is fast becoming the choicest dish in the dinner plates of policymakers around the world. Policymakers of economically more developed nations, such as France, are trying to figure out how to go beyond the boundaries of GDP numbers which is an awfully inadequate measure of human well-being or quality of life.
In Sen’s capabilities theory of development, people and their capabilities occupy the center-stage; economic growth or industrialization are just two important tools among many others to “expand people’s capabilities” – the real development. Sen’s development is concerned with enhancing and maximizing the well-being of people by expanding their capabilities. He does not view people as mere tools to achieve economic growth or industrial production, nor does he expects them to turn into ever hungry consumers so that the GDP keeps growing. For Sen, people are not just tools; they are the goal of development.
His only simple question to all development initiatives is: Will there be expansion of people’s capabilities? Answering this question shows the way to solve all problems concerning human well-being and quality of life. The capability approach is guiding many poverty removal efforts, where the poor are deprived of even the most basic capabilities related to food, nutrition, health, or shelter. The United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to reduce global poverty and deprivation has the flavor of Sen’s theory as it targets specific manifestations of poverty. Sen’s concepts are also at work when people talk about “inclusive” growth, or when they want to involve the poor in anti-poverty programs, or when they want to eliminate all forms of discrimination and inequalities.
Just as there is more to poverty than lack of income, there is more to development than mere economic expansion. This, perhaps, is the right time to demand it – it will heal the planet and heal the humanity.
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Why “Development” should Focus on People,Not Economy
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Amartya Sen’s Concept of Development and Poverty