Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The Redesign of The Development Architecture

By Moin Qazi, New Age Islam 19 September 2023 Our leaders are not tired of repeatedly boasting about India achieving the "distinction" of becoming the world's fifth-largest economy and that it will soon become the third-largest. The media, too, does not care to tell the nation that the size of a country's economy is a highly misleading indicator of the actual economic conditions of the country and its people. Becoming 5th is hardly worth being proud of for a country with now the world's most significant population. "Size" of the economy is only used by the world market and political forces for their interests because, for foreign markets, the population size is essential from the point of view of the possibility of exporting their products to that country. We have just finished holding the G-20 summit and declared it a big win for our country. Of course, there are some points worth being admired. But what is not being told is the darker side of our achievements. G-20 is mainly about the economy and not about politics. It will be interesting to see where these 20 members stand regarding the per capita income. See the following table, which gives the names of the 20 participants along with their per capita income according to the latest IMF figures: GDP (In USD) Per Capita By Country (IMF Report) Argentina, 13,709 Australia, 64,964 Brazil, 10,373 Canada, 52,722 China, 13,721 France, 44,408 Germany, 51,383 India, 2,601 Indonesia, 5,016 Italy, 36,812 Japan, 35,385 Mexico, 12,673 Russia, 14,403 Saudi Arabia, 29,922 South Africa, 6,485 South Korea, 33,393 Turkey, 11,931 U.K. 46,371 U.S., 80,034 European Union 39,940 When I was compiling this table, it shocked me that in terms of per capita income, India stands last among all these member countries. India's per capita income of 2,601 US dollars is significantly less than most other countries, the nearest being Indonesia, with around double our figures. How can then we be proud of our economy? This becomes even more depressing when we understand that even per capita income is only an incomplete reflection of the people's actual conditions because of the country's prevailing income inequality. According to reports, the wealthiest 1% of Indians own 58% of the wealth, while the richest 10% of Indians own 80% of the wealth. This trend has been consistently increasing in recent years, meaning the rich are getting richer much faster than the poor. As far as poverty is concerned, according to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) programme, "80 million people out of 1.2 billion Indians (in 2019), roughly equal to 6.7% of India's population, lived below the poverty line of $1.25 and 84% of Indians lived on less than $6.85 per day." Still, we feel proud of spending huge sums on the bonanza of G-20. Interestingly, the Opposition hardly raises these fundamental questions. Why should politicians bother about these figures when market forces dominate the world economy? They, too, want to keep the market forces happy. They would never take a pledge to reduce the percentage of the wealth held by the top 1 per cent. And why should the media bother when the same market forces pamper them? We naively equated poverty with economic deprivation alone without delving deeper into the underlying threads. Policy swings or paralysis fulfil basic human aspirations for health, security, and the chance to contribute productively and creatively to society. They underutilize and misuse valuable human resources, and they often give rise to political or social turmoil, marked by ideological or ethnic polarization, which then leads either to wide policy swings or to policy paralysis. Our second broad conclusion was that sustained growth requires a coherent, adaptable strategy based on shared values and goals, trust, and some degree of consensus. Of course, achieving that is easier said than done. Rural policies following this approach should be designed and implemented in the way best adapted to the needs of the communities they serve. One way to ensure this is to invite local stakeholders to take the lead and participate. The involvement of local actors includes the population at large, economic and social interest groups and representative public and private institutions. Capacity building is an essential component of the bottom-up approach, involving: 1. awareness raising, training, participation and mobilization of the local population to identify the strengths and weakness of the area (analysis); 2. involvement of different interest groups in drawing up a regional development strategy; 3. Establish clear criteria for selection at a local level of appropriate actions (projects) to deliver the design. Those programmes have become essential buffers against drought and landlessness in many places. Still, they also have been plagued by waste and corruption, a record cited by those who argue that a nationwide employment programme would funnel more money, not to the poor, but to corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and local power brokers. Several organizations have shown that such projects can work and that grass-roots capitalism is one of the best routes out of poverty. While it will not solve India's deep-rooted agriculture problems, better information can significantly boost food production and rural incomes. Although there is much discussion in public forums about involving stakeholders in the appropriate development of the society in which the poor live, poor people rarely get the opportunity to develop their agenda and vision or set terms for the involvement of outsiders. The participatory paradigm illustrates that people participate in plans and programs we—outsiders—have designed. There is little opportunity for them to articulate their ideas and seldom an institutional space where their ingenuity and creativity in solving their problems can be recognized, respected and rewarded. The situation of the proverbial cart having been placed before the horse. Any such project requires meticulous planning and careful implementation, involving complete and accurate information on all the essential variables to be dealt with: socio-cultural, environmental, and economic aspects. A better approach to eliminate poverty, however, would be to make the environment conducive to increased flow of credit to people experiencing poverty, leaving micro-level credit management to financial institutions and transferring the subsidy from the individual level to the community level for human capital formation of people experiencing poverty and developing physical valuable infrastructure to them. The government's involvement must be confined to macro affairs such as policy formulation and framing incentives. Proper development involves a transformation of the State of a human being. However, such a transformation must have those affected's active involvement and participation. Actual development transforms groups without destroying their culture, traditions, environment, livelihood and social patterns, which must be preserved and protected because they are central to the very life of the people. The forests around them provide food, medicine, and livelihood, a sustainable solution to the triple whammy of food security, healthcare and employment, which the State is ill-equipped to address. Actual development shouldn't translate into action, as seen by the elite. Growth must be seen by those whose lives are to be transformed. We need empathy—not a form of empathy that comes from superiority, but one born from profound humility. Empathy helps understand and treat one another better and is a key currency in a world defined by connectivity and change. Empathy doesn't just mean treating others better — it means doing better. A development strategy that has been successful in one village may not necessarily give the same results in a neighbouring town. Hence, the renewed emphasis of planners on area-specific plans. Transplanting cultures has been a favourite idea of armchair development experts, but time has shown that nothing could be as damaging as the imposition of an alien civilization. Society, however nascent, has a social and cultural apparatus that regulates and balances divergent traits and traditions. I have always been guided by Paul Devitt's famous words: "The poor are often inconspicuous, inarticulate and unorganized. Their voices may not be heard at public meetings in communities where it is customary for only the big men to put in their views. It is rare to find a body or institution that adequately represents the poor in a certain community or area." The land, water, forests and environment reforms will be ineffective if they don't give space to the voice of those affected by the reforms. These communities comprise eighty-five per cent of the country's population. Yet, none fined even half a per cent of space in these seminars and conferences, particularly when we are deliberating programmes targeted towards women. The idea is to use local wisdom before we involve expertise from outside. Encourage private initiative without commercializing education. Give private industry more responsibility, more space, and more freedom. As things stand now, the formal system alone cannot answer the challenge of rural education. It destroys initiative and creativity. Tackling poverty requires a fundamentally different approach: one that encourages the initiative, creativity, and drive from below that must be at the core of any transformation of their lives that is to be lasting. The failure of so many development interventions over the past half century can be partly attributed to their lack of rootedness in the society they were designed to change. Development interventions must engage with people's identities and values, whether individuals, communities, organizations or nations, to catalyze fundamental change. Enhancing the quality of growth to promote sustainability, equity, and inclusivity will require economists to connect their skills and perspectives with those of others. They must combine forces with political, institutional and social analysts and, crucially, with the people in public, private and civil sectors positioned to make real change happen. The new Sustainable Development Goals are fundamentally questioning the equation of development with economic growth. Development is about demand and delivery. Governments and development agencies will learn to respond if people know what to ask for. People lack awareness and access to the asymmetry that prevails, while policy designers have little touch with reality. I also painfully understood that our government still has the mindset of being a provider, a patronizing institution which expects citizens to be benign 'subjects'. We are still far from getting citizens engaged as empowered participants in such programmes. In civil society, we need to give the State a different perspective on people, poverty and entitlements. Empower them with information which will reduce the power asymmetry between them and the government. We have to become facilitators and start empowering communities so that they can explore solutions from within. They resist doing the hard work of thinking through their problems and building their capacities to find answers. Development is now so beneficiary-driven and politicized at the village level that building human capital is becoming more challenging. Most of them have little understanding of ground realities. There must be genuine respect and concern for native intelligence and community wisdom. Only when we democratize development will sustainable, people-centric human development happen. ----- Moin Qazi is the author of the bestselling book, Village Diary of a Heretic Banker. He has worked in the development finance sector for almost four decades. URL: https://newageislam.com/spiritual-meditations/redesign-development-architecture/d/130706 New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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