Monday, 7 July 2008

Can there be a FairFuture through Investment in Development?

No, says Tilman Santarius from the Wuppertal Institute. The mainstream discourse, such as the discourse used in the Millenium Development Project, associates poverty reduction and incresed social justice with economic growth, just how it has been done since the second World War. However, it cannot be assumed anymore that economic growth is not a "zero sum game", i.e. that increases in some areas lead necessarily to decreases in other areas. Also, economic growth has always been connected to increased resource use and degradation. Although decoupling of growth from resoruce use is taking place in some developed countries, the level of possible decoupling seems to be limited. Therefore it is important to rethink the discourse of catching up development as it is incompatible with sustainable development. The catching up development generally is thought of as based on investment in development. Initial investments are made and they will pay off in terms of economic growth.
Now it is important to consider what is the cause of poverty. The mainstream discourse considers "lack of monetary resources" as poverty, whereas the Wuppertal Institute believes poverty is caused by lack of power. The poor are those to whom the right of existence and access to the resources they need for survival are denied. This happens frequently through investment projects, where local populations are displaced or prevented from accessing local resources for their survival. Investment in development makes them poor in the first place.
It is essential that the development discourse is reassessed and the basic assumption "economic growth= poverty alleviation" is challenged. Santarius poposes the concept of "leapfrogging": developing countries should not make the mistakes of economic development through resource degradation, how the countries in the North and West have done it, but they should rather move on to a truly sustainable pattern of development, in which welfare is not associated to ever increasing resource use.

SANTARIUS, T. (2006) Kann es eine Fair Future durch Investment in Development geben? Zeitschrift fuer Sozialoekonomie, 150, 36-39.

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