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My Idea of Development

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My Idea of Development

Development in its very basic meaning is the progression from one state of being to a more desirable state of being. Take for instance human development; maturing and becoming a contributing member of society is its goal. It is more desirable to be a mature and productive adult than to remain a child or child-like. The same goes for the development of nations and their economies and political and social systems. It is the goal for developing nations to mature and become stable contributing members of the global community and economy. In human development, part of becoming an adult is gaining the ability to be self-sufficient and having the confidence to continue to be so. Once again if we apply this idea to the development of nations, part of developing is becoming a nation that is sustainably self-sufficient. Obviously the development of third world countries is vastly different from human development, but if you look at the factors that contribute to successful human develop you can generalize them to fit with the development of nations. Whether talking about the development of a human being or a nation, almost everyone would agree that there are fundamental elements that ensure success. Those elements are proper nutrition, good health, education, positive reinforcement and confidence, ability to take care of one’s self, and stability. Michael P Todaro and Stephen C. Smith define the traditional view of development as “the capacity of a national economy, whose initial economic condition has been more or less static for a long time, to generate and sustain and annual increase in its gross national income (GNI) at rate of 5% to 7% ore more.” (14) As Todaro and Smith point out, this definition of development excludes several factors of great significance. This definition rest solely on the basis that an increase in a developing country’s average per capita income improves the well-being of all of its citizens. This is not so because many governments of developing nations are undemocratic and corrupt and there tends not to be equity in distribution of wealth. Brazil happens to be one of those nations with positive economic growth but highly uneven distribution of wealth.(Todaro & Smith 30) Whenever there is great inequity in the distribution of a country’s wealth it results in a large portion of that population being forced to live in extreme poverty. Effectively dealing with poverty is a primary catalyst for sustained and equitable development.
People living in poverty are forced to deal with the lack of food, the lack of gainful employment, the lack of education, and the lack of health care. If you look at any of the advanced developed nations you see that there are low levels of poverty, relatively equal distribution of wealth, universal access to education, high standards of health, and gender equality. Todaro and Smith redefine development “in terms of the reduction or elimination of poverty, inequality, and unemployment within the context of a growing economy.”(15) So the question now is, how can a country achieve this new definition of development?
It is commonly accepted by the Western world that in order for a country to successfully sustain its development it must transition to a democratic government. It is also commonly accepted that democratic societies tend to be more stable. Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel write, “the strong correlation between development and democracy reflects the fact that economic development is conducive to democracy.”(9) This then seems to create a circular path. Democratic countries can achieve sustained development because the freedoms afforded to their citizens, but democracy in turn is more easily achieved in economically developed nations. In order to achieve development and have it be sustained major change needs to take place within the governments, economies, and societies of developing nations. “Development must…be conceived as a multidimensional process involving major changes in social structures, popular attitudes, and national institutions.”(Todaro & Smith 16)
Some of the very things that pull people from poverty also contribute significantly to the change of attitudes and social systems, which then drive changes in government. John Isbister explains, “What poverty really means is the inability to make choices.”(18) People living in poverty are limited in the choices they can make because for them there are no options. They lack education, health care, and adequate food. All of which end up tearing down the confidence of those in poverty. Providing additional choices to those in poverty enables them to have a stake in their own path in life. Isbister writes, “The destiny of the third world is in the hands of its people, to make of it what they will.”(27) Knowing you yourself have overcome adversity and achieved what could be seen as the impossible can instill an attitude in people of developing nations that can drive further development.
Affording the world’s poor the opportunity of an education is probably the single most important step in aiding development. Todaro & Smith explain support of this view stating, “Some development economists contend that a country’s level and distribution of education is the most fundamental determinant of future development prospects.”(59) Not only does an education give those in the developing world a shot at being able to guide their own destinies but it also in turn aids in economic development. Todaro & Smith also write “the ability of a country to exploit its natural resources and to initiate and sustain long-term economic growth is dependent on, among other things, the ingenuity and the managerial and technical skills of its people.”(72) Those skills are gained through education. Howard Handelman agrees with the importance of education in development. Handelman explains, “an educated workforce—from farmers who can read instruction manuals to trained professionals—contributes to higher labor productivity.”(7) Higher productivity then leads to greater economic growth. In addition, “improved education also expands mass political participation and contributes to greater government accountability.”(Handelman 7) Increases in political participation have potential to lead to democracy, which has the power to provide people a certain level of confidence within themselves because “the essence of democracy is that it empowers ordinary citizens.”(Inglehart & Welzel 9) Citizens who feel empowered are less likely to feel helpless and therefore become happier and more productive.
Looking at the country of Brazil can illustrate the importance of education. Although “Brazil is traditionally considered a leader of the developing world”(Todaro & Smith 28) it “remains one of the countries with the highest levels of inequality.”(Todaro & Smith 29) In fact, “the top 10% of income earners receive about 45% of national income, while the bottom 40% receive just 9%.”(Todaro & Smith 31) A large portion of Brazil’s population lives in poverty despite positive economic growth. A cause of this is inequitable government spending on education. A report from the United Nations Development Program states that “public expenditures on secondary education and tertiary education are very badly targeted to the poor. For scholarships—chiefly to graduate students—four-fifths of the money goes to the richest fifth of the population.”(qtd. in Todaro & Smith 30) With the vast majority of educational spending only going to benefit the wealthiest fifth of the country, Brazil’s poor remain in poverty because they are not given adequate resources to lift themselves out. The reverse should be the case. The wealthiest should receive the least amount of government assistance leaving it to be allocated to the poorest and most destitute. To add fuel to the fire, public universities offer free tuition mostly to those with higher-incomes.(Todaro & Smith 30)
Increasing government assistance to those in the greatest need to enhance their ability to obtain adequate healthcare, food, and education are fundamental to lifting people from poverty. In doing so, governments of developing nations are also investing in their future growth because a more educated and stable workforce increases production and national income. Brazil has recently started a government program called Bolsa Familia, which provides stipends to “poor families provided they keep children vaccinated and in school.”(Todaro & Smith 31) Since initiating this program Brazil has seen poverty fall.(Todaro & Smith 31)
Investments in education to lift people from poverty should also not be the sole responsibility of the developing world. After all, we in the developed world benefit by developing economies that can afford to purchase the goods and services we provide. Though this is common sense, in practice, developed countries don’t institute policies that support this view. Recognizing that poverty is a global battle and we in developed nations have a responsibility to address the problem is imperative. Unfortunately that has yet to be fully recognized as can be seen in the ridiculous subsidies on agriculture that developed nations provide to their farmers. In most of the developing world, what could provide the greatest economic growth is agricultural. However, developed countries institute trade barriers on products essential to the economies of developing nations.(Stiglitz 42) In the U.S. alone, cotton farmers receive $3 billion to $4 billion in government subsidies to overproduce.(Stiglitz 43) These subsidies are split between about 25,000 American farmers and harm around 10 million cotton farmers in Africa by artificially lowering the prices.(Stiglitz 43) If the U.S. and other developed nations would remove the barriers as they have required developing nations to through the World Trade Organization(Todaro & Smith 69), perhaps developing nations could increase economic growth. Increased growth would hopefully allow developed nations to invest more in the education of their citizens, which in turn would breed further economic growth. Obviously education is not the only concern, but in my opinion it is the most fundamental issue that developing nations must address.

Works Cited
Inglehart, Ronald, and Christian Welzel. "How Development Leads to Democracy,
What We Know about Modernization." Annual Editions: Developing World 10/11. Ed. Robert J. Griffiths. 20th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2010. 6-11. Print.

Isbister, John. Promises Not Kept: Poverty and the Betrayal of Third World
Development. 7th ed. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian, 2006. Print.

Handelman, Howard. The Challenge of Third World Development. Boston: Longman,
2011. Print.

Stiglitz, Joseph. "Social Justice and Global Trade." Annual Editions: Developing World 10/11. Ed. Robert J. Griffiths. 20th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2010. 42-44. Print.

Todaro, Michael P., and Stephen C. Smith. Economic Development. 10th ed. Boston:
Pearson Addison Wesley, 2009. Print.

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