De­vel­op­ment dis­as­ter

The Pak Banker - - EDITORIAL - Amir Hus­sain

So­cial de­vel­op­ment in our times is char­ac­terised by com­plex­ity, un­cer­tainty, am­bi­gu­ity and a messy process ex­pressed through so­phis­ti­cated ver­biage - jar­gon.

So­cial de­vel­op­ment ap­proaches have in­creas­ingly be­come the do­main of ex­perts who claim to have mas­tery over the pro­cesses of so­cial change, ac­cen­tu­ated through tech­ni­cal phrases. Crit­ics ar­gue that the essence of so­cial trans­for­ma­tion has been dif­fused be­cause of over-tech­ni­cal­ity of the de­vel­op­ment dis­course, which ex­cludes those to­wards whom the de­vel­op­ment is aimed at - the poor and the marginalised.

An asym­me­try be­tween tech­ni­cal knowl­edge and lo­cal wis­dom fur­ther ag­gra­vates the gap of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the ex­pert and lo­cale - the poor and marginalised with dis­em­pow­er­ing ef­fects. In a nut- shell, the ge­n­e­sis of de­vel­op­ment dis­cours is far re­moved from the lo­cal re­al­ity be­cause it is tied with the agenda of in­ter­na­tional as­sis­tance. This sort of dis­course is shaped by de­vel­op­ment ex­perts who are miles away - ge­o­graph­i­cally, so­cially and po­lit­i­cally - from the area of de­vel­op­ment in­ter­ven­tion. In­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance in re­cent times, for in­stance, is tilted more to­wards po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tives shrouded in a dis­as­ter man­age­ment dis­course. The no­tion of dis­as­ter is in vogue these days both as a key de­vel­op­ment chal­lenge and as a buzz­word where donors would be happy to put in an ob­scene amount of money. Dis­as­ter man­age­ment and pre­pared­ness, risk mit­i­ga­tion and re­duc­tion, cli­mate-in­duced and an­thro­pogenic dis­as­ter, com­plex emer­gen­cies - the phrase mon­ger­ing goes on un­abated.

Me­dia savvy po­lit­i­cal lead­ers would reach out to earn po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal, highly paid dis­as­ter as­sess­ment con­sul­tants would give so­phis­ti­cated analy­ses to make their pres­ence felt - the show goes on and the value for money is es­tab­lished.

Cyn­ics would term it dis­as­ter cap­i­tal­ism with some co­gent ex­pla­na­tion of what we have seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria with bil­lions of dol­lars pour­ing in to ben­e­fit the re­con­struc­tion con­trac­tors, flam­boy­ant con­sul­tants and prox­ies of bel­liger­ent cap­i­tal­ist pow­ers with­out mak­ing any vis­i­ble im­pact in bring­ing back the nor­malcy. The re­cur­ring phe­nom­ena of con­flicts, wars and dis­as­ters have ex­ter­mi­nated mil­lions and one of the old­est hu­man civil­i­sa­tions has been van­dalised. This brutish act of homi­cide has be­come syn­ony­mous with the Holo­caust in its scale and in­ten­sity. For a de­sir­able but un­ful­filled goal of peace, co­ex­is­tence, demo­cratic tran­si­tion and de­vel­op­ment, hu­man­ity is be­ing put to test, at times mu­ti­lated, in the name of that in­sen­si­tive phrase 'col­lat­eral dam­age' - as if peo­ple are mere ob­jects in a democratis­ing mission. Peo­ple in Mid­dle East, South Amer­ica, East Europe and Cen­tral Asia have had enough of this omi­nous act of demo­cratic tran­si­tion.

What we have seen more fre­quently than not, out of this democratis­ing mission, is Balka­ni­sa­tion, a resur­gence of parochial re­li­gious na­tion­al­ism and a pat­tern of ter­ror­ist acts al­most with pre­dictable fre­quency. The only thing we could not at­tain is an in­clu­sive and peo­ple-cen­tric demo­cratic dis­pen­sa­tion. While mil­i­tary ex­pe­di­tions and a neo-lib­eral eco­nomic on­slaught go hand in hand to im­pose an un­canny demo­cratic sys­tem in the de­vel­op­ing world, the spec­tre of neo-Nazism and ul­tra-right ter­ri­to­ri­al­ism haunts Europe and the US. Bretix in Europe and the in­creas­ing pop­u­lar­ity of that su­prem­a­cist Don­ald Trump in the US tell us the whole story. The mission of civil­is­ing peo­ple does not stop here; with bar­rels of guns there come hu­man­i­tar­ian aid, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and post-con­flict de­vel­op­ment - and the de­stroyer be­comes the saviour. As they say, there are losers and win­ners of this phe­nom­e­non of po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic glob­al­i­sa­tion that per­pet­u­ates in­tra and in­ter­state dis­par­i­ties. We have seen the emer­gence of the South in the North and North in the South. The clas­si­cal South/North di­vide - the di­vide be­tween the de­vel­op­ing and de­vel­oped world is be­ing re­placed grad­u­ally by wealth con­cen­tra­tion in pock­ets of riches both within the de­vel­oped and the de­vel­op­ing world. Parts of Mumbai, La­hore, Jakarta and other me­trop­o­lises of the de­vel­op­ing world are much better off than the sub­urbs of New York, Lon­don and Ber­lin and vice versa. Free flow of cap­i­tal across na­tional bor­ders and its con­cen­tra­tion within the pock­ets of op­u­lence across the world has glob­alised dis­par­i­ties while demo­cratic pro­cesses have wit­nessed set­backs si­mul­ta­ne­ously. The rise of anti-poor po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic regimes across Europe, Amer­i­cas and Asia tells the story of the fail­ure to ne­go­ti­ate the fun­da­men­tal con­tra­dic­tion be­tween the eco­nomic lib­er­al­i­sa­tion and po­lit­i­cal em­pow­er­ment of peo­ple. This may seem an un­palat­able ex­treme po­si­tion for many of us but there is an el­e­ment of truth in these ar­gu­ments at least from the em­pir­i­cal knowl­edge of our po­lit­i­cal world as we know it to­day. This is, how­ever, only one side of the whole story; the re­cip­i­ents of de­vel­op­ment money are not a ho­moge­nous group of peo­ple to be served with pub­lic money. In de­vel­op­ing coun­tries like Pak­istan, de­vel­op­ment aid has served di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed ob­jec­tives by help­ing dic­ta­to­rial regimes con­sol­i­date power at the cost of democ­racy. PRSPs have had detri­men­tal im­pacts on the evo­lu­tion of na­tional eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal pol­icy in Pak­istan at the macro level with spill-over ad­verse im­pacts at the meso and mi­cro lev­els. Pak­istan is a bas­ket case of in­ter­na­tional as­sis­tance which at times propped up dic­ta­tor­ships; and the mantra of poverty re­duc­tion, good gov­er­nance and so­cial in­clu­sion never paid off un­der the shade of dic­ta­to­rial regimes. Pak­istan re­ceived most of de­vel­op­ment aid un­der the dic­ta­to­rial regimes of Gen­eral Zia and Gen­eral Mushar­raf when po­lit­i­cal free­doms were re­stricted.

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