“Developing countries in Africa have been more concerned with bridging the gaps of inequality with the developed countries, whiles the developed countries have been more concerned with increasing the gaps of inequality with the developing countries.”
Development is a term which came into vogue after World War II when development economists attempted to design appropriate development models for developing countries to catch up with the developed world. The word development is however very difficult to define. Over the years, there has been long debate over the exact definition of the concept development. Different scholars have viewed development from different perspectives. Some of these perspectives have been examined below with analysis based Michael P. Todaro and Stephen C. Smith book on Economic Development, ninth edition.
Dudley Seers used poverty, unemployment and inequality as indicators for measuring development instead of economic indicators. Dudley Seers posed the basic question about the meaning of development succinctly when he asserted, “the questions to ask about a country’s development are therefore: What has been happening to poverty? What has been happening to unemployment? What has been happening to inequality? If all three of these have declined from high levels, then beyond doubt this has been the period of development for the country. If one or two of these problems have been growing worse especially if all three have, it would be strange to call the result ‘development’ even if per capita income doubled”(Seers, 1969:3 cited in Conyers and Hills, 1984: 29-30). Development must therefore be conceived of as a multidimensional process involving major changes in social structures, popular attitudes and national institution as well as the acceleration of economic growth, the reduction of inequality and eradication of poverty.
Amertya Sen’s “Capabilities” Approach, Sen argues that the “capability to function” is what really matters as a poor or nonpoor person. As Sen put it “Economic growth cannot be sensibly treated as an end in itself. Development has to be more concerned with enhancing the lives we lead and the freedom we enjoy. Functioning that is what a person does (can do) with the commodities of a given characteristics that they come to possess or control. The concept of functioning reflects the various things a person may value doing or being. Sen define capabilities, as “the freedom that a person has in terms of the choice of functioning, given his personal features and his command over commodities”.
The final perspectives worthy of mentioning is the Post-Modernism Idea of Development, they argue that the concept of development is not practical and just a body of ideas and theories used by the Western world to dominant the third world countries. They entreat Third World countries to craft their own conceptual understanding of development that best address their needs.
For the purpose of digesting the issue of developing countries in Africa having been more concerned with bridging the gaps of inequality with the developed countries, while the developed countries have been more concerned with increasing the gaps of inequality with the developing countries, I have decided to craft my understanding for development which is development been a multidimensional process which involve using the means of development (i.e. Natural resources, Institutions and Human actors) to address the goals of development (i.e. either to reduce or to create socio-economic and political inequality of well-being within or across societies) in addition to the cultural and political requirement for effecting rapid structural and institutional transformations of entire societies in a manner that will most efficiently bring the fruits of economic progress to the broadest segments of their populations.
According to the Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner’s ENGLISH DICTIONARY, Inequality is the difference in social status, wealth, or opportunity between people or groups. Situating the meaning of inequality into the context of the issue under discussion, inequality can be explain as the difference in social, economic, political advancement and infrastructure coupled with institutional progress among countries.
Developing countries are deemed to have low level of per capita income, low industrialization, low literacy rate, poor living standard and weak institutions coupled with inadequate technological infrastructure. Developing countries have been bedeviled with Weak institutions, Dependence on and vulnerability to foreign exploitation, High illiteracy rate, High levels of unemployment, Prevalence of endemic diseases, Limited technological capacity, High infant mortality rate, Malnutrition, Poor sanitation, Unequal distribution of income etc.
Examination of the characteristics of developing countries will better explain the reason why developing countries in Africa have been more concern with the bridging the gaps of inequality with the developed countries. A point worth noting is that the developed countries have already passed through this stage and characteristics that the developing countries are currently in. In examining the characteristics of developing countries, reference is made to Michael P. Todaro and Stephen C. Smith book on Economic Development, chapter two.
The first point worth mentioning is low levels of living, characterized by low incomes, inequality, poor health and inadequate education. In developing countries, the levels of living tend to be very low for the vast majority of people. These low levels of living are manifested quantitatively and qualitatively in the form of low life and work expectancies, high infant mortality rate and in many cases a general sense of malaise and hopelessness.
Secondly, dependence and vulnerability in international relations, for many developing countries a significant factor contributing to the persistence of low levels of living, rising unemployment, and growing income inequality is the highly unequal distribution of economic and political power between rich and poor nations. These unequal strength are manifested not only in the dominant power of rich nation to control the pattern of international trade and agreements regulating it but also in their ability often to dictate the terms whereby technology, foreign aid, and private capital are transferred to developing countries.
Furthermore, substantial dependence on agricultural production and primary-product exports, the vast majority of people in developing nations live and work in the rural areas. The basic reason for the concentration of people and production in agricultural and other primary production activities in developing countries is the simple fact that at low income levels, the first priorities of any person are food, clothing and shelter. Agricultural productivity is low not only because of the large numbers of people in relation to available land but also because developing countries agriculture is often characterized by primitive technologies, poor organization and limited physical and human inputs. Technological backwardness persists because developing country agriculture is predominantly noncommercial peasant farming.
The final characteristic of developing countries to be digested is the prevalence of imperfect market and limited information. It is worth noting that the presumed benefits of market economics and market- friendly policies depend heavily on the existence of institutional, cultural and legal prerequisites that most of us in industrial societies take for granted. In many developing countries, these legal and institutional frameworks are either absent or extremely weak. These situations do not allow for the enforcement of contracts and validation of property rights, a stable and trustworthy currency, an infrastructure of roads and utilities that result in low cost of transport and communication. Moreover, information is limited and costly to obtain, thereby often causing goods, finances, and resources to be misallocated.
Examining the characteristics of the developing countries is clearly obvious that developing nations needed to bridge this vast gap of inequality comparing with the developed countries. Any development policies must be geared towards mitigating this extreme level socio-economic and political couple with institutional inequalities. Educational infrastructures, economical stability, political independence and strong institutional framework are the key areas that the developing countries must endeavor to bridge the gap that have been created internally by poor institutional framework and externally by the developed countries. Since developing countries are in a gradual process of developing, these inequalities must necessarily be bridge for them to achieve their development targets of economic stability, technological infrastructure, political independent and strong institutional framework.
Now a cursory look at the developed countries and how they are more concerned with creating inequalities with the developing countries, according to Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, “A developed country is one that allows its citizens to enjoy a free and healthy life in a safe environment.” Developed countries are mostly characterized by high level of industrialization, high literacy rate, and lower level of unemployment, better sanitation, accessible medical services, democratic government, a stable currency and well functioning institutions.
In my candid opinion, the developed nations have over the decades thrown out policies and program that have created inequalities with developing countries. It must be noted that the developed countries have internally bridge the gap of inequalities by establishing strong institution, stable economic, adequate educational and medical infrastructures coupled with advanced technological development.
Free trade policy of developed countries with developing nation has created inequalities that sector. The developed countries benefit from this policy by their firms dapping cheap and inferior product onto the market of developing countries which adversely affect the developing countries infant industries by indirectly collapsing them because consumers preference for cheap goods.
Controlling of trade and prizes of goods and services by the developed countries have not benefited the developing countries in foreign trades but rather increase inequalities of imperfect market and vulnerability of the economics of the developing countries.
In addition to that, even the financial assistances extended to the developing countries by the developed countries are mostly attached with strings and harsh conditions which are detrimental to the quest of developing countries to bridge the gaps of inequalities with the developed countries but beneficial to the effort of developed countries to create inequalities. An illustrative example in that regard is when financial support is given to the developing countries to bridge their infrastructures deficits but with the conditions that all material resources and the construction firm to do the project must necessarily come from the developed country offering the support. This kind of support will rather boost the economy of the developed countries because the financial support they offer will return in their economy coupled with the export gains and the interest that the developing countries will pay on the financial support.
In conclusion, is worth stating that development is an ending process of historical change because of durable inequalities and also the developed countries are already developed and therefore their quest to better their lot will amount to the creation of inequalities with the developing countries. From the angle of the characteristics of developing countries (poor health system, malnutrition, high literacy rate, high infant mortality rates, weak institutions, poor technological infrastructures etc) relative to that of developed countries, developing measure necessarily put in concrete measures to bridge these gaps of socio-economic and political inequalities with the developed countries. On the developed countries more concerned with creating inequalities with developing countries, is clearly obvious that the developed countries are already developed and they want to better their lot therefore policies( free trade and economic partnership agreement, financial support with harsh conditions and strings attached) pretending to be in the interest of developing countries are thrown to the developing countries which in the long run tend to benefit the developed countries and the inequalities gaps continue to persist.
1. MICHEAL P. TODARO AND STEPHEN C.SMITH BOOK OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (Chapter 1, 2 and 3)
2. WIKIPEDIA (Differences between Developed and Developing Countries)
Raymond Edem Yao Nuworkpor
Executive Director, GENERATIONAL THINKERS GHANA
A fellow of THE FUTURE WHATSAPP group