DEVELOPMENT VS DEMOCRACY?
Updated August 1, 2011
Who or what, is to blame for a world in which 40 million people a year die of hunger, disease and poverty, while an elite acquires massive amounts of wealth? Global income disparities are often viewed through the lens of traditional development theory. A developed country is conventionally defined as one with a high per capita income, largely as a result of a privatized, profit-driven market, industrialization, urbanization, and Western-style democracy. A developing country is referred to as one with a low per capita income, with aspirations for development, but hampered by ‘backward’ or ‘indigenous’ economic and political systems and a diversity of cultures. Developed countries helped Less Developed Countries (LDCs) with aid.
However, this model doesn’t hold.
India is an example of a country which has achieved many forms of democracy, yet has failed on the economic front, because of high rates of poverty. Can it therefore be said to be truly democratic? As Martin Luther King said, what is the point of being able to sit a lunch counter, if I can’t afford lunch? Put another way, what is the point of being able to vote if you can’t afford the bus fare to get to the polling booth? Since the 90s, India has followed a free market development policy, under pressure from the IMF and World Bank. But prosperity has not come from India’s combination of democracy and free market. Can one have democracy and not have more prosperity? Interesting conundrum. See this for the 'democracy versus development" argument:
Aid to develop a country along free market lines, comes at a price that undermines national sovereignty. Student Lauren Precopia in INTL 5400 Summer 2011 writes 'As Ngaire Woods states in “Bretton Woods Institutions”, Elliot Page, a trade negotiator from East Caribbean States discusses what is at stake for developing countries if they fail to comply:
“YOU COULD BE A DEVELOPING COUNTRY, FOR INSTANCE, THAT HAS DECIDED TO BLOCK A POSITION EVERYONE ELSE HAS SUPPORTED…HOWEVER A TELEPHONE CALL WOULD BE CONDUCTED FROM LEADER TO LEADER…AND A PARTICULAR AID PROGRAM IN YOUR COUNTRY COULD BE JEOPARDIZED.”'
Development analysts choose to look at GNP figures, but these don’t tell us anything about disparity of income, child mortality and life expectancy rates.
US ranks 45th, Kryghyzstan ranks 30th, in income gap statistics.
We know that the US itself is not immune to election fraud (do a search on the 2000 US election and ‘fraud’). The US’ family income distribution is 45th in the world (the most equal is Sweden). Kryghyztan does better than the US re: income gaps. Russia does worse than any of the Central Asian countries but better than the US. But, Russia does worse than most in life expectancy rates. For ‘your’ country’s income gap, see this:
I like Maya Chadda (Building Democracy in South Asia) but…
Chadda contradicts herself. Earlier on in the book, she says that democracy in Europe rolled out quietly. Then later on, she says democracy took hold in conflict with the state. In any case, I would challenge the dichotomy between democracy and economic prosperity. The United Nations have reached consensus that you can’t have one without the other. This is expressed in its consensus that economic and political rights are indivisible. Economic rights=the responsibility of the state to ensure basic needs.
DEMOCRACY AND THE IMF , OIL FACTOR
How do the great powers affect development and democracy in peripheral countries? It was quite shocking to read that Chadda thinks the Benazir Bhutto was ushered out as a result of pressure from the IMF because she couldn’t pay back Pakistan’s loans to the IMF.
Clearly, there is great outside interest in the Central Asian region, because of its oil. But, it may have had an adverse affect on democratization. As another student writes ‘Many ‘western' democracies are weakening their stance on the protection of human rights in the country, in large measure due to Turkmenistan's vast hydrocarbons reserves.’ Another student remarks that ‘The high price of oil has fostered an environment in which the Azerbaijani government does not need to maintain a façade of democracy.”
-- "Turkmenistan is the country nobody talks about. Its huge reserves of natural gas can only get to market through pipelines. Until 1991, it was part of the Soviet Union and its gas flowed only north through Soviet pipelines. Now the Russians plan a new pipeline north. The Chinese are building a new pipeline east. The U.S. is pushing for "multiple oil and gas export routes." High-level Russian, Chinese and American delegations visit Turkmenistan frequently to discuss energy. The U.S. even has a special envoy for Eurasian energy diplomacy.--John Foster, "Afghanistan and the new great game: Prized pipeline route could explain West's stubborn interest in poor, remote land," Toronto Star, August 12, 2009