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   Provocations for Development
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
05 Apr 2013
p>Need it be said that the term 'development' has lived up to what President Harry Truman had presumed it to mean in his address to the US Senate in 1945 - to denote that a large part of the world was 'underdeveloped'. Within its broader framework a vast pool of professionals worked overtime to create an attractive vocabulary that includes terms like 'participation', 'empowerment', 'accountability' to keep the underprivileged mesmerized into believing that their concerns were being looked into. That we have more poor people than ever before exposes the hypocrisy of development which ensures that poverty persists.

Without doubt, development has remained a mischievous tool in the hands of development donors who have broadly been guided by what is known as the Bretton Woods system of economic governance. Over the years, however, the idea of development has got buried under the weight of its lofty ideology. Donors are getting increasingly concerned about the effectiveness of their taxpayers’ money. At this time when development itself has come under scrutiny, Robert Chambers' unsettling provocations should help locate a substitute for the term 'development'.

Though insightful and reflective, the short provocative essays remain confined within the framework of aid, participation and poverty. Without doubt, this framework has created development fatigue not only for those who preach it but for those on whom it is practiced. Global power dynamics and economic realities have gone through unimaginable transformation, and with it has changed the notion of poverty. That poverty is relative is a glaring reality of our times, when even the most impoverished is seeking 'freedom' and 'dignity' at the cost of 'aid'. More than 'provocations' the world needs 'transformation' in the manner in which 'development' has been perceived and delivered. Nothing short of substituting 'development' can undo what has thus far been unleashed in the name of development. Provocations for Development opens a Pandora's Box of development myths and fallacies that development thinkers and practitioners must engage with. The author doesn't insist that the book be read cover to cover. However, there is enough for the reader to feel provoked, at least five days a week for next fifty-two weeks.

Provocations for Development
by Robert Chambers
Practical Action Publishing, UK
224 pages, £8.96
(available online at www.developmentbookshop.com)
 


 
 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
 
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

 
Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
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Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
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