Appropriate/Alternative Third World Development.
Following are some of the crucial principles for appropriate and sustainable development which derive from the critical analysis of conventional development thinking.
1. Arrange for people to immediately begin applying their local resources and productive capacity to
producing the things that are most needed to give all people the highest possible quality of life at the least cost in labour, resources and environmental impact. Most if not all Third World regions have most and probably all the resources they need to build the basic structures and systems which would provide a high quality of life to all in a few years at most, via relatively simple technologies, lifestyles and systems.
Conventional or capitalist development puts the existing productive capacity into producing whatever will maximise profits for corporations, which means into producing for people far away in rich countries, or it results in no development at all because the corporations can make more profit somewhere else.
The primary goals of alternative development are to ensure that all people have things like adequate shelter, food, basic health services, extensive and supportive community, security, leisure-rich environments, peace of mind, a relaxed pace, worthwhile work, a sustainable environment, and access to a rich cultural life. Achieving these goals is possible with little or no foreign investment, trade, heavy industrialisation, sophisticated technology or growth of GDP. They require little more than the immediate application of the land, labour and traditional building and gardening skills the people usually have. They do not depend on material affluence or economic growth or on access to large amounts of capital.
2. Proceed directly and immediately with the task of developing what is most needed. Reject the cruel myths that development of what most people need will best occur (later) if those with capital are allowed to develop whatever will increase their wealth, that development can be identified with economic growth, that exports must be increased in order to enable purchase of necessities, that development can’t take place without a lot of capital so foreign investment and loans are necessary, etc. These assumptions will lead to development of the wrong things and to the enrichment of the rich.
3. Very simple material living standards must be accepted. Affluence and rich world living standards must be rejected because they are impossible for all, and they are not necessary for a h igh quality of life. All the world’s people cannot live affluently. (Trainer, 1995.) This does not mean there must be deprivation or lack of necessities or inconvenience. It is not difficult to organise communities and economies to provide all people with a high quality of life on very low per capita income and resource use. For example very cheap clothing can be perfectly warm, neat and functional. Very cheap housing can be quite convenient and aesthetically pleasing.
4. Centrally important in appropriate development is building local social and economic self-sufficiency. Most of the goods and services used by people must be produced in and very close to the towns and suburbs they live in, by local people using local resources in local firms. Importing and exporting must be minimised. This is necessary to cut transport and packaging costs, to make people independent of the predatory global economy and to enable them to control their own local economic affairs. Traders and transnational corporations prosper from international trade, the majority of poor people do not; in fact their land will probably be drawn away from them into export crop production. Reject the vicious myth that you must become heavily integrated into and dependent on the global economy, selling a lot in order to earn the money needed to purchase necessities and pay for development.
5. Capital and sophisticated technology are of little importance for appropriate development. It is a serious mistake to assume that development cannot take place without large volumes of capital or without modern technology. A well developed village or region can be achieved with little more than traditional hand tool technology which can build highly satisfactory houses and small dams and can plant thriving gardens. People can get together to build the dwellings, firms, clinics, stores, premises, gardens and leisure facilities their community needs, using local materials such as earth and timber. Of course a relatively few important modern items such as radios and medicines must be obtained through the trade of surpluses.
and ecological goals must take priority over economic goals.
Do not allow development to be determined by what is most profitable, what capitalists want to do, what market forces decree or what would maximise the GNP. Base development decisions on morality, justice, tradition and what is best for community, the environment, social cohesion and people in general. This often means that pursuit of appropriate development will require prevention of developments that would add significantly to the GDP.
7. There must therefore be basic social control over development. Appropriate development cannot take place if freedom for market forces is given a high priority. To do so is to give the transnational corporations and banks the freedom to develop whatever will maximise their profits and deliver most wealth to themselves. Appropriate development cannot occur unless there is considerable regulation of the economy. There are of course difficulties and dangers in regulation but these should be dealt with via open, democratic and participatory processes, (not centralised, authoritarian states.) There could be a significant role for free enterprise, in the form of small firms, and for markets, but these must be kept within carefully set limits, monitored and when necessary regulated by social control mechanisms.
8. The most important elements in appropriate development are organisational and social, These include working bees, rosters, committees, participatory government, town banks, community development cooperatives and especially the climate of solidarity, good will, energy and cooperation that can ensure that people come together eagerly to build and to run their local systems. Sensible oganisation elicits, magnifies and harnesses the vast energy and skills that already exist, but which capitalist development stultifies by making individuals compete for artificially scarce ”wealth”.
9. Priority must be put on cooperation, participation and people power. Villagers must be willing to organise and contribute to town meetings, working bees, community projects, cooperatives and town banks. They must largely govern themselves and take control of their own development through these cooperative and participatory structures. The supreme concern should be to take cooperative and collective local control over local development, in order to work out and develop what is best for the community as a whole. (Contrast the conventional economist’s assumptions that individuals have only selfish motives and that a good society can result if all individuals compete against each other to maximise their own individual advantage.)
10. Very little heavy industry or sophisticated technology is needed . States should aim to distribute mostly light industry across the rural landscape. The production of many items should be banned or severely limited, e.g., cars, aircraft, expensive luxury goods. Again there must therefore be considerable social control and regulation of the economy, ideally via open and participatory systems, not authoritarian and closed state bureaucracies.
11. Basic social services such as health must be organised collectively (not necessarily by a centralised state, but, for example, via community cooperatives).
12. No attention should be paid to the GDP. Whether it increases or falls is irrelevant. What matters is whether the quality of life and ecological sustainability are improving. Develop indices to assess these. In fact to adopt appropriate development strategies will in general be to reduce the GDP and it will require blocking of many developments which would have added greatly to the GDP. For example the most appropriate thing to do with most plantation land is to convert it to producing food for local consumption, which would reduce exports and the GNP. (In a well developed and sustainable Thailand there would be less production, work and resource use and GDP than there is today.)
13. Minimise economic connections with the rich countries and the global economy. Borrow very little. (There will be relatively little need for capital and conventional heavy infrastructure development; e.g., freeways.) Export only a few surpluses in order to be able to import only a few important items. Allow in only those foreign investors who will produce necessities on your terms. Strive for a high level of national self-sufficiency and national control over development. Reject the myth that you must trade heavily to be able to import all the things you will need for reasonable lifestyles or for development. In other words, do not become integrated into and dependent on the global economy. Retain the power to control your own development.
Reject the myth that development must involve abandoning “subsistence” and moving to purely market relations within national and international economies. Subsistence means production for direct use (including local trade), a high level of self-sufficiency, local cooperative arrangements, and moral and traditional etc. criteria rather than monetary profit having the dominant role in determining economic affairs.
14. Preserve culture and ecosystems. This will be possible and easy because the conventional development path has been rejected.
15. Be quite clear that appropriate development is not a path to rich world living standards or “prosperity”, a consumer society, spectacular cities, high incomes or great national wealth, power and prestige. The outcome will not be high dollar incomes, expensive possessions, palatial houses full of gadgets, or jet-away holidays. Most goods will be produced much less “efficiently” than the transnational corporations can produce them. “Living standards” will be far lower than they are in the rich countries. But these are not important for a high quality of life or an admirable society. The main aim will be to guarantee as high quality of life and security to all, and to preserve culture and traditions.
The difference between the conventional conception of development and this appropriate/alternative conception is extreme. Indeed the relationship is basically contradictory with respect to means (e.g., growth, markets, development determined by what will maximise profits for the few who own capital) and ends (e.g., affluent living standards, heavy industrialisation, trade, a consumer society.)
The distinction also shows how limited the Dependency and Marxist critiques of Modernisation development theory are, since all three take for granted the conventional development goals of high material living standards, industrialisation, capital and technology intensive development, affluent lifestyles and consumer society.
Conventional development thinking has trapped billions of people in hopeless and deteriorating conditions for fifty years while greatly enriching the rich few. Yet most Third World people could largely achieve satisfactory development along the alternative path within a few years at most.
Kerala illustrates some of these themes. Despite a GNP per capita that is about 1.6 % of that in the USA, Kerala’s literacy rate and life expectancy are almost the same as in the US, and its infant mortality is 17/1000 compared with 91/1000 for India as a whole. . (Franke and Chassan, 1989.) The basic explanation is simply that developing what is best for people has been taken as the development goal, and doing whatever will most increase the GNP has been rejected as the development goal.
Even more inspiring is Ladakh. Despite a GNP per capita of almost zero, the extremes of a 14,000 ft location, meagre and fragile ecosystems, and no modern technology, the people of Ladakh enjoy a rich and admirable society, with strong community and spiritual values and a high quality of life. They have no poverty or crime, they look after their old people, they work at a relaxed pace an and have much time for festivals. They do not waste. They live in ecologically sustainable ways. There is no social breakdown. Above all they are notoriously happy. It can be argued that their culture is far superior to that of the West, and that traditional Ladakh has almost no need for further development. A[art from better health and infant care, it is difficult to imagine many developments that would improve the quality of life. They certainly do not need cars, imported products, supermarkets or TV, yet it is the coming of these things which is now destroying traditional Ladakh society. (Norberg-Hodge, 1991.)
However, appropriate/alternative development would be a catastrophe for he rich countries, and for Third World ruling elites. Appropriate development devotes Third World resources and productive capacity to the benefit of Third World people, whereas conventional/capitalist development devotes them mostly to the benefit of the transnational corporations and those who shop in rich world supermarkets.
The dominant global institutions (WTO, World Bank, IMF, OECSD etc.) will not tolerate appropriate development. For instance Structural Adjustment Packages specifically demand that recipient countries phase out subsistence drops and convert to export crops.
Appropriate development could only flourish in a very different global economic system, one in which the rich were not determined to take far more than their fair share of global resources.
Nevertheless the alternative way outlined above is now being increasingly turned to as many Third World people recognise that the conventional development path is not solving their problems. (Schroyer, 1997.) It is also being increasingly pursued within the richest countries. The recent emergence of the Global Alternative Society Movement is due to the growing recognition that satisfactory and ecologically sustainable development for rich countries must also involve the abandonment of conventional development goals and means. Some of the evidence accumulating from many scattered and small scale pioneering experiments in the development of self-sufficient local economies are described in Trainer, (1995), and Douthwaite (1996.) _______________
Douthwaite, R., (1996), Short Circuit, Dublin, Lilliput.
Franke, R. W., and B. Chasin, (1989), Kerala; Radical Reform as Development in an Indian State, San Francisco, Institute for Food and Development Policy.
Norberg-Hodge, (1991), Ancient Futures; Learning From Ladakh, San Francisco, Sierra Club.
Trainer, T. (F.E.), (1995), The Conserver Society; Altlernatives for Sustainability, London, Zed Books.