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Saturday, Feb 16, 2002

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Development and growth

THAT "growth" is not always "development" has been known for some time, and the debate continues to rage about how to translate the former into the latter. As everyone knows, this is easier said than done, witness the poor results that have flowed till now from the efforts of the rich economies to implement "development" programmes in the rest of the world. "Growth" basically involves itself with statistics, such as a proportionate increase in investment volume, in the savings volume, in the value of manufactured products, in farm production, in the volume and value of exports, in per capita income, in gross domestic product, etc. Essentially, these are all in a way mechanistic achievements reflecting the statistical contours of an economy, be it national, regional or global.

"Development" is a different kettle of fish altogether, extending much beyond the canvas of "growth", sometimes being very much there even when "growth" in the conventional, statistical sense is apparently missing. Thus, in a particular year, even when there is a decline in, say, per capita income, the target society continues to "develop" because of the ongoing programmes relating to farm extension, rural education, health, etc, all of which have the objective of improving the "quality of life" of the population concerned.

Clearly, as experience has shown, in India the job of ushering in "development" in the true sense of the term is much more difficult than achieving "growth" in industrial and farm production, in the number of beds provided in rural health clinics, in the number of teachers recruited for rural areas, etc, mainly because of the inability of the administration and the political leadership to pitch in effectively with their contribution which, in the given Indian social circumstances, is absolutely indispensable for successful "development" programmes. And yet, without this complement of "development", no amount of "growth" will be able to place India truly in the big league of international economies that can be described as being "developed".

These thoughts were provoked by the recent statement of a UN Under-Secretary General (an Indian) who has very rightly remarked that globalisation will have to be given a new thrust to make it development-centric and that "market-driven growth of eight to 10 per cent, as in some of the South-east Asian economies, has not addressed such development concerns as poverty removal and uneven distribution of income". He added that, among other things, globalisation would "have to address social issues such as disorder, poverty and inequality in developing economies" if the target of true development were to be attained.

To repeat, all this is easier said than done, primarily because what is required in good measure is political will and administrative determination to get good "development" projects off the drawing board and implemented, both inputs being rather scarce in contemporary society.

Ranabir Ray Choudhury

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