While discussing the definition of development, Md Niamot Ali argues that Bangladesh needs to redefine the definition of development for the post-COVID scenario. It involves major changes in social structure, popular attitudes, and national institutions
THE concept of development is neither new nor old. It is continuously changing and dynamic. The nature of development as seen in any point of time is different from the other. In the contemporary world, especially in the present age of pandemic, development as such cannot be defined to universal satisfaction. Thus, defining development is a complex phenomenon. Perhaps, redefining development is required in some cases.
As a multidimensional concept, development comprises many dimensions including economic, social, political, cultural, administrative, and environmental and so on. Importantly, different disciplines have viewed development from various perspectives. Economists argue that economic development is the basic indicator measured through the Gross Domestic Product distribution per capita. Politicians think that a society is developed where there is political freedom with assurance of basic necessities of life. Others believe, along with environment, socio-cultural development is development where its promotional opportunity exists.
Development practitioners asserted that development is something to which we all aspire. At the same time, they argued that defining ‘development’ is a complex task. At one point, development was only counted as the quantitative change of the indicators associated with statistical figures. On the other hand, development depicted as the qualitative change of the existing structure of the society. That is why it varies context to context, country to country, and region to region.
To define development, economic indicators are mostly used across the globe. But the core definition of development is intended to bring a positive change for human being and its surroundings. Development may take place by bringing about a change in policy, projects and legislation.
In various ways, the definition of development perceived and accepted worldwide. Nobel Memorial Prize in economic science receiver Amartya Sen stated that development can be seen as a process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy. Karl Gunnar Myrdal, another Nobel Laureate in Economic Science, defined development is the process away from underdevelopment of rising out of poverty. In a different manner, E W Weidener stated that development is a state of mind, a tendency, a direction rather than a fixed goal; it is a rate of change in a particular direction. He also pointed out that development could be economic, social (based on social indicators), environmental -- sustainable use of natural resources; or sectoral; agricultural, industrial, service sectors for example.
Laureate in Economic Science, defined development is the process away from underdevelopment of rising out of poverty. In a different manner, E W Weidener stated that development is a state of mind, a tendency, a direction rather than a fixed goal; it is a rate of change in a particular direction. He also pointed out that development could be economic, social (based on social indicators), environmental -- sustainable use of natural resources; or sectoral; agricultural, industrial, service sectors for example.
In a similar vein, United Nations Asian Development Institute defined development as an organised growth, ie growth which is brought about economically and efficiently and growth which is associated with the desired change in attitude, institutions, conditions of production and the levels of living of people.
In academia, development economists Todaro & Smith defined development is the process of improving the quality of all human lives and capabilities by raising people`s levels of living, self-esteem, and freedom. They also stated that development should not be viewed in terms of economic development alone. It encompasses many other aspects as well, such as, political, social, cultural and administrative.
In the definition given above, there are three basic components that serve as a conceptual basis for understanding the inner meaning of development. Firstly, development ensures life sustenance of the people. In this spectrum, it highlights the ability to provide basic needs that include food, shelter, health and protection. Improvement in the ‘quality of life is called development. Secondly, development ensures Self-esteem of a person. It means a sense of worth and self respect that includes identity, dignity, respect, honor or recognition. Lastly, development ensures freedom from servitude.
It is indicated to be able to choose whatever the ways he/she likes to change his/her life. It means freedom or emancipation from alienating material conditions of life and from social servitude to nature, ignorance, misery, institutions and dogmatic beliefs. At the same time, development requires to increase the availability and widen the distribution of basic life sustaining goods. Similarly, it is the way to raise the level of living including the provision of more jobs, better education, and greater attention to cultural and humanistic values. Fundamentally, the objectives of development are to expand the range of economic and social choices by ensuring freedom from servitude and ignorance and human misery.
Due to the COVID-2019 crisis in Bangladesh, three basic components of understanding development are underestimated. In absence of well defined public health care facilities, health insurance, modern equipments among the medical centers; especially in rural areas; lives of the commoners are threatened. Against this backdrop, medical facilities provided by the private stakeholders are significantly declining. To some extent, they have closed their doors for the general patients already. And, the government of Bangladesh is not in a position to order all private medical health service providers to continue their general operations in this ongoing pandemic situation.
Similarly, it is interesting that those who are effected by COVID-19, are living in a socio-culturally isolated island. This is happening not only inside the hospitals but also outside of their broader social life. Every kind of social contacts in the post-COVID behavior has been changed. This has changed the idea of association and belongingness. In this pandemic situation, society is no longer a unit of analysis now. Perhaps, it is becoming an alien world. Because of the ongoing health emergency, the intended marginalisation is becoming a common issue for everyone.
In the name of lockdown, we are basically in step of reclaiming the horizon of isolation in this given situation. On the other hand, in the name of providing ration, government is trying to focus its benevolence policies to its citizens. People have rights to food constitutionally, but they are in a bondage situation now. Freedom from servitude, a core meaning of understanding development, is considering a far cry for those who are living outside Dhaka and urban slums.
In these context, development should be redefined; especially in developing policy for development. Essentially, in policy level, as Bangladesh mostly follows top-down approach in developmental decision making, in absence of bottom-up approach in development, thus the definition of development is incomplete. Thu bottom-up approach can be introduced due to this outbreak. Most importantly, if it is possible, Bangladesh can also follow the hybrid approach; combining both the decision making models.
THERE are some important sectors which are needed to perform in a combined situation. These are the areas of economic, social, political, cultural, environmental and administrative sectors where development strategies should be reorganised in the context of the pandemic situation. First of all, in case of economic growth, Bangladesh needs to continue its large scale economic activities. The country must work to ensure the raising of national income, the reduction of poverty and more equitable distribution of wealth and income are all essential components of economic development. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, the growth of economic will be stagnated. Thus, both the government and private sector need to work alike to sustain the present growth rate.
Secondly, political development is the capacity of a political system to deal with its own fundamental problems more effectively while responding to the changing political demands of the people. Precisely, political development in the age of pandemic should be reconsidered. To tackle the problem, all forms of political parties should be organised to facilitate and implement development agendas of the government.
Thirdly, social development in the country should be restructured. It means bringing about improvement in the social being of the people. It lays stress on provision of health services, education, housing, recreational amenities et cetera. Furthermore, cultural development should be encouraged with the help of the members of the society. The environmental development of the country should be monitor in this alarming situation. In terms of implementing the goals of Sustainable Development, the government needs to come forward.
Finally, if we want to redefine development, we need to focus on the development administrative culture. In a nutshell, administrative development should be in practice. Administrative development covers both the development of administration and the administration of development. The former refers to strengthening and improving administrative capabilities and the latter is concerned with the organisation and management of development.
It involves major changes in social structure, popular attitudes, and national institutions as well as acceleration of economic growth, the reduction of inequality, and the eradication of absolute poverty. It moves away from a condition of life widely perceived as unsatisfactory and towards a situation or condition of life regarded as materially and spiritually better.
Md Niamot Ali is a Lecturer of development studies at Daffodil International University, Dhaka.
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