Saturday, September 16, 2006

Indebted to Debt Relief

An interesting and provocative discussion of the reaction within Africa to the much publicised Debt Relief program implemented by the G8 countries. Applauded by many celebrities in the west, debt relief embraces many components of politically correct development that are thought of as axiomatic constructs such as "pro-poor" development, poverty reduction and sustainability.
The problem is not necessarily with these concepts. It rests in the manner with which these concepts are defined:
  • as static end products, rather than as dynamic processes for change; and,
  • as politically correct directives within centralised bureaucratic planning, rather than as market-driven incentives.
Sustainability is not an ecological construct: it is the integration of environment, economy and society. Without a productive economy, there can be no caring and compassionate society. Without a just society, there is no environmental responsibility. Translating the theory of sustainability into practice requires leadership, entrepreneurship and capacity building. Media pronouncements and publicity are a poor substitute for real initiatives and the awareness of local context necessary for successful implementation of sustainability principles. Empowerment entails people taking power over their lives. Debt Relief removes them from that possibility. Worse it gives them additional bureaucratic drag and additional taxes.
Sustainability need not be antithetical to the processes of globalization. Indeed, I would argue the only way to successfully implement any sustainability initiative, is to utilise the very processes that continue to drive globalisation, namely: the democratization of technology, information and commerce. Claiming to be "pro-poor" in the name of poverty reduction, while foisting layers of bureaucratic oversight on developing countries, is to curtail the very economics of growth necessary for sustainable development to occur.