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Politics Essay Question

By majge Apr 29, 2015 2731 Words

Programme:M.Sc. Strategic Leadership and Management
Course Code:GOVT 6082
Lecturer:Dr. Bishnu Ragoonath
Due Date:Wednesday 22nd April, 2015
Student No:90742920
Student Name:Marilyn Geofroy Ramon-Fortuné
Essay Question: “Development is about enabling people to have the ‘capabilities’ to do and be the things that they have reason to value.” Critically analyze this claim as it relates to the perceptions and practices relating to the pursuit of development in the Commonwealth Caribbean today.

The Commonwealth Caribbean comprises the countries of Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago. The characteristics of Caribbean countries are countries of small populations, most of which have narrow economic bases, few natural resources, open volatile economies, high debt levels, are vulnerable to external shocks, recurring natural disasters with every hurricane season, possess high youth and increasing ageing population, high unemployment and underemployment, relatively high and persistent poverty and increases in social problems. Should development, therefore, in the Commonwealth Caribbean speak to addressing the basic issues of improving these issues and health, security, education and social services or should we look at the positive side and see what “enables people to have the capabilities to do and to be the things they have reason to value.”    

According to Philani Hlophe Dhlamini, While the Modernization and Dependency theories identify conflicting causes for the under-development of the Third World, they equally suggest competing solutions for the development of the same.

Identification of the causes of ‘underdevelopment’ in the Third World are found in both the Modernization Theory and the Dependency Theory. Both theories contrast in terms of the reasons as to why the countries of Third World status are suffering from a lack of development. Differing solutions are proposed by the opposing theories, giving entirely different strategies for the Third World to embrace. Before undertaking a critical comparison of the two theories, it is important to comprehend the multi-dimenional concepts of ‘development’ and ‘underdevelopment.’

According to Walter Rodney (1973), “development in human society is a many-sided process. At the level of the individual, it implies increased skill and capacity, greater freedom, creativity, self-discipline, responsibility and material well-being. . . A society develops economically as its members increase jointly their capacity for dealing with the environment.” Development is thus inseparably coupled with economic change and any economic progress achieved also reflects upon development as a whole. Underdevelopment is usually perceived as being the direct opposite of development itself, however it must be viewed more realistically as an inadequacy rather than a complete deficiency. According to Walter Rodney (1973), “Underdevelopment is not absence of development, because every people have developed in one way or another and to a greater or lesser extent. Underdevelopment makes sense only as a means of comparing levels of development.” It can be argued that politics divides a nation, and in the Commonwealth Caribbean is no exception because of its common history of colonial rule which left a legacy of the British Westminster model political structure. This heritage has been referred to as democratic governance. This type of political nature has basically resulted in each country’s political parties contesting elections to form a governing body and an opposition. This form of governance, according to Sir Arthur Lewis, is a type of politics of exclusion as one party governs while the other opposes. The Commonwealth Caribbean historically has been settled first by native peoples or Amerindians most of whom were displaced, or suffered under the hands of the colonizers who immigrated to the Caribbean region mainly from Europe and the United Kingdom. This was followed by importation of Africans through the slave trade and today, African descendents comprise the majority of up to 80% of the populations of those countries. Trinidad and Tobago was the exception as Africans were brought in only from 1780s to 1930s when the abolition of slavery in the1830s saw the introduction of East Indian indentured labourers. Today, in Trinidad and Tobago, the population can boast that Africans and East Indians comprise the majority of the population. Trinidad and Tobago can be referred to as a ‘callaloo” as this nation drew many other races e.g. the Chinese who followed set up as merchants working in groceries and in laundries, Arabs mainly from Lebanon and Syria traded mainly dry goods many at first door to door and then to establish profitable dry goods stores selling fabrics and carpets and the list goes on. However, the political situation of each Commonwealth nation, regardless of the types of peoples, adopted the British parliamentary system laying a foundation for the future development of this region i.e. the Plantation Society to, according to Girvan the increasingly complex, fluid and differentiated reality that is the Caribbean. The developmental state must play an active part in guiding economic development and utilizing the resources of the country to meet the needs of the people by balancing economic growth and social development, addressing poverty and encouraging economic opportunities. Its role is vital in developing the infrastructure in many vital areas which include public services, trade, transportation, health care, housing, security, education and social services, social security net and culture. The key goals of development are self reliance, human needs, social justice and removal of poverty. A question may be asked whether development is progressing as it should and if not why? One thought is that one of the main factors to be considered relates the governing structures and the policies and plans put in place by elected governments and their manifestos. It can be argued that manifestos are well geared to ensuring that the elected parties continue to maintain power for as long as possible and according to Girvan in his article “Rethinking Development: Out Loud”, state activities have shown a marked tendency to be politicized – used by the governing party as an instrument of patronage and reward, corruption and the perpetuation of power. Therefore at the governmental level such factors breed wrong moral values and permeate the society with inbred feelings that in order to succeed in any endeavour, the populace must follow suit. Girvan refers to this type of inbreeding of progressive weakening of the fabric, especially within state agencies, as suffering from bureaucratism, insensitivity and arrogance toward the public at large. Girvan also speaks about the fact that Caribbean people perpetuate a “survival mechanism” where they seek small-scale capital accumulation. Jamaica is one example of a Commonwealth Caribbean country in which development was seriously hindered. Jamaica, previously dependent on agriculture shifted into industrialisation from 1950s to 1970 when mining of bauxite accounted for 12.6 percent and manufacturing expanded 15.7 in 1970. At this time a combination of factors hurt the Jamaican economy i.e. plateau of bauxite, internal politics, violence, and drop in tourist arrivals due to the then governing party the PNP's defiant Third World stance. So by 1980 up to 1985, bad planning and unwise fiscal policies during a period of both serious inflation and recession caused a deteriorating economic situation and increasing political violence. This resulted in Jamaica being subjected to a structural adjustment process with the help of unprecedented funding from the World Bank (the International Monetary Fund, and the United States Agency for International Development. The adjustment process integrated the local economy more fully with the international economy by reducing tariffs. Unemployment remained stagnant at 25 percent in the mid-1980s. These factors brought about capital flight and emigration of skilled labour, thereby resulting in greater obstacles to future growth and development. Trinidad and Tobago’s development as we know today resulted by way of its oil reserves. Thus from the early 20th Century, Trinidad and Tobago progressively became more industrialised, an example of which development being the Point Lisas Industrial Estate. Manufacturing and construction sectors also grew. Oil replaced sugar as the most important sector in the economy eventually resulting in the Trinidad and Tobago Government closing down Caroni Limited. Many an economist and citizen question the wisdom of this decision and whether this was for or against development. Is Trinidad now spending more money in importing sugar and in providing for unemployed sugar workers than it is should the sugar industry have been modernised and made more cost effective? The middle and upper-class Trinidadians have become accustomed to living at a higher standard of living as Trinidadians adopted many habits of American consumer habits. Trinidad and Tobago’s development was hinged on the rise and fall of the oil prices, which occurred in 1960 and early 1970s, 1980s and again in 2014 and 2015. However the unionized labour force made demands for adequate housing, better labour rights, more jobs, improved living and working conditions, more equitable distribution of wealth, and national ownership of resources. The socioeconomic problems present in Trinidad and Tobago were hardly as acute as in other Caribbean countries. Development however in Trinidad and Tobago with increased consumer habits and “free-flowing petrodollars” also brought with it the ills of increased underground economic activity linked to cocaine trafficking. Again, it may be asked, what is the cost of development on the lives of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago when the quality of life may have improved but the cost of security and loss of the previous freedoms of “the old days” have long disappeared. Each Caribbean country faces similar problems as modern day development has permeated social ills especially in Jamaica and in Trinidad and Tobago, rift with gangs and illicit drugs, crime and crime-related murders. Another issue to be considered is that of migration. The Caribbean man seeks to improve his situation and many find that the solution is migration to the North American continent. Herein lies another perception and practice which adversely affects the Caribbean. This causes what we call “Brain Drain.” Many Caribbean people enjoy the opportunity to be educated locally and then migrate causing a flow of usually the most highly educated populace to countries which provide better services and opportunities. According to Girvan “the intense propensity to migrate suggests that the boundaries of action at the popular level are must more elastic than the nationalist or regionalist project implies.” Thus as it were each generation has greater expectations than the previous one. The Commonwealth Caribbean of today is not, and cannot be the Commonwealth Caribbean of yesterday. Governments face the revolution of rising expectations which is a very powerful force impacting on social development. This is the essence of the aim for each individual to aspire to dream or hope or work for higher levels of accomplishment in order to possess and enjoy more than their parents have done. Professor Norman Girvan’s statement refers to the Commonwealth Caribbean possessing contradictions when he referred to “the role of the state, the problem of consumption tastes, and the significance of migration.” Many ills of society are a hindrance to development, therefore governments of the region need to continue to reach out to and partner with to religious bodies in conjunction with educators to address moral values and issues that help to build our societies. Every country has its blessings and in small states as exists in the Caribbean, positive practices leading to development of the persons relies to a great extent on the active involvement of social partners with whom the Governments need to work hand-in-hand. Social partners comprise the business community, trade unions, religious organisations, women’s, youth, sport and cultural organisations and non-governmental organisations. The perception of development can also be linked to the sustaining and in some cases the rebuilding of the moral fabric of society through this means. Technology is another enabling area pertaining to development. Today’s world has changed tremendously by the rapid innovations in technology. The rapid forms of communication and ease of access of information has thus changed the world of work. There is almost no corner of the world that has escaped this intrusive realm. Technology has, no doubt, enabled and added value to not only the world of work and has widened the scope of development. There is the expectation that jobs now are multifaceted and information and urbanization expose people mentally and physically to possibilities and achievements that were not apparent even a few years ago. Technology also serves to empower those who are open it it thus it is apparent that technology facilitates higher productivity, and with education enlightens attitudes and elevates social awareness. “The essence of development is to improve the quality of life, yet the striking technological revolutions of recent years have not resulted in better living condition for most of the world’s population.” (Gereffi and Fonda p.419). What though is the impact on our bodies, the types of stress levels that are generated by way of the heightened multi-tasking that technology brings. The issue of good education is of paramount importance in the Commonwealth Caribbean as in the rest of the world. Education can almost be said to equate people in any developing country to the next as information technology make this more accessible to all. The Commonwealth Caribbean, like other countries, must sit back and calculate the costs of development. How does development impact on the standard of living of our people? Is the price of obtaining luxury items or of living the fast pace of live causing our values to be out of sinc with what we have reason to value. Education may be one example of development or can we say underdevelopment? What is the price of educating our children by providing them easy access to laptops and the internet? This is another area of development which is multi-faceted and leads into another issue which is the ease of accessing the wrong types of information so without the strong parental or religious background can have a detrimental effect. The essay question thus leads us to wonder whether the pursuit of development in the Commonwealth Caribbean means a pursuit to a better standard of living. Development, yes, in terms of the provision of better health care which unfortunately in most Commonwealth Caribbean Countries is wanting for those who depend on the public service health care. Development, yes, to enable nationals to have good access to educational facilities, disaster assistance, security, running water and affordable housing, affordable food that is the basic necessities. Another question is raised, how does development impact on the environment? What price do we pay, whether in the Commonwealth Caribbean or in Asia as to the impact that development has on the standard of life of humanity when it is the same development that causes adverse effects in the Pacific and as the Japanese nuclear disaster of nuclear radioactivity slowly creeps through the waters of the world. Or it may be asked, what is the value placed on the man who lives near to the pristine waters of the Caribbean sea and can lay his head down without the stresses of everyday life? What price do we pay to sit under a blossoming poui tree and reflect? I refer to a quotation taken from Professor Girvan’s article when he referred to a public lecture in Trinidad and Tobago in the late 1960s when C.L.R. James posted the question: “what is the good life?” This encapsulates his concern when he asked “Has that solved any social and political problems? The social and political problems are today worse, more acute, than they were in 1901... The question, therefore, of the good life is not to be judged by the quality of goods.”


Commonwealth of Caribbean Islands : Country Studies - Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. Date Accessed: 2015-04-22

Social Development Theory by Garry Jacobs and Harlan Cleveland. Accessed 2015-04-19

Keynesianism - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary Date Accessed: 2015-04-21

Modernization Theory Versus Dependency Theory. Accessed 22 April, 2015.

Social Development Theory Date Accessed: 2015-04-2.

Member countries | The Commonwealth Date Accessed: 2015-04-21

Girvan, Norman Rethinking Development: Out Loud Rethinking Development Girvan Free eBooks PDF... Accessed 12 April, 2015

The Developmental State. Date Accessed: 2015-04-2.

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