Rural Development: Learning from China

Rural Development: Learning from China

Rural Development: Learning from China

Rural Development: Learning from China

Excerpt

The Third World has reached a turning point in its long and arduous struggle for economic and social development. In recent years, many Third World countries have come to realise that the development strategies they had pursued in the past two decades were inappropriate and even irrelevant to their real needs. They have also come to realise that a development strategy tied primarily to economic growth will not by itself solve problems of employment and income distribution or improve the conditions of the poorest segments of the population. Indeed, in many countries, rapid economic growth has further aggravated the problems of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

The search for alternative development strategies has now become intense, particularly among political leaders and social scientists within the Third World. The starting point for this search is the recognition that a development strategy that aims at creating a consumer society on the Western model is neither feasible nor desirable. With limited natural resources and continuous erosion of man's environment, even most of the Western countries could not sustain the present rates or patterns of growth and consumption for more than thirty or forty years. The developing countries, with such a huge backlog of poverty and with their populations threatening to double every twentyfive or thirty years, could not conceivably provide a car and a refrigerator to every family in the foreseeable future. The main focus of their development efforts, it is now widely accepted, must be on meeting the basic human needs of the entire population, rather than on providing Western levels of consumption to a privileged minority.

Conceptually, the acceptance of a basic needs approach to development can be regarded as something of a breakthrough but that by itself does not provide a practical development strategy and a set of workable policies. Many difficult political, economic and moral issues must be resolved before a develop-

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