View Point
March 31, 2006
Social Capital – Implications for Cricket World Cup

Social Capital is a term that is not easily defined. While the concept of human capital is by now well accepted, the concept of social capital is only gradually gaining recognition. Regarded as the glue that holds societies together, social capital is a necessary prerequisite to any functioning social order, along with a certain degree of common cultural identifications and shared behavioural norms. It is this internal coherence that helps to define social capital. {{more}} Without it, society would collapse and there could be no talk of economic growth, environmental sustainability or human well-being. Contemporary Iraq seems to be tending in this direction, except there is a quick reversal in their fortunes.

Social Capital is best studied in the context of the contribution it makes to sustainable development where sustainable development is seen as meeting our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainability must therefore leave future generations with as many opportunities as those we have had; there are however several components of capital of which social capital is but one. A brief discussion of these components can further deepen our understanding. Natural capital (natural resources) such as oil, gold or bauxite can all be depleted over time. An enlightened approach to sustainable development would suggest that earnings from ‘natural capital’ be invested in other types of capital, and this logically leads us to a second category – produced assets (human-made capital).

Investment in a sawmill (human-made capital) presumes that there are forests, i.e. natural capital to take advantage of the investment outlay. Similarly, investment in an aluminium smelter presumes that there is a ready supply of bauxite to convert into aluminium. The Kenyan born Nobel Peace Prize winner for 2004 explains her concept of a holistic approach to development by reference to the three-legged African stool. This stool is made from a single piece of log. You chisel the three legs at once so you have a stable foundation. These legs are compared to three important pillars of government. One represents the sustainable development of resources and an equitable distribution of same. The second leg represents good governance which embraces sustainable development as well as the equitable distribution of resources. And the third leg symbolizes peace within and among countries. If the society is stable and people feel secure, they can innovate and develop themselves and their communities. But if one of these legs is unstable or missing then resources, people and relations among them can be exploited and become a force for disharmony.

We may now be asking ourselves, how can social capital contribute to economic growth? A couple of examples may best respond to the question. In the East Asian countries, conventional factors such as investment in human and physical capital and technology only partially explain the high growth rates of Asian ‘Miracle’ economies. Those Governments also invested in social capital by creating policies that provide an enabling environment for growth. Institutional arrangements and organizational designs that enhance efficiency, facilitate the exchange of information and promote cooperation between government and industry, characterize this environment. In a study of Italy, it was found that a large number of voluntary associations among people in the north of the country explain the region’s economic success. These associations provide the north with the social capital which was lacking in the south.

These two examples have brought us closer to a definition of social capital where sociologists and political scientists refer to it as the set of norms, networks and organizations through which people gain access to power and resources that are instrumental in enabling decision-making and policy-formulation. Economists add to this focus, the contribution of social capital to economic growth. The implication for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 is the fact that social capital can also be seen as a set of horizontal associations among people who have an effect on the productivity of the community. The key feature is that it facilitates coordination and cooperation for the mutual benefit of members of the community. Institutions and other forms of social capital, along with public policies, determine the returns a country can extract from its investment in physical capital. In fact it is argued that many low-income countries with a large resource base do not derive the requisite gains from investment, specialization and trade. These countries are constrained by a lack of institutions that enforce contracts impartially and secure property rights, in addition to which there may be inappropriate economic policies. Singapore in the Far East and Barbados in the Caribbean basin may be able to boast of higher levels of social capital than St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the rest of us in the OECS. The volunteer group, which is being put in place for the World Cup, is a further example of social capital at work. The hosting countries would need to mobilize their citizens not only under the umbrella of the Voluntary Groups, but also through service organizations and other associations. Even the hosting of warm-up games, which have been allocated to

St. Vincent and the Grenadines would require all hands on deck, as part of a national effort. It is my conviction that those countries which can mobilize their citizens in a manner that will facilitate effective coordination and cooperation will achieve the highest levels of success in the hosting of this international event.