View Point
August 31, 2007

The right to development

The process of development is the realization of civil, economic, social, cultural and other human rights enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and it is regarded as an inalienable human right. All states have the right and duty to formulate appropriate national development policies, and to execute economic and social projects for constant improvement in the well being of the entire population and of all individuals.{{more}}

The distinguished West Indian Economist Sir Arthur Lewis was of the view that what matters most to growth is to make the best use of one’s own resources, and let exterior events become secondary. Trade, he agrees, plays a useful role in development, but countries which hitch their fate to trade are bound to be frustrated. In the context of globalization, therefore, the teachings of Sir Arthur Lewis presented a radical challenge to the developing world to reclaim the right to development – the right to make the best use of one’s own resources.

As a policy appropriate for small countries grappling with excess labour in rural agriculture, Lewis advocated export manufacturing. Writing in the era of a less enlightened colonial directorate, there were bound to be prejudices relating to the capacity of Caribbean people to become skilled and productive industrial workers. What he proposed was an industrial policy to encourage, protect and subsidise the establishment of manufacturing industries, including concessions to attract foreign capital and capitalisation. Until such time as our national income would rise to levels adequate to generate domestic savings for investment, it would be necessary to attract foreign capitalists to learn the “tricks of the trade” and gain access to their overseas distribution outlets.

Whatever their short comings, these industrialization policies are important in upgrading technical and management skills. And they have served Trinidad & Tobago well in the development of a diversified manufacturing sector, now strong enough to expand into regional and export markets. Fifty years ago, Sir Arthur also considered the movement of goods and persons (single economy) within the region, and some form of political integration as part of a strategy for advancing our development.

The development of the world’s less developed countries (LDC’S) does not depend in the long run on the developed countries. Sir Arthur Lewis quite rightly argued that LDC’S have within themselves all that is required for growth. The most important item on the agenda of developing countries is to transform the food sector, create agricultural surpluses to feed the urban population, and thereby create the domestic bases for industry and modern services. What did Sir Arthur Lewis really mean when he said, “what matters most to growth is to make the best use of one’s own resources and external events are secondary?” He was alluding to the fact that developing countries have to engage the world on their (developing countries) own terms, not on the terms set by global markets or international institutions. He emphasizes on internal and domestic wellspring of development and the primacy of domestic food production challenges prevailing economic doctrine that countries which do not adjust domestic policies to global markets will be marginalized.

For peoples and nations, as for individuals, the right to development is ultimately the right to be autonomous, the right to be free, the right to the fruits of individual and collective work and the right to live in peace and harmony. Countries that have done well over the past fifty years are those that have been able to formulate a domestic investment strategy to kick-start growth, and those that have the appropriate institutions to handle adverse external shocks. Policy makers today must, therefore, focus on the fundamentals of economic growth – investment, macroeconomic stability, human resources and good governance, in order to advance their countries to the next level of development.