- Politics and Social Issues
Causes of underdevelopment, Strategies for development
Underdevelopment is a key geographical issue in the modern world, as it is considered to be characteristic of a country which possesses a certain number of problems. Such problems, like extreme poverty or a low HDI, may be seen as consequences of an underdeveloped nation, but they may also be seen as the causes for its underdevelopment. Today we classify different countries in different groups, ranging from the less economically developed countries (LEDCs) to the more economically developed countries (MEDCs), according to the level of development which a country may find itself in. Each country’s level of development is a consequence of its history; a low level of development is a result of specific causes that may be as simple as debt which encumber a country economically, or as complex as a state of political instability.
A country’s geographical environment may be a first cause for underdevelopment; a country may be advantaged or disadvantaged by its surroundings. Firstly, the environment of a country and its climate determine its capacity for production. If a country’s territory is mostly that of a frozen or scorching barren wasteland, it cannot efficiently grow crops and develop its agriculture, handicapping it greatly in its primary production. The environment could also be prone to natural disasters, which halt development and may succeed in pushing a country backwards. These disasters, like hurricanes, earthquakes or tsunamis cause deaths and damage, forcing the country to potentially become endebted and fail to develop. For example, the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 plunged an already poor country into $1.2 billion dollars of debt. Although the debt was cancelled by the world bank, it is possible to see the financial cosequences of a natural disaster.
Also, natural resources play a decisive role in the development of a nation. A country which is rich in natural resources such as oil, gas or petrol possesses a preliminary considerable advantage over neighbouring countries; it controls a source of wealth within its own bordered which it may use for its own purposes or sell in order to develop economically. Countries who do not possess any considerable natural resources are therefore disadvantaged in the way that they must spend money to acquire these sources, and they cannot export them in the hope of improving their economy. Paradoxically, it may be considered that not having any natural resources is an advantage, as it forces a country to find alternative means to trade and develop its economy so that it may last. Taiwan is an example of this, as it never had a great deal of natural resources, yet it has a fine economy in the modern world, as it found different ways to expand its economy. However, surely a country could benefit from natural resources in order to diversify its economy Whether natural resources are advantageous or disadvantageous is debatable, but what is certain is that a countries geographical environment and climate possesses an important role in its development. It is possible to justify this with different reasons. For instance countries in central Africa are more likely to know the effects of underdevelopment than the coastal countries of Africa, who have easier access to trade. Underdevelopment may therefore have a general cause of limits: countries can be limited in certain aspects such as resources, production, or trade.
Furthermore, whilst using the example of Africa, it may be possible to refer to a country’s political state. Development is generally defined by a growth in economy; of course a maintenance of social development is needed, but economic strength is fundamental for a country to develop. Underdevelopment may therefore be caused by an incapacity to have a strong economy, which may itself be defined by an unstable government. A country needs to be well administrated and well organized in order to prosper; it cannot thrive when political instability is present. For instance, many countries of Africa such as Angola and Zambia experienced conflicts and civil wars. Such events damage a country, both morally and economically. When we examine the effects of the World Wars, economic weakness was a recurrent issue in all of the participants of the war. It is the same issue in Africa; when a civil war erupts, the conflicts distract a country from its true aims of development. People are killed, and cities are destroyed instead of being enriched. In the social aspect, cities lose their rights to further develop as there is instability and an uproar is created. A country’s production would be halted in this event, and it’s overall growth would have a high chance of stagnating, possibly even decreasing. Generally, political instability highlights a country’s weaknesses in government, and may push away FDI from helping it to develop.
Moreover, a willingness and a capacity to engage in globalization is generally needed for development. If we look at the LEDCs of today, one of the first things that we would recognize would be their limited links with other countries. Small, underdeveloped countries which speak a language which exists only in one country cannot develop as they cannot interact with anyone. Although the countries of Eastern Europe are not in a state of disaster, it is fair to say that a fair number of them are in a state of underdevelopment. This is partly due to them being isolated; they do not especially engage in trade with any of the major world powers, and they cannot hope to. Otherwise, by not engaging in globalisation, the country would tend to develop by itself, and inequalities could easily be made. Much like the Northern and Southern hemispheres of the world, a country could be divided into two parts, causing inequalities. Where one part becomes the centre of attention, the other is forgotten and left to wither away. The example of Haiti could be used: Haiti shares an island with the Dominican Republic, but Haiti is a far poorer region, which is also far more underdeveloped. The Dominican Republic is the subject of tourism whereas Haiti is the subject of charities.
So, the causes for underdevelopment are numerous and vast, but it seems that some take greater importance over others. A country seems to be partly responsible for its own level of development, yet it may seem that it's level of development is equally dependent of the geographical environment in which the country is in.
In order to continue to keep up with the pace of the world, countries rely upon their own development. For some, it is simply a question of staying strong yet for others, it is a question of exploding out of the world of underdevelopment and emerging in the developed world by using certain strategies. To evaluate certain strategies of development, it would be possible to study certain strategies that have been applied and which have proved to be both useful and not useful, and to examine some strategies that are bing used today, to possibly find their successes and flaws. For development to succeed, it must be done in the long term. Development must be sustainable, it must guarantee the success of the current generation without comprising future generations, therefore hopefully even improving future generations. Today, strategies are being applied in the goal of improving living conditions, by aiming to improve the welfare state, infrastructure and foreign investment in a country. That is what development is categorised by.
All fundamental strategies of development must start with the core; for a strategy to succeed, it must be supported by a strong economy. A first strategy for a country to develop is to therefore have a strong, growing economy. Whether it is brought through the exploitation of natural resources, a high production or an important activity in trade, a country must possess a strong, diverse economy. The Asian Tigers are examples of such economies, as they were countries who did not benefit from ever pouring quantities of oil for instance, but they succeeded in broadening their economies and they eventually established themselves as key economical powers of the world. South Korea, for instance, is one of the four Asian Tigers, and it developed as a country by developing its economy; it firstly relied on manufacturing and exportation of cheap goods, but once it faced heavy competition from China, it expanded its economy towards high technology goods and ship manufacturing, being the world highest ship maker. What is significant about South Korea's rise to power is the contrast of the situation that they were in and the situation in which they find themselves today. Today, South Korea has the 13th largest economy, having multiplied its GDP by twenty since 1960, after the Korean War. Equally, its GNP per capita has increased from $100 in 1960 to more than $16,000 in 2005. Their strategy for development worked, and therefore a strategy which consists in enhancing and diversifying a country's economy is useful, potentially one of the most important strategies possible as a country's power is shown by its economic wealth. That is why the USA dominates as a superpower today, and that is why China will dominate in the near future; they are countries who developed thanks to a strategy of economic development.
Furthermore, it would be possible to further justify that some strategies of development which involve developing a countries core are fundamental to a countries general progression. One strategy of development involves building and fortifying the infrastructure. By providing a city, or even a country, with an enhanced way of getting to places, business would literally by improved; improved infrastructure is synonymous of improved exchange and therefore improved business. Moreover, in an already developped urban zone, advanced infrastructure makes the difference between a simple region and a Special Economic Zone (SEZ). SEZs allow an economy to prosper, and the example of China's large coastal area which is filled with SEZs allows us to evaluate the forever increasing development. China has the world's fastest growing economy, which is lead by its coastal zone. 40 years ago, it was a communist country looking to beat the Soviet Union in becoming the USA's ally whereas today it dictates its own decisions, it has the world's second highest GDP, coupled with the world's fastest growing economy, having a consistent 10% growth rate year in year out. 4 of China’s 5 SEZs lie in its highly influential coastal belt, and they are at the core of China’s economy. The goal of a SEZ is to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), it is within the coastal belt where China’s industrial goods are made, and where they are exported. Just one of China’s region, Guandong, which contains three SEZs, was responsble for the production and exportation of over 50% of all mobie phones in the world in 2011. With this example, it is possible to visualise the importance of SEZs, which are made with the development of infrastruture and allow the development of a country. FDI is essential to the expansion of a developing country’s economy as it provides the country with a form of trade, allows its citizens to have access to employment and therefore money. China’s climb up the economic ladder was greatly due to their policy in allowng FDI; it proved to be an advantage to the foreign powers and a determinating factor in China’s access to a developed world.
Otherwise one other strategy which is important, but possibly not the most important, is a stable political government. The possession of a stable government is most certainly important for a country’s development, but it is the means by which a country obtains such government which is crucial. Foreign intervetion, for instance, should not do instance play a key role in the reformation of a government; if anything people would be opposed to something that seems to be thrust upon them. Some foreign intervention is needed, but the foreign powers should not completely take the matter in their own hands and decide by themseleves; it would look more like empire building rather than a peaceful intervention or a form of diplomacy. What is necessary to highlight is that most powers would push for a democracy to appear, like they have recently done in North Africa and how they have tried to do in the Middle East. This “push” is met by resistance; it is why many North African nations are facing a polemic and in a parallel manner, why a clash has erupted between the Western powers, like the USA, and the Middle Eastern powers such as Iran and Iraq.
This general strategy of using aid but not on relying on it uniquely can be formed to make a general policy of development which should include globalisation but also have protectionalism to limit foreign domination. Although the concept of protectionalism is an economical one, it would be possible to interpret it in the political manner; a developping nation must limit the presence of foreign powers without banning them, it must keep in contact with them without being overtaken, in a certain way. We may take the example of Angola, a country which has the economic potential to become a leading African power. However, it possesses many problems, and one of them could arguably be the overpresence of the Chinese. Although the Angolans have much to thank the Chinese for, we must highlight that in the sector of the development of infrastructre, Chinese workers take over 70% of the contracts within Angola. Not only does this create the severe problem of unemployment which rose to 26% in 2011, it also means that the Angolans do not acquire the skills to build the needed infrastructure, and once the Chinese will be gone, they will not know what to do. Angolan firms are stagnating, and the country in general therefore cannot progress. So, a useful strategy of development would include a form of protectionalism to allow homegrown firms to expand before allowing FDI to further develop them. From a political point of view, a country can use the help of other countries but it must generally find its own solution to its own problem.
Finally, an indispensable strategy of development for a country to adopt is to improve its living conditions. Of course, an increase in the country's wealth through a developed and diverse economy would allow people to be more wealthy, secure and happy, but what is especially important is the state of their lives, their health. Afterall, the definition of development lies in a steady increase in the living conditions of a population, so surely a policy aiming to fortify a populations general wellbeing would be one of the most important. This strategy could strongly be linked with fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but it is extremely important nonetheless; the MDGs were made so that African countries could start to become developed. It is certain that countries need a strong economy, but what is a strong economy or infrastructure without any people to build them? Therefore, a strategy of development should prioritise in accomplishing certain feats like reducing infant mortality and the amount of deaths of pregnancy. Development strategies, to be successful, should aim to guarantee the health of the citizens, by reinforcing or creating a welfare state, and allowing a safety net for the population. One strategy of development would therefore consist in lowering the infant mortality rate. Developed countries generally have a very low infant mortlity late, often being far below 10 deaths for 1000 births. Angola, a country that has the potential to become more developed, has the 8th highest infant mortality in the world, having more than 83 deaths for every 1000 births. If a country wans ti develop, it must have the capabiity to support its population, and ensure the general wellbeing of its people. By decreasing the infant mortality rate, a country would be increasing its HDI, and therefore increasing the indicator which portrays its living standards. Let us take the example of Japan, a country which is known as a developed nation, and as a world power. It is a recently established MEDC, and it possessed a HDI of 0.901 in 2010, the 12th best HDI in the world. During its phase of development, Japan orientated some of its strategies to strengthening the living conditions of its citizens, and we may see the result of such development otday, for it is a developed country which has a say in world affairs.
In conclusion, there are many various strategies of development that exist in the world today, but it would be possible to consider that the strategies mentioned hereby are theoretically and potentially the most promising. A final possible strategy would be to incourage the phenomen of brain drain, up to a certain extent. Brain drain allows a great transfer of skills that will be rememberred by the developping country, and it allows them to profit from the important bonus of remittences. Today, billions of dollars are transferred annually through remittences, and as we know too well, money plays an extremely influential role in development. It helps eradicate poverty, which can be seen as both a cause and consequence of underdevelopment, and it helps strengthen a country.