Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A counterpoint from Walden Bello

Everyone is praising micro credit. Muhammad Yunus is the hero. Surely there must be dissenters? Walden Bello, whose blurb says "Professor of Sociology at the University of the Philippines and executive director of Focus on the Global South, Walden Bello was the recipient of the Right Livelihood Award -- also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize -- in 2003", dissents, but carefully and without openly trashing Yunus here. A friend forwarded this as email, and I replied to him disagreeing with Bello's views. The crux of Bello's argument is
In other words, microcredit is a great tool as a survival strategy, but it is not the key to development, which involves not only massive capital-intensive, state-directed investments to build industries but also an assault on the structures of inequality such as concentrated land ownership that systematically deprive the poor of resources to escape
poverty. Microcredit schemes end up coexisting with these entrenched structures, serving as a safety net for people excluded and marginalized by them, but not transforming them.
Good that Bello does not call microcredit as bourgoise invention created by counter-revolutionaries to keep the poor as poor, but opiated poor so that they don't storm the ramparts of rich and powerful.

"Massive capital-intensive, state-directed investments to build industries" will solve the problems of the poor? Did he mean "industries" or basic infrastructure? There is no doubt that in most developing countries, only the state has the ability to build massive infrastructure. They are expected to do that. But "industries"? Like bread making and soap making industries? Steel making behemoths? Telecom monoliths? This is simple, extreme left wing lunacy.

Bello thinks China has solved the problem of poor, better. However China thinks it has not solved its problem yet, and certainly not going to solve them by building big industries. Instead, it thinks it needs to do the following (from Xinhua, but also quoted widely in various news sources in the last few days):
  1. Equal opportunity of education should be guaranteed. The government should invest more in education and ensure equal distribution of the limited educational resources.
  2. The public service function of the government should be enhanced. The government should provide more public services and goods.
  3. The construction of social security system should be speeded up.
One can't fault China's reasoning. Only Bello's.

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