What Constitutes Development?
Development can be viewed as having occurred when there is evidence of improvement in the quality of human life. In other words, development is a dynamic concept since it implies movement towards a better life. It is also a relative concept in the sense that it assumes that a society can enjoy a life that is either higher or lower in quality. Although the movement implied in development is often reduced to simple measures such as increases in the availability of goods and services, improvement in the quality of life requires more than such services and goods. Even though some basic material provisions are necessary for sustaining life, such as in meeting food, shelter, clothing and health needs, the sort of improvements that constitute development are not necessarily material. Indeed, it is possible to be well provided for materially and still lose out on real development. The adage that "to have more is not to be more" is true. Material provisions are of course easier to assess and improve upon; one can therefore more easily derive conclusions from them regarding societal status. Development experts, for example, talk about the food-poor referring to those unable to meet their daily food-energy requirements or the absolute poor, that is those who are not just unable to meet their food requirements but also their other basic needs such as clothing, shelter, water, health and education.
The Role of Governments in the Development Process
Although individuals can do much to improve the quality of their lives, the process often takes more than the efforts of a single person; a person's development interests are likely to be influenced by the environment in which he/she operates. Sometimes, peoples' personal development pursuits create side effects that affect others and either encourage or inhibit the self-improvement efforts of those others. There is therefore a definite role for an authority with enough competence to at least create the right environment for people to pursue their own personal development interests. This is one role that governments play. Experience in recent history has raised questions about the need for heavy government involvement in the design and implementation of all-encompassing development plans; they have highlighted the importance of unleashing market forces and facilitating the coming into play of¾what one might call¾the invisible hand of Adam Smith . In this new scheme of things, the role of government is limited to establishing the general infrastructure with its many and varied components in the social, physical, educational, technological, financial, environmental and legal areas.
Positive and Negative Ways of Guiding the Development Process
However, governments differ in their inclination and ability to improve the welfare of their citizens. Development literature distinguishes between governments that resemble roving bandits or wolves and those that resemble stationary bandits or shepherds. The former do not keep the long term interest of the societies that they govern in perspective, whereas the latter reckon with the fact that their future is bound up with that of the flock. Thus, while both bandits feed from their flock, only the stationary ones have an incentive to nurture and protect the flock. Governments that behave like roving bandits tend to be predatory with neither the incentive to include development as part of their leadership mission nor the interest to encourage the sort of sacrifices that make for an improvement in future societal prospects. Stationary bandits, on the contrary, are more likely to act altruistically and continually seek out appropriate development ideas that can help in improving the quality of life enjoyed by the masses.
Of course, no government falls neatly into these theoretical extremes. Different governments would fall somewhere between these extremes, some behaving more like wolves and others more like shepherds. Those that fall in the latter category tend also to be developmental, and remain alert for ideas that may help in the improvement of the general welfare. For this reason, such forms of government tend to have a definite development agenda whose specific components evolve as new knowledge becomes available about what needs to be done to sustain the development process.
Governments that are developmental appreciate that, ultimately, development is the outcome of a joint effort that draws intellectual and moral inputs from different segments of the society. Recognising this to be the case, such governments make it their solemn responsibility to continually refine and share their development vision with the rest of society. They not only allow, but facilitate other agents of development to play their respective roles. This responsibility is made manifest through national policies that seek to translate the development vision into specific actions. Even where this type of a government does not have a clear vision for development and provided that there are clearly defined and properly enforced rules, including those related to the protection of private property, the self-interest of individual members of the society tends to generate positive development outcomes.
Where governments behave like roving bandits, they are unlikely to have a development agenda that can be shared with those that they seek to govern. Improvement in the citizen's quality of life would therefore be accidental. Under the roving bandit form of government, the evolution of development policies is also unlikely, considering the absence of clear goals for the future. Such forms of government cannot encourage the evolution of clear rules and enforcement mechanisms through which private interests for the benefit of the community can be encouraged. On the contrary, self-seeking governments tend to stifle the developmental outcomes of atomistic behaviour. Such governments also encourage the birth of parallel systems of micro-governance that find expression in parallel activities which undermine broader development efforts.
People Should be Involved in Their Own Development
In development history, societies have behaved as if governments had full prerogative over the development and implementation of policies. That stance is rapidly changing. Evidence from the newly industrialised Asian countries reveals that there are huge benefits in making development planning and implementation participatory. In this state of affairs, the work of a central planning commissions is essentially to collect and co-ordinate policy ideas from the rank and file, and involve different segments of society in implementation and monitoring. The commissions in such societies also solicit feedback on the impact of different policies and development programmes from those whose prospects are meant to be influenced by government policies and development programmes in order that there may be a change of course should the need arise. In this way, everyone in the society is mobilised for development, and those in power do not have to carry the development burden on their own. One sign of good governance is willingness to seek out development opinions from those for whom the development is intended.
History of Development Policy in Kenya
An overall development agenda constitutes a kind of bedrock on which sectoral policies can be founded. In Kenya, broad development policies have tended to shift with dominant development paradigms, sometimes without adequate reflection on the sectoral implications. One consequence of this has been huge swings in policy focus. For example, in the latter part of 1970s, it was understood that the only way to promote local production and improve Kenya's trade accounts with other countries was to go for "import substitution," in other words, to establish industries that produced goods previously imported from elsewhere. Since the products from such industries were to compete with the products from more established industries located in other countries, a case was put for protection of local industries through imposition of tariff penalties on the relevant imports.
Unfortunately, protection created a breed of inefficient industries that accumulated excess capacity and produced goods which were more costly than the imported ones. Although such industries probably helped create employment for Kenyans, the net welfare effects became suspect, leading to a shift to what we now refer to as an export-led industrialisation strategy in which the focus came to be on promotion of exports rather than control of imports.
Kenya also experimented with structural adjustment, narrowly defined to mean unleashing of market forces in all sectors of the economy, introduction of cost sharing in the provision of social services such as education and health, and retrenchment in staffing. Soon after these adjustment policies were initiated, it became obvious that there were serious repercussions of these policies on the social sector, and these needed to be addressed before further implementation. It became clear as well that the speed in which these reforms had been implemented was inappropriate. The reforms also underscored the importance of keeping in mind the political economy implication of such reforms, especially in countries like Kenya which lean uncomfortably on external assistance.
Currently, there is a preoccupation with industrialisation, the goal being to make Kenya an industrialised country by the year 2020. In the pursuit of this new development stance, it is possible to forget that Kenya is predominantly an agricultural country: agriculture still accounts for 30 per cent of the output, employs three quarters of the labour force and generates a substantial chunk of the country's foreign exchange earnings. The agricultural sector also generates most of the inputs that fuel manufacturing activities. Research has demonstrated good performance of food processing activities. The message is very clear: Kenya would do well to promote the agricultural sector as part of its industrialisation policy. Without paying attention to the policy needs of the agricultural sector, it will be impossible to achieve targets set for industrialisation that are part of the strategy for improving welfare.
Policies Alone are not Sufficient
Kenya has excellent policy statements and development plans, but these are only part of the story. Judicious implementation and follow up of stated policies are the other part of the story. Unfortunately, the implementation part is somewhat disappointing. Cross-country studies have shown that most of the recent divergence in developing countries that were initially on the same socio-economic threshold can be attributed to differences in selection and implementation of policies. But perhaps Kenya's poor policy implementation record is a symptom of deeper problems that continue to constrain the country's development. It may, for example, suggest that even a correct mixture of sectoral policies as well as sufficient physical and human resources are inadequate.
Development policy may have to examine the type of "social capital" found in the country. Social capital is created when relationships change in ways that either facilitate or encourage positive action. The way a community goes about doing things may either encourage or inhibit the sort of exchanges and transfers on which economic activity thrives. The circumstances that create a specific way of doing things, which is what we are referring to as social capital, should attract some interest from those concerned with the development of the country. Social capital seems particularly important in multi-ethnic societies in which people's rights are not guaranteed. It is possible that even the most carefully selected and well implemented policies will not perform well in the absence of the adequate social capital. However, the creation of social capital draws more from demonstration than prescription.
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