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AS I SEE THINGS: People-centred development

Brian M. Francis, [email protected]

AS I SEE THINGS: People-centred development

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CONCEIVED BROADLY, economic development may be thought of as “the process whereby countries attain a rise in their per capita income, achieve a diversification of their production and employment structures, and secure an improvement in the standard of living of their population”.

Clearly then, economic development involves quantitative growth, qualitative transformation, and economic welfare. That is indeed one of the many definitions that can be found in the economics literature of a concept that is multi-dimensional and hence rather controversial.

To make sense of this concept of economic development, one has to design and implement a strategy that embraces as many of the critical issues that can result in real changes within an economy – changes that redound to the benefit of the people. That strategy must be communicated in a manner that is clear and simple so the ordinary man or woman would understand and appreciate.

Case in point: on that fabulous and extraordinary day in the life of all Grenadians, March 13, 1979, Maurice Bishop, the country’s new prime minister, in his inaugural address to the nation on Radio Free Grenada, said: “Brothers and sisters, this is Maurice Bishop speaking. At 4:15 a.m. this morning, the People’s Revolutionary Arm seized control of the army barracks at True Blue. The barracks were burned to the ground. After half an hour struggle, the forces of Gairy’s army were completely defeated and surrendered.

In closing, let me assure the people of Grenada that all democratic freedoms, including freedom of elections, religious and political opinion, will be fully restored to the people. The personal safety and property of individuals will be protected.

People of Grenada, this revolution is for work, for food, for decent housing and health services, and for a bright future for our children and great-grandchildren….The benefits of the revolution will be given to everyone regardless of political opinion or which political party they support. Let us all unite as one.”

Astounding stuff! Why? Without a shred of doubt, what Maurice Bishop was advocating on the very first day of the Grenada Revolution was development with people at the centre.

That conceptualisation of this important matter is now fully documented and known in the literature as Seers’ approach to economic development. Dudley Seers sees economic development as a means of creating the conditions for the “realisation of the human personality”. These conditions or necessity, Seers notes, are food, a job and equality. For Seers, the primary objectives of economic development are to reduce poverty, unemployment, and income inequality. Increases in real per capita income are secondary or sub-goals.

Of great significance, Seers also identified a number of sub-goals of economic development; namely, adequate educational and literacy levels (especially tertiary); improved health conditions; social freedom, including the right to free speech and to participate in government; nation that is truly independent, both economically and politically; freedom from repressive sexual codes; freedom from noise and other forms of pollution; and protection of the environment.

Can you see now why Bishop was on the right development path? Can you appreciate why the Grenada Revolution embarked on a developmental agenda that was people centred?

What a huge difference it would make today if Grenada, Barbados and other countries in the region would return to those splendid days when we the people mattered most as reflected in the socio-economic policies crafted and implemented by our governments in our name and on our behalf.

Email: [email protected]