Dependency and Development: Why the Economic Gap Isn’t Closed- Eliisa Carter

William Easterly asks “Why haven’t Planners made ending the poverty gap history?” There are many obstacles toward achieving goals in the development sector. Especially since development has set a precedent of dependence. It is, in fact, a by product of liberal economic theory, where interdependence among nations is a key principle. But the failure to solve this gap isn’t just the traits of the Planners, as Easterly describes as being more rhetorical and utopic than real and hands-on. It is also from a deep-seated dependence between the developed and the developing world that’s hard to alter.

Throughout the book, White Man’s Burden, William Easterly mentions the West has been aiming to help the “rest” or developing nations for decades. Global development seems to have good intentions to mend the economic gap between the rich and poor. However, inefficiencies are over-run by “planners,” or those focused too much on the utopian hypothetical blueprint, rather than hands-on, thorough investigation to close the gap. And according to Easterly, the bottom billion suffer not only because of the Western world’s general indifference toward their poverty, but also the ineffective efforts, and definitely, the institutionalized legacy of dependence we’ve implemented on them since the inception of development and foreign aid.

When and where did this gap even emerge? Critical theorists like Gustavo Esteva believe that underdevelopment began on January 20, 1949, a day when 2 billion people became underdeveloped. That day, US President Truman’s 4 Point Speech, when he addressed how, through a medium of collective international action, the international arena will combat poverty. Poverty, through a critical perspective was invented by the Western world. They mistook frugality, or cultures free from material accumulation and frugality, for the impoverished. This view led to the grouping of societies without standardized monetary measures as the “Third World” during post-WWII. This official discourse, as manifested in organizational policy (IMF and World Bank), deemed the “rest” as impoverished.

Aid was established, in critical theorist’s minds, to create a dependency between the developed and developing world. This dependency was generated during the food aid regime during the 1950s-1970s, when the US allocated their surplus of grain, wheat, and rice overseas to developing countries in order to increase labor and bring them a step closer to industrialization. A step closer to the habit of a neocolonial division of labor formed as well; where Western nation would supply other countries with food and in return, developed countries would provide cheap labor as food fueled their industry and their catch up with the first world. A deep-seated interdependence was established. Critics like Arturo Escobar, discuss that the inception of poverty allowed the West to incentivize their ideal of national economic growth.

Critical theorists, like Esteva and Escobar do not deny that poverty exists. Rather, destitution within these communities resulted from the economic, environmental, and social externalities and degradation from increased, unsustainable industrialization. The discourse of poverty is very real, however, it is self-perpetuated. This reiterates Sach’s statement that “the poor are caught in a poverty trap.”

Aid has transformed overtime. Sachs explains that, especially in the public health sector, it has been successful. However, assessing the other issues the impoverished faces today, health in regards to viruses and disease is sector of aid less intertwined and dependent on the international economy, easier to change collectively, than environmental and economic injustice faced by developing countries. This shows that dependency and how developing countries got the short end of the stick is deep-seated. Development and aid have drifted and evolved. Development and aid are looking for a more sustainable future, however it seems that these historical precedents and big business need to be overcome and altered toward more hands-on operations in order to be successful.


One thought on “Dependency and Development: Why the Economic Gap Isn’t Closed- Eliisa Carter”

  1. I completely agree with this post and many of the critical arguments you explained. I think that in today’s Western society we often create bilateral terms and expect phenomena we see in the world to fit into one of the two categories. I think the arguments you posed did a really nice job of showing how that thinking is wrong. And therefore, showed how the type of aid we give is destined to fail simply because of the way we understand problems. It would definitely be interesting to see how the success of aid could be improved if we simply contextualized problems before we attempted to solve them.
    On a side note, I recently read an article about a policy UNICEF has that requires beneficiaries of certain projects to participate in the creation of the project. It’s meant to solve for a lot of the critical arguments you posed such as the patriarchal behavior of aid, as well as to create long term results by promoting self-effiency.


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