The Millennium Development Goals: A Discriminating Equalizer

The Millennium Development Goals: A Discriminating Equalizer

Abstract
In this paper, I propose that the Millennium Development Goals, while practical, fail to provide for overarching international institutional framework or acknowledge individual nation institutional framework. By exemplifying such areas of economic success as well as economic downturn in a post-MDG era, I argue that the current MDG-landscape is insufficient to support such global reform, for it is absent of an overarching institutional order and absent of recognition of the institutional variances between nations.

Table of Contents
The Millennium Development Goals: A Discriminating Equalizer
Why China Is Where It Is
Why India Is Where It Is
Why Sub-Saharan Africa Is Where It Is
Conclusion
References

The Millennium Development Goals: A Discriminating Equalizer
The Millennium Development Goals, ratified in 2002 to address and remedy various issues in developing countries through achievement of eight (8) goals, has had mediocre success to date. Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the UN Millennium Project, wrote to the United Nations Secretary-General in Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals “General developing world trends obscure vast differences across and within regions and countries. Some countries have made little progress or even experienced reversals in several areas. Many countries have seen economic growth while others have experienced stagnation. And many of the poorest countries have seen gradual economic growth, but at rates grossly inadequate to yield a dramatic reduction in poverty. (Earthscan, 2005, pg. 13)” Most notably, the vast differences Sachs speaks of can be seen in a comparison of China and India to sub-Saharan Africa. Through such a comparison, it is clear that a universal attempt at engineering social and economic change will continue to fail due to the absence of an international or national institutional framework under which the MDGs can function. Nor is it just this absence that marks the Millennium Development Goals failures. An Introduction to the Human Development and Capability Approach: Freedom and Agency writes “The MDGs do not include concerns for empowerment and participation (except in relation to gender empowerment), equity and distributional issues, and the sustainability of development advances across time. (Deneulin and Shahani, pg. 66, 2009)” However, the absence is what inevitably led to the inconsistent and disproportionate growth brought about by the Millennium Development Goals, with not a single acknowledgement of global political authority, global economic policy, national political legitimacy, or national economic structure. This absence has undoubtedly left its mark upon the widening of the gap between those countries still developing and the rest of the world.

Why China Is Where It Is
China undoubtedly sits at the center of all things development. “China emerged from 50 years of communist rule to become the manufacturer to the world, as well as the planet’s fastest-growing economy. (Why China Matters)” Additionally, Sachs writes “China’s economic performance in the last two decades has been nothing short of spectacular. Real per capita economic growth rates have averaged 8.2 percent a year. Output has quadrupled. The incidence of rural poverty declined from 30 percent in 1990 to 11 percent in 2002. China is on track to meet many of the goals, including the targets for poverty, hunger, primary enrollment, and health. (Earthscan, pg. 159, 2005)” So how is it that China has made such substantive gains? Lance L.P. Gore writes in Market Communism: The Institutional Foundation of China’s Post-Mao Hyper-Growth “It has benefited from an institutional fluidity, from the built-in mechanisms of the Communist system for coordinated change, from a bottom-up dynamism which is new to Communism, and from the reform gradualism typical of China. (Gore, 264)”

- First, the institutional fluidity Gore speaks of undoubtedly has impacted China’s ability to modernize. The absences of procedural democracy inter and intra party negates those uninterested in change the means needed to resist. Additionally, China’s political system is absent of any legitimate alternative party so that those unenthused by reform efforts are stripped of their only means of civil resistance. Finally, the bureaucratic organization of the current regime, unfazed by the threat of removal from of office or non-governmental organizations, remains the only medium available through which change can be integrated.

- Second, bottom-up dynamism has enabled China’s entrepreneurs with the means necessary to introduce innovations. The institutional ingenuity at the federal level has afforded local governments of China a good amount of leniency. Executive fragmentation and the untying of the political and ideological ropes gave entrepreneurs nationwide the opportunity to implement unique institutional innovations that enable them the chance to boost themselves professionally. A hybrid summation is then collected at the national level, amending them as needed, propelling China even further into global excellence.

- Third, built-in mechanisms of change have undoubtedly aided China in terms of development. Whether state ownership of mass media, a massive bureaucratic workforce, or another entity, these various mediums serve to proliferate as well as implement state regulations and agenda. These mechanisms assist the propagation of information, integrate economic and social business, and guarantee that citizens will be inundated twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and three hundred sixty-five days a year with the state’s reforms.

- Finally, reform gradualism also has also revolutionized the Chinese landscape. This changing landscape began in the rural area and migrated to the urban center. It has also prepared many in public service for alternative careers. While change will inevitably create business incentives, they also deteriorate the honor, tenure, and other benefits associated with a government job. Through regulating government officials and adding liberties and freedoms to citizens’ repertoires, many in public service now search for alternative careers. Also, reform gradualism has unrestricted many areas of private entrepreneurship. In many ways the new role of executive investors is to incentivize and stimulate private sector growth. Also, rather than limiting political parties’ power, the reform efforts have allowed executive investors to reap the rewards of reform.

Why India Is Where It Is
Similarly, India has also seen unprecedented development. “India's population is estimated at more than 1.1 billion and is growing at 1.55% a year. It has the world's 12th largest economy--and the third largest in Asia behind Japan and China--with total GDP in 2008 of around $1.21 trillion ($1,210 billion). (India Economy)” Additionally, Sachs writes “India has seen strong economic performance over the past decade. Per capita incomes have grown by almost 4 percent a year, fueled largely by strong agricultural growth, a rapidly expanding services sector, and an increase in export based and other manufacturing activities. Rapid growth has led to significant declines in poverty rates. The World Bank estimates that the percentage of people below the poverty line has dropped sharply to 35 percent in 2001, and national estimates show levels falling from 37.5 percent in 1990 to 26 percent in 2000.(Earthscan, pg. 163, 2005)” So how is it that India has made such leaps and bounds? Jati Sengupta and Chiranjib Neogi elucidate in India’s New Economy: Industry Efficiency and Growth that “The Indian perspective on the new industries based on knowledge capital may be analyzed in terms of three components: the electronics industry, the software industry and the ICT sector industries. (Sengupta and Neogi, pg.8, 2009)”

- First, beginning in 1997 India’s national government stressed dependence on domestic electronics and import replacement. In India, the electronics industry of India since 1973 has seen a large influx of import facilities constructed by the government, namely to encourage equipment and raw materials importation. Also, “In terms of employment generation the rough estimates by Joseph (2004) based on ASI (annual survey of industry data on the number of employees per gross investment capital) show that it is nearly two and a half times higher than that of the textiles industry, six times higher than that of the non-ferrous metals and nearly ten times higher than that of the chemical industry. (Sengupta and Neogi, pg. 10, 2009)”

- Second, India’s unprecedented software industry has paved the way for its development. Ninety percent (90%) of India’s software exports are software services, leading the world into the twenty-first century. Such a transition into such a technological, specialized field has undoubtedly made India a force to be reckoned with in the future. Additionally, India’s workforce has become increasingly technologically-skilled, another move away from the formerly decentralized, rural India to the centralized, urban India of the twenty-first century.

- Finally, the managerial development of India has had a vast impact on its development nationally. Such successes have stimulated accelerated growth in modern-technology fields. Additionally, such a move from the formerly agriculturally-centered state to the industrially-organized state will again position India better in terms of production globally as the century progresses.

Why Sub-Saharan Africa Is Where It Is
Contrastingly, Sub-Saharan Africa has been subject to stagnation and in some instances regression. “Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of poverty in the world. (Kabeer, 26)” Additionally, Sachs writes “Even in well governed parts, (Africa) is stuck in a poverty trap—to poor to achieve robust and high levels of economic growth, and in many places simply too poor to grow at all. More policy or governance reform, by itself, is not sufficient to break out of this trap. Africa’s extreme poverty leads to low national saving rates, which in turn lead to low or negative economic growth rates. Low domestic saving is not offset by high inflows of private foreign capital, such as direct investment, since Africa’s poor infrastructure and weak human capital discourage private capital inflows. With very low domestic saving and low rates of market-based foreign capital inflows, there is little in Africa’s current dynamics that promotes an escape from poverty. (Earthpress, pg. 148, 2005)” How is it sub-Saharan Africa got to this point? Kempe Ronald Hope, Sr. writes in Poverty, Livelihoods, and Governance in Africa: Fulfilling the Development Promise that “African poverty has many facets. It is characterized by a lack of purchasing power, rural predominance, (and) exposure to environmental risk. (Hope, Sr., pg. 2, 2008)” Sachs writes in Halving Hunger: It Can Be Done that “The food-insecure suffer from the inaccessibility of food either because they cannot produce enough themselves or because they cannot afford to buy or equitably exchange for it in markets. (Sachs, pg. 153, 2005)” In other words, it’s a capital issue. Individuals do not have a source of income and thus cannot purchase the necessities needed to survive or cannot grow enough capital to use in bartering, either way the lack of purchasing power Hope speaks of perpetuates.

Additionally, much of Sub-Saharan Africa is still rurally decentralized. “Agriculture still dominates the economies of many African countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, the agricultural sector contributes at least 40 percent of exports, 34 percent of GDP, up to 30 percent of foreign exchange earnings, and 64 to 80 percent of unemployment. Real agricultural GDP growth in sub-Saharan Africa has accelerated from 2.3 percent per year in the 1980s to 3.3 percent per year in the 1990s, and to 3.8 percent per year between 2000 and 2005. (Hope, Sr., pg. 185, 2009)” Thus, the rural predominance makes it inherently harder for sub-Saharan Africa to develop into the specialized, centralized workforce that the twenty-first century calls for.

Finally, “To ensure their survival, the poor in Africa are those related to lack of access to safe water and sanitation services; poor management of solid wastes, especially in urban areas; inadequate access to health care; inappropriate land use and housing; degradation of environmentally sensitive lands such as coastal areas; and the deteriorating nature resource base and ecological environment. (Hope, Sr., pg. 6, 2009)” However, due to the basic need of survival on a day-to-day basis, many of the poor exploit the environment, placing them as well as their households in harm’s way.

Conclusion
The Millennium Development Goals were a global effort to level the playing field between developing and developed nations by 2015. However, due to the lack of an overarching global structure or an individualized national structure, the Millennium Development Goal’s inability to mention and address inherent institutional differences among nations has caused such an equalization not to occur. While it is undoubtedly an honest attempt at minimizing the gap between developed and developing nations, the Millennium Development Goals have in fact distanced the gap. Most notably, this widened gap can be empirically recognized through studying the development of China and India versus that of sub-Saharan Africa. In such a comparison, it can be inferred that an attempt at social and economic reforms the world over rather than specific regions or nations is not totally impractical but one that fails to account for nation’s individual institutions or provide an overarching regulatory framework will incite sporadic and uneven growth as the Millennium Development Goals have done. Without so much as a word about global or economic political or economic structure, these varying institutions will undeniably influence the rate of achievement with respect to the goals. As Kermal Davis put it so eloquently, "If we are to make significant progress on meeting these Goals and stay true to the promise the world made to build a better, fairer world for all, there is no time to lose in putting in place the necessary policies and resources needed to achieve these aims. (Millennium Development Goals Quotes)” The mention of a national or international conception of institutions could easily go a long ways. Without such a mention, those nations still developing will continue to be left further and further behind while nations who have left the developing category for the developed category as well as those already a member of the developed nations category progress.

References
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