ACCESS TO CREDIT
We, in the United States, are used to constant media exposure to telling us where and how we can borrow for almost any purpose -- from banks, savings and loan institutions, finance companies, and, of course, credit unions. In addition, a vast array of credit is available through credit cards and various deferred or easy-payment arrangements. This easy access to credit is the exception, rather than the rule, in other parts of the world.
In many places around the world, especially in developing countries, people have a hard time obtaining credit when they need it, unless they are relatively well-off. The ordinary person may find it possible to borrow only from a family member, or at an extremely high interest rate from a neighborhood loan shark.
While most developing countries have a large percentage of their population living in rural areas and dependent upon agriculture, the agriculture and rural sector receives a meaningless percentage of available credit. Commercial institutions generally concentrate in the urban sector. Few financial institutions are located in the rural areas.
Some of the problems related to "accessing credit" in other parts of the world include:
• no lending institution available
• no (financial services) office nearby
• not enough capital to meet demand,
• rates too high,
• availability of credit only to certain types of people (i.e. landowner, etc.)
• no access to capital -- concentration of resources among a privileged group of people
• conditions, and
• inappropriate procedures
As long as credit is not available to meet useful and productive purposes, both the individual and the community are deprived of a vital stimulus to growth.
When developed countries attempt to pass their technical knowledge onto those in countries less well-developed, the process has sometimes been called "technology transfer." Problems, however, have often arisen. Results have often been negative, rather than the desired positive outcomes.
The process is often more difficult than it may initially appear. The Western assumption that "more and new" means "better" may not be the case. A valid question is often whether the technology in question is needed at all, or is needed in the present form. Think of the implications of introducing tractors where there is little appreciation of mechanical processes or irregular availability of spare parts. Perhaps what is needed is a better way of using animal power. Introducing labor-saving practices in areas where the most abundant natural resource is labor, will only put more people on the unemployment rolls. Labor intensive approaches may be what are called for. To send computers where training and repair services are inadequate is to guarantee an eventual non-use of technology. New technology can be attractive, but its costs are often not.
Thus, we have the current, widely-held view that knowledge and technology should not just be passed along, but rather, should be adapted and modified to be made "appropriate" to the needs of the recipients.
Appropriate technology is required for sustained, viable development efforts. This technology may relate to product and equipment, or it may have to do with the building of institutions and organizations, with all of their related procedures and services.
DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS AND PRACTICES
The degree to which democratic principles and practices have become part of our institutions, from the federal government to garden clubs, may sometimes make it hard for us to appreciate how few countries in the world have the same level of participatory democracy we enjoy. In developing countries, many recently independent, true democratic experience may be an even rarer occurrence.
The reasons for the lack of such participation are varied. They include:
• high illiteracy rates
• information accessible to only a few individuals,
• stratification of society resulting in little upward mobility,
• continuity of traditional power (e.g. chiefdom, family background),
• ethnic and tribal rivalries (often a result of artificial boundaries created by colonial powers),
• political, religious and cultural traditions.
Democratic participation will be fully appreciated and integrated into life and institutions only after the people have had the chance to experience its potential and its merits.
In the United States, education is considered a right, rather than a privilege. However, this is not the case in countries of the developing world. Four out of every ten people in the developing world are of school age (under fifteen). Out of every ten children in the developing world six enroll in primary school, three will reach the fourth grade and only one goes on to fourth secondary school.
Although public expenditures for education in developing countries have increased to the same share of national product as in industrialized countries (15%), several problems are still to be resolved in lowering illiteracy. These include:
• the lack of available facilities (i.e. buildings) in rural areas;
• a shortage of trained teachers
• no disposable family income for uniforms, books, school fees, etc.;
• children help their parents in household, agricultural or other productive activities at an early age, and consequently cannot attend school full time;
• introduction of new educational methods. Traditional methods do not rely on books and schools;
• resistance to changes in traditional moral and cultural values.
Universal education allows many benefits to a society. It is useful to reflect upon the situation where this is not the case. Children may grow up with only a year or two of formal instruction. Teachers are in short supply and often poorly prepared. There is a lack of schoolroom facilities. Out-moded instructional techniques are often based in repetition and memorization. The consequences ripple out to affect every aspect of society -- resulting in a lack of reading ability, insufficient mathematical skills, reduced problem-solving abilities and generally greater difficulty in meeting the requirements of modern society.
While a 10% unemployment rate in the U.S. and other industrialized countries is considered shocking and sometimes unacceptable, employing 85% of a country's work force on a full-time basis is a major accomplishment in most of the world. Further, in these areas, unemployment benefits such as those received in the U.S. are not even available to cushion the problem.
In many developing economies, "disguised unemployment" is common. This is a situation where two or more people may be filling one position. Typically, many people will have "part-time" jobs -- really pieces of a whole job. In addition to all of the problems to be found with unemployment in developed economies, developing societies face a compound situation from such factors such as:
• greater dependence on imports,
• less capital base,
• adoption of technological advances which replace human labor,
• inefficient taxation and wealth distribution mechanism which constrain creation of new employment opportunities,
• untrained labor force in new industries
• low level industrial base,
• dependency on foreign energy sources,
• little access to or control of productive resources (i.e. land, technology, capital).
Because the poor are found mainly in the rural areas of the developing world, it is crucial to create employment opportunities in the rural sector. It has been estimated that approximately 40% of the labor force in the rural areas is underemployed.
At the same time, the urban sector of developing nations faces major problems. The population explosion combined with migration from the rural areas is accelerating the rate of growth of towns. It is expected that the big cities in the developing nations will have 2 billion people by the year 2000. It seems unlikely that enough employment can be generated either in the private or government sectors.
Since the early 1970s, when the environment was first popularized as a social issue, and until very recently, concern for the environment has increased and waned in waves. Today, after years of passive tolerance of deforestation and carbon monoxide generation and with the attendant threats of global warming and ozone depletion, concern has finally become universal.
Most of the gases that are collecting and warming the planet have come from developed countries, but the so-called "Greenhouse Effect" is likely to have the most severe impact on developing countries with relatively dry climates. The warmer temperatures will reduce rainfall in already arid areas contributing to continued drought conditions and decertification. This is expected to rise to 485 million people by the year 2000, as 60,000 square kilometers annually become desert and another 214,000 square kilometers become unsuitable for cultivation. The consumption patterns of developed countries will
largely determine the speed and severity of this purpose.
Next to hunger, health care is one of the biggest problems facing the developing nations. Health problems are related to hunger, malnutrition, unhygienic living conditions, ignorance, poverty and many other socio-economic problems.
Roughly one-tenth of the life of the average person in developing countries is till disrupted by ill health, and death comes early to many. Malnutrition affects perhaps two thirds of the people in Asia (total population approx. of 2 billion people) and Africa (total population approx. 546 million people) and nearly half of those in Latin America and the Caribbean (total combined population of over 340 million people).
Even when free care is available, the costs of transportation and lost work time make it too expensive for many of the poorest people.
In many less developed countries, more than a third of all deaths occur among children under five. In the poorest regions of some countries, half of all children die before their fifth birthday. And these children are dying mainly from common infections and diseases.
Public expenditures emphasize curative, rather than preventive medicine. Further, facilities are overcrowded and understaffed, when even available.
In the U.S. major housing concerns are usually related to rent control, insulation, mortgage rates and community services. From this frame of reference it can be difficult to conceive of typical housing problems in less-developed countries.
According to the United Nations construction each year falls 4 to 5 million housing units behind the demand in Third World cities alone. One quarter of the world's population (over one billion people) does not have adequate shelter. Many millions live in slums and shanties and countless others have no shelter whatsoever.
In other countries, interest rates are not subsidized by government, thus precluding - in a sense - a stimulus for housing starts. In rural areas, a household head may dream of someday roofing his family's house with zinc. With high rates of urban migration, large families in cities are usually required to share one or two rooms. Extended families may be the rule. Wetter and warmer climates alleviate the necessity for insulation, yet good ventilation is not the rule.
Construction materials may include those typical in the U.S. as well as such materials as split bamboo, mud, reeds, leaves, adobe, newspaper and scrap materials. Homes may be built on stilts to elevate them from rodents, insects, animals, flood or tidal waters and, sometimes, sewage. Toilet facilities can run the complete spectrum. Potable water (or even just water) and sewage disposal may or may not be available. The same applies for electricity. Services such as garbage pickup vary widely.
Financing, even for improvements, is always a problem. Good construction materials and sometimes appropriate designs can be difficult to find. High rents are common. Landlords may have minimal constraints. Land costs are high. Urban planning and zoning restrictions may be non-existent or only sporadically enforced. Non-paved streets can mean dust or mud depending on the season. Low incomes and high costs of living are a fact of life.
Adequate housing can have a multiplier effect on a country's economy as well as its social balance.
In the U.S. we are constantly bombarded with schemes to loose weight, such as diets, exercises, etc. While we may loose a few pounds here, millions of people in other parts of the world struggle to get 1200 calories -- enough to survive one more day. Fifteen to twenty million people die from hunger each year.
Some of the factors contributing to the problem of hunger are:
• development programs which neglect the rural areas, and consequently agriculture;
• emphasis in industrialization causing allocation of resources to sectors of the economy not directly related to food production;
• marketing of agriculture for exports rather than for domestic country consumption resulting in a dependency on imports for basic foodstuff (e.g. rice, beans);
• lack of foreign exchange to purchase needed food imports
• little access to financial and technical resources for the small farmer;
• under utilization of cultivable land due to landownership patterns.
Solving the problem of hunger is a slow process. Malnutrition and hunger are related to poverty. Small farmers need programs tailored to their financial and technical needs.
As soon as an economy's (whether national, community, or personal) money supply expands, funds may be used for productive investment. In developing countries the majority of the population lives in rural areas, where capitalization is a prerequisite to stimulating personal income.
Many families in developing economies barely hold their own income-wise, and often lose ground before inflation and other factors. A great number may be at the subsistence level, where family resources are barely enough to keep body and soul together. Some may effectively be outside the cash economy. A family at the subsistence level cannot risk innovation, doing things differently than the way that tradition and experience indicate will produce certain minimal results. No financial resources are available as a "cushion." The costs of failure are too high!
New ways of doing things (i.e., starting a poultry operation, getting additional training, buying a sewing machine, obtaining a team of oxen, using fertilizer) generally requires capital. If not available through savings, it must be acquired via credit. Credit extended for consumer purposes means just that -- for consumption, which does not generate increased income. Production credits, in contrast, are intended for investment to "produce" something additional, which in turn should generate added income available to the individual. This can be added to savings to build the family capital or can be used for family consumption.
Once financial resources are available, they may be used by small borrowers for productive investments. These may be improved tools, seeds, equipment, and fertilizer. Additionally, loans during the critical cash crop period may be used for hiring labor.
Financial investments have become part of the common decisions Americans must make in their daily life. Financial institutions offer a wide variety of programs tailored to the needs of their customers -- bonds, stocks, share drafts, savings accounts, IRAs, etc.
In many areas of the world household savings are non-financial or "demonstrated." Due to a lack of accessibility to financial institutions, persons are likely to bury savings, hide them in mattresses/ceilings, or perhaps "invest" them in small amounts of building materials. As a result, intermittent credit needs can only be met by private money lenders at exorbitant interest rates.
For many cultures saving money is something new. Traditionally, some communities have depended on an exchange of goods. Some languages exhibit a complete absence of phrases such as "a penny saved is a penny earned," or "save for a rainy day."
Developing countries need to mobilize savings in order to accumulate capital for productive investment. Proper utilization of common financial resources can help people develop enterprises, which they would be unable to start on their own.
WOMEN IN DEVELOPMENT
Due to tradition and the demands of raising a family in a lesser-developed society, the role of women in development is often hidden. Yet, besides the women's traditional responsibilities such as providing food, gathering fuel, and raising children, women have also been active in agriculture. Women provide Sixty to 80% of all agricultural labor in the Third World. In some developing nations, women also control the local market trade.
In the process of modernization in developing nations, men have become participants in the cash economy. Women remain dependent upon traditional tasks, since they lack the skills and the personal mobility to permit them to participate in the changing economy. Women find that the value of their traditional role is diminished by the new emphasis on paid work. The increasing cost of living has made women realize that they cannot just remain in traditional roles. Women want to learn and participate in their communities' advancement. Yet barriers of custom and tradition and the absence of learning opportunities lead women to non-participatory roles. Although women's role in the community had been integrated with daily social and economic activities, this role is not longer "operable" in as much as what they were "integrated" into is really no longer the same.
Today, tasks women do continue invisible and undervalued. But as an international development worker from the World Bank indicated, "if one would withdraw the work women do in developing nations, the community would topple."