GDP and Development

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a good measure of country’s growth. Does it inform the disparity in society and access to goods or services for poor at the bottom of the economic pyramid? Despite high economic growth number of poor continues to grow worldwide and natural resources deteriorate at faster rate. We need to understand the current model of economic development and how much loss of natural resources occur per unit of so called GDP growth and also how much impact on people whose life is displaced in the name of economic development. There is increasing social unrest in many parts of the world against big development plans. If these development programs are intended to improve the lives of people then why some people are protesting? We need to understand this from social and ecological point of view. As I am writing this, I came across news from India (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/kids-join-posco-stir-no-point-studying-if-our-land-is-gone/1071116/). Kids join Posco stir: ‘No point studying if our land is gone’- A steel plant is a way of economic development in remote area in the state of Orissa for this project. Land acquisition is the bone of contention between villagers and Posco -a South Korean conglomerate. Villagers are real people and their land and other natural resources belong to them as they have been taking care of it for ages. Now if a big corporate takes their land away, the only source of livelihood for majority of them, and build a steel plant that will employ engineers from cities, what would be impact on social and natural capital, the well-being of people displaced by this project. How many people from this village will get jobs in this project, bear in mind majority are unskilled, uneducated and remained out of the development process in the last 70 years since India gained independence. I am sure Posco must have done Feasibility studies and consultations with representatives in the region (politicians and local leaders) before starting this project and obtained environmental clearances etc. however, why people are protesting and even joined by kids as mentioned in this news. Obviously, it impacts on the livelihood generating activities, way of living in new development scenario, displacement, they might end up working in cities as labourers as compared to owner of the land and working with self-esteem. Another issue that these communities have to face might be -increased alcoholism and drug use when they get some compensation in cash. This will have serious consequences for women of the household as they usually manage household in rural areas, looking after children, family and farm. Now if land is gone, men folk might take to alcohol as the cash ends up in the hands of men folks as they are legal owners of the land. Women often find themselves in dire conditions after such displacements and so called compensations in the name of economic development in rural and remote areas. We need to understand these social, ecological and economic complexities that a simple development project can set up in remote areas. Unfortunately, people and nature has to bear those impacts with heavy price on society with severe consequences in other parts of the country or society. Are we ready to pay the price?

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