What is the Debate Missing from a Southern Perspective?

This article is a follow up of Darius Mans' article on Economic Progress, Empowerment and Social Inclusion


by Benito de Miguel 

I agree with Darius Mans when he says in his blog-post on Economic Progress, Empowerment and Social Inclusion that an international context marked by the world's economic, political and social crisis constitutes a great opportunity for SID to engage in a truly innovative dialogue involving all actors in the development community.

The selection of relevant topics has always been in the spirit of SID, something that makes us a true brotherhood devoted to the promotion of the spiritual and material development of humanity.

However, looking at the agenda of the SID World Congress 2011 and in particular at the panel discussion on Economic Progress, Empowerment, and Social Inclusion, despite the relevance of the topics, we continue to be surprised by the systematic repetition of a basic conceptual mistake every time a development agenda is drafted. The debate should rather focus on the challenges to overcome and the responsibilities to assume in order to make development possible, that is, to trigger a development process, establish it and make it sustainable in time.

Time and again, these debates seem to take for granted the central issue, which is how to access development. This omission becomes an intellectual construction that takes the debate directly to the discussion of certain collateral damages or undesired effects of development.

There should be a clear definition of which is the space where development takes place. In our view, this space is the Nation-State. This leads us to take into account the dominant ideology, the political system and the material conditions, country by country. A development process would be able to start, once these elements are articulated. The democratic dimension makes this articulation more complex. History shows that processes of development like the ones taking place in the former Soviet world, China, South Korea and even Brazil were kick-started and consolidated under authoritarian political regimes (which continue to this day in the case of China). All China, South Korean and Brazil (and Japan before them) based their strategy on the exporting of industrial commodities and a low level of salaries something that make social inclusion a secondary issue at an initial stage. The former British colonies, the US, Canada and Australia took the road of increasing salaries, internal demand and democracy, and managed to reach higher levels of development. Other nations where the formerly mentioned articulation was not possible — such as the cases of India and South Africa — the development process was halted and they are still struggling to find a definite course.

In our country, Argentina, exceptionally optimal material conditions collide with a dominant ideology that favors the exportation of primary products with low wages. The political system, meanwhile has failed to consolidate a pro-development articulation. As a result, our development process has been plagued with ups and downs, some progress and brutal movements backwards. Only in the last ten years has the country returned to the path of development after 25 years of a period of un-development.

If we were to analyze all countries under this prism, it would be clear where development is reachable, where it is more uncertain and yet, which countries are still far from reaching the basic articulation needed to start a process of development. SID could then concentrate its efforts on this latter group of nations, which is without any doubt the largest of the three.

The programme and agenda of the 2011 SID World Congress is optimal for the debate in the North; the South needs to debate some of these other issues as well if it is to enter development by its own means.


Benito de Miguel is a member of SID Governing Council, a position he holds since 2007. He has been a pro-development advocate for decades in Argentina and the region. Trained in Civil Engineering at the University of Buenos Aires, he currently serves as Technical Undersecretary at the federal government's Sedronar drug-prevention and counternarcotics Secretariat. He previously held prominent positions in the federal government's transport and sports secretariats.

Photo: John Spooner/flickr