Alternative Perspectives in Third-World Development: The Case of Malaysia

Alternative Perspectives in Third-World Development
  • Book Title:
 Alternative Perspectives In Third World Development
  • Book Author:
Masudul Alam ChoudhuryMohammad Anuar AdnanUzir Abdul Malik
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Traditional views on economic growth and development, and the differ­ences between these concepts in terms of their measurements and struc­tural questions, are well known from the literature.

The conflict between the paradigms of growth and development can be traditionally studied as one between economic efficiency, stability and sustained economic perform­ance, on the side of economic growth; and distribution, political and ethical forces in market transformation, self-reliance, employment genera­tion and more currently, sustainability, on the side of development.

 Yet a central issue has remained unaddressed regarding both these ends, namely, the ethical issue of economic transformation using the nature of markets, its interface with polity, the global economy and the policy prescriptions to support the momentum of such change.

in a globalised economy of today, the concept of globalisation has in­creasingly come to mean collective adoption of a standard model of a liberal concept of economic change. The missing question of sustainabil­ity, which Heilbroner incites – ‘Is there hope for man?’ – needs to be seri­ously addressed (Heilbroner, 1991, pp. 11).

The views on alternative perspectives of Third-World development pre­sented in this book are not intended to create a dismal picture of a future world under capitalist market transformation, as the Marxist paradigm once did against capitalism. Rather, it is to chart the blueprint of mankind’s sustainable future critically by viewing the structure of econ­omic growth, so that Heibroner’ s question can be answered in the affirmative.

The ethics of development is, then, the inherent value component of structural change that is invoked in this book. Yet the process leading towards understanding the concept of an ethics-centered development paradigm evolves by a critical examination of the traditional views on economic growth and development. Such an approach is adopted in this book deliberately in order to unfold the ethical paradigm in the face of the traditional concepts (Goulet, 1994).

The South-East Asian economies, in which Malaysia is now exemplary regarding performance in economic growth, and social and political achievements, present a clear vision of the future. This goal is known in Malaysia as Vision 2020.

With this happy prospect in the Third World’s modem socio-economic realities, the following question naturally looms: what kind of growth and development models are to be ameliorated for the present and future in order to attain congenial structural transformation – not simply the measurement of levels of economic growth and quantitative development?

We have come to know from the literature about Eurocentric models of growth, development, political change, social theory and scientific para­digms (Mehmet, 1993). in each of these areas, the Eurocentric model has entrenched itself in an epistemological premise that dwells on certain intrinsic values of the Occident. These emanate from values of neo­liberalism that are made to sustain a methodologically individualistic outlook, alienating competing groups. The picture of methodological indi­vidualism is not found to change even when a futuristic knowledge-based information model is construed for capitalistic transformation (Drucker, 1993).

The concept of self-interest, although not a derogatory one when seen as a natura} invocation of human nature, is not necessarily of the Hobbesian type or of the atomistic type as pronounced by Smithian laissez-faire. it is not like the carnal type of self-interest based on Ben­thamite positivism. it does not share in the essence of social Darwinism.

Earlier stili Cartesian philosophy of the social and natural sciences also shared in this view of methodological individualism and logical posi­tivism. Self-interest, if it is to have an acceptable connotation of its own, must mean an evolution through collective interest, wherein individual in­terests are best served and in tum find the meaning to contribute to the well-being of each and everyone. Does this seem Utopian? Yes, in the Eurocentric model of capitalistic and neo-liberal hegemony. But it is not so when cooperative models of society and economy are made to replace methodological individualism. We look at a few examples in this regard and fonnalise theories of just such a medium of economic development in this book.

On the other hand, the metaphysical views of the sciences, and the moral philosophies of Kant, Hume, Wittgenstein, Spinoza and Berkley as some of the idealists, in spite of their moral leanings, could not relieve the power-centric approach of occidental culture of its intrinsic dualism and pluralistic reductionist approach to moral and material well-being (Russell, 1990).

The two competing facets of the total moral-material reality remain perpetually entrenched in the Eurocentric model of growth, development and change (Mittleman, 1988).

The economic order is consistently seen in the Westem approach to economic theory and organisation to pass through three phases. it shifts from the primitive stage to the agricultural · stage. it then shifts to the in­dustrial stage, moving thereafter to the modern stage.

Finally, economy and society evolve in this way to the post-modern stage. The occidental world is always seen to converge on its capitalistic or market transforma­tion in this way. Fukuyama (1992) calls this convergent pattern of society the last hold-out of mankind – the end of history. Hegel (1956) saw it as the convergence of society towards Germanic civilisation.

Thus there must be a sense of caution in such a stereotyped, power­driven, hegemonic, Eurocentric model of economic growth and develop­ment (Mazrui, 1993; Choudhury, 1994). Such models and prescriptions must therefore be critically examined, while alternative perspectives of Third-World development are provided at this juncture of the dawning of new life in the developing world.

The critique of Eurocentricity must not be viewed as an emotional revolt against its disparagement of developing countries, which have now entered the globalisation scene in the form of multinationals, development organisations and collective world-views under convergent schemes of powerful nations.

Beyond purely emotional feeling and the rhetoric that rages around it is the more solemn need to prescribe, establish and apply alternative per­spectives of development. Such an experience is indeed a learning process, which, far from the emotions that fired the now defunct concepts of Marxism-Leninism, the new international economic order, the new world order and OPEC, is an interactive knowledge-forming world-view between the hitherto conflicting camps. The end goal is to restore harmony through discourse and collective goodwill.

The Eurocentric model of globalisation is to be rejected only on two conditions. These are, first, to for­mulate the interactive world-view of development within the ethical paradigm, as opposed to the individuating alienation of the Eurocentric model; second, to establish and apply this paradigm in the actual process of structural change by the collectivç self-reliance of nation states and in­tegrating blocs (South Commission, 1990). The end result, then, is the re­structuring or launching of objective globalisation in these alternative perspectives of Third-World development (Mehmet, 1996).

in all these directions ofa newly envisioned future, Malaysia presents a dynamic example of modernism with a difference. in the chapters pre­sented in this book, the following case studies of Malaysian experience in economic growth and socio-economic development are presented as alter­nati ve views in the following areas: Malaysian microeconomics and macroeconomics issues, the political economy of development, the ethical viewpoint of growth and development, alternative prescriptions and poli­cies revolving around agricultural-industrial shifts, poverty alleviation and human development, privatisation, international trade, institutional change, polity-market interface and grassroots development.

The alternative perspectives of Third-World development emanating from the Malaysian experience are then seen to ·be precisely this: there is a substantive meaning and process in the endogenising of ethical values in development by means of a full gamut of economic, social, political and institutional processes. The meaning and its viability of the ethical para­digm of development is examined from the point of view of an alternative model to Eurocentricity. That is the model of interactive and complemen­tary linkages amongst inputs and outputs in this process.

By thus rejecting the groundwork of the Eurocentric view of development and adopting the interlinked or complementary world-view, some chapters of this book have gone into the replacing of the much adhered to neo-classical mar’­ ginal substitution principle of textbook theory and structural adjustment models of the World Bank and her associated organisations, both nation­ally and internationally.

in Chapter 2, Professor Osman-Rani delineates the general trends in Malaysia’s microeconomic and macroeconomic indicators over the period 1960-93, and sounds a cautious note on the pattern of change that Malaysia should adopt towards Vision 2020.

The argument is made to rest on a need for increased domestic investments and relatively less depend­ence upon foreign direct investments; a betler linkage between the agricul­tural and manufacturing sector respecting productivity growth and sharing of resources, incomes and wealth. Professor Osman-Rani’s contribution, as a survey of the Malaysian economy, puts the issues in their proper per­spectives to open up the. dialogue in the subsequent chapters that take up many of the issues addressed in Chapter 2.

in Chapter 3, Dr M. Zainudin Saleh continues the Malaysian economic survey of Chapter 2 in greater detail. Many interesting macroeconomic analyses, policies, programmes and subsequent transformations of the Malaysian economy over the last two decades are examined. The interest­ing point brought out in this chapter is the highlighting of the need for intersectorial linkages, particularly between the agricultural and manufac­turing sectors. üne also finds in this topic the reality of high debt-driven economic transformation that follows a definite focus on industrialisation.

On the other hand, industrialisation may not lead to the much needed reali­sation of its impact on the growth of small and medium-sized industries. Thus, proper policy measures and monitoring of the economy are needed. The adverse increase in foreign debts and deficits in Malaysia during the period of industrialisation led to a diminution of domestic saving. The saving gap was then made up by the large flow of foreign direct invest-

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