Posted tagged ‘modernization theory’

RE-ECHOING BASIC NEEDS

April 28, 2008

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

[Writ 22 March 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

 

“Go back to basic needs,” I declared in the same article on New Nationalism.

 

Sometime back, the ‘basic needs’ framework rang strong bells in the development field as a potent framework for development. Having started with the defunct Ministry of Human Settlements in 1981 as a community development specialist, I still recall then how brilliant and exquisitely crafted was this Ministry’s adoption of the ‘basic needs’ framework as its guiding light.

 

“Higit sa lahat, Tao!” is the core premise of the Ministry’s development paradigm. Roughly, this translates as “man precedes everything else.” Meaning, man should be at the core of all development efforts, and not the objects of a synthetic (infrastructures, industries) or physical nature (raw materials, livestock, plants).

 

Till these days, the powerful Ministry premise had stuck with me. At that time too, the same Ministry already recognized ‘ecological balance’ as among the 11 Basic Needs of Man, and organized ‘ecology brigades’ in advancement of this contention. That was a time when environmentalism wasn’t even born in the country but was just being planted.

 

It need not be overstressed that meeting the basic needs of peoples is a fundamental yardstick for addressing development problems leading to further cooperation and peace among diverse communities. I therefore find it still a potent discourse to re-echo the ‘basic needs’ premise.

 

The excerpts from the article are entirely quoted below.

 

Go back to basic needs.

 

“Spend for your needs but save as much as you can!” would be an apt idiom that could  encapsulate the need to build up national savings within the context of an increasingly consumer-driven economy. It is argued that moderate consumption would be a most fitting behavior in today’s context, while under-consumption and over-consumption are out as they could burn us all out in the process. Consumption saved the day for us in the aftermath of the Asian crisis in 1997, so there is no reason to be morally repulsive about consumerism—provided that it should be a moderated consumerism. Low consumerism brings us back to export-driven strategies, our aggregated wealth production subjected to the vagaries of external markets that are beyond our control; high consumerism, contributing further to high debt levels, as the credit card culture entice people to acquire more articles of consumption through debts, perennially driving our economy to ‘bubble bursts’.

 

The emerging situation should have taught our market players the appropriate lessons at this time. The era of omnipresent and omnipotent markets—for goods of relatively ageless utility, stored in large inventories—is now a foregone era. What we have now is fragmented markets (chaos economics explains this well; see Tom Peters’ works), so the adjustment would be in the form of market niches. Market players should veer away from storing large inventories of a broad array of products, as obsolescence and changing consumer taste undermine the profit-gaining side of such a practice. Rather, they should be sensitive to emerging demands, and customize services and/or tangible goods based on such demands. We Filipinos particularly change taste so often, “madaling magsawa” as we  say it in the vernacular. Which means that fixed products, based on fixed ideas, are simply out of context and out-of-date, and must be reformulated towards more flexible product mixes matrixed with constantly  emerging ideas.

 

On a macro-scale, there is the continuing need to ensure ‘food security’ and its expression in other sectors as well. We should continue to be sensitive to the needs of the larger economy, such as the need for capital goods. We should design ‘vital & strategic commodity security’ frameworks and policies through a combination of domestic production of such goods as well as importation strategies. The continuing absence of strategic industries such as integrated steel could prove degenerative for development efforts such as it has done to our country, while completely shutting us off the international markets for some other goods could likewise be deleterious in the long run since domestic producers would be exercising rent-seeking, pricing articles way beyond five hundred percent (500%) of their opportunity costs as amply demonstrated by industrial chemicals (before the country began importing from China). As current experiments in grain & livestock management show, with appreciable success, the strategy should be to combine domestically produced goods with imported articles, the proper mix of which should be the subject of continuing eco-scanning and constant studies. In the end, all of our individual, community and national needs will be met, building stability and security amid a ‘chaotic’ or turbulent global condition.

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