منار الإسلام
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Foundations for a model of sustainable development

Lahlal Mohammed

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Time and again we hear of strategic and huge projects for development in Arab countries. The same discourse is adopted in making people of these countries believe that they should be optimistic about these projects as they will this time address the burning issues about economic development, social welfare, health care, education, among other issues in a different and efficient way. People’s mistrust of the official rhetoric is so wide that the state-run propaganda campaigning in favor of hope and optimism is not taken seriously. People are right to look with suspicion such campaigns as they have most often been disillusioned by promises being made but never delivered. These campaigns aside, let’s look at the main fundamentals and pre-requisites for a genuine model of development if we are really serious about effecting a change and ensuring social stability and economic prosperity:

Genuine political will

One of the major and most critical obstacles in initiating development in under-developed countries is the absence of genuine political will. States and governments in Arab countries are often subject to dictated economic policies by world power institutions like the International Monetary Funds and the World Bank. Our countries cannot be granted loans from these institutions unless they literally follow the imposed programs such as structural readjustment, devaluation of national currency, austerity embodied in lifting subsidies from strategic goods and services and decrease of public sector employment. Unless our countries decide to get released from the yoke of debts conditioned by the international banks by adopting a medium and long-term policy for financial autonomy and economic independence, our will power will remain hostage to the will of world powers. In addition to that, our “legitimate” governments should take bold steps to impose their national strategy on domestic influential economic powers which most often identify with the external powers in pressuring governments to accept and implement the foreign dictated programs, and they do it for self-interest and urgent benefit.

All-inclusive participation

Any project that aims to build foundations for a model of development requires an all-inclusive engagement of citizens. Arab governments most often have recourse to obsolete ways of crafting and implementing their so-called national projects of development. They usually form commissions of “experts” to devise the outline and details of the model away from the real popular actors in a society and adopt the data carefully selected by the bureaucratic official apparatus. Furthermore, when citizens feel they are not involved in this project, how could they be mobilized and excited to understand the goals and put them into effect? In the absence of collective participation, people’s mistrust of the official rhetoric will continue, subsequently any project, no matter how professionally it is designed, is doomed to failure.

Transparency and fight against corruption

How can we really dream of economic and social recovery when the public opinion is kept ignorant or deluded about the real facts of the global situation of the country? Transparency in exposing facts and explaining the actual challenges are definitely the first step towards an accurate diagnosis of our deficiencies. A strong and credible government should assume its responsibility of voicing the truth to the public and holding accountable an influential minority who keep plundering the national wealth and wreaking havoc in all domains. It is plain deceit to bring to justice minor offenders while the corrupt are offered impunity though reports of their fraud and embezzlement are well evidenced, this means that if the judiciary is too weak to face such serious infringements, who can then deter and prepare a sound environment for a new start? All forms of corruption prevalent in our society must be fought such as clientelism, bribery, favoritism, tax evasion, among other things. These if left unaddressed will cripple any move towards reform and change. There are several examples of newly developed countries who have succeeded in effecting change and reform by forcefully combating corruption and the corrupt.

Multi-dimensional approach

The projects for development proposed by states and governments in Arab countries are marked by addressing issues and deliberately overlooking other crucial ones. These projects virtually sideline tackling issues of political, human rights and freedom nature. They want us to believe that it is possible to make advances in economic and social issues under authoritarianism and suppression of free opinion. This might look an alluring strategy adopted by some despotic regimes like China and Russia, but analysts say that this cannot last for longer because any serious quake in the foundations of the global economy might shatter the ostensible stability and generate chaos in societies whose freedom of opinion is stifled and seek the opportunity to rise and speak out their grievances. Any model of sustainable development should be multi-dimensional in its goals as all issues are interconnected. A sound political environment entails freedom of expression, the right to select your representatives in parliament through transparent elections, and not those tailored and rigged by the sitting power to maintain its sway over the political arena and a strong and independent judiciary to hold accountable those who violate the law at all levels of responsibility. Only in this environment can we talk of a viable and efficient model of sustainable development.

Conclusion

We have mentioned some foundations for a successful model of sustainable development. And it seems that without consistent pressure from social movements in the Arab countries like what happened in Arab Spring, but with a better prospective outlook, states and governments would never change their strategy of selling illusory hopes for a marginalized public opinion, winning more time and maintaining the stagnant reality.

24th June 2021

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