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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Self-reliance as a development strategy for low-income countries Prinet, Emmanuel Jean


The growth-based neoclassical economic paradigm, which is being adopted by virtually all countries as a development model, has created enormous wealth for some. Yet, more than a billion people still live in absolute poverty, and the disparity between the rich and the poor, both within and between countries, is growing. As well, the Earth's ecosystems, the ones on which humans and countless other species depend for life, are becoming severely stressed and sometimes irreversibly damaged, a clear testimony to our unsustainable behavior as a species. The global population is increasing by some 80 million per year, and with this expansion comes a rise in material and energy demands. Although the Ecological Footprint of the affluent countries alone is already larger than the planet, economists are counting on another round of economic growth to alleviate poverty, protect the "environment" and improve quality of life everywhere. This raises questions as to what lies ahead for low-income countries, and what kind of future awaits our planet. The challenge of development today is to improve quality of life, especially for those who need it most, within the carrying capacity of the planet. Thus, the purpose of this thesis is to expose the weaknesses of neoclassical economics, and to propose self-reliance as a development strategy, particularly for low-income countries, as a means to address today's ecological and socio-economic reality. The concept of self-reliance is based on ecological economics, a more equitable and ecologically sensitive development paradigm that leads to sustainable development. Self-reliance is discussed with special emphasis on self-sufficiency in food, water and energy. Self-reliance is measured against the two extremes, self-sufficiency at one end of the spectrum, and interdependence at the other. Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of swadeshi illustrates how adopting self-reliance as a way of life can solidify the bonds within a community, and can improve the citizens' overall well-being. Two policy tools are proposed that will help society to become more self-reliant: ecological tax reform, and the closing of the "ecological loop". The southern Indian state, Kerala, demonstrates that it is possible to enjoy a high quality of life without high rates of growth and consumption of resources. But because the State is currently facing some development challenges, it is shown how a policy of self-reliance may solve some of its problems.

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