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Self-reliance and development

By Aftab Ahmad Khan

The concept of self-reliance has figured prominently in the debate on development. The dependency theory of underdevelopment and development brought self-reliance into particularly sharp focus. In our case attempts by international financial agencies and some donor governments to influence us to alter our policies point up the urgent need of pursuing self-reliance as a cardinal goal of our national policy.

The inability of our economy to sustain a socially necessary high rate of growth on a self-reliant basis even after more than fifty years of planned development can largely be attributed to the absence of a clear vision of long-term goals in the distant horizon and realistic targets in the immediate future, our failure to mobilize the masses and win their wholehearted cooperation and participation in accomplishing national development goals, institutional erosion, apathy towards necessary structural alterations and pre-occupation of governments with fire fighting chores and crisis management which adversely affected their ability to think clearly and coherently about the future.

The basic philosophy underlying the concept of self-reliance is the capacity to bear any crisis on the basis of internal strength and resilience. Self-reliance, however, is not synonymous with economic autarky, implying a completely closed economic system with no international links. Self-reliance signifies the achievement of a stage of economic development characterized by a state of economic equilibrium based on normal commercial transactions rather than on any special forms of economic support such as concessional bilateral loans and grants. Basically it implies freedom from dependence on foreign assistance. It does mean self-confidence and the capacity for autonomous goal setting. It emphasizes the need to resist and reject all forms of dependency, self-invited or externally imposed, that can be converted into political pressure and weaken our national sovereignty.

Taking this as the basic premise, in Pakistani context, self-reliance should include the following:

ó Economic self-reliance

ó Technological self-reliance

ó Strategic self-reliance

Economic self-reliance implies that the economy should be able to support an adequate scale of investment from its own production and savings. Normal inflow of external capital may continue but reliance on foreign aid should be progressively eliminated.

Technological self-reliance signifies an adequate level of development in regard to science, technology and engineering required for the maintenance and modernisation of productive processes.

Finally, strategic self-reliance implies our capacity to meet the bulk of our defence requirements domestically.

Self-reliance would lose much of its significance if it were associated with a low level equilibrium trap. What is to be aimed at is dynamic self-reliance where the rate of economic growth is accelerated while simultaneously developing the capacity to sustain it exclusively from our domestic resources. This means that a self- reliant economy during its process of growth must generate enough savings and exports to maintain the momentum of itís development at the socially necessary rate, which in our case should be an annual growth rate of eight (8) per cent in domestic output (GDP).

It has to be clearly understood that the journey towards a self-reliant economy will be a long and arduous one. The planners will have to devise and implement a coherent strategy aimed at building up human resources and promoting positive inter-actions of growth with savings and investment. Special attention will have to be paid to ensure the channelling of higher savings to the most productive investments - an aspect wherein our performance has been somewhat disappointing.

In the context of mobilising resources for the implementation of a strategy aiming at self-reliance, the importance of austerity cannot be over-emphasised. In the past there has been a lot of noise about avoidance of waste, ostentation and conspicuous consumption, but little effective action. The lack of consonance between professed ideals and existential practice has brought into prominence the growing contrasts between the life styles of the rich and the poor. If this trend is not decisively reversed, it is bound to unleash forces whose power and effects cannot be anticipated and which may retard our progress towards self-reliance, aside from generating destabilising social tensions.

In conclusion, it may be emphasised that self-reliance has to be cultivated for both itís intrinsic and instrumental value. Several advantages can accrue to the country directly from its achievement. It can also make for selective international cooperation on equal terms and break down the harsh conditions that usually accompany dependency. Self-reliance will also make possible endogenous growth that is relevant and meaningful in our national context. International cooperation, of course, will remain a fact of life. Where, however, there is a risk of inter-dependence turning into dependence and eroding our national sovereignty, it should be avoided even if the costs are considerable; other mutually beneficial patterns of inter-dependence should be fostered.

Selective participation in the international system is a pre-requisite for the application of a development strategy for strengthening sovereignty and for fostering self-reliance.


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