Tuesday, July 2, 2013


When I first sort to promote knowledge sharing on development and poverty, I initially distanced my development thinking away from drawing direct relationships between development, planning and politics. Nonetheless, the nexus between planning and politics were implicit in my publications.

For most part of such reservations, the fundamental question has always been whether planning was actually worth it when the “planner plans while the politician disposes?” Indeed such was my subtle frustration with the political processes that affect planning activities. I do not mean to suggest that politics has no place in promoting development and reducing poverty – far from that. Neither do I also suggest that planning if faced with challenges should remain aloof; subject to inaction to the whims and caprices of politics. Such questioning was aimed at finding an understanding to mitigate the challenges of political estrangement of development and planning processes. My initial focus encompassed planning concepts of development and planning; social, economic, environmental, sustainability, and the likes. Now I see politics as an inevitable discussion.

Over the years of planning history, the three “Ps” of city development: planning, place, and people; have espoused a conceptual framework that characterizes the forces of development. Indeed, as much as the framework has shaped development processes for a long while, what has also become relevant over the past fifty years is the central role of politics, the forth “P”, in development and planning dispensations. Indeed a critical critique of the comprehensive and rational planning theory has been its apolitical standpoint. Subsequent criticisms influenced the emergence of other planning views which are all shaped by the politics of planning; advocacy, transactive, incremental, participatory or collaborative planning, radical planning, bottom-up planning, justice theory, among others. All these have politics or the variant of politics as an underpinning factor that shapes the principles of the theory– People, interests, values, diversity, integration, inequality and equity all are political concepts that shape planning activities and functionality.

An important note is that translating these theories and principles for planning actions is no mean task. The application of these theories varies depending on several factors, one being the operational and geographical scope of planning. For most developed countries the application of these concepts and the potential they hold for enhancing development outcomes seem to have been achieved although challenges still persists. Politics continue to bear relevance for economic transformation and the promotion of human development.

For developing countries, including Ghana, politics seem to be more of the cause and bane of development stagnation. Before, I am placed on the chopping board I must concede that the experience of the global north compared to the south are ages apart. I must also add that despite this gap, never in human history has there been easy and cheap access to knowledge for development. As such, development actions and consequences can be preempted with much certainty than five decades ago. Development actions that work and do not work are also readily available for consideration, adaptation and adoption.

Nonetheless, a fundamental question that continues to confound a lot of people remains why? Sadly the solution is evident but excessive partisan politicking, inaction and poor action have seemingly rendered human development attainment subtle compared to what could have been achieved based on the present potentials for development in the current century. Despite being risked branded as sharing exaggerated sentiments, history continue to show that Ghana is still chasing fundamental human goals of satisfying basic needs and continually the problem of politics have been shrouded within excuses of inadequate capacity. Though the later seem to be a political issue in itself and is somewhat true, I relate, more, to partisan politics which in political economic theory fits within regime theory.  

In the second publication on “Network for Development-Induced Impoverishment,” I put forward my arguments of “development-induced impoverishment” where I made reference to Mahatma Gandhi sentiments that “the world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed”. I added that "greedy people cause other people to be poor or poorer through exploitation and corrupt practices. In addition, they reduce the quality and quantity of development actions and the consequent benefits aimed at individuals and communities leaving them worse off or with weaker conditions to manage, mitigate and reduce risk and shocks". From this context I indirectly placed politics within the context of development by also intimating that

“There is no problem with man seeking measures against risks and shocks or man seeking to improve his welfare but there is a problem with these measures if
    • they further lead people to greater risks, loss of assets and render them susceptible to shocks or risk; and
    • improves the welfare of a section of the society and worsens the other section.”

In “Development, Planning, Politics in Ghana” series, such would be my contentions. I will explore planning and political challenges in development processes. I will also examine whether they are a bane or a blessing in Ghana. The series will promote discussions on policies of development and how these have promoted development and/or impoverishment and the policy implications moving forward. A selected series will be dedicated to each theme; development, planning and planning; before cross cutting issues. For the papers will present the political and planning dimensions of the issues and how these have shaped development achievement in the area under considerations. 

I look forward to feedback, continued discussion and sharing of knowledge to promote development.

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