From Sher Khan
A tribute to late Dr. Mahbub ul Haq
July 19 - 25, 1999
"People today have an urgean impatient urgeto
participate in events and processes that are shaping their lives. This impatience brings
both dangers and opportunities. It can dissolve into anarchy, ethnic violence, or social
disintegration. But if properly nurtured in a responsive national and global framework, it
can also become a source of tremendous vitality and innovation for the creation of new and
more just societies.
"The dangers arise when the irresistible urge for participation
clashes with inflexible systems. Although there have been significant achievements in
human developments during the last three decades, the majority of the world's people still
remain excluded from full participation in development as well as in the political
process. One quarter of the global population still survives in absolute poverty.
The rural populations in developing countries still receive less than half of the income
opportunities and social service available to their urban counterparts. Our world
is still a world of difference. Exclusion, rather than inclusion, is the prevailing
"Security for people Is it possible today to redefine
security as not just security of land, but security for people? Security in the sense of
education and health security, food security, job and economic security, environmental
security, cultural security, human rights security defence of people, not just of
territory. Our first opportunity today is that we can convert military spending
into human spending, and redefine security as security for people, not just for land.
"Sustainable Human Development. Growth must be woven around
people, not people around growth. There are those who are so obsessed with growth
that they will destroy nature in the process. There are others who are so preoccupied with
preserving wild life that they will rather forget human life in the process and the
fact that human beings are the most endangered species on this planet.
"Market Efficiency with Social Compassion. Governments in
the developing countries often try to run everything that the private sector can run more
efficiently agriculture, industry, tradeand they do not have the resources or
the administrative capacity to run the social services that governments must often
provideeducation, health, nutrition programmes safe drinking wateror the
physical infrastructure that the economy needsroads, telecommunications, and power
"A New North-South Partnership.nobody has obliged Brazil to
earmark 82 percent of its health budget to expensive urban hospitals while spending only
18 percent on primary health care facilities. We in the South have done it all by
ourselves.corruption will be checked not only by domestic actions in the South, but
also by exposing multinationals that corrupt governments and the international banks that
give shelter to corrupt money.From confrontation, we must progress towards more
understanding and greater accommodation.
'A New Pattern of Governance.National governments must find new
ways of enabling their own people to participate more fully in government and to allow
them much greater influence on the decisions that affect their lives. Greater
participation in government must become the theme of the future, including
decentralization of government activity to the local levels, a greater role for NGOs,
markets that are more people-friendly, and the nurturing of institutions of a civil
society at all levels.
"Conclusion If we respond to all these challenges
with courage and with wisdomwe can all write a new chapter in human destiny. We can
finally celebrate the triumph of the human spirit in a period of fundamental changes, and
have a world fit for people. It all depends on our actions. For human destiny is a choice,
not a chance."
The excerpts above have been taken from an essay contributed by the
late Dr. Mahbub ul Haq for a book titled "A World Fit For People" published by
UNDP in 1994, in which thinkers from many countries address the political, economic and
social problems of our time. The late Doctor needs no introduction, having played a
leading role in shaping the economy of Pakistan for many years. More recently, and shortly
before his untimely death, he won great acclaim with the publication of his study, in
partnership with his wife, Khadija Haq, titled "Human Development in South
Asia", which is an eye-opening indictment of how successive governments in the region
have failed in improving the lives of the millions of their people even as they went about
wasting precious resources in needless conflicts and an escalating, open-ended arms race.
I never had the opportunity of meeting the late Doctor in person, nor
was economics ever my field of interest. Nevertheless, lately I have had the occasion to
come across some his thoughts and ideas in the process of a post-retirement assignment,
and could only come to the conclusion that his heart was in the right place. May his soul
rest in peace. One can also add a prayer that those who rule over our destinies would
ponder over what the late Doctor had to say in his essay excerpted above, i.e those
amongst them who are literate and still have a heart ticks in their burly breasts.