Ecumenical Development Thought Today / Dr. Paulos Gregorios


Ecumenical Development Thought Today / Dr. Paulos Gregorios

Ecumenical Development Thought Today


The Concept of Development came into wide-ranging ecumenical 
discussion following the declaration of the First U. N. Development 
Decade in 1961, and was assisted by M. T. T. Professor Walt Rostow’s 
Stages of Economic Growth, and before that by Harvard Prof. 
Schumpter’s The Theory of Economic Development in the early decades 
of our century. 


Walt Rostow’s idea was that sustained economic growth is initi- 
ated in a brief but decisive interval of 20 to 30 years, after which it 
takes off and becomes more or less automatic. The important thing, 
according to Rostow, was to make sure that productive investment 
from savings rises to 10% or more of the national income. This 
alone would help the national output substantially to outstrip popu- 
lation growth, so that there is a steady increase of per capita income, 
and consequently cause radical changes in production techniques, and 
in distribution of income. According to Rostow, the take-off happened 
in Great Britain during 1783-1802, in France during 1830-1860, in 
the U. S. A. during 1843-1860, in Germany during 1850-1873 and in 
Japan during 1878-1900. The necessary minimum conditions are: 

(a) rise in saving and investment from less than 5 % of national 
income to more than 10%. 

(b) the development of one or more of the leading sectors — 
agriculture or industry. 

and (c) the emergence of a favourable social and cultural environ- 

For Rostow, condition (a) is the critical one — the doubling of 
productive investment as proportion of national income. Rostowian 
doctrine now stands largely discredited; but for a while “developing 
countries” thought they would all take-off after a decade or two of 
strenuous effort to increase savings and investment. “Take-off-ism” 
as the Rostowian Metaphysics is now caricatured, is associated with 
“catch-up-ism”, which stems from the idea that the task of the develop- 
ing countries is to be like the developed countries by “catching-up” 
with them. 

People are still looking for the secret formula, the magic potion, 
that would make poor countries rich. Some people think the formula 
is the '‘Protestant ethics” — of denouncing luxury and laziness, accu- 
mulation of wealth through hard work and frugal living, and a theo- 
logy which justifies freedom of competition, profit and private property. 
Others think it is a matter of accumulation of capital, technology, 
resources, and management. Yet others think that population control 
is the key. This last idea originates mainly in the U. S. A. which 
increased its population by about 4000% between 1800 and 1970 
(40 times), and was able to develop without too much outside inter- 
ference or participation in war during that period of expansion of the 
domestic market, and with seemingly unlimited supply of resources 
from home and abroad. 

These are the development ideas which have led to disillusion- 
ment and frustration to the poor and the oppressed. Some people 
think that these development ideas themselves are a tool of oppression 
and exploitation. 


It was President Kennedy of the U. S. A. who proposed to the 
U. N. General Assembly that they declare the 60’s as a Decade of 
Development. The idea was that by pumping 1 % of the national 
income of the rich countries to the poor countries, one could raise 
the annual growth rate in the poor countries to a minimum of 5% by 
the end of the sixties. 99% of the rich countries failed in supplying 
the 1%. 95% of the developing nations failed in achieving the 5% 
growth rate target. But during the period the rich countries took 
away from the poor countries many times the wealth that they trans- 
ferred to them as aid — by the simple trick of unfair trade terms 

Today Development Aid from John Kennedy’s nation has 
dwindled to about 1/4% of their GNP. Of the total amount of 
foreign aid of $ 7.7 billion voted in March-April 1980 for fiscal year 
1981, $ 3.963 billion goes to U. S. Aid, of which half is for “security 
supporting assistance” or military aid and aid for supporting the 
C. I. A. in many countries. Egypt and Israel get the largest chunks. 
U. S. A. is very far below in the scale of countries giving aid. Despite 
the disillusionment that set in by the end of the sixties, the U. N. 
went on to declare the Second Development Decade in the 70’s and 
the Third in the Eighties. We are witnesses of a^tremendous amount 
of empty development talk.
We are today in the Third Decade of Disillusionment, and 
thinking people all over the world are beginning to seek fresh thinking 
on development. We give below the general trend in World Council 
of Churches’ circles. 


The World Council of Churches’ all-embracing concept is that 
of a “just, participatory and sustainable society” (JPSS). The 
commitment is thus to a concept of development in which the key 
ideas are social and economic justice, participation by the people in 
the decision-making structures, and ecological sustainability of the 
environment. This concept recognizes that simply increasing pro- 
duction is not sufficient, that increase in Gross National Product is 
not an adequate measure of development; that distributive justice 
cannot be taken care of after higher production is assured; that 
development cannot be imposed from above by governments, but 
should start with the people in their everyday relations of production, 
that it should provide maximum employment, conserve resources, 
guard against air, earth and water pollution, protect the delicate 
bio-balance of the environment, and promote self-reliance; and that 
development should be based in favour of the poor and the under- 

The weakness of the concept is that it has no over-all scientific 
theory of how such development can be undertaken and how the 
structures of society can be altered to achieve these objectives. It 
says nothing about global economic relations which form a key 
factor in the present situation in development. It says little about 
consumerism, human dignity, the transcendent or the meaning and 
purpose of life. 


“Another Development” is a concept especially tailor-made for 
the Third Decade of Development which has just begun. It comes 
from the Dag Hammarskjoeld Foundation in Uppsala, Sweden (they 
publish a highly interesting quarterly, Development Dialogue). In 
the 1975 Dag Hammarskjoeld Report entitled What Now, they give 
a preliminary outline of what they call “Another Development.” 
The concept has been further refined in subsequent issues of Develop- 
ment Dialogue. One could note the following special emphases in 
the concept:
1. emphasis on satisfaction of basic human needs — food, shelter, 
clothing, education, health, transportation, communication, 
recreation, culture etc. — over against consumerism and supply- 
ing all that people are greedy to have — need-oriented develop- 

2. emphasis on rural development as against the growth of large 
cities ; 

3. emphasis on self-reliance and regional cooperation among 
developing countries, over against integration into the inter- 
national economic system which promotes dependence re- 
lations, oppression and exploitation; 

4. emphasis on autonomous over against imported technology — 
again to prevent technological dependence which can be debi- 

5. emphasis on changing social structures in the nations and 
building a new international economic order to promote social 
justice and self-reliance; 

6. emphasis on wise use of resources and conservation of the 

7. emphasis on a New Information Order, in which peoples in 
developing countries are not brainwashed by ideas and select 
information spread by the Trans-National-Corporation controlled 
international Mass Media (the alternative is not a government 
controlled bureaucratic information system like our Samachar 

8. emphasis on increasing the availability of and access to food 

9. change world banking and fiscal system and international 
resource transfers to make easier credit availability for develop- 
ing countries; 

10; establish a world authority to manage humanity's common 
heritage — the high seas, space, the poles, etc., 

No one can take exception to any of these ten points and so that 
concept finds great support among liberal thinkers in affluent nations 
as well as among the progressive middle class elite of developing 
countries. It is regarded as a viable alternative between the excesses 
of uncontrolled capitalist development and overly controlled socialist 

Latin American thinkers are highly skeptical of all development 
concepts, including that of Another Development. They feel that 
the very idea of development should be abandoned. They criticize 
the concept of development for obscuring the real problem — the 
structures of enslavement, oppression and exploitation. The real 
issue, they say, is the re-organization of national and international 
power structures. 

The central issue there is not under-development. Under- 
development is only the other side of the concept of development; 
it is because the majority are poor that the minority can be rich; more 
development will mean simply that the rich will become richer and 
the poor poorer. The Development idea is a hoax. It makes poor 
people obsessed with the idea of catching up with the rich by imitating 
them, and in the process leads to their being drafted as the latter’s 
source of supply of raw materials, energy resources and skilled, 
semi-skilled or unskilled cheap labour. The concept of development 
is therefore the enemy to be fought, for it is a way to keep the poor 
developing just enough for their survival, so that they can continue 
to be exploited. 

The central issue is liberation from the structures which enslave 
and exploit. The key to understanding reality today is to study the 
neo-colonialist system built up by the colonialist nations since World 
War Two. There is now a division of labour where 25% of the 
world’s people benefit at the expense of 50 % (not counting the socialist 
countries). It is an oppressive, exploitative system in which small 
but growing elites in the developing nations also stand to gain. This 
post-war neo-colonialist market economy system is buttressed, 
boosted and glorified by an economic order of unfair trade terms, 
a military network that oppresses the poor and promotes the arms 
race, and an information order which brainwashes the people. 

If this is the central problem, the Latin American liberation 
thinkers (including Liberation theologians) say that the push in which 
the Churches should join is a three-fold one: 

(a) struggle for local, national and regional autonomy in 
production-distribution, in defence and in culture; fight against 
economic, military, political and cultural hegemonies; 

(b) struggle to identify and protect the genuine interests of the 
people in national societies — both short-term and long-range; and to 
develop the capacity of the people to create and maintain autoch- 
thonous (that which is original, specific and spontaneous in each 
culture), participatory, decision-making structures; to liberate people 
from enslavement to oppressive thought structures like the develop- 
ment ideology, and from dependence on alienating, elitist, and 
inadequate concepts of development and democracy. 

(c) to struggle against a world capitalism in crisis and against 
its economic, political and military might, while at the same time 
building up the basic elements of a people-based infra-structure for 
creating autonomous socialist societies, economies and cultures. 

This approach is not incompatible with the approach of “Another 
Development,” though Liberationists would say that “Another 
Development” by itself would be mis-leading, ineffective, and in the 
long run counter-productive. 

The need for us in Kerala is for our people to become acquainted 
with these ways of thinking, but not to adopt one of them as the only 
alternative. We will have to develop our own autochthonous thinking.

* A Paper read at the Ecumenical Bishops’ Consultation on Development, Sophia. Centre, Kottayam, 1980