Resources Mobilisation: Pointer for Emerging Markets

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The FINANCIAL — I worked in Kabul, Afghanistan with the UNDP as Senior Advisor, Policy and Development, charged with the responsibility of developing a string of policy initiatives for various ministries which could assist the nation in implementing the Afghanistan National Development Strategy.

 

A voluminous 688- page plan document which raised over $10 billion at the Bonn Conference for Afghanistan development. That UN assignment was probably the most difficult and painful I have had in my entire career across some 40 countries.

Afghanistan was and is a highly volatile place. There is a war with uncertain outcomes. The country has been, for centuries, the unfortunate hub of various invasions and conflicts, tribal groups and warlords, an inhospitable mountain terrain, a social fabric driven by extremist tenets and belief systems, extreme poverty, a poppy growth and narcotics trade which created and maintained a dangerous sets of power groups in conflict within themselves and with the world.

The continuous and high level of insecurity in most provinces, from Kunduz to Kandhahar, from Kabul to Bamiyan and right across the country made it almost impossible to devise development policy initiatives with any sense of conviction that they could indeed be implemented. Despite that very uncertainty, there was an army of development agencies from the UN high command in Kabul to a multitude of government agencies, non-governmental organisations and private sector contractors – all actively and enthusiastically churning out volume of documents and strategies aimed at reaching out the ordinary Afghan far out in the mountains and valleys.

My key focus was, amidst the continuing chaos of a war, displacements, road blocks, “white city” declarations which prevented free movement when bombs went off in Kabul, to devise policy initiatives which could deal with the “doable” programs. In this pursuit, the main theme of my concern was mobilisation of human resources in Afghanistan which could effectively harness and develop physical resources of land, waterways and other natural resources, not necessarily at the level of planners and administrators, but at the grass roots level where planned development is to take place. Afghanistan had two wars to fight: one with the insurgents who wished to topple the government and drive the International Security Assistance Force out of the country, and the other with the deep and widespread corruption which had riddled every bone and marrow of the national administration with extreme inefficiency and plunder.

Afghanistan was, and is a difficult case for any planner. It did not have and perhaps for a long time to come, will not  have the ideal conditions for mobilisations of resources, human or physical. It is however a brilliant pointer for emerging nations which are democratic, which have a high level of security, adherence to law and order, an enlightened civil administration and an ability to communicate, command and control, to take all those positive blessings as a key platform to commence a program of resource mobilisation which will result in an intelligent and sustainable program of development.

Resources mobilisation is about understanding the human and natural resources a nation has, and of determining how these resources can be adequately be utilised to improve and enhance a nation’s economy and social life. In essence, it is about the dynamics of interaction between people and natural resources, of plans and processes of resources utilisation whether they be in agriculture and agro industry, in mining or manufacturing which produce a measurable growth in each sector. Resources mobilisation is a highly complex science and an art where politics, policies, visions, men and women, physical resources, technology, machines and equipment, capital and other resources, the donor community and think tanks converge to create a totally new paradigm in nation’s development framework.

The typical assumption is that most emerging nations are yet to come to grips with what they have by way of resources and how they could turn them into critical and sustaining advantages. The World Bank has for long been debating the processes of accelerating development in emerging markets: there have been a number of models adopted and sidelined though the last few decades.

One such model was the “trickle-down” effect of major developments and ventures, injection of large capital, fast-tracking growth which would in turn provide spin-off developments and employment to larger segment of societies. In fact, this did not work. Then there was a model which advocated grass roots development based on micro, small and medium enterprises development and injection of small capital through micro finance institutions. This model proliferated rapidly, resulted in thousands of microfinance agencies springing up in most developing and emerging nations only to run into a mission-drift from World Bank and other multilaterals which were keen to provide loans to only well established agencies which were charging exorbitant rates of interest to the unbanked poor.

Resources mobilisation for development is often the platform for all national development strategies, but the levels of competence in resources mobilisation have differed vastly from one nation to another. Tiny republic of Singapore had only one strategic resources advantage of being in the right place at the right time for mainly the port facilities, although neighbouring Malaysia did unsuccessfully attempt to take that strategic advantage away from Singapore. Knowing the lack of physical resources, including water and building materials, Singapore embarked on a massive drive to conserve its limited resources and fire up its human resources with high quality schools and universities. The strategy has paid off.

The Taiwanese too focussed on education, research and development, leading edge technologies and churned out large number of engineers across multi disciplines to sustain a highly modern industrial society. They won the game and have in fact contributed substantially to the growth of mainland Chinese industries. Indonesia, once a laid-back economy, has now sprung to the forefront of being ranked No. 10. On the other hand, one finds many countries in Africa, with immense natural resources, being stricken with poverty, malnutrition, aids and debilitating inefficiency across governments and institutions.

Much planning and support for development of emerging nations came from multilateral agencies and bilateral donors. While this has been commendable, it has at the same time lulled some nations into thinking that donor support is always vital for development. I tend to disagree. What is vital for emerging nations are the right policies and attitudes and access to capital. Access to capital need not be from donor institutions. Access to capital will be available, even in the darkest days of economic turmoil, if a nation has defined and adopted a physical and human resources mobilisation strategy which makes sense in the current context of the global market place and a strategy deemed sustainable.

Often, the real development embryo is within a nation. It needs to be hatched and nurtured within a nation in the context of its own needs, its aspirations and in the context of clearly understood capacities for mobilisation of its own resources.

 

 

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