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How Can Development Worsen Inequality (for some) ?

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How can development worsen inequality and destitution (for some)? What role can public policy play in mitigating these negative impacts?

The development process tends to apply industrialization as the engine of growth. This is to be expected for increasing returns to scale in industry, both static economies of scale when mass production of commodities can be produced at lower average cost and dynamic economies of scale which are reductions in cost or increases in revenue per unit that arise from repeated and continuous production activity over time. The transformation of economies from a primary agricultural into industrial country comes with widening disparities in the personal distribution of income in the early stage, because some people are more industrious than others to accumulate wealth, opportunity and skill are not equal for all.  The work of Adelman and Morris shows that for developing countries inequality increases up to a certain stage of development and then declines, graphically showing an inverted U-shape similar to the work of Kuznets for developed countries.

Intensive industrialization strategy for development can worsen inequality and destitution along with these conditions: (i) inevitable dualism3 in geographic, technological, and social; (ii) urban bias4 in the allocation of investment resource. There have been many causes of urban bias; domestic cause of urban bias including colonial inheritance, severe market failures in agriculture, relatively weak political voice of rural poor. International cause of urban bias including relatively strong political voice of developed countries, Washington Consensus diminish attention to agricultural development.; (iii) inequality in the distribution of education facilities, particularly lack of facilities in rural areas where the poorest are concentrated; (iv) disguise rural unemployment, rural underemployment, open unemployment in urban areas created by rural-urban migration;  (v) a shortage of investment resources and inappropriate technical choices.  In this process, the degree of inequality in the developing countries appears largely due to the higher share of income received by the richest, and the vast mass of population is left behind. Rural and urban poverty are still widespread.

The public policy plays important role in mitigating negative impacts on how it brings about structural changes in favor of industrial activities if growth and development is to be accelerated. There are necessities for public policy to concern for allocation of investment resources for basic social services, infrastructure, and investment in human capital (education) because education improves the quality of labor and has positive spillover effects.  The policy should accommodate choice of projects of which a high weight should be given to projects that raise the income of the poorest in the income distribution.

The government also play important role in financial markets to lower the cost of capital and direct credit to strategic sectors, policies to promote export and protect domestic industry.  The policy must pay attention in rural development that has been neglected in industrialization development strategy. The policy of active opposition to urban bias should be taken. Agriculture is generally labor intensive and skill extensive, so that agricultural growth creates additional employment with low entry barriers. When agricultural productivity rises, the food prices in rural and urban will be lower. Agricultural growth is importance for poverty reduction.  It obviously needs targeted investment in agricultural which is so far being under estimated.

3 Geographic dualism is gap between income per capita is concentrated in one area, technological dualism is difference in technological means between subsistence sector and other sectors, social dualism is different social customs between subsistence and money sector

4 for further reading Bezemer, Dirk and Headey, Derek, (2008), “Agriculture, Development, and Urban Bias“, MPRA Paper No.7026, posted 6 February 2008.