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Global Concerns


Sukumar Muralidharan

PIONEERING THE HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REVOLUTION: AN INTELLECTUAL BIOGRAPHY OF MAHBUB UL HAQ
Edited by Khadija Haq and Richard Ponzio
Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2008, pp. xvi 266, Rs. 595.00

PERSPECTIVES ON DEVELOPMENT: MEMOIRS OF A DEVELOPMENT ECONOMIST
By V.V. Bhatt
Academic Foundation, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 135, Rs. 595.00

VOLUME XXXIII NUMBER 3 MARCH 2009

These are disparate books, united by the common feature that they incorporate in varying degrees, a series of reflections on aspects of the ‘development’ process. One is told through the retrospective assessment of the life and work of a man acknowledged as a global leader of thought on the issue. The other is a first-person narration, anecdotal and loosely assembled, by an individual who over four decades, witnessed development policy in its formulation and implementation, from a vantage position within the financial sector.   ‘Development’ became a global concern following World War II and the liberation of vast numbers of people from the fetters of colonialism. A quantitatively defined notion to begin with, development acquired in the following years, a distinct political facet. In between stood the human dimension. It is this conceptual evolution that is captured in the lifespan of Mahbub ul Haq, whose story is narrated by close associates in one of these volumes, published to coincide with the ten-year anniversary of his death.   What was the intellectual trajectory that brought an avid proponent of ‘growth’ in its barest and most arid statistical form, to the realization that living, laughing and most often, suffering humanity was the rightful focus and centre of all economic policy? How did Haq’s experiences mould his restless search for new conceptual avenues to explore in the struggle against poverty and all its degrading effects? And how did he fashion his relentless advocacy for a fundamental shift in the idiom of thought on economic policy? To answer these questions is to re-enact the voyage of discovery of one of the most important public intellectuals to have emerged from the South Asian region. And it is a voyage that is with great understanding and empathy, reconstructed in this volume edited by Khadija Haq—Mahbub ul Haq’s widow—and Richard Ponzio, a long-time collaborator.   What is it about the aggregate measure of economic ‘growth’ that makes it a very poor indicator of welfare? The answer today is obvious: that we need to worry not merely about the quantum of growth but also about how this increment in overall social product is distributed. This realization dawned on Haq after he had crafted three five-year plans for the Pakistan government and seen them through with gratifyingly positive results. By the late-1960s, though, he began to realize that the years of achievement were beginning to ‘crumble’, not ...


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