Friday, September 10, 2004

on development

just came in from the world bank consultations for its country assistance strategy. sounds interesting, as my pal from manila said this morning. yep it sure sounded interesting alright, at least in the first part of the morning. but not when the powers that be started talking about concepts and things that suddenly made me feel really uncomfortable. all these talk about the president's 10 point agenda, medco's work in mindanao and so on and so forth. then i started to ask myself, how are these stuff really translating to getting food on the table for the farmers in the coalition?

sometimes, i really get the feeling that economic thinkers sure do forget how to think in terms of the beneficiaries of their programs... or maybe it was just how the programs were presented.

but the third presenter surely did something right. the new country manager of the world bank in the philippines, joachim von amsber, did just the opposite of all the blabber of programs the first two officials did.

instead of presenting hard and fast programs for development, that surely gives the impression that "i know what you need!!!" von amsber recognized his being new to the philippines. he was airing a confidence of "hey, i have a set of things that can help you with development, and maybe just maybe these could help you. but before i give them all, tell me what can we do to help you in your problems." that was a bit too long for a thought, but it somehow redeemed the morning from people trying to brandish all these strategies that has somewhat made no clear difference in the lives of the people.

(funny it has to come from a foreigner. and while i take this with caution and much reservation, it surely provided a break from the more traditional presentations, anyway...)

exactly my thoughts on development. it always starts with something that you want to give. and it goes with the process of contextualizing what the intervention is. and finishes off with the actual implementation of the intervention that has been thought over with the beneficiaries and processed, enriched and fit to a tee.

but i have seen how farmers who had a hand with their development, who basically became stakeholders to business that we have helped to set up, those who have been with the planning and conceptualizing of the projects, beam with pride and ownership that the project was indeed theirs.

the names of clau, nap, emil, maeng, nene come to mind when i say this. examples of people who have actually given a stake of their lives in making their lives and their communities better.

my lesson was not taught to me by anyone. it came as an observation of watching and observing the processes in the organization. it gave a face to the thousands of report that i have to package. gave a name to the struggles that we take on for the poor. in short these people made my job more real. more concrete. something that can be held.

it is very easy to talk about concepts, but if no reality exists that bank on the concepts, words will just be words.

that is the silent development that happens without front page banners or much hype. but we know deep in our hearts, that somehow, someway we have made a difference in the lives of people, as much as the difference that they have made on ours.

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