DEVELOPMENT AS FREEDOM: A Reflection
by Mary Ann F Daclan
“Development as Freedom” is a book authored by Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize winner in Economics who had widely written about development. Each of these two words carries loads of people’s needs, social realities, and individual hopes. I believe that people, regardless of whether considered as majority, minority, indigenous, in exclusion, “haves” or “have nots,” aspire for both development and freedom. In this literature, Sen regarded development as something non-existent in absence of freedom. I suspect that if we closely study these two phenomena, it will be like that baffling chicken-egg situation. There is development if there is freedom; yet, one attains freedom when there is development. Sen’s concluding remark, “Freedoms are not only the primary ends of development, they are also among its principal means” mirrors it. I adhere to the idea that each of these two words actively operate on a relative scale. Development needs definitely differs in third world countries compared to their better off counterparts.
Even those who are situated in first world countries seek to have development in aspects that they feel they still lack. To them, development boils down to excellence at everything. They may be dissatisfied with anything amiss excellence or perfection because they may be used to it. I feel that development at that level is something that cannot even be conceived by those who are at a disadvantage in many aspects in life – like us in the third world. My sister, in France, shared that while traversing in one of the six-lane roads, their car wheels just halted. From nowhere a police officer approached them and showed photos of their violation – expired wheels that needed replacements. The wheels still look sturdy and very functional, but there is specified number of years of maximum use. A technology the police used can detect it from somewhere invisible by motorists. Six lanes, pictured violation, techie car control, expired wheels are phenomena alien to us. To many of us in the Philippines, construction of a passable road in seemingly god-forsaken countryside is already development. And somehow, as we use the road in transporting our farm products, we rural dwellers experience freedom from difficulty in transportation and movements.
The topmost word that surfaces my mind from the book’s introduction is definitely unfreedom. There is too much of this in the Philippines. Aside from the infamous threats to safety and security outside or inside the homes, there is the chain of dire poverty and the quagmire of unemployment. Our fellow Filipinos gone awry beheaded our country’s foreign tourists. Aggressive assailants even commit their heinous acts inside the victims’ residences. And so we set up high fences and multiple locks on our doors. Even when we wanted to, we are prohibited from going to our city’s festive weekend night cafés in the public plaza. We are not to expose ourselves to danger. Despite the Public Administration degree of my younger brother, he could not land a job that is fit to his training. He got employed as Gaisano counter boy, food court cook, and Gibi shoes’ store man. Eventually, he had to go to Kuwait for an electrician job hiring. He got a certificate for this position from government training. When he arrived in Kuwait, however, he worked as one of the carpenters to one of Kuwait’s mushrooming building constructions.
It pains to see these harsh social realities unfolding each day before our eyes. Sen
wrote, “the unfreedom links closely to the lack of public facilities … health care or educational facilities, or of effective institutions for the maintenance of local peace and order.” Every day, as I passed by public schools towards my workplace, I can see children having classes under a tree or in a hallway for lack of classrooms. My youngest brother, who teaches secondary education, has to pay a thousand pesos one-way fare for a motor ride towards a school in a faraway boondock in our municipality. And the terrains the motorcycle traversed become slippery and muddy in these rainy days. The hazard fee cannot suffice to the dangers he faces each trip. It worries my senior citizen parents that they cannot contact him for there is no cellular phone signal and no electricity in the area. Each of us can only hope for that day to come when unfreedom’s chains be untangled and development takes its rightful place.