Monday, August 10, 2009

Quicknote: Unequal Development

There is a large body of geographic literature that describes the "primate city" concept, it is a city that is disproportinately large compared to other cities in the country. There has also been much discussion on the core-periphery concept where a region's resources are concentrated in a narrow area, often at the expense of the "periphery." The "primate city" and the "core" can go hand-in-hand, as the central government concentrates its resources in a few, usually urban, areas. For our purposes here, this almost always results in unequal development.

NGOs usually seek to address this imbalanace, focusing their efforts in the periphery - bringing development to those who were unable to take advantage of the government's programs. It would appear that there is also a peripherial-periphery. An area where not even the NGOs can reach.

Far to the south, in Cox's Bazar division, on the border with Burma/Myanmar lies Teknaf upazila. There some 45,000 children receive no education due to a complete lack of school facilities, whether government- or NGO-administered, in 77 of 143 villages. As a result the children, who should be in school, are working. While in one instance the local union council set up a school for the children it was forced to close due to a lack of funds (Daily Star).

This situation could easily fall prey to the "scare resource" argument. However, a re-prioritzation of resource away from the "core" (Dhaka) or the "core-periphery" (Chittagong) could help stem the rural to urban migration which cripples urban areas in "Less Developed Countries."

In a sense, the government attempts to alleviate the sufferings of the "primate city's" inhabitants by diverting more resources to the city. This comes at the expense of "peripheral" programs. Residents in these areas enjoy even less benefits and state patronage than before. The result is obvious, rural citizens migrate to the urban area in search of oppurtunity.

However, this is not to say that Dhaka should become dilapidated in return for a "rural paradise." A balance must be found to keep Dhaka growing at a manageable, meaning economically, socially, and demographically sustainable pace, while at the same time improving education, healthcare, and occupational opportunities in the periphery (both core-periphery and periphery-periphery).

NGOs should also be flexible enough to repriorize their efforts to take into account their own success. By enabling local staff to take over the NGOs operations in the area, NGOs will not only be freeing up their own staff to expand operations, the local community removes their dependence on NGO assistance.

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