Introducing international development management
Introducing international development management

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Introducing international development management

2.8 Public action as contesting development

In this section, we will attempt to explore public action that involves contesting development of capitalism. The role of ‘development’ here includes individual and group empowerment, which often occurs during the process, contesting capitalist development as people come together and begin to organise around ‘social movements’. Yanacopulos (2002, p. 10) defines social movements in this way:

While NGOs have been receiving a great deal of attention in the development literature, social movement organisations (SMOs) have also been important players in development, and are a part of the association revolution. SMOs are typically formed to promote specific social changes, traditionally involving localised collective action. Within a development context, they sometimes articulate an alternative vision of development to that which is currently taking place in the local area. Social movements are often both locally focused and are action to issues which have a wider ‘global’ purchase. Their battles have usually been fought at local and national levels and often their utilisation of technology has been difficult (and remains so) as they are generally comprised of localised and marginalised groups. However, in recent years there have been movements that have successfully taken their cause outside of their local area or state – such as the Narmada Dam movement, the Zapatista … These transnational social movements have been effective in identifying the importance of solidarity groups outside of their country, and have a network of supporters internationally.

… In fact these cases are well established in the global discourse on environmental challenges. Some of these specifically challenge particular development projects such as the building of mega-dams (e.g. the Narmada and Chico dam movements). Others emerge as protest around threats to local resources, focusing on issues such as deforestation through commercial activities and the land speculation that often goes hand-in-hand with growth-led policies (e.g. Chipko; Rubber Tapper; Ogoni movement). Yet others revolve around the issues of ‘political rights to lives and livelihoods’; rights to information; participation; and to access and use of resources (Zapatista Rebellion; Green Belt movement). These movements have encompassed mass protests, campaigns and lobbying; expansion of local and global networks and organisational tactics; active challenges to the ‘ruling’ class and urban or industrial development; and a demand for ‘people-centered’ development. There is rapidly growing literature and voluminous information on the Internet on any of the ‘popular cases’ listed above.

(Yanacopulos, 2002, p. 10)

Activity 4 will allow you to apply the tripartite framework to a real-world context.

Activity 4: Steering, enabling and contesting development

Please watch the ‘Funny Money’ video clips linked below and answer the following questions.

  • How effective has the Argentinean state been in steering development in Argentina and Quilmes?

  • In what ways has the enabling mechanism of capitalist immanent development faltered in Argentina, giving rise to the ‘new poor’?

  • What other kind of actor is trying to respond to the growing public need?

  • How is social currency different from the Argentinean peso, and how does it contest capitalist immanent development and the failure of the Argentinean Government to steer intentional development?

Click to view the video clip (9 minutes).

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 1
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Transcript: Video 1

Subtitle (unknown man oov)
We thought about it as a board game with pieces, fake money, monopoly money if you like and with the possibility that all the players could start out on equal terms.
This is money for formal use. It's monopolised by the state this one is a special currency, it's made by the people and it's decentralised.
Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
Buenos Aires Argentina, once one of the wealthiest countries in the world, still likes to think of itself as the Paris of Latin America, with its enclaves of boutiques and smart restaurants. But today the shantytowns are an ever present threat, even blue collar workers and the middle classes are suffering. From the early 1980's, Argentina's economy has been in recession.
It once had a substantial welfare state, but that's gradually been whittled away. Investors have been unwilling to lend to a failing economy, that's struggled with very high inflation, followed by massive unemployment.
Subtitle (Lady)
There's no actual money here. I can have my own business at home but my old clients cannot come because they have no access to money either, so there you go.
Subtitle (Lady)
I have no job, neither does my husband. I feel ashamed.
Subtitle (Lady)
In my house my husband has a job but I have four kids to look after and all of them go to school, so the money he makes is not enough.
Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
Argentina's economy has been consistently mismanaged, with politicians loving to blame foreign debt for all their domestic problems.
Dr Daniel Chudnovsky (Economic Professor of Buenos Aires University)
It's a disaster, at national level, at provincial level and municipal level. So this also puts into question, the whole, the legitimacy of the state, to try to solve situation there. Most of the Argentine citizens do not believe in state's solution, or even the politician's solution because they are not able to manage the public goods.
Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
After the election in 1989, there was a wave of optimism.
The people had had high hopes of their new president, Carlos Menem.
Carlos Menem (Subtitle)
We're for the unemployed, the pensioners, the teachers. For everyone. Follow me, I beg you.
Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
But though his government impressed the financial world, by controlling inflation, under his leadership, the gap between rich and poor were still growing. Later Menem's critics said that their president had rather different priorities than tackling Argentina's unemployment problem.
Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
There was little cause for celebration amongst the growing numbers of people, who simply couldn't earn the money for a basic lifestyle. The crisis reached its peak in 1995, and more slums appeared on the outskirts of the city.
Fernando Gerones (Mayor of Quilmes)
Kumaz is a district that surrounds the city of Buenos Aires, where more than six hundred thousand people live, with over twenty percent unemployment, and over one hundred thousand people living in shantytowns, with a very serious social problem, and many people living on, what they can rescue from rubbish tips.
Kilmez is also an area, with very strong textile paper and metal industries. and today these sectors are going through an extremely difficult time.
Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
What could be done to stop the rot. A quiet revolution is under way in Kilnez, as people had to find new ways to live, without money.
Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
They were tired of waiting for their political leaders to do something.
Carlos de Sanzo (Co--Founder of the Global Exchange Network)
The history of the global exchange network goes back to 1989, when the regional self sufficiency programme was created in Kilnez.
As the years went by, we realised that the economic hardships were so great, that ecologists like us were being left behind. We used to say we were going by bicycle, and the economists were travelling by jet.
Enrique Martinez (Secretary of Small & Medium Enterprise of Argentina)
Argentina is a country of low to medium productivity, it doesn't generate a surplus to provide welfare. We believe people need to be reorganised, in order to find, once again survival paths by themselves.
Eduardo Hecker (Economic Development Secretary of City of Burnes Aires)
During the eighties, Latin America suffered a very deep economic crisis. In the nineties, there was some growth, but this growth created a great social exclusion, and many people were left out of the market.
Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
A phenomenon known as the new poor, emerged in the early 1990's, when many people who'd worked in the public sector, lost their jobs in a massive privatisation programme.
The government made millions by selling off companies, but had to pay the price in other ways. Unemployment is now around fifteen percent.
Dr Daniel Chudnovsky
One of the big consequence, was that people who were employees of the public enterprise or in the civil service, or even many domestic enterprise that were not able to keep up with the more, the growing competition in the domestic market, lost their jobs. If you are an engineer or a technician, they used to work in a factory in a small and medium size enterprise for twenty years, you are in in the dole in 1995, in a country you don't have any employ, unemployment benefits. you have, you may have a few a few savings, but the question is, to whom are you gong to sell your skills.
Eduardo Hecker
The nineties not only generated social exclusion amongst the poorest sections of the population, but a good part of the middle classes, who are used to a relatively high standard of living, lost it.
Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
The country's galloping inflation was eliminated by a draconian measure, which tied the Argentinean peso, introduced in 1991, with the U.S. dollar. This has meant in effect, that Argentina has no independent exchange rate policy, and currency is at the mercy of international interest rates. Meanwhile wages have been cut, people's living standards have been falling, and Buenos Aires remains one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Carlos de Sanzo
An exchange club is placed by a group of members of the global exchange network, gather to carry out exchanges. It generally opens one day a week, two or three hours at a time.
The members of the network take the products, spread them out on tables, and at a certain time, transactions begin using the coupons. Later it ends, and everyone goes home with something different to the things they brought with them.
End transcript: Video 1
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Transcript: Video 2

Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
The four hour wait is over, and trading can begin. These people belong to the global barter network, and are called prosumers, because they both produce, and consume. They're bringing goods and services to the marketplace, to sell for credits, the barter coupons which have an individual value. Traders pay a one credit entrance fee. Some of the goods they sell are remaindered stock from factories, others are what they have left at home, or what they've grown or made themselves. Participation is growing daily.
Carlos De Sanzo
Joining the network is so easy, you don't have to pay fees, training is minimal, anybody, even those without qualifications can do something, sweep child mind, water a plant, so it's very friendly. It includes everyone.
Ruben Ravera
What does a person have to do to enter the network. We try to make entrance as easy as possible. The person participates in a meeting which we call first timers. They have to attend such meetings and express their skill, vocation, and their expectations with the club, and after this initial process, the network invites them to join, and gives them fifty credits. With these fifty credits, you can start to develop a relationship with other prosumers, the other members who produce and consume. There is a very low desertion rate. People who join rarely leave the system.
Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
Credits enable these trainers to enjoy multireciprocal barter, they don't have to exchange goods with just one other person, but can have a whole series of transactions with many people. Most of the members are women.
Marta Llorente
Because most women have more possibility of inventing things. Men are more specific. A man's a plumber an ironmonger a gas man or a professional, but is exclusively that. Because she's a housewife, a woman has to do a lot of different things. She's more adaptable and smarter when it comes to doing more things.
Carlos de Sanzo
What we see today is the woman arriving first then, shyly, even a little bit ashamed comes her husband, and they later form a unit. For instance, the man stays at the table selling, and the woman who has better knowledge of household needs, and the quality of the products goes buying. Currently I'd say ninety percent of coordinators are women, and seventy percent of the participants are women. Without them we would not have been able to develop this network.
Subtitle (lady worker)
I got involved with the Trade Network to improve my lifestyle. My daughter was about to become 15, and she wanted a birthday party but I didn't have any money. I heard about the Network, and got involved. I started out slowly, but got more into it as time went by and consequently my daughter had a great party and now I don't want to leave the network. Trading has allowed me to improve my lifestyle with dignity.
Subtitle (lady worker)
I think trading is great, it allows me to exchange things that I don't need. Maybe some other people need by things and who knows I might need their stuff myself.
Subtitle (lady worker)
I joined the Exchange Network because of necessity. I am unemployed like everyone else. I am a single mother and proud to say that I have children. One of my twin girls, finished her studies and because of trading I had the chance of organising a special dinner. I also bought them clothes, and didn't even have to spend any money whatsoever. I got everything I needed right here, and in the clubs that I visited.
Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
A significant number of people queuing up, would consider themselves to be among the new poor.
Subtitle (lady worker)
I feel ashamed of doing this. What I want is to work with dignity. I feel bad, I know that this is also work, but I feel humiliated. What I really need is to work, to have money. What do you think about it as an outsider? You'll realise how very sad this is, but I have to do it because it's the only chance I've got.
Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
All these people have skills, products and possessions, but can't sell them within the main economy in order to buy other things of value. This alternative economy, helps them to do just that.
Carlos de Sanzo
In the first instance, we resisted the use of a tangible thing which to exchange, maybe out of prejudice. Later, we realised that people liked the coupons, and it didn't mean there was any contradiction with the original spirit of the idea, quite the contrary. Thanks to the coupons, the activities multiplied, more clubs started sprouting up like mushrooms throughout the country. The creation of the exchange tool, which we later called social currency, is far reaching, not limited to one locality but for everyone, that's why we called it the global exchange network.
Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
As well as the regular daily markets around the province of Buenos Aires, huge events are organised, where members of the global barter network congregate, swap advice, and recruit new members throughout the country. Participants can advertise their trades and professional services over the internet, or in a list which each club produces. It's at events like these, that the full range of services available for credits, are on display for all to see.
Heloisa Primavera (Activist & Trainer for the Global Barter Network)
I pick everything, I pick this, I pick this I pick this I pick this. This was made especially for someone, that made it specially for me my size. I have shoes from barter, and I have my hair made by barter, everything, and my jacket, and you know, what we are eating at home. My computer service everything.
Eduardo Hecker
Today is a very important day for the city, because the barter club trading programme has an important significance. A lot of people are here to develop their activities, and to show what they're all about. And the government is here to show support, take an interest, and become much more familiar, with what's going on.
Enrique Martinez
We've organised a huge exhibition of the global exchange network, which we're supporting throughout the country. We also hope to organise these events in the whole of Argentina.
Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
How does the alternative currency interact with the formal economy.
Enrique Martinez
The social currency is used exclusively in this place. You can't use pesos here, and therefore people exchange in terms of demand and supply, with an exclusive social currency.
Carlos de Sanzo
Our idea is that there's a market of millions of people who are today excluded from consuming and producing, and who need to have a currency and a market that matches their possibilities, that's our aim. It doesn't intend to do away with formal money, but rather to complement it. The global exchange network doesn't propose the abolition of supermarkets, on the contrary, it's trying to persuade supermarkets to contribute goods to the club. Banks, even multinational companies, are somehow within the scope of this network, because we believe that if we're to achieve a change, if we're to change the world, we are all going to do it. Without identifying good guys and bad guys.
Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
All these credits are individually marked and numbered, to regulate the supply and prevent forgeries. They also have a limited shelf life to keep them in constant circulation.
Carlos de Sanzo
The volume of transactions carried out, must be around four hundred to six hundred million credits a year. This is equivalent to four hundred to six hundred million dollars. Today a family in the exchange club, can increase their expenditure, to a value of six hundred credits a month, which is more than the average income in the general population.
Subtitle (Horacio Covas) Co-Founder of the Global Exchange Network
What's the difference between this and this? They're both paper and ink. But both of them have very different characteristics. This money is of formal use. It's monopolized by the state this one is a social currency, it's made by the people and it's decentralized. Money can cancel out debt, social currency is used for exchanging. Money is linked to a property known as interest which in some way reproduces itself. Whereas this currency not only has no interest, but its value expires after a certain time so it doesn't accumulate.
End transcript: Video 2
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Transcript: Video 3

Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
The network is also expanding into employment, such as this sock factory. Businesses that would otherwise go to the wall, can keep afloat by paying workers in credits, to perform the labour intensive parts of the process. It's likely that these socks, will now be sold for both credits and pesos. Community entrepreneurial activity like this, is encouraged as a way out of the poverty trap.
Enrique Martinez
We can help them technically and economically. Technically we are helping them to improve their production process, to raise productivity, and economically, we are helping them to think about what a micro enterprise is, and how to incorporate themselves into the formal economy.
Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
However, people who are working for credits, can't qualify for any welfare benefits, though in Argentina, there's no safety net for the unemployed or people working in the informal economy anyway. Discussions are taking place with the government, and the founders hope that members will soon be allowed to pay some local taxes in credits.
The Exchange Network is a new way of survival and it allows us to see a way out, and sometimes because of the crisis, the political crises that our country is suffering we are forced to form a brotherhood of sharing, so we can improve the situation.
Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
Just as the network has helped the population in Argentina, it is hoped it can be introduced in other parts of Latin America.
Jaime Cardoso (Secretary of Employment of State of Invernadero, Brazil)
We're here with a committee from the secretariat to learn about this movement of exchange and solidarity, because we want to start the movement in Brazil, and in Rio de Jenero particularly. The important thing for this type of movement, is for it not to be a laboratory. It only meets its social objective if it becomes massive, like here in Argentina. We're not interested in lands which are very localised, we're interested in reproducing the massive dimensions of the programme.
Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
Community currency is like the credits circulated in the global barter network, increased purchasing power, to improve daily household survival. They foster supportive communities, and help to build sustainable economies, based on local production, and local trade. The global barter network now has around a hundred thousand members, plus their families. It's a response to poverty in Argentina, a home grown solution, not parachuted in by international aid agencies. What it does show is that social movements in the south, are capable of responding to the challenges of globalisation and poverty, and we have a lot to learn from them.
Fernando Gerones
I think we're in a process which allows us to integrate a lot of people back into society, while realising that this isn't the definitive solution, and what people are looking for really, is the possibility of recovering their jobs, and being able to support their family.
Sudha Bhuchar (Narrator)
As Argentina continues to battle with its prolonged recession, it is clear that this movement cannot be dismissed as a marginal phenomenon.
Carlos de Sanzo
It's like a snowball, it gathers momentum, because there's food the dentist comes, because there's a dentist the craftsman comes. Because there's food a dentist a craftsman the tradesman comes and so on, until you reach small businesses local governments, large companies, and national government.
As in the case of Argentina, where the secretary of small and medium businesses, has from the 20th of December year 2000, signed an agreement to encourage exchange clubs throughout the country.
I think we should use this situation to think things over. Sometimes when we have no money we are forced to beg. If you do not have that piece of paper we call money or that bit of metal we call a coin you feel discriminated against, useless, worthless and you also feel left out of society. This is a new society, and we are all part of it.
End transcript: Video 3
Video 3
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Set in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this video clip shows how the state is failing to steer development and has all but relinquished this role. The economic collapse in Argentina has been tackled by the state putting in place measures to further prop up the market mechanism, rather than effectively focusing on intervention to ameliorate the casualties of capitalist immanent development. It looks at how rising unemployment among blue- and white-collar workers has led to social exclusion for many, including the middle-classes. To escape this social exclusion, many have become involved in a barter club to help themselves. The barter club is a social movement to respond to the failure of the state to provide jobs and economic security for the people, and seeks to re-embed the market in social relations.

The market is the enabling engine of development in Argentina, but it is also failing to deliver economic growth. The social movement of the barter club is contesting both the lack of steering by the state, and the failure of the market mechanism and the private sector to deliver development in the form of economic growth. As such, it is pioneering an alternative. The barter club has been so successful that the Argentinean Government is looking at ways to integrate it into the mainstream economy, talking about the possibilities of people paying taxes through credits. As such, the social movement has not only contested the lack of direction of the state and the activities of the private sector, but is also steering and enabling development directly.


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