Afghanistan and Rwanda: Comparison of Economic Thesis

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¶ … Afghanistan and Rwanda:

Comparison of Economic and Social Development

Since the advent of modern foreign policy, officials have used a myriad of names to refer to those countries that seem stunted in their growth. The term third world was first used during the period of bipolarity that was the cold war, but continues to be used today to denote those countries that have proven underdeveloped. The term developing is also often used as a more politically correct term for designating those countries that have not yet reached the standards of the developed world. Finally, the term least developed countries (LDCs) was coined by the United Nations to point out the least developed of the developing countries. Numbering fifty countries in all, the least developed countries are located on several continents, and seem to include a disproportionate number of islands ("List of Least Developing Countries" n.d.). The subject for this paper will be two of these states, Afghanistan in the Middle East and Rwanda in Africa. Both of these countries have quite a bit in common. In fact, both have engaged in civil wars within the last few years; both have received interventions from Western organizations; and both have felt the sour after affects of war. By first discussing the criteria for developing countries, then comparing Afghanistan and Rwanda in terms of economic and social development, a better understanding of what constitutes a developing country can be achieved.

Criteria for Developing Countries

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Almost every country, in some way, can be considered developing. Maybe one country's media is deficient, while another is struggling with a low literacy rate. Developing countries, on the other hand, are considered such because they can be described underdeveloped in key areas. That is, in order to be considered a developing state, a country must fulfill several requirements, ranging from economic and political development issues to social and literacy development. The United Nations lists the following criteria for its LDCs:

Economic underdevelopment: LDCs must have a low-income, defined as under $700 gross national income per capita.

Thesis on Afghanistan and Rwanda: Comparison of Economic and Assignment

Human resources underdevelopment: This is defined as a low Human Assets Index based on nutrition, health, education, and adult literacy.

Economic Vulnerability: This criteria, which consists of the country's ability to produce income based on natural resources and resourcefulness, is related to the first, but measures the country's potential rather than its current results (United Nations 2003).

In order to qualify as a LDC, a state must meat all of these criteria, according to the United Nations. Other criteria are necessary for the state to "graduate" from LDC status. Though the United Nation's must have specific criteria to designate LDCs, as these countries represent the least developed of the underdeveloped, underdevelopment can consist of many more variables. For instance, Chaliand (n.d.) suggests that "poverty, high birthrates, and economic dependence on the advanced countries" (para. 1) are characteristic of developing nations. Chailand (n.d.) expounds on these characteristics, stating that many third world countries have economies that are based on producing goods and services for developed countries, and whose vast majorities are very poor. In addition, many of these countries are characterized by an extreme difference in lifestyle by the very rich and the very poor.

Politically, these third world countries must often deal with the reprocussions of colonialism or other "conquest or indirect domination" by the West (Chailand n.d.). Socially, the countries often lack the infrastructure to make services available to those who need them. Education and literacy are often low in these countries, and communities also remain uneducated in such progressive reforms as equality for men and women, ethnic groups, and human rights. Other characteristics of underdevelopment often focus on the political system and the effectiveness of government. Although a detailed examination of each of these characteristics, and others, would be valuable, this paper will focus on just two major areas -- economic and social development. These terms are defined by the following descriptions:

Economic Development: Countries will be considered developing based on both the status of their current economies as well as their potential opportunities for growth. Countries unable to sustain their people, dependant on foreign aid, with a low potential for growth, and with a high rate of poverty will be considered underdeveloped.

Social Development: Countries that lack resources for citizens in the area of healthcare and education.

Economic Development

Both Afghanistan and Rwanda, survivors of wars that ripped their countries apart, show signs of poverty and economic need on both the national and per capita, or individual and familial, levels. According to Iraqi Finance Minister, Anwar-ul-Haq Ahadi, Afghanistan still faces "huge economic development challenges" (Bruno para. 1).

Although Afghanistan's growth rate of 13.5% shows promise, two major areas of concern can be identified in Afghanistan's economic development -- the involvement of foreign powers in the country's economy, and an agriculture-based economy. These two characteristics limit the potential of Afghanistan's economic growth. Ahadi mentioned each in a recent interview, stating that Afghanistan is "totally dependent on foreign assistance as far as the development budget is concerned" (Bruno para. 10). Furthermore, the finance minister stated that many of the donations that Afghanistan has been receiving for reconstruction are not accessible by the national government, which he claims could use it better. Thus, Afghanistan is, in many ways, at the mercy of other states in terms of their economy. The country not only relies on economic assistance; but also foreign governments control how spending is done in Afghanistan. In terms of economic development, this suggests that the country is currently next to helpless, despite the evidence of growth. Adhadi mentioned that this is not about to change when he stated that he hoped Afghanistan could "generate enough domestic revenues to pay for [its] recurrent expenses" in four or five years while admitting that financing developmental assistance alone will take even longer (Bruno para. 11). This suggests that the country will not qualify as developed, economically, for quite some time.

In much the same way, Afghanistan's economic potential suffers because of its reliance on agriculture as a primary revenue generator. In his interview with the Council on Foreign Relations, Ahadi stated that the agriculture sector is highly dependent on the weather. When weather conditions are not optimal for agriculture, then crops do poorly. As this is an uncontrollable variable, it does not bode will for Afghanistan's economic stability (Bruno para. 3). In addition, much of Afghan's agricultural produce consists of narcotics, and the country faces a great deal of pressure to phase out this harmful crop. In addition, Afghanistan faces economic pressure from the terrorist organization the Taliban, who are invested in the continued production of narcotics (Bruno paras. 4-6). Furthermore, the Taliban stand to gain members and stability from those individuals in Afghanistan who are bearing the brunt of the economic crisis. With around 40% of the population unemployed and around five million under the poverty line, some join the Taliban to escape ("Poverty, unemployment"). Thus, not only will Afghanistan continue to rely on food production as a means of producing revenue, but it will also have to make up for the money spent on narcotics through other crops, as the Taliban continues to gain political strength through its membership of the unemployed.

Thus, Afghanistan can easily be described an economically underdeveloped or developing state. This is true for two reasons. First, Afghanistan's present economy is marked by a reliance on foreign aid. Even though they have recently been devastated by war, this suggests that they are not developed enough to care for their own needs. In addition, the fact that foreign agencies are overseeing the disbursement of much of this aid suggests that Afghanistan is not developing its ability to manage its own resources. Afghanistan's economic future is similarly less bright. Currently, the country relies heavily on a farming economy that is highly dependent on weather. Furthermore, much of the products that Afghanistan currently produces are narcotics, which the country is under international pressure to abandon. Finally, the Taliban, a terrorist organization, is bent on thwarting attempts to do so. Thus, both Afghanistan's present economy and its prospects for development are rather low, suggesting that it has miles to go before reaching the goal of economically developed.

Much like Afghanistan, Rwanda's current economic woes are a result of war. In 1994, one of the most devastating genocides in recent history tore Rwanda apart, "devistat[ing] the Rwandan economy and destroy[ing] much of the infrastructure," in addition to decimating "the human resource base, in particular, of trained personnel" (Murenzi). Like Afghanistan, both Rwanda's current and prospective economies are far from developed. Currently, Rwanda experiences a low per capita GDP and a high poverty rate. Most Rwandans live on less than $1 a day, which is the poverty line in the country. This means the per capita income is around $260 (Murenzi). Like Afghanistan's economy, which is based primarily on agriculture, much of the Rwandan economy is similarly founded in this form of revenue creation, which can be easily swayed by the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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