Facing Contemporary Challenges of Development in Sri Lanka: Relevance of Schumacher’s Work

Small Is Beautiful - Schumacher E F

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


E.F.Schumacher: A Man of Solutions to All Era’s

The world is in a transformative mood due to unfolding immense challenges. Options and alternatives are suggested by various experts to overcome the present and future critical situations. To the developing countries like Sri Lanka, it is inevitable to catch up in those clouds. The people in the island nation of Sri Lanka already tired with war and they are not daring to face a negative economic effect, which can shake even their daily life.
On one hand the country is currently facing internal crisis, especially with regard to economic affairs and energy issue. On the other hand, the mounting international pressures related to past human rights abuses might create an imbalance in Sri Lanka’s economy. In general, there are possibilities that Sri Lanka will face instability in different levels.
Therefore, it is crucial to discuss about some concrete and constructive mechanism to deal with it, before it’s too late. “Are there not indeed enough ‘signs of the times’ to indicate a new start is needed?”[1] Sri Lanka is not just a small country, but with unlimited resources and unthinkable capacity, whether we discover it or not, it is the reality. Thus, it is vital how to prevent and overcome the challenges.  Small is not just beautiful, but meaningful and useful to developing countries. Thus, this leads to consider the importance of Fritz Schumacher or well known as EF Schumacher.
Fritz Schumacher was born in Bonn, Germany and worked as an economist in Britain. His fascinating ideas are well known in relevant to energy, economics, education, development, decentralization, technology and organization & ownership. While he worked for British National Coal Board as Economic Adviser he recognised the crucial role of energy in all economic activity. As early as 1955 he began to warn against a world dependence on oil. His visits to Burma in 1955 and India in the early 1960s convinced Schumacher that Western technology was not the answer to world poverty. In 1965 he founded the Intermediate Technology Development Group (now Practical Action) to identify and provide appropriate levels of technology for developing countries.[2] 
Also, he was the founder of the development charity Practical Action. His philosophies became popular during 1970s, particularly, during 1973 energy crisis. At the same period, he had become a leading voice in the emerging environmental movement, warning not only about a future energy crisis but also about the consequences of agricultural and industrial pollution. Throughout, his renowned book entitled, Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered was released as an answer to the 1973 energy crisis. This book became one of the 100 most influential books published in last seven decades. 
 There are philosophers who live in the history for long time and economic history is living with uniqueness due to Schumacher’s concepts.  It’s nearly a four decades ago his philosophy became famous, but remarkable still very effective and efficient to solve the ongoing economic crisis. It is because, his ideas are have sustainable perspective and applicable to implement easily in most contexts, whether it’s in developed countries or in developing countries.  
 The modern pursuit of the consumerist growth model has hampered the adoption of many of EF Schumacher's key ideas. The consumerist growth model that has dominated western and most developing country economics for the past 100 years has led to the fastest improvements in living standards in history, not just for the rich, but also for the poor. [3] More importantly, his ideas widely shaped the environment movements, despite of criticisms that those movements could not make a significant impact in political decision making process.
Nevertheless, values of his thinking have been realized during the negative trends of global economy and it’s leads to the adoptable avenues of sustainability and environmental action. New projects are emerging, which has Schumacher’s thinking and his concepts in the heart of the mandate as his thinking leads to manage and allocate the earth resources fairly. 
It again proves that Schumacher’s concepts are solution to whether it is the problem of or for human beings or nature. Schumacher’s ideas are not only answer for our current broken global economic system, but to robust health, prosperity and peace of mind of people in any society in any part of the world, especially, considering the current situation of Sri Lanka.

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