Five Freedoms

Amartya Sen argues the point that an increase in income to poverty stricken community is not the only key to alleviating poverty. The accumulation of more resources and wealth does not necessarily allow a person to live their life freely or in a way they choose. Sen makes a point that there is more to bringing a person out of poverty by alleviating them of their income deprivation.

The topic of alleviating poverty has been a major topic of discussion in La Ceiba recently. While we need a measure of how we are impacting our clients’ lives like their increase in income, does that really demonstrate improvement in their well being or an increase in their capability to live freely?

Sen moves away from the idea that the rise in personal incomes, growth of GNP and other economic measures is the definition of development, but rather focuses on the development of human freedoms. Sen identifies five key freedoms as part of the process of development: political freedom, economic facilities, social opportunities, transparency guarantees, and protective security.  However, each one of these cannot make a difference on their own. As shown in the examples of India and China, India has the economic facilities but failed in social opportunities therefore a majority of the population is illiterate and without healthcare. As with China, the social structures of healthcare and education are in place, there are no free markets or other economic facilities. Both countries are still experiencing poverty.

Most of these freedoms are in the hands of the government and the people if they decide to act as agents of change. In the aspect of La Ceiba, though, what can we offer besides sound financial services and economic facilities to help alleviate the poverty in terms of these four other freedoms? I agree with Sen that all these freedoms are important and key elements to the process of development. In reality, how easy is it for all of these means and ends of freedom to be formed and be put into place effectively? While many of us have come to the conclusion that we do not want the rise of income to be our only measure of success, will it be a part of La Ceiba’s mission to assist in this process by increasing social opportunities for our clients? I guess La Ceiba as a MFI will have to decide what its role will be in development as freedom.

One Response to “Five Freedoms

  • I’m interested in hearing how you think failure to do this might affect La Ceiba in the long run?

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