Redressing the Rural-Urban Imbalance (Distinguished Lecture)

Publication Year : 2003

This paper focuses on rural poverty, its causes and effects, and suggests one of a number of possible measures to alleviate the problem. It examines why there exists an urban bias in development, and the impact it has on development patterns. The macroimplications derived from intensive longitudinal micro-studies of two South Indian villages are also examined. These studies throw into relief the key role income-generating opportunities play in rural societies. They show how the existence of such opportunities ensures the reduction of rural poverty and removes, or at least reduces, the need for ruralurban migration; whereas their absence has the reverse effect. As the growing rural population accompanied by increasing water shortages reduce the possibilities of continuing increases in agricultural productivity, there is an urgent need to urbanise rural life and to make it more attractive in terms of economy and infrastructure. Finally, an outline of a Three-Level Rural-Urban Business Linkages paradigm, which though putting emphasis on increased agricultural productivity, stresses the growing importance of establishing agro-based industries and the creation of other off-farm activities. It is presented as one option that may be pursued to redress the rural-urban imbalance and thereby reduce rural poverty. The paradigm involves a decentralisation of small goods productive processes in a setting of Growth Areas and Growth Centres that are linked with the nearest large towns and/or cities. As long as the political will exists and the necessary preconditions are met, the implementation of this paradigm constitutes a good chance of improving conditions in both rural and urban areas.