The Gender Dimension in Environment and Development Policy: The Southeast Asian Experience

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Recommended Citation

VivienneWee, "The Gender Dimension in Environment and Development Policy: The Southeast Asian Experience", EASSNet, June 24, 1995,

Centre for Environment, Gender and Development Pte Ltd
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The environmental crisis and the feminisation of poverty
This paper sets out to show how the environmental crisis
and the feminisation of poverty are actually one inter-
related crisis.1 Both situations have been brought about
by the same process_namely, economic growth based
fundamentally on resource extraction. It should be
realised that the environment is not just `nature out
there' but a habitat containing the livelihood resources
of local communities. So when environmental resources are
extracted, depleted or degraded, what is affected is the
livelihood resource base of local communities.
  Women, in particular, experience this process of
resource loss. The gender-differentiated impact of
resource loss can be understood in terms of men and women
having different `life-spaces'. A `life-space' is a socio-
ecological context that enables life processes to go on.
    Women's lifespaces and men's lifespaces are very
    different. Even though men and women may be living in
    the same household, they do not occupy the same
                                        (Kettel 1995: 63)

  Living in direct interaction with the natural
environment, women in rural and indigenous communities
often become triply disadvantaged by the ecological
  ú     The loss of land, food, water, shelter, fuel  and
    fodder means a loss of livelihoods for women, more so
    than for men. Women are more vulnerable to the loss of
    the  household resource base, because the  livelihood
    activities under their management tend to be resource-
    based, rather than money-based. Women in the rural and
    forest sectors are critically affected by environmental
    degradation. Deforestation, the scarcity of fuel wood,
    and the loss of common property resources directly affect
    women (see Heyzer 1987: 3-4).
  ú     Even  in  a situation of relative gender equality
    where women do have traditional rights over land  and
    resources,  their  rights are often  ignored  by  the
    authorities. Consequently, when communal land is acquired
    by governments and businesses, any monetary compensation
    that is dispensed often goes only to men as `heads of
    households', who are therefore treated as the sole owners
    and users of land. Similarly, when resettlement takes
    place, any title over a new piece of land often goes only
    to men. Women are thus doubly dispossessed when communal
    land and resources are lost. Not only do they lose their
    resource   base,  they  also  lose  out  on  monetary
    compensations and new land titles (see Hew & Kedit 1987,
  and Kumar 1987).
  ú     Women are often constrained by traditional gender
    inequities from taking up economic alternatives and job
    opportunities. Most of these are skewed in favour of able-
    bodied young men, who are the easily mobile members of
    the local community. This often leads to male abandonment
    and to the resulting increase in female-headed households
    who have to fend for themselves on a depleted resource
    base. World-wide, there is a rapid increase in the number
    of female-headed households. (See The UN Commission on
    the Status of Women 1995: Paragraph 100).
  Case study 1
  The Iban women's loss of land
  The building of the Batang Ai hydro-electric dam in
  Sarawak led to the resettlement of the indigenous Iban
  community. This has led to severe ecological, social,
  cultural and economic disruptions for the people,
  especially the women who have lost all traditional
  rights to land and other resources. In traditional Iban
  custom, men and women work equally in padi planting,
  acquire land rights and settlement rights equally and
  inherit property equally. In the process of
  resettlement, however, all this has changed. The
  compensation money (ranging from M$10,000 to M$400,000)
  was mostly given only to the men, under the planners'
  false assumption that the men were the "heads of
   With the commercialisation of agriculture and SALCRA's
  [Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation
  Authority] policy of one certificate of ownership to a
  household, women's rights over land have been abrogated
  and a dependency relationship created.... One of the
  most traumatic effects of resettlement for the women
  settlers is that they have no land to plant paddy....
  Most settlers continued to grow paddy on SALCRA land
  when they first moved into the area as commercial crops
  were yet to be planted. However, this is now no longer
  possible as the land is now planted with cocoa and
  rubber. There is now a rising desperation among the
  women to find land as their paddy pun (sacred paddy)
  has to be planted every year for perpetuity. This is
  because traditionally women are the custodians of the
  paddy pun (Hew and Kedit 1987:188, 192).
  Women in rural and indigenous communities are thus
confronted by a crisis of survival on two related levels:
  ú    On the ecological level_the loss and degradation of
    their livelihood resource base
  ú    On the economic level_the feminisation of poverty or
    the increasing impoverishment of women.
  Women's resource loss and their increasing
impoverishment have to be understood at three levels:
  ú    In terms of persisting gender inequities derived
    from the historical past, which have traditionally
    subordinated women
ú    In terms of the reinforcement of existing inequities
to serve the context of the present, such that women are
excluded and disenfranchised from increasingly scarce
  ú    In terms of new processes that have resulted in
    women's loss of livelihood resources and that instead
    objectify women as resources to be appropriated.
  Many traditional societies have existing gender
hierarchies, expressed through descent, kinship and
religion, that discriminate against women. Systems of
male inheritance, for example, conveniently dispossess
and disenfranchise half the population_namely, women.
Gender inequity is thereby institutionalised and the
gains of the `haves' are assured by excluding the `have-
nots' from competition. Impoverishment and
disenfranchisement thus go together (see Heyzer 1987: 4).
  Women in traditional societies are disadvantaged in
relation to the male family members, in the satisfaction
of basic needs, and in their access to and control over
resources (see Kelkar 1987 and Agarwal 1988). They are
seen to have:
  ú    Fewer or even no land rights
  ú    Fewer economic rights, such as the right to earn a
    wage or the right to trade
ú    Fewer legal and customary rights, such as the right
to choose a marriage partner
  ú    Fewer social and cultural entitlements that give a
    sense of well-being and self-worth, such as access to
    rituals, sacred spaces, and masculinised bodies of
  ú    Less access to labour markets
ú    More household responsibilities.
  As a result of these existing inequities, if women lose
their household resource base, they experience
impoverishment more profoundly than men. Even when
resources are not scarce, distribution already tends to
become more gender-biased. When resources become scarce,
women's assets are often sold before men's assets. Women
often end up having no land, fewer livelihood resources,
less food, less health care, less education, and lower
economic returns for their labour.
  This situation is further aggravated by the
introduction of certain forms of agro-technology  which
displace female labour without there being any
compensatory new forms of employment.
  Case study 2
  The technological marginalisation of rural women in
  agricultural production in the Philippines
  The changes in rice technology consisted of: (1) shift
  in type of seed from the traditional varieties to the
  short, early maturing ones produced by the
  International Rice Research Institute, (2) spread of
  farm mechanisation in the land-preparation and
  threshing tasks, and (3) changes in certain farm
  practices such as extensive use of fertilisers,
  pesticides, weedicides and method of direct seeding....
  Technological changes displaced more women relative to
  men. Under the old technology, almost half of the
  labourers working in a hectare of rice land...were
  women. However, by 1986, only 36 per cent in Bo.
  Lalangan and 29 per cent in Bo. Tabon were females....
  The fact that displacement has occurred in the absence
  of other job opportunities implies the severely
  constricted nature of employment opportunities in these
  areas.... For a number of women in the two villages,
  however, mechanisation of the threshing operations
  created [peripheral] tasks which ... were associated
  with the subsistence activities women had in the past
  engaged in. As the mechanical thresher blows out the
  hay stack, women place a plastic mat or net on the
  ground to catch the falling grains or hay that come
  with it.... Once this is done, they separate the hay
  stalks from the grain, a process which must be
  undertaken right away because the thresher spews out
  more hay stalk.... Whatever the women got were milled
  for home consumption.... The worsening unemployment and
  displacement of women even in other villages and towns
  increased competition for the marginal job.... The
  collection and processing of left-over
  grains...symbolises the relegation of women to the left-
  over employment opportunities of men: [it] is the rural
  counterpart of urban scavenging. (Banzon-Bautista and
  Dungo 1987:280, 285, 287-9).

This case study illustrates the ability of economically
marginalised rural women to make something out of nothing
by converting a waste by-product of the mechanical
thresher into a food resource for their families.
Nevertheless, the economic marginalisation of women has
repercussions on the welfare of themselves and their
children, as the family still remains the responsibility
of the women and "the burden of recounciling the budget
and meeting cash shortages seems to fall on women"
(Banzon-Bautista and Dungo 1987:307). Such efforts to
make something out of nothing are, in many cases, borne
out of necessity, demanding labour-intensive drudgery.
  "A woman anthropologist at the International Rice
  Research Institute in the Philippines had the
  sensitivity to observe how male categories of
  `efficiency' created the mechanisation imperative.
  Barog, a process of shaving off the already beaten
  stalks of rice to glean the grain that remains, used
  to be undertaken by women who did this in between
  childcare and cooking. They kept all the grain they
  got (none going to the owner of the field) which at
  times, was as high as 10 per cent of the total
  yield. Mechanising the barog process was inspired
  because the male IRRI scientists saw women's gain as
  `loss'. The woman anthropologist asks, "How can IRRI
  defend counting barog grain as a `loss'? It is true
  that the field owner does not get his hands on it.
  But the fact that the grain passes out of his hands
  does not reflect the technical inefficiency of the
  traditional method. The barog grain is by no means
  `lost' either to the national economy or to the
  production system itself. Village families eat
  it_and what makes our report more embarrassing, it
  is usually the poorest villagers that eat. At best
  our failure to credit the traditional system with
  this gain reflects an evaluation of rice in terms of
  money rather than consumable food." ("From a woman
  anthropologist's note-pad: IRRI memos", Balai no.7,
  1983, quoted from Shiva 1989:111).
Women's indigenous knowledge of livelihood resources is
founded precisely on their multiple roles and
responsibilities, in relation to the care of their
children, the cooking of food, the management of scarce
resources, and their own survival as the disadvantaged
members of an inequitable society. This is why in rural
communities, women's knowledge of biodiversity is very
often different and more comprehensive than men's
knowledge. For example, women's botanical knowledge would
tend to include a maximal number of edible plants,
including otherwise poisonous plants that can be made
edible through food processing, as well as medicinal
herbs and rare plants that may be useful in periods of
scarcity. In contrast, men's botanical knowledge tends to
focus on plants that are used as staples and those that
can be marketed as cash crops.
  Women's vital knowledge of livelihood resources is
generally ignored by the mainstream economy. The shadow
ecology and shadow economy based on women's indigenous
knowledge now need to come into the sunshine,
particularly in the context of our current environmental
crisis, brought about by the over-consumption and wastage
of resources. In the search for sustainable development
alternatives that are sustainable for all sectors of
society, women have a crucial role to play, since at
micro and community levels, they are usually the managers
of local resources on which everyday life depends. This
significant managerial role should be duly acknowledged
and integrated in the formulation of rural development
policies and programmes, especially those aimed at
smallholder agricultural production.
  But even though women are half the world and even
though they play a vital role in society, they are
usually considered a social and political minority whose
needs and perspectives are seldom included at a macro
level. The convergence between traditional gender
hierarchies and new patterns of gender inequities is a
major factor leading to the feminisation of poverty, such
that more and more women end up as the poorest of the
poor living on increasingly depleted resources. In
extreme cases of poverty, not only do girls and women
lose their access to resources, they themselves may even
become the resources of others. Where children are sold
off as a family resource, it is the daughter, not the
son, who is the first to be sold.
  The direct connection between unsustainable growth,
resource depletion and women's impoverishment is almost
never recognised. It is not surprising, therefore, that
the crisis in the region is worsening, especially in the
context of rapid economic growth in Southeast Asia. The
commodification and degradation of environmental
resources have lead to the destruction of livelihood
resources upon which depend the livelihoods of local
communities, especially women. On the one hand, wealth is
generated for certain sectors of society, especially
those benefitting from the commodification of resources.
On the other hand, poverty is also increasing in other
sectors of society, especially for rural  communities
whose livelihood resource base is reduced, depleted or
taken away altogether.
  While urban middle and upper classes are still
relatively insulated from the loss and degradation of
livelihood resources, rural and indigenous communities
are experiencing massive impoverishment through the
dispossession of land and livelihood resources.
  More than 550 million, or 60 per cent of the world's
  rural population live below the poverty line in
  rural areas.
            (Women in a Changing Global Economy 1995: 34)

  As a consequence of the loss of land and resources, the
poor are forced to depend on a reduced ecological base,
thereby increasing pressures on the use of natural
resources in terms of land, water, food, fuel, fodder,
shelter and other livelihood needs. As shown above, this
livelihood crisis is particularly acute for rural women
who play a vital social as resource managers, subsistence
farmers and as primary care givers. In the developing
countries, world-wide, the number of rural women living
in poverty have increased by 50 per cent compared to 30
per cent for men.  (See the UN Commission on the Status
of Women 1995: Paragraph 97).
  When even the depleted resource base becomes untenable,
massive rural-urban migration follows, resulting in the
concentration of population in urban centres. World-wide,
the average annual population increase from 1960-1990 for
urban populations is twice that of rural populations
(World Resources Institute 1992: 264).
  The world's urban population is estimated to have
  grown by about 500 million people over the period
  1975-1985 and about half of this gain has been
  attributed to net rural-urban migration. Recent
  estimates suggest that 43% of the world's population
  currently live in urban areas, compared with 37% in
       (UN Commission on the Status of Women 1995: 25)

In many cases, the rural poor have become the urban poor,
from whom has emerged a pool of cheap reserve labour
which has the effect of dragging down wages and working
conditions in the cities. Living conditions for the urban
poor_who may have even fewer rights to land and resources
than the rural poor_are usually dismal, with critical
needs for better housing, water supply and sanitation.
  If this rural-urban process of resource transfer and
migration were to continue, it would eventually lead to
an implosion. As more people in the rural sector become
impoverished, and as more move to towns and cities, there
would no longer be a viable rural sector.
  The gap in urban-rural realities is also true for women
globally. Over the last four decades, some middle and
upper-class women in the urban sector have undoubtedly
experienced positive changes. They have had higher
education, increased employment opportunities, and an
improvement in income and status. But these improvements
are piece-meal.
  On the whole, the lives of poor women in urban, rural
and indigenous communities are increasingly at risk,
because their livelihood resources have become increas
ingly scarce. As a result, women's work burden has
increased in inverse proportion to the depletion and loss
of livelihood resources.
  Women have become steadily poorer in the context of an
increasingly merciless struggle for scarce resources and
a denser concentration of wealth at the top. Women
produce half the world's food, yet constitute 70 per cent
of the world's 1.3 billion absolute poor. Women work two-
thirds of the world's working hours, but own less than 1
per cent of the world's property.
  Globally, women's participation in the labour force has
increased by only 3 per cent in 20 years, from 37 per
cent in 1970 to 40 per cent in 1990. Overall, women still
have only 36 per cent of total waged employment and only
one-third of the share of national income. Women's wages
are generally only three-quarters of men's wages in the
non-agricultural sector in 56 countries. Women receive
only a very small percentage of credit from formal credit
  Why has this happened? Why do women work the hardest
and end up as the poorest? Why has women's work_vital as
it is_not generated wealth for them?
  One answer to these questions is as follows. Women do
not obtain the full benefit of their own work. Many women
work for the benefit of others. Thus, many women work on
land that is not theirs and that they will not inherit.
They manage homes that they do not own. This happens
despite the fact that their role as resource managers has
been lauded in the UN Conference on Environment and
Development and other international conferences. This
context of resource loss, dispossession and impover
ishment frames any discussion of women, environment and
  As stated by Heyzer (1994: 2-3),
  The_challenge of maintaining sustainable livelihoods
  in a degrading environment is_a gender-
  differentiated challenge. Environmental degradation
  exacts higher costs on women than on men. In a world
  that is still largely rural, women are the main
  subsistence farmers of Africa, Asia and South
  America. At an everyday level, these women farmers
  are facing the challenge of maintaining sustainable
  livelihoods for themselves, their families and their
  communities, as their resource base of fuel, water
  and food becomes increasingly depleted.

Sustainability and equity are intrinsically related. If
sustainable and equitable development is to be achieved
at all, a priority issue that must be addressed is
women's rights over land, resources, and the means of
livelihood. There can be no sustainability if half the
world's population are deprived and dispossessed of
livelihood resources by putting women's livelihood rights
at risk. Women's rights as indivisible and inalienable
human rights_including their personal, economic,
political and all other rights as full human persons_are
therefore a developmental issue of crucial importance.

Feminised poverty as a labour resource
As shown above, poverty is a gendered phenomenon,
claiming more women than men. On the one hand, women's
impoverishment is the result of traditional gender
hierarchies. On the other hand, however, the feminisation
of povery is more than just a residual category. It is an
actively reproduced `shadow subsidy' that lowers the
costs of production and enhances profit margins. Because
of an inherent compatibility with traditional gender
hierarchies, market-dominated development processes have
generally not been beneficial to women.
  Even when these processes have generated employment for
women, it has been under conditions of low wages,
numerous occupational hazards and poor working
conditions. The under-valued labour of women is a crucial
resource which drives rapid industrialisation and
economic expansion. It is precisely because this resource
is being exploited that the returns for employers are
high. Women also suffer disproportionately from economies
undergoing restructuring and stiff competition from
abroad, because this intensifies the profit motive
through cost-cutting. Many women in Southeast Asia, for
example, have been recruited into the lowest jobs in the
industrial production, where wages are inadequate and
working conditions hazardous.
  Case study 3
  Cheap labour = cheap lives
  Factory fires have been a common phenomenon. For
  example, in 1993, a Hong Kong-owned factory in Bangkok,
  Kader Industrial, caught fire killing 189 workers and
  injuring 500 others. Most of the victims were young
  women. They died mainly because most of the safety
  exits were locked by the factory management, allegedly
  to stop workers from trying to steal the stuffed toys
  they were making for export (see Newsweek 4 May 1994
  and The New Internationalist January 1995).

The high-growth economies have benefitted from the use of
women's labour as a low-waged, malleable pool of reserve
labour that can be hired and fired at will. As a result,
women are more often found in casual forms of labour in
the informal sector of the economy. In order to survive,
women often have to subject themselves to exploitative
situations, where their labour and their bodies are used
and abused to generate profits for others.
  If their gender-biased disadvantages and domestic
responsibilities are not addressed as a prior issue, then
when women enter the labour market, they do so with a
number of disadvantages:
  ú    They have fewer marketable skills, having been
    hindered in their formal education and the acquisition of
    new technological skills
  ú    Their employment opportunities tend to be confined
    to the lower-waged and more casual segments of the labour
    market as a result of their relative lack of education
    and skills
ú    They continue to experience discrimination at the
workplace and find it hard to achieve career development
and upward mobility
  ú    Their employment outside the home does not lead to a
    redistribution of household duties between men and women,
    because women's paid employment is often culturally
    constructed as a privilege, and not an inherent right,
    accorded by male family members who control their labour
ú    Even with waged employment, women continue to be
expected to fulfil their traditional responsibilities for
household maintenance and the care of family members,
such that they have to work both inside and outside the
home, resulting in an increased workload known as the
`double burden'.
  Women now constitute a significant proportion of the
migrant labour trade. This has gendered implications for
the work of social reproduction. A pertinent question
that seldom gets asked is: `who does the work of social
reproduction in the poorer countries from which the
migrant workers come?' If the governments of the richer
governments are already reluctant to invest in the care
of their citizens and rely on individual households to
make their own arrangements, are the governments of the
poorer countries more willing or more able to do so? Or
does the absence of women in the household lead to a
change in the gender division of labour, such that the
men come to share the responsibility of work and
  Research indicates that usually, the domestic workload
of the migrant female worker is shifted to other women
and girls, generally unpaid family members_such as
unmarried daughters, sisters and aunts, or mothers,
mothers-in-law and grandmothers. The burden of housework,
child-care and other dimensions of social reproduction
thus continues to be seen as the sole responsibility of
girls and women, rather than as the shared responsibility
of both men and women, or the shared responsibility of
family and the state. This leads to an increase in unpaid
female labour with its attendant consequences, such as
the educational and employment deprivation of the unpaid
female worker. This, in turn, leads to the transmission
of female poverty and the tendency towards a higher
fertility rate. Poverty through deprivation thus passes
from female to female within the family and across
  The transmission of poverty from one generation to the
next includes the transmission of gender injustice, where
it is the girl child whose rights to life and her own
person are not assured. First of all, the girl child born
into poverty is more likely to suffer an early
death_either through deliberate infanticide or
through_less deliberate but no less fatal_infant
mortality, deprivation of food, clothes and health care.
If a girl child is allowed to live, she is often
vulnerable to abuse, condemned to remain illiterate, or
reduced to being a family resource to be sold into
bondage_whether as child-bride, prostitute or debt-slave.
  Since the burden of ensuring the survival of a
dependent member of the family is seen as a female
responsibility, the life-trajectories of sons and
daughters are altered by this gender asymmetry. Sons are
bestowed the family's scarce resources so that they can
escape from the poverty trap. Daughters, on the other
hand, are deprived of these scarce resources, held back
from school and expected to be the family's secondary
nurturers, assisting in the care of siblings and other
needy members of the family. Hence, girls start bearing
the burden of social reproduction from an early age and
are hindered from the pursuit of economic alternatives.
This has severe consequences for the inter-generational
transmission of poverty, as girls born into poverty are
brought up to be women who will remain in poverty. But
such a poverty trap cannot be broken if there are vested
interests deriving economic and social advantage from
such a situation.

Women and the environment as `shadow subsidies'
As noted by Joan Martin Brown (quoted from Ofosu-Amaah
  Women and the environment are the `shadow subsidies'
  which support all societies. Both are under-valued
  or perceived as free, even while others profit from
  them. The greatest challenge (now) is how to revise
  the valuing of nature and women so as to take proper
  account of them in decision making. Until societies
  are able to integrate the `value' of women and the
  environment within their economic formulations, all
  their efforts will address only symptoms, not
  causes. The current hierarchical, separatist,
  competitive and predatory social and economic
  arrangements which dominate in most societies are
  antithetical to the realisation of the contributions
  of nature and women to their societies.

  The fundamental cause of the present crisis is a mode
of development based on resource extraction that exploits
women and the environment as free goods. This mode of
development is the foundation of a power structure that
eats into the ecological and social system on which it
depends. Those who benefit most from this economic and
political structure have done their best to pass the cost
to others. Those who are bearing the costs are women, the
poor and future generations.
  Unfortunately, despite this escalating crisis, in
mainstream policy-making, there has been no fundamental
rethinking of the development model and the global
economic system. No attention has been given to the
possibility that the existing economic order_based on the
intensive extraction of resources and on rapid
industrialisation using cheap labour_may be responsible
for the destruction of existing livelihood systems,
especially women's livelihoods. Furthermore, there seems
to be neither recognition nor restructuring of the
vicious cycle that has emerged, connecting international
debt, enforced repayments, structural adjustments, the
increased exports of natural resources, the destruction
of the resource base of local communities, and widespread
  These gaps in response to the existing crisis could
lead to inadequate strategies that may compound problems.
Thus, it is commonly assumed by governments and citizens
alike, that economic growth will finance strategies for
bringing about sustainable and equitable development.
However, there is no mention of the patterns and effects
of growth, no questioning of who would benefit and who
would bear the cost of such growth. There is no
acknowledgement that the process of growth itself could
exacerbate the very conditions that it is supposed to
  As noted by Peggy Antrobus (1995) of DAWN,2
    there is no analysis of the contradictory trends of
    the past 15 years_. The problem stems from a lack of
    a coherent analysis and an unwillingness to
    acknowledge that the current global model of economic
    growth does not create an enabling environment for
    the elimination of poverty, the creation of
    productive employment, or the promotion of social
    integration since it places the interests of interna
    tional capital before that of people.

  Over the last fifteen years and more, the crisis of
unsustainability and inequity has deepened. To call for
an increase of the very same processes of economic growth
as a solution to the problem would only compound the
situation. It is therefore important to question how and
why we have come to the current ecological and social
crisis. What has brought about ecological
unsustainability? Why have disparities between wealth and
impoverishment increased? Why is there a global
feminisation of poverty?
  While mainstream economics propose that poverty be
addressed through economic `progress', this dominant
development framework, based on profit-driven economics,
simply does not and cannot address this ecological and
social crisis of our time. As summarised by Sen (1994:
    Neo-conservative economists, neo-liberals and
    Reaganites argue that there is no need for concern in
    respect of either capital formation or the depletion
    of resources for development. These problems, they
    say, will be taken care of by the market since prices
    for endangered resources will rise leading to both
    conservation and substitution via technological

  The neo-conservative and neo-liberal argument is
flawed, because it does not take into account how
environmental degradation may not be an economic problem,
but may instead be treated as an economic opportunity. It
propels businesses and industries from resource-depleted
areas to seek new stocks of resources in virgin
territories. Profit margins can be increased by selling
these still cheap resources from somebody else's habitat
in one's own resource-depleted market.
  Economic value is thus generated out of scarcity and
every degraded natural resource creates a potential
market niche for a scarce product. For example, polluted
water creates a market niche for bottled mineral water.
Polluted air creates a market niche for ionisers.
Polluted seas create a market niche for the import of
frozen sea food from some other community's unpolluted
waters, thereby depleting their fish stocks. Not only
does this mode of product substitution leave the ongoing
process of resource degradation untouched, it depletes
further other resources and other people's natural
  In the same way, poverty may be a life-and-death issue
for the poor, but may not be a problem for those who
stand to benefit from this kind of economic system. It
simply creates a pool of cheap labour willing to work for
starvation wages. Similarly, the impoverishment of women
creates a segmented labour market, where the unpaid or
lowly-paid women's labour in the informal sector will
constantly drive their formal wages downwards.
  The market is therefore unable to solve the problems of
our time since the market does not respond to social and
ecological needs. On the contrary, the market has brought
about this present crisis.
    Because the market only responds to those who have
    the capacity to participate in it, it cannot, then,
    respond to the poor. Nor can it, in view of
    technologies that are now being produced, generate
    jobs. It creates alienation that leads to social
    disintegration. Because of women's primary
    responsibility for the care of the people, women are
    most affected by the consequences of a model of
    development characterised by increasing poverty and
    unemployment, alienation, and violence.
                                      (Antrobus 1995: 12)

  An increasingly commodified and monetised world fails
to recognise the intrinsic worth of all aspects of human
life, of what should not belong in the market. These are
instead treated as cheap or free resources to be profited
from. Somebody's loss is someone else's gain. Communal
land, free-standing forests, women's biological and
social reproduction are `up for grabs' in an exchange-
dominated economic system where everything has a price
and nothing has any intrinsic value.
  Communal land can be appropriated as a free good from
indigenous communities who have been living there for
centuries, but have no title deeds. Forests can be
designated as timber concessions with free wood to be
felled. Women can be defined as creatures of tradition
whose `natural destiny' is to serve and please men,
family and community. Their labour can be freely
appropriated with no accountability to them. Indeed, an
economy that appropriates and then locks up livelihood
resources through a pricing mechanism, tends to breed
violence as an alternative means of accessing resources.
  The consequences of this economic calculation on
environment and society are enormous. Herein lies the
motivation to use and to continue using `shadow
subsidies' derived from nature and women's labour. Often,
a growth spurt takes place when some hitherto untapped
reserves of environmental resources and women's labour
are suddenly discovered and drawn upon. When such growth
spurts occur, they should be analysed in terms of their
expanding resource use, and not simply treated as
unexplained windfalls. Even lottery windfalls come from
bets that have been placed; `something cannot come from
nothing'. Rapid economic growth thus means a rapidly
growing resource hinterland, that expands into the
ecological spaces of other economies, other
communities_especially if the latter are not growing so
rapidly themselves.
  The economic status quo can be likened to a global
pyramid, whereby those at the top feed on the resources
of those at the bottom. Where are women located in this
pyramid? Globally, and also in the Southeast Asian region
as a whole, the majority of women are overwhelming at the
base of this pyramid. As competition for scarce resources
increase, women are being pushed further and further down
this pyramid. The concentration of wealth at the top of
this pyramid is getting denser, while poverty increases
for those at the bottom.
  Environmental degradation, the loss of community
livelihoods, and the impoverishment of women thus go hand
in hand. These are not accidents or ad hoc side effects.
They are systemic processes in what is fundamentally a
parasitic economy propped up by appropriated `shadow
subsidies'. Such a system is clearly unsustainable for
the environment, for the poor, for women, and ultimately,
for everyone living on this finite planet.

Unbalanced growth in Southeast Asia
The Southeast Asian region is experiencing one of the
fastest rates of economic growth in the world today. For
example, the GDP growth rates of some economies in the
region are:
_Malaysia at 9.3 per cent
_Thailand at 8.5 per cent
_Singapore at 8.1 per cent
_Indonesia at 7.4 per cent.3
The transitional economies of Southeast Asia, such as
Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are also growing at full
speed, registering strong GDP growth within the range of
7 to 8 per cent.4
  Despite this, poverty in Southeast Asia remains a big
problem. The development experiences within and between
countries have by no means been homogenous. While many
economies are growing at seemingly miraculous rates,
these are the very countries that continue to have
alarming rates of poverty. Three of the ten countries in
the world with the largest number of poor come from the
Southeast Asian region: Indonesia, Vietnam and the
Philippines. Together, these three countries make up 9.3
per cent of the world's poor.5 Poverty in the Philippines
is so acute that 70 per cent of the farming population
  earn too little to even afford a proper diet.6
Furthermore, despite the region's rapid growth, a number
of countries in Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia,
Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines are still saddled
by heavy debts.
  The disparities of wealth exist not only between
countries but also within countries. In Indonesia, for
example, the rich earn 8 to 10 times as much as the poor.
Indonesia has been ranked by the International Monetary
Fund as the world's 12th largest economy in terms of
`purchasing power parity' (that is, how much people can
actually buy with their money), yet Indonesia has a
significant proportion of the world's poor.
  Poverty is closely connected with landlessness. In the
Philippines, 5 per cent of farming families own 80 per
cent of the land. The vast majority are landless or
sharecroppers. Furthermore, industrialisation has
displaced what little land people have owned. 160,247
hectares of farmland have been converted to industrial,
residential or commercial use.7 This has brought massive
rural poverty, leading to equally massive rural-urban
migration, as a result of which there are now more than
1.2 million Philippines migrant workers all over the
world, male and female. UNDP statistics show that 90 per
cent of all seamen in the world are Filipinos.
  Despite the reality of poverty, mainstream economic
discourse in the nineties has concentrated on the
exploding economic growth in the region. The experiences
of poverty are given scant attention. Increased trade in
the region has not been a solution to poverty. And rapid
industrialisation has brought about enormous
environmental problems, has taken away livelihood
resources from communities and has capitalised on the
cheap or free labour of women. Economic growth therefore
brings with it impoverishment. They are the two sides of
the same coin. However, this relationship is not always
clearly visible, because the benefits and ill effects are
generally felt by different groups of people in different
sectors of society. For example, urban populations who
benefit from the plentiful supply of cheap resources from
the rural sector do not experience the process of rural
impoverishment as a result of resource loss. For example,
men who benefit from new job opportunities through
economic expansion do not experience the process of
women's impoverishment as a result of gender inequities.
Ironically, when indeed the issue of poverty is
addressed, the solution most often proposed is to promote
economic growth through the export of commodities and
through industrialisation. The consequent destruction of
the environment, loss of livelihood resources of
communities and poverty are dealt with as separate
  The following tables give an indication of the extent
  of environment degradation and rural impoverishment in
the region:
Table 1:  Estimated Extent of Degraded Land  (unit: 1,000

        Densit  Arable and   Irrigated  Salt    Estimated
        y       permanently  land       affecte degraded
Country (perso  cropped                 d land  land area
        ns per  area (1989)
Indones   99      21,260       7,550     2,200     43,000
ia                 (12%)       (4%)      (1%)      (24%)
Philipp   222   7,970 (27%)    1,620      400      5,000
ines                           (5%)      (1%)     (16.8%)
Thailan   114     22,126       4,230     3,200     17,200
d                  (43%)       (8%)      (6%)     (33.7%)
Malaysi   58    4,880 (15%)  342 (1%)     500         
a                                        (2%)
Vietnam   214   6,600 (20%)    1,830     1,000     15,900
                               (6%)      (3%)     (48.9%)

Notes:    Salt affected land includes irrigated and non-
irrigated land.
     Percentage of calories of land to total land area is
shown in parenthesis.
Source:    FAO 1995:88
  The region has already reached the safe limits of
  horizontal expansion of agriculture, meaning that
  future needs can only be met by intensification, an
  option which will not be easy due to widespread land
  degradation. A major cause of degradation is erosion
  due to water and wind. Only a very limited area is
  free from soil-related constraints on agricultural
  production. These constraints include steeply
  sloping land, severe fertility limitation, mining of
  soil nutrients.
           (FAO/Netherlands Conference on Agriculture and
  Environment: Sustainable Agriculture and Development in
       Asia and the Pacific, Regional Document no. 2, `S-
        Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, 15-19 April 1991)

At the same time, food demands are projected to increase:
  Rough estimates of the evolution of food crop
  demands by the population forecast that Asia as a
  whole should have an average food crop yield in
  equivalent cereals of 3.2 tons/hectare in the year
  2010 and 4.75 tons/hectare in 2030 to cover minimum
  food requirements. To achieve such yields, the
  average available land will be 0.9 hectares/capita
  in 2010 and 0.6 hectares/capita in 2030. To maintain
  present average cereal production per capita between
  1990 and 2030 in all other developing countries in
  Asia (without China), the average increase for the
  next 40 years should be 2.5 times higher than the
  yield increase observed between 1970 and 1990 (0.8
  tons/hectare). This represents twice the efforts
  achieved during the Green Revolution.
                                           (FAO 1993: 5).
This impending food crisis is ominous for girls and
women, whose share of food resources is usually
disproportionately less than others. Famine too is a
gendered phenomenon.

Table 2:  Estimates of Forest Cover Area and Rate of

              Land      Forest cover          Annual
              area                      deforestation 1981-
                       1980     1990                 
            million   million  million  million    % per
               ha       ha       ha       ha       annum
Asia and     892.1     349.6    310.6     3.9       1.2
Continental  190.2     88.4     75.2      1.3       1.6
Insular      244.4     154.7    135.4     1.9       1.3

Notes:    a includes Cambodia, Lao, Myanmar, Thailand and
     b includes Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the
Source:    FAO 1995:88

Table 3:  Forest Area Change During 1981-1990 in
Southeast Asia

        Land   Natural forest       Plantations
               Tota  Annual         Tota  Annual
               l     deforestation  l     plantation
               1990  1981-1990      1990  1981-1990
        000    000   000  ha/0  %   000   000   ha/0 %
Country ha     ha    ha   00        ha    ha    00
                          capi                  capi
                          ta                    ta
Thailan 51,08  12,7  515  10.1  -   756   42.0  0.8  8.5
d       9      35               3.
Vietnam 32,54  8,31  137  2.3   -   2,10  70.0  1.2  4.1
        9      2                1.  0
Indones 181,1  09,5  1,2  7.3   -   8,75  474.  2.9  8.1
ia      57     49    12         1.  0     0
Malaysi 32,85  17,5  396  25.5  -   116   9.0   0.6  16.
a       5      83               2.                   1
Philipp 29,81  7,83  316  5.7   -   290   -1.0  X    -
ines    7      1                3.                   0.3

Source:    FAO 1995:88
Massive deforestation brings about the loss of topsoil,
landslides, floods, and changes in rainfall and climate
patterns. These disturb the production of food crops,
thereby affecting the food security of rural communities.
The resulting food shortage increases women's burden as
resource managers who have to find ever scarcer
Table 4:       Rural/Urban Migration and Growth Rates

             migration     Annual change in population
              F/100 m              (1985-1990)%
Country                        Urban          Rural
Indonesi        104             4.3            0.7
Malaysia                        4.4            0.9
Thailand        111             4.3            0.8
Philippi                        3.9            1.6
Vietnam                         3.8            1.9

Source:   FAO 1995:86

Table 5:       Urban Population and Poverty

              Urban        Female      % of Population
         population % of   Headed      below absolute
              total        Househo      poverty level
            population       lds          1980-1989
Country    1980     1993             Urban       Rural
Indonesi    20       31     14.2       20         16
Vietnam     23       20                            
Malaysia    33       43     17.7       13         38
Philippi    36       43     11.3       52         64
Thailand    14       34     16.5       10         25

Source: FAO 1995:87
  The expansion of cities and the concentration of
resources in cities have led to poverty in the rural
areas of many countries. Compared to wages earned in the
urban areas, wages are poor in the rural regions. This is
often because governments have a policy of keeping food
costs low in order to sustain workers in the city as well
as to keep up the migration of workers from the rural to
the urban areas.
  However, even in the cities, mass rural-urban migration
has led to the rise of poverty in the urban centres. A
significant proportion of the rural poor have become the
urban poor. Many live in conditions of significant
deprivation_in slums, on streets, along drains. Some
examples of the levels of deprivation of the major cities
of Southeast Asia can be ascertained from the following:
  ú    There are at least 25,000 children living on the
    streets in Hanoi8 and some 20,000 child prostitutes in
  ú    Jakarta has an incidence of about 50 per cent of
    urban poverty (Environment 1992: 116)
  ú    Bangkok has about 410 slum areas scattered in the
    city, with public water supply available only to half the
    city's population (Environment 1992: 116)
  ú    Kuala Lumpur's large and scattered slum population,
    though smaller in comparison to other cities in the
    region, is also susceptible to the lack of water, poor
    sanitation and infectious diseases (Environment 1992:
   Manila in the Philippines is a city with more than
half of its population living in slums. The environmental
problems faced by slum dwellers include:
  ú    Uncleared garbage and lack of access to waste
    disposal systems
  ú    Inadequate means of disposing sewage resulting in
    the contamination of immediate surrounds
  ú    Usage of untreated and polluted waters from
    contaminated rivers
ú    Poor drainage systems and the risk of flooding
ú    Susceptibility to infectious diseases.
                                  (Environment 1992: 123)
  Case study 4
  Wealth and health disparities
  In Manila, in a large squatter settlement (Tondo), the
  level of severe malnutrition among infants and young
  children is three times the level for non-squatter
  areas. Tondo's infant mortality rate is 210 per 1,000
  live births compared to 76 for non-squatter areas in
  Manila. The proportion of people with tuberculosis in
  Tondo is nine times the average for non-squatter areas,
  while diarrhoea is twice as common. In Tondo, anaemia
  is twice as common and typhoid four times as common.
   The health problems of the poor in urban slums are
  usually the result of environmental problems_such as
  pollution by industry and vehicle traffic_and the lack
  of infrastructural services_such as running water and
  garbage disposal. These problems are exacerbated by
  governments unwilling or unable to abate pollution and
  provide services. Thus the poor are suffering ill-
  health because poverty has made them vulnerable to the
  environmental and physical effects of the consumption
  of the rich and the negligence of their governments.
  (Holmberg 1991: 11)
These health disparities also exist between the rural and
urban sectors, where the rural population tend to be
deprived of the determinants of general health:
ú    access to health care services
ú    adequate nutrition
ú    potable water
ú    sanitation
ú    adequate rest and relief from hard physical labour
and drudgery.
The excessively high mortality rates among the rural
population occur in a context of unequal life chances
between rural and urban populations, between rich and
poor. The poor health conditions of the rural population
are indicated in the relatively high infant and child
mortality rates, as compared with the urban population.
This may be illustrated by the disparities in infant and
child mortality rates10 between rural and urban families11
in four Southeast Asian countries, as shown in Table 1
  These death ratios give an indication of the uneven
development processes occurring in the rural and urban
  sectors in many countries. As noted by Ruzicka (1984:
  High fertility and high mortality buttress each
  other.... Despite impressive improvements, in most
  low income countries of Asia, the bulk of deaths are
  still of children under five years of age.... Most
  are occurring from a rather limited number of
  largely related problems: immaturity (low birth
  weight) often related to mother's poor health and
  nutritional status and frequent childbearing;
  malnutrition as an underlying or associated cause of
  a death which itself was due to infection (measles,
  lower respiratory infections, malaria); the
  synergistic effects of diarrhoeal disease and
  In other words, significant numbers of children in the
rural population die because their families are too poor
to keep them alive, especially when their mothers are
themselves malnourished and in bad health. Such health
problems tend to affect women and children more than they
affect men, because the former tend to be disadvantaged
in terms of physical mobility that would allow them to
escape from conditions endangering their health.

             Rural            Urban           Ratios
        Neo- Post-  Chi  Neo- Post-  Chi Neo-  Post- Chi
             neona   ld  nat  neona  ld  nat   neona  ld
        nat   tal         al   tal        al    tal
Indones  55    60    88   29   17    15  1.9    3.5  5.9
   a     13    36    25   8    10     2  1.6    3.6  12.
Philipp  22    55    75   16   18     9  1.4    3.1  8.3
Thailan  51    51    56   37   24     3  1.4    2.1  18.
   d                                                  7

Source:   Ruzicka 1984 (p.34)
The health problems affecting rural women and children
are by no means limited to the four countries listed in
Table 1 above. In Vietnam, for example, rural women and
children are also at risk from nutritional disorders and
infectious diseases (particularly diarrhoea, respiratory
infections and malaria). The lack of potable water is a
major contributor to the spread of infectious diseases.
  Many of the prevalent diseases are water-borne and
  linked to the poor state of water and sanitation.
  Less than half the urban population and less than
  10% of the rural population have access to a safe
  and adequate supply of water; the remainder depend
  on a combination of shallow wells, rain water, rain
  catchment and ponds and rivers.  Many areas in the
  dry season, at this time water is traded at high
  prices and the use of polluted water is common.
                                         (FAO 1995:11)
  Other nutritional disorders include a high incidence of
goitre due to iodine deficiency, a condition which
affects women's reproductive health. The remedy for this
is iodized salt; the fact that this relatively simple
solution has not been effectively implemented relates to
the poverty and inadequate transport infrastructure of
the country. In mountainous Laos, a UNICEF survey
estimated the incidence of severe cases of goitre to be
65 per cent.
  In Vietnam, 50 per cent of children under 5 years are
malnourished, of whom 15 per cent are severely
malnourished. This statistic is particularly significant
in view of the fact that Vietnam is now the world's third
largest rice producer, which implies that the bulk of the
rice produced is being exported to earn foreign exchange,
rather than for internal consumption by the population.
This is a clear indication that malnutrition in the rural
population can persist when development is focused mainly
on increasing the productivity of export crops, even when
the export crop in question is a food crop. At the policy
level, there seems to exist some confusion between
national food security and household food security, the
assumption being that the former would lead automatically
to the latter. But this assumption is not inevitably
  Another illustration is the crop diversification policy
found in many Southeast Asian countries, whereby it is
part of rural development policy to assign fruit trees
and vegetables for cultivation in the high-altitude
uplands, and staples for cultivation as plantation
monocultures in the lowlands. Such a policy is generally
motivated by a concern for crops cultivated for export,
rather than for subsistence. But this reduces the
smallholders' safety net of planting mixed crops that
would include a range of food crops and commercial crops,
thereby exposing to greater uncertainties, such as the
fluctuations of the commodities market and the vagaries
of weather and pests. Monocultures basically affect the
diversity of food available, which, in turn, affects
nutrition, morbidity and mortality, particularly among
women and children. (See FAO 1995: 9-11).
In addition, water pollution and toxic waste dumping in
the rural areas have brought about serious consequences
for women. As pointed by Dehlot (1992:8):
  women of childbearing age are more vulnerable to
  environmental pollutants than men because of their
  reproductive function and breastfeeding practice.
  Many reports have linked reproductive defects to
  contaminants such as lead. With the yearly increase
  in the number of chemicals, the impact on women and
  children appears to be on a rising scale. According
  to UN studies, the possible effects of exposure to
  chemicals range from infertility, miscarriage,
  malformation, neonatal death, to growth retardation.
  It is thus quite clear that environmental degradation
and the loss of livelihood resources is seriously
affecting people's health and life-chances. The
environmental health of many communities in the region
has become problematic as a result of:
  ú    Land degradation and the loss of topsoil
  ú    Pesticide contamination of water and soils
ú    Depletion of marine fish stocks
ú    Urban air pollution
  ú    Water pollution by industrial and residential
  The paramount issue is that livelihood resources are
being extracted to support industries and to boost
exports. However, the income from these extracted
resources generally go to the people who own the
industries and not the communities who depend on these
resources for their livelihoods. Such processes have
brought about the massive impoverishment of whole com
  The evidence clearly indicates that not everyone is
prospering within the Southeast Asian region, despite
seemingly `healthy' growth rates. Furthermore, sectors
that are growing in Southeast Asia are also causing
undesirable ripple effects in economies and on
communities outside Southeast Asia. Indeed, it cannot be
assumed that the rapid economic development found in some
sectors is unquestioningly beneficial to all.

The NICs, the near NICs and the aspiring NICs
To understand the existing disparities, we must
understand the different development experiences within
Southeast Asia and also in some of the implicated
economies outside, from which wealth has been drawn into
Southeast Asia. Three patterns of development in the
Asian and Pacific region have emerged in the last decade,
differentiated in terms of economic growth and social
  1.   The high-growth economies_among these are the Newly
   Industrialised Countries (NICs), including Brunei, Hong
   Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan, with Japan as
   the earliest industrialised economy in the Asian and
   Pacific region
  2.   The fluctuating economies (based largely on exports
   of resources)_in particular, Malaysia, and Thailand.
   These may also be termed the `near-NICs', as their rates
   of growth are approaching that of the NICs.
  3.   The low-growth economies aspiring to become NICs;
   these may be divided into:
    ú    Densely populated low-growth economies, such as
      Indonesia, Burma and the Philippines. South Asian
      economies also fall in to this category.
    ú    Transitional economies of Cambodia, Laos and
      Vietnam. Although China is not in Southeast Asia, the
      shift of the Chinese economy towards free enterprise has
      a major impact on economies in Southeast Asia.
    ú    Sparsely populated low-growth economies of the
      Pacific Island states.

  In the search for effective development options, the
high-growth economies of Southeast and East Asia have
become the new standard-setters of development, as the
`social equity model' of the command economies has
collapsed. In the region's current economic situation,
there is a `follow-the-leader' chain of development
experiences where all the other countries, including the
low-growth and ex-socialist countries, are scrambling to
emulate the high-growth economies, especially the NICs. A
`NIC model of development' has thus emerged as a
development strategy to follow. This is currently being
promoted by both governments and international financial
agencies, notably the World Bank and the IMF.
  Both these institutions have been encouraging the lower-
growth countries_especially debtor countries_to pursue
policies that will allow the inflow of foreign
investments. Many of these governments have thus put in
place structural adjustment policies, including the
deregulation of labour relations and the opening up of
domestic markets and industries. These policies are meant
to increase exports, encourage the entry of foreign
investors to set up export processing zones (EPZs), as
well as to channel financial resources away from social
services.12 This would enable the maximum use_indeed the
  exploitation_of natural and human resources, once the
economy is open to foreign investors, and once adequate
infrastructure has been installed to facilitate maximum
resource exploitation. However, since such policies are
not really derived from the examples of the NICs
themselves_which have in fact highly protectionist,
tightly planned economies_it is highly uncertain whether
these policies will actually lead to the spawning of more
  A question that should be asked is whether it is
possible for all countries in Southeast Asia, as well as
in the larger global economy, to attain the type of
economic performance which Singapore as well as the other
high growth countries in the Asian region have achieved.
There is currently an implicit assumption that this is
not only possible but that it is the only desirable goal.
However, can all countries really attain the rate of
growth that the NICs now enjoy? Is this assumption
justifiable in the light of what happens in reality? What
is the resource base of such growth? What are the
consequences of such growth on women?
  The `NIC model of development' is in effect a recycled
replica of the `trickle down' strategy of the 1940s and
50s, with the same flaws and inadequacies as before. The
questions one can ask about the `trickle down' strategy
are thus relevant to the `NIC model':
  ú    Can market growth, pure and simple, be the answer to
    poverty alleviation?
  ú    What has been the result of the implementation of
    growth-oriented policies and the resulting market
  ú    What has been its impact on the alleviation of
ú    Whose economies are benefiting from this type of
  It is quite clear that growth-oriented development
serves primarily the interests of powerful economic and
political sectors of society. In this process, new
patterns of impoverishment, gender inequity, and environ
mental degradation are created. There is generally no
equitable `trickling down' of wealth, because the very
process of wealth creation itself is posited on obtaining
as cheaply as possible both natural resources and human
labour, especially women's labour.
  If the `trickle down' strategy was inadequate before,
it is even more inadequate now. Its failure is due to a
number of serious misconceptions, including the
  The         Wealth generated in a
  misconcept  country will remain in the
  ion         country.
  The         We live in a world where
  reality     currently, one trillion
              dollars change hands
              everyday in the global
              financial market, and where
              national economies are
              destabilised by trans-
              national processes
  The         There are limits to wealth
  misconcept  accumulation and when the
  ion         people on top have reached
              their limits, the surplus
              will `trickle down'.
  The         The United Nations
  reality     Development Programme's
              Human Development Report
              1994 indicates that the gap
              in the income distribution
              is growing. The income of
              the richest 20 per cent has
              increased from 30 times
              greater than that of the
              poorest 20 per cent in
              1960, to 61 times greater
              in 1993. This statistic
              clearly indicates that
              there are no natural
              limitations to wealth
  The         Poverty and wealth
  misconcept  generation are separate and
  ion         unrelated processes.
  The         Impoverishment and wealth
  reality     accumulation are inter-
              linked. Poverty is not a
              static phenomenon but the
              result of an ongoing
              process of impoverishment
              related to the loss of
              livelihood resources.
              Wealth, on the other hand,
              is generated through
              obtaining resources as
              cheaply as possible,
              whether these be natural
              resources or human labour.
  The         Once surplus is generated
  misconcept  through economic growth,
  ion         there are no social
              barriers to the `trickling
              down' of wealth.
  The         We live in stratified
  reality     societies where inequities
              have been
              institutionalised. There
              are thus all kinds of
              barriers that maintain the
              stratification system,
              including gender,
              ethnicity, religion, class
              and caste. Wealth cannot
              automatically flow across
              these barriers, if these
              barriers are not done away
              with first. For example, in
              many countries, even if
              land were available,
              women's rights to land
              ownership need to be
              established as a prior
              issue before women can own
              any of the available land.
  Thus, the `trickle down' strategy lacks gender-
sensitivity. A major flaw of this development strategy is
its overwhelming concern with the generation of wealth,
without any attention given to how the gender hierarchy
and other institutionalised barriers need to be addressed
before wealth can be equitably re-distributed.
  This growth-oriented model of development focuses only
on rates of growth, completely ignoring the patterns of
growth. Because of this overwhelming preoccupation with
growth rates, it is assumed that development which
benefits one sector of society will automatically benefit
other sectors of society. There is thus little concern
for the concentration of wealth in one narrow sector of
society and the lack of channels of equitable
  This unbalanced pattern of growth has brought about new
patterns of wealth and poverty, with profound
consequences for local communities, women and the poor.
For example, it is assumed that what benefits men will
automatically also benefit women. The fact that women
within most societies have different roles than those of
men and are therefore differently affected by economic or
development policies is not often accounted for.
`Development' can thus generate very different
consequences for women and men, for the poor and the
rich, and for rural and urban populations.
  To redress this inadequacy in development thinking, it
is important to identify and analyse key aspects in the
patterning of growth:
  ú    The sectors of society in which development
    activities are concentrated, both nationally and
  ú    The sectors of society to which natural and human
    resources flow
ú    The sectors of society from which natural and human
resources flow.
  An indication of where development activities in the
region are concentrated would be:
  ú    The increase in the number of industrial towns
ú    The increase in the amounts spent on infrastructure
  ú    The increase in the amounts spent on mega-
    development projects, such as dams built for higher
    energy outputs.
  Not only should there be an evaluation of the
environmental and social impact of such development
activities, there should also be a comprehensive analysis
of the resource base upon which such development is
founded. This should include not just on-site resources,
but also the `ghost acreage' in terms of the resources
extracted and transferred from distant ecological sites.
(The term `ghost acreage' is defined by Catton (1980:
276) as `the additional farmland a given nation would
need in order to supply that net portion of the food or
fuel it uses but does not obtain from contemporary growth
of organisms within its borders.')
  There should thus be a focused mapping and tracking of
the flow of natural and human resources in terms of their
source and destination. This can be done through the
monitoring of:
  ú    The increasing import and export of natural
    resources, both as raw materials and as processed goods
  ú    The increasing migration of workers moving from the
    rural sector to the urban sector, and from lower-growth
    countries to higher-growth countries.
  Existing evidence indicates that economic growth in
Southeast Asia and in the wider Asia and Pacific region
is urban-centred and that rural poverty has increased
absolutely (see Fryer 1990: 168). The income gap has
widened, especially between urban and rural sectors. And
environmental resources of the rural sector are
increasingly drawn upon to support the growing
consumption of energy and other resources in the high-
growth cities.
  Such development processes occur not just within nation-
states, but trans-nationally across different countries.
The development experiences in the region are symbiotic
and inter-connected, such that the pattern of development
occurring in one area has implications for the pattern of
development taking place in another area. The spectrum of
development experiences in the region thus has to be
understood as parts forming a whole, and not as
unconnected incidents separate from a larger picture.
  From this perspective, neither the high growth of
certain countries nor the low growth of other countries
can be simplistically accounted for by their supposed
cultural tradition. Even though such reductionist explana
tions are often used. For example, the rapid growth of
Singapore's economy, is often misattributed to such
stereotypical constructs as `Confucianism' or a tradition
of entrepreneurship (such as Chinese business acumen).
Conversely, the low economic growth of other countries is
often misattributed to equally stereotypical constructs,
such as the laissez-faire work attitudes of the people or
an innate lack of entrepreneurial skills. It has, of
course, been conveniently forgotten that long before the
high-growth countries attained their success, the very
same cultural tradition being praised now, was blamed at
that time for their lack of `progress'.
  Another kind of explanation often used to account for
economic difference is the style of governance. Since the
high growth countries in the region tend to have strong
(at times, even authoritarian) governments, a tendentious
argument has arisen that low growth is due to too much
democracy and that authoritarianism is good for economic
growth. But there is no necessary correlation between the
style of governance and the level of economic growth.
Both authoritarian and democratic styles of governance
can be found in countries at different levels of economic
growth. Not only that, any government in any country can
flip between both styles of governance at different
periods of time.
  An accurate and comprehensive understanding of the
Southeast Asian region must also take into account not
easily visible phenomena, such as the trans-national
alliances that criss-cross the contexts of state, market
and geopolitics. In some patterns of development, the
flow of resources towards a particular direction may
foster certain styles of governance to facilitate this
flow. In such a situation, political power colludes with
economic interests outside the country. Power thus
translates into money, and money translates into power
with `corruption' being a symptom of this flow. The link
between colluding parties has arisen from at least two
  ú    The political control of resources still falls
    within the ambit of national governments
  ú    In the less industrialised countries, where the
    technological capacity is not able to maximise monetary
    returns on natural resources, the exchange of these
    resources for money can occur only through export to more
    industrialised countries.
  It is quite clear then that even the development
experiences within one country have to be understood, not
just in terms of internal factors, but in a larger
context of inter-connected development patterns.
  At this point, we can again pose the question: can all
countries in Southeast Asia, or in the Asian and Pacific
region become NICs? The answer is `no'. Even if a few
more countries were to become NICs and even if the
countries themselves were to exchange economic places,
the fact remains that there are definite ecological
parameters to profit-driven growth based on resource
extraction and commodification.
  The transfer of resources into a growing stockpile of
`wealth' is indeed the ecological process underlying the
`miracle economies' of the NICs. Resources have been
drawn from a far-flung ghost acreage to boost and sustain
the rapid accumulation of wealth. The resources extracted
and transferred are resources depleted from elsewhere. In
concrete terms, this means the siphoning off of human and
environmental resources from rural areas to urban
centres, and from the lower-growth countries to the
higher-growth countries. The alarming rate of
environmental degradation as a result of the extractive
mode of development is occurring across all ecological
zones, including both highlands and lowlands, land and
  Given these parameters, it is clear that every NIC
stands at the peak of a resource pyramid, drawing upon a
hinterland that includes the rural sector within the
country, as well as other, lower-growth, countries. This
resource pyramid is analogous to the food chain. The
number of large-sized omnivorous mammals at the top of
the food chain is ecologically limited by the food
resources processed upwards through this chain. (See
Colinvaux 1980a, 1980b). Similarly, the number of NICs at
the top of the resource pyramid is limited by the
hinterlands available. But as the `NIC model' becomes the
universal standard for all countries in the region, the
competition for resources intensifies_for those on top to
stay up there and for those below to get up there as
well. Correspondingly, this will intensify the process of
resource extraction (for example, in the use of energy),
thereby depleting resources even more drastically and
polarising patterns of wealth and poverty even further.
The net effect will be a reduced resource pyramid.
  It is precisely because the interdependence of
economies in Southeast Asia_and in the Asian and Pacific
region_is not recognised that poverty and environmental
degradation are treated as issues totally separate from
the relentless emphasis on boosting economic growth
rates. As a result of this misrecognition, contradictory
policies have been adopted by governments and
international agencies such as the World Bank and IMF. On
the one hand, there is the promotion of sustainable
development in the wake of the environmental crisis. On
the other hand, high priority is given to rapid economic
growth, without any cognisance of the harmful effects of
unchecked resource extraction.
  This contradiction can be resolved through a
comprehensive analysis of the flow of resources, and the
costs and benefits of development. Such an analysis needs
to be calculated, not just in monetary terms (that is,
dollars and cents), but in terms of environmental and
human values (for example, bio-diversity and sustainable
livelihoods). Who benefits and who bears the costs of
current patterns of development will then be clear. An
equalisation of these costs and benefits would result
from an equalisation of resource use and allocation. That
should be the aim of a strategy for more sustainable and
more equitable development that will be responsive to the
needs of local communities, women and the poor.

The making and maintenance of the high-growth economies
Beginning in the 1960s, many Southeast Asian governments
have adopted economic growth through comprehensive
industrialisation as the goal of development.
Industrialisation has occurred hand-in-hand with
urbanisation. The urban centres that have developed are
not cyclical eco-systems that can be self-sustaining. All
cities today are dependent on water, energy, food and
even human resources that are transported from rural
hinterlands. The maintenance of urban settlements
  ú    Cheap energy sources to support both industrial and
    household consumption
  ú    Extensive water, sanitation and waste disposal
  ú    Price control of food and other basic necessities in
    order to keep prices low enough for the urban labour
  The needs of urban settlements generate considerable
ecological damage and social imbalance. For example, mega-
development projects_such as dams that flood vast areas
of land, destroy fauna and flora and displace rural
dwellers_are built largely to meet the energy needs of
urban, industrial consumers (see Hirsch 1987).
  High-growth, urban-centred economies, such as Singa
pore, have densely built-up cities where the small rural
sectors have diminished into non-existence. Industrial
manufacturing, entrep“t trade, and commercial services
constitute the economic mainstay of Singapore. Its mode
of development is not applicable to most other countries
with significant agricultural sectors.
  These processes of rural-urban imbalance are now
experienced by other countries in the region that are
trying to model themselves after the NICs. The pursuit of
an industrial and export-oriented `NIC model of develop
ment' has led these countries to embrace policies that
transform the rural sector in very fundamental ways
  ú    The large transfer of land and other resources from
    agriculture to the commercial and industrial sector
  ú    The supplanting of food crops by cash crops
ú    The replacement of numerous, small-scale farms by
few, large-scale plantations
ú    The reduction of mixed farming based on crop variety
to monocultures
  ú    The replacement of farm workers by agricultural
    machines, thereby leading to rural unemployment and
  Many countries in the region pursuing such policies
have witnessed the reduction and depletion of the
livelihood base of the rural population. This has
particularly affected women and children, smallholders
and the landless. Those who were previously able to
provide for their own livelihoods are now dependent on
urban migration. In turn, rural migrants become the `new
urban poor', congregating in squatter communities. Should
these rural people continue to stay in the rural sector
as wage workers_for example, as plantation workers_their
livelihoods become vulnerable to the fluctuating prices
of commodities and labour.

Shifting production from high-growth, high-cost economies
to low-growth, low-cost economies
  In addition to the import of lower-waged migrant
labour, the high-growth economies can lower production
costs by shifting their production sites to other lower
growth countries. This process of production transfer is
now very prevalent in the region, with the high growth
economies extending their economic boundaries, often with
the full support and encouragement of their governments.
After the initial phase of development as the suppliers
of cheap labour to trans-national corporations (TNCs),
the high-growth countries are now themselves producing
TNCs which are looking for sources of cheap labour
  The economic advantage of moving production to a lower-
growth economy is not just lower-waged labour, but also
lower-priced land, water and other resources. From the
perspective of the high-growth economies, there are four
possibilities for production transfer:
  ú    Into the rural sector within the country itself
  ú    Into lower-growth countries in the immediate
  ú    Into transitional economies moving from command
    economies to a globalised market economy
  ú    Into other low-growth countries in the region.
  Economic growth is thus ecologically expansionist. It
uses up the resources of one ecological zone and then
moves on to tap the resources of other ecological zones.
Such rapidly growing economies are often described as
`dynamic'. This so-called `dynamism' moves into the
ecological zones of more static economies. To protect
themselves from the economic penetration of the higher-
growth economies, the lower-growth economies usually
embark upon their own strategy for rapid economic growth,
so as to utilise their own resources, rather than let
them be used by others. Growth thus generates counter-
growth in international economic relations.
  Unlike workers, jobs do not travel by themselves. When
production transfer occurs, an entire infrastructure has
to be relocated. This generally involves:
  ú    The investment capital of foreign investors
  ú    Infrastructural loans from the international
    financial institutions
  ú    A conducive policy climate by governments
  ú    The cheapest labour available in the country_usually
    women's underpaid labour.
  This process of production transfer has the blessings
of the IMF and the World Bank. It boosts exports from the
lower-growth economies, thereby supposedly increasing
their earnings. However, what is not sufficiently
monitored and checked is the amount of profits taken out
of the country. Factories owned by companies from
Singapore and the other high growth economies in the
Asian region such as Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and
Taiwan are a common sight in lower growth countries in
Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, Thailand, the
Philippines and now Vietnam and Cambodia.
  This is taking place in tandem with the opening up of
the giant economies of China and India. Indeed, it is
impossible to separate development and economic policies
in Southeast Asia from those of other Asian and Pacific
economies, due to the close interdependence of economies
in the region. For example, there have been massive
investments in Southeast Asia from Japan and the other
Newly Industrialised Economies. In fact, direct Japanese
investments in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the
Philippines, as well as in China, have increased nearly
10 times from US$0.7 billion in 1985 to US$6.6 billion in
1994.13 Taiwan and Hong Kong are the largest investors in
Vietnam while South Korea and Taiwan are the leading
investors in Myanmar. Taiwan also invests considerably in
the Philippines, while South Korea invests significantly
in Indonesia. The economies of Indonesia and Malaysia
have also grown from the opening up of markets in the
  Within ASEAN, trade between countries is also
increasing, generating significant outward investment
flows, mostly to their less developed regional
neighbours. Singapore is one of the top foreign investors
in Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam. In
fact, Singapore is Vietnam's largest trade partner,
accounting for 30 per cent of that country's total trade.
It also invests heavily in the Philippines and India.
Malaysia and Thailand are also increasing their
investments in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.14 China has
  attracted the most foreign investment from the ASEAN
  To enable the establishment of the new factories,
industrial estates or export processing zones (EPZs),
land zoning policies have to be implemented in the lower
growth economies. Many governments in the lower growth
countries, eager to increase domestic earnings, often
offer a host of incentives to attract the TNCs. For
example, foreign investors may be granted `tax holidays'
and exemption from trade and labour laws. Such
governments often even legislate against the right of
workers to organise unions within the EPZs. This has a
particular impact on women workers, since they usually
constitute the majority of workers in the EPZs (see
Agarwal 1988: 7-11).
  The use of women's non-unionised labour in EPZs has
become a most common method for low-growth economies to
jump-start the economy. The growth of the NICs had first
been fuelled by women's low-cost labour in their own
countries. With an educated workforce in the recent
years, they have themselves branched into the
technological and service industries. What is important,
however, is that their reliance on women's cheap labour
continues, perhaps not from their own female citizens,
but from the labour of other women in other countries.
  It is clear from the foregoing discussion that the
story of the high-growth economies is also the story of
the lower-growth economies. The high-growth economies did
not develop in isolation, but in complement with the
lower-growth economies. This pattern of implicational
development_that is, development within one economy that
implicates other economies_has now spread to almost every
country in the region. Furthermore, implicational
development implicates not just other economies, but also
future generations. This pattern of development is
clearly unsustainable because it passes the costs to
others, especially those who are the most vulnerable
members of society.
  `Development' that focuses on intensive
industrialisation for monetary returns, neglects issues
of environmental and social viability. This has already
led to direct, as well as indirect, costs borne by
communities and individuals. It becomes particularly
dangerous when such developmental change takes place
rapidly and the impact is `hidden', as it is borne
`privately' by individuals, families and communities.
These environmental and social costs do not emerge as a
cost item in the foreign investors' development projects.
  These environmental and social costs include:
  ú    The degradation of the environment and the loss of
    livelihood resources for local communities
  ú    Massive population displacement as communities are
    moved out of areas designated for industrial estates,
    housing estates, golf courses, hotels and resorts,
    reservoirs and roads
ú    The influx of migrant workers from other parts of
the country as well as from other countries, thereby
increasing population density and pressures on resource
  These environmental and social costs are also economic
costs, that will eventually have a bearing on the
monetary returns of investments. This linkage can be
understood by considering that what first attracted high-
growth economies to invest in lower-growth economies was
the relatively cheap natural and human resources. But why
are these resources cheap? The reason extends beyond just
rates of foreign exchange. There are deeper underlying
causes for the lower costs, which would also explain why
these resources do not stay cheap when foreign capital
penetrates the local economy.
  First of all, when natural resources (such as land) are
in abundant supply relative to need and demand, they are
cheap. However, when rural areas are industrialised, the
use and consumption of these resources is intensified,
through the industrial process itself and through
increasing population density as a result of labour
migration. Scarcity drives prices up. This changing
relationship between supply and demand also applies to
labour. When labour is plentiful in relation to jobs
available, wages are low. But if investments reach a
saturation point and companies start having to compete
for workers, wages go up.
  There is another important reason for low wages, which
is usually overlooked. In many low-growth economies,
community livelihoods in the rural sector are based on a
direct, non-monetised use of resources. Thus, villagers
do not need money to buy their everyday livelihood
resources_water from rivers and wells, fish from rivers
and the sea, animals that they trap, hunt or breed, food
crops that they plant, or land that they inherit from
their ancestors. In such a context, their need for money
arises only when they need a luxury good produced in the
industrialised world_for example, a portable radio. Conse
quently, waged employment is undertaken on a
discretionary basis, as and when personal need arises.
Consequently, low wages are tolerated because money is
not crucially needed for livelihood needs. However, when
everyday livelihood resources are lost, especially when
communities are dislocated from their habitat, then money
becomes an urgent priority. The low wages that villagers
were previously willing to put up with can no longer
sustain their everyday survival, if they have to pay for
land, water, food, and even garbage disposal. The loss of
the everyday livelihood resources of rural communities
thus has a direct impact on rising labour costs.
  Furthermore, even rising wages may not be able to
compete with the rising prices of essential resources,
the most important of which is land. The result is the
familiar phenomenon of squatters who lay claim to land
through occupation. If this phenomenon increases beyond a
point of tolerance by foreign investors, they are likely
to transfer their operations elsewhere.
  This situation can create a boom-and-bust, rise-and-
fall pattern in the transfer of production from high-
growth to low-growth economies. After a while, the rising
costs of production, the increasing scarcity of natural
resources and the increasing numbers of the visible poor
may drive investments away to look for other fresh sites.
The end result may be the emergence of `ghost towns' out
of previous industrial sites.
  Production transfer to the rural sector within the
country is sometimes described as `decentralised
industrialisation' and is promoted as being beneficial to
the rural population because it provides jobs. Two key
aspects are, however, overlooked in such a presentation:
  ú    Usually the local communities affected are not asked
    whether they would like to have factories sited in their
    area. As a result, these communities become the mute
    recipients of foreign-adapted methods of production that
    mostly involve low-skill mass manufacturing of peripheral
    parts. There is thus no real transfer of skills that can
    be steadily upgraded. Instead, the rural employees of the
    factory become dependent on an external employer who can
    shift base and withdraw altogether. In the meantime, the
    rural penetration of factory work impacts on existing
    livelihoods, eroding centuries of survival skills and
  ú    Such production transfer has an environmental impact
    that may adversely affect human health. For example, the
    discharge of toxic waste may contaminate rivers and
    groundwater. The pollution of the environment would
    eventually destroy the community's livelihood resources
    and would exacerbate_or even create_rural poverty.
Ironically, therefore, rather than improving community
livelihoods in the rural sector, `decentralised
industrialisation' can have adverse effects on the rural
  In recent years, production transfer has tended to
occur in the context of a sub-regional grouping called
the `Growth Triangle'.15 This is a microcosm of economic
interdependence that explicitly links different
economies. The first such `triangle' was the SIJORI
Triangle, comprising Singapore, Johor in Malaysia, and
the Riau Islands in Indonesia. This `Growth Triangle' has
the full support of the governments involved and has been
hailed as a major step in sub-regional co-operation that
can be used as a model for further strengthening economic
co-operation in ASEAN (see Kumar & Lee 1991: 3).
  Other new `Growth Triangles' have subsequently been
declared, including:
  ú    A `triangle' encompassing North Sumatra (Indonesia),
  Penang (Malaysia) and South Thailand
  ú    A `triangle' encompassing Mindanao (Philippines),
    Sabah (Malaysia) and Brunei.
  The `Growth Triangle' derives from the concept of
linking three neighbouring areas with different
endowments and different comparative economic advantages
to form a larger sub-region with greater potential for
economic growth. According to this model of growth, the
differences in comparative advantage would serve to
complement one another rather than compete with each
other. Industries located within the `Growth Triangle'
can take advantage of the efficient infrastructure and
higher skilled workers of one location and the lower
costs and ample supply of cheaper labour, land and other
resources in other locations. A trans-national symbiotic
relationship is thus established between the countries
based on the fact that the respective countries are at
different stages of growth_for example, Singapore with a
high growth rate, Malaysia with a medium growth rate, and
Indonesia with a lower growth rate.
  Case study 5
  Environmental and social costs in the
  Growth Triangle
  It is significant that the concept of the `Growth
  Triangle' originated from Singapore, which has has a
  highly industrialised economy located in a densely
  built-up city-state, where the rural sector has
  dwindled to insignificance. Like all other cities, it
  is dependent on water, energy, food and even human
  labour drawn from rural hinterlands.
   Apart from its own reservoirs, Singapore currently
  buys unprocessed water from Johor in Malaysia. This is
  filtered and chlorinated for consumption in Singapore,
  with any remaining excess sold back to Johor as
  processed water. In recent years, this water trade has
  become a political controversy in Malaysia, especially
  when Melaka was suffering from a drought and Johor was
  not able to help, because of its existing commitment to
  sell water to Singapore. The issue of Johor buying back
  as processed water at least some of the water it sells
  to Singapore has further deepened this controversy.
   Singapore is already unable to provide for its own
  water needs in its current state of development. In
  view of increasing water needs as a result of projected
  population growth and further industrialisation,
  alternative supplies of water are definitely needed,
  especially if Johor's supply cannot be vouchsafed.
     Indonesian Foreign Minister, Ali Alatas,
     said_Singapore's intention to buy water from
     Indonesia would not cause `unhealthy competition'
     with Malaysia, which has for a long time been
     Singapore's main source of water_. [This] was first
     made public by Mr Lee [Kuan Yew] when he visited
     Jakarta in October [1989]. The Republic's water
     needs were expected to escalate and Johor, now a
     main supplier, had not agreed to build more dams for
     the time being_. A feasibility study would have to
     be conducted before a decision could be made on the
     supply on Indonesian water to Singapore. If adopted,
     the proposal would involve bringing water from Jambi
     or Riau in Sumatra to Batam before going to
     (Straits Times 24 November 1989)
  It is thus significant that in an Agreement-in-
  principle signed on 28 August 1990, the Singapore and
  Indonesian governments agreed on the joint development
  of tourism, water supply, and industries in the Riau
  islands. This explicitly states, inter alia, that:
     Singapore and Indonesia will co-operate in the
     sourcing, supply and distribution of water to
     Singapore. The terms of co-operation will be set out
     in a separate agreement.
     (Straits Times 29 August 1990: 1).
   At present, as far as is currently known, on Bintan
  island alone, three freshwater reservoirs are to be
  ú    one specifically for the stretch of beach resorts on
   the north coast of Bintan
  ú    one in the middle of Bintan island
  ú    one to be constructed as a dam in Teluk Bintan (the
   Bay of Bintan) from which the sea water is to be pumped
   out and into which several rivers are to pour their
  This amount of freshwater to be collected exceeds the
  needs of the 90,000-strong population of Bintan. Much
  of it will therefore be channelled to meet the needs of
  other populations. As mentioned by the Indonesian
  Foreign Minister, it will probably be pumped via Batam
  to Singapore. (See also Straits Times 10 April 1990).
   The allocation of land and resources in Bintan is thus
  being determined not by local needs but by external
  agendas. The thousands of people living in the affected
  areas are all to be resettled. Some have already been
  resettled, while others are still waiting to be
  informed of their fate. The livelihoods and lives of
  local communities are thus being disrupted by the
  development needs of another economy in another
  Even so, according to the Singapore Minister of State
  for Foreign Affairs and Finance, the one million
  gallons of water a day available from Bintan would not
  be sufficient for both domestic needs and Singapore's
  needs. Therefore, another site in mainland Riau,
  located opposite Pulau Burung, has been identified as a
  more abundant source of water.
     Mr [Tunky] Ariwibowo [the Indonesian Junior Industry
     Minister] said the Indonesian government wanted its
     private sector to be actively involved in the
     proposed project to pipe water to Singapore, and the
     leading conglomerate, the Salim Group has come
     forward_. A spokesman for the Salim Group said its
     500,000 ha of land on the Riau mainland could
     harness about five million tonnes (about one billion
     gallons) of water daily.
     (Straits Times 10 April 1990).
   There is thus a collusion of interests between the
  Singapore government, the Indonesian government and
  private-sector conglomerates, particularly the Salim
  group which is playing a leading role in the both
  mainland and island Riau. Where do the interests of
  local communities fit into this tran-national scenario
  for development? Do the people living in the affected
  areas even know what is being planned for their land,
  their homes and their resources? Is the Salim Group's
  500,000 ha of land on the Riau mainland totally
  uninhabited? What will be the environmental impact of
  these huge dams built in Riau? And who will be most
  affected by this impact, which will include the loss of
  bio-diversity and the loss of land?
   Obviously, drastic changes to the habitat will most
  affect the people living in that habitat, rather than
  those who will be enjoying the benefits of such changes
  in faraway Singapore, Jakarta and beyond. Yet the
  people most affected are those with the least say in
  the matter. A big gap has thus arisen between:
   ú    Those who decide on the use and allocation of land
     and other resources
ú    Those who depend on the land and natural resources
for their everyday livelihoods
  In the Growth Triangle, a particular pattern may be
  discerned in the trans-national flow of capital,
  technology, natural resources and people. Capital and
  technology are flowing in as investments from the
  higher-growth economy to the lower-growth economies_for
  example, from Singapore to Riau. A significant
  proportion of these investments is expended on the
  leasing of land (for an initial period of 30 years, in
  most cases). Although it is a legal requirement that
  these investments be made through bi-national joint
  ventures, the result is that the development of huge
  areas of the Riau Islands is determined according to
  external needs and planning that generally does not
  take into account the needs and choices of the local
  Apart from the building of dams for water, other
  functions have thus been allocated to the different
  islands of Riau. At least three types of functions are
   ú    Infrastructural development
   ú    The development of leisure industries, especially
     beach resorts and golf courses
   ú    The development of the manufacturing industries,
     especially through setting up industrial estates.
   For example, the island of Batam, which is about the
  size of Singapore, has been designated primarily as an
  industrial zone, with a scattering of hotels and golf
  courses for tourists. All the land in Batam has been
  acquired by the Batam Industrial Authority.
  Bintan island in Riau_which is about two and a half
  times the size of Singapore_has to been demarcated into
  specific zones:
   ú    The entire span of the north coast is allocated for
     the development of golf courses and beach resorts
   ú    The southwestern coast is to be dedicated to light
ú    Three freshwater reservoirs are to be built

   This pattern of land and resource allocation is
  leading to the massive dislocation of families and
  communities. Many have had their land `acquired' by
  local governments for public or private development.
  There has been no recognition of the land rights of
  local communities who have been living on the islands
  for centuries, but who do not have title deeds.
  Consequently, only minimal compensation has been given
  to the people who were treated as squatters and
  compensated only for their house structures and fruit
  trees. The compensation has been about Rp50 (about
  US$0.025) for each square metre of the footprint of a
  village house. In many cases, the monetary com
  pensations (usually given to the men only) have
  subsequently been spent on relocation. Of these, a
  significant number have become landless due to insuf
  ficient compensation or knowledge relating to capital
  investment. Destitution has led to the break-up of
  families and communities, with both or either spouse,
  and the young and able, heading for towns and cities in
  search of permanent employment.
   Just as the local communities have been misrecognised
  as squatters, resettlement is also misconceptualised
  simply as a rehousing issue. No attention is given to
  the resource base and traditional livelihoods of the
  communities involved. There are thus cases of fishing
  communities being moved far inland without any regard
  for the loss of their access to the sea and the loss of
  their livelihoods. No compensation is given for the
  loss of their boats as means of livelihood. Indeed, it
  was explicitly stated by a high-ranking policy-maker in
  an interview that the aim is to transform all fishing
  and farming communities into an industrial workforce.
   But will taking away the livelihood resource base of a
  fishing or farming community automatically transform
  them into industrial workers? An example we can learn
  from is the resettlement of the people who lived on the
  north coast of Bintan island, Riau, to make way for the
  development of golf courses and hotel resorts spanning
  the entire coastline. Since resettlement, this
  community has lost its traditional means of livelihood
  based on fishing and plantation cultivation. They now
  live in dire poverty and are struggling to survive.
  While a few members of the community have been able to
  move to nearby towns to find odd jobs, the rest of the
  community are unable to do so, as they would be even
  less able to afford the high costs of living in town.
   It should be realised that employment opportunities
  generated by industrialisation are most suited for able-
  bodied young men. Indeed, many factories want to hire
  only workers in their twenties; even those in their
  thirties are regarded as `over-aged'. Village
  communities, however, are inter-generational
  collectivities of people who have evolved a livelihood
  system based on mutual support. Each village has women
  and men, young and old, the able-bodied and the not-so-
  able, who together forge a community livelihood derived
  from a shared resource base. An employment policy that
  caters only to able-bodied young men neglects the
  livelihoods of whole communities.
   As a result of the age and gender skewering of
  industrial labour demand, a paradoxical situation has
  arisen whereby there is a labour shortage of able-
  bodied young men, coupled with the unemployment, and
  underemployment of everyone else. In the case of the
  Riau islands, this selective labour shortage is filled
  by young, male and able-bodied migrants from other
  Indonesian islands, especially Java, Bali and Sumatra.
  This makes the existing local communities economically
  dependent on the financial contributions of their
  younger members. Should these contributions not be
  forthcoming for any reason_such as low wages, personal
  expenditure, illness, loss of a job, loss of money, and
  so on_the other members of the community could face
  serious livelihood difficulties.
   In a situation where hundreds of thousands of people
  are going to be displaced by development projects, it
  is important to understand that the village is not an
  urban residential block of strangers who happen to live
  together. The village community shares a mode of
  production, consumption and distribution. Therefore,
  resettlement is more than just re-housing. Usually,
  where housing is provided for resettled communities,
  the cheapest, most functional form of housing (such as
  zinc-roofed wooden huts) is provided, with no
  consideration for the reconstitution of sustainable
  livelihoods for resettled communities. Resettlement
  must thus involve the establishment of an alternative
  livelihood base for the community as a whole, and not
  just gender-specific employment opportunities for able-
  bodied young men.
   Another gendered impact is the growth of the sex
  industry. A number of factors have contributed to this:
   ú    The concentration of large number of male migrant
     workers from all over Indonesia
ú    The rise of sex tourism
   ú    The impoverishment of girls and women who have few
     economic alternatives.
  As a result, there are now in the Riau archipelago,
  such new phenomena as `sex islands' and `sex towns',
  where the sex industry is the only industry of an
  entire island (for example, Pulau Babi) or an entire
  `town' (for example, sites on Bintan and Batam, each
  comprising some 2000 prostitutes and equipped with
  headman, mosque, clinic, etc.)
   (See Wee 1985, 1988 and 1995.)

Economies with fluctuating growth or the `Near NICs'
The `near NICs' are medium-growth economies based
primarily on the export of natural resources and
commodities. The countries in the region with this type
of economy include Malaysia and Thailand. These are
described as `fluctuating economies' for two reasons.
First of all, these economies fluctuate because of the
fluctuating prices of commodities in the world market.
For example, the 1980s saw a fall in commodity prices,
which in turn slowed down the growth of these economies.
There are thus market pressures for the diversification
of the economy to industry and services, as well as the
restructuring of the agricultural sector. Therefore, the
second reason for the fluctuations is that these
economies have been undergoing restructuring to move the
economy from a commodity base to an industrial,
manufacturing and service sector base. This restructuring
process generates changing employment structures, with
corresponding gender implications.
  Thailand is a good example of the type of development
that economies with fluctuating growth have undergone, in
trying to diversify and accelerate growth. The First
National Economic Plan in Thailand was made in 1961. It
was based on the `unbalanced growth strategy', which
prioritised development in those sectors with a high
growth potential, with expectations of a spillover effect
into other sectors. This strategy was adopted by the Thai
government upon the strong influence of the World Bank.
Important attention was thus given to the manufacturing
and service sectors while the agricultural sector was
neglected. This bias toward the manufacturing sector was
a feature of both the import substitution thrust of the
1960s, as well as the export promotion thrust of the
  This imbalance has continued in Thailand, with 1994
figures indicating that the rural sector sees only 3 to 4
per cent growth, while the industrial sector has 10 to 12
per cent growth (see Engender 1995: 76). The central
plains of Thailand_particularly Bangkok_have become the
growth centre, while the north and north-eastern regions
have become steadily impoverished. Massive rural-urban
labour migration has occurred, swelling the ranks of the
urban poor in Bangkok. Many of these migrants end up
going further afield as transient contract workers in the
high-growth economies.
  The flow of rural-urban migrants is a gendered
phenomenon. In some parts of north-east Thailand, where
over-logging has led to the loss of livelihood resources,
some villages now have only women, children and old
people, because all the men have migrated in search of
jobs. In such conditions of destitution, the rural
poverty and indebtedness of many households have led to
the bonding or selling of children_especially young
girls_as debt payment. Many of these girls are sold into
domestic service or into the sex industry (see Thorbek
  Apart from the selling of young girls, many young women
are pressured by the crisis of household survival and
thus migrate to urban areas to earn money to support
their families. The female out-migration from these areas
outstrips the expansion of labour demand in the
manufacturing and service sectors. Again, young women end
up in the informal sector_in domestic service, the
`entertainment industry' and the sex industry. It has
been estimated that 10 per cent of women aged 14 to 24 in
Bangkok are working in the sex industry (see Women in a
changing global economy 1995: 67 and Sitthiraksa 1992:
93-108). Even those who find jobs in the manufacturing
and service sectors may have to work in appalling
conditions in factories and EPZs.
  Parallel to the human flow is the flow of natural
resources from the rural sector to the urban sector.
Energy generated through the construction of dams is one
resource that goes to meet the ever increasing demand for
electricity in the cities. It has been observed that over
half the electricity produced is being soaked up by
Bangkok, with its large luxury hotels and burgeoning
industrial base.
  The use of resources in the rural sector has also been
allocated according to urban needs and demands. For
example, water is being diverted from rice farming to
meet the needs of factories in Bangkok. Coastal areas
have also been taken over for large-scale shrimp farming
for export purposes. This has resulted in the destruction
of mangroves, fish stock, and the degradation of soil
composition. The outcome is that as livelihoods based on
farming and fishing fail due to resource scarcity, more
and more rural people will be driven into urban slums.
  The leisure activities of urbanites also have an impact
on rural livelihoods. For example, the increasing number
of golf courses has damaged surrounding farm areas
through the use of harmful chemicals. Indeed, in
Thailand, 200 golf courses have depleted the country's
limited water supply that is vital for rice farmers. The
situation is not very different in Malaysia where over
160 golf courses have swallowed up tracts of rainforest,
and in Indonesia where 91 golf courses have replaced
traditional farming wetlands and nature reserves. In one
case, nearly 1,000 families were expelled to make way for
these golf courses (see The New Internationalist January
1995: 16).
  Rural resources have also been depleted through timber
logging which has resulted in serious deforestation. In
Thailand, forest cover has dropped from 50 per cent to 20
per cent in just 30 years.
  Case study 6
  Timber logging in Sarawak
  Substantial profits are generated through logging. For
  example, the different states of Malaysia receive all
  logging royalties: these are the single largest source
  of revenue for the state governments. To take Sarawak
  in Malaysia as a case in point, in 1985 the total
  export of timber and timber products for this state
  alone was valued at 1.5 billion Malaysian dollars, and
  revenues equalled nearly 18 per cent of Sarawak's
  total. By 1991, the combined value of timber and its
  products had risen to 3.5 billion Malaysian dollars.
  Control of timber and land therefore lies at the heart
  of Sarawak's political economy.
   Political success in Sarawak is a function of the
  accumulation and partial redistribution of economic
  resources as rewards to clients. The rewards come from
  control of the logging industry. The political leaders
  of the state dispense licences to their clients free of
  charge. The clients lease these licences to logging
  companies to set up the operation, and also to sub-
  contract many activities (felling, transport, hauling,
  rafting, etc.) to others. The holders of the licences
  have no interest in profitable and sustainable
  investment: they are rent-seekers, not entrepreneurs.
  Nor do sub-contractors have an interest in sustainable
  development, they want to get the job done as quickly
  as possible. Sarawak has excellent and semi-sustainable
  forestry legislation, but unfortunately this is not
   In 1987 it was disclosed that the state government was
  in control of 3 million hectares of logging
  concessions. It became clear that the practice of
  dealing out logging licences to members of the state
  legislature had been commonplace over many years, and
  had created a class of instant millionaires; nearly
  every assemblyman over the years was one.
   The pace of logging increased dramatically in the
  1980s. Sarawak's unprocessed log exports have risen to
  15.8 cubic metres in 1991 from 6.7 cubic metres in
  1980.16 This has been accompanied by much fiercer
  enforcement of government claims to land to the
  exclusion of local farmers. The destruction of the
  forest has resulted in the loss of forest products,
  wildlife habitat, soil erosion, water quality
  degradation and consequent negative impact on the
  traditional livelihoods-based natural resources for
  food, fibre and shelter. The increase in logging
  activities in Sarawak partly compensates the slowing
  down of logging in Peninsular Malaysia, which has
  adopted a National Forestry Policy to reduce the annual
  cutting rate of timber because of its own over-rapid
  deforestation. The plan has been put into effective
   In the logging areas of Sarawak, the loss of
  livelihood resources for the local communities has
   brought about large-scale male out-migration in search
  of wage work and other market-based activities. This
  has become permanent in many cases and is no longer
  tied to the agricultural cycle, as it used to be.
  Women's livelihoods, on the other hand, still tend to
  be based on subsistence farming using an increasingly
  depleted resource base and on gathering increasingly
  scarce jungle products. With the shortage of male
  labour, women are forced into farming methods that use
  and re-use a smaller plot of land, thereby allowing a
  shorter fallow period. This situation threatens the
  economic and political role of women as they have no
  special relation to new crops, little access to new
  information and technology, and almost no access to the
  new land titles that are being issued (see Heyzer 1992
  and Heyzer forthcoming).

As such processes continue, the rural sector becomes
increasingly depleted, in terms of livelihood resources
for local communities, as well as production resources
for the urban industrial sector. Consequently, as their
own rural sectors become depleted, these countries in the
middle of the development hierarchy, have become both
exporters and importers of resources. Thus, as forest
resources have become scarce in Peninsular Malaysia, the
extraction of timber has increased in Sarawak, a
peripheral area in the Malaysian nation-state (see Ooi
1993: 89). Malaysian timber logging companies have also
moved further afield to Papua New Guinea. The
consequences on communities in Papua New Guinea have been
devastating (see, for example, Cox 1994). Similarly, as
Thailand becomes deforested, Thai logging companies have
moved significantly into Laos and Cambodia.

Lower-growth economies aspiring to be high-growth
The low-growth economies of Southeast Asia may be divided
into two different categories:
  ú    Densely populated low-growth economies of Indonesia,
    Burma and the Philippines
  ú    Transitional economies of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam

Densely populated lower-growth economies
Rural impoverishment is widely experienced in the lower-
growth countries. While these countries are still largely
agricultural, there has been an increasingly strong
emphasis on switching food crops to cash crops for
export. This changes land-use patterns, as well as the
entire livelihood base of local communities. The
environmental and social consequences have been alarming.
  Case study 7
  Shifting from food crops to cash crops in Indonesia
  A study of an upland region on the peripheries of
  Sulawesi, Indonesia, offers some special insight into
  questions of culture and power in the context of
  economic transformation_in this case, the introduction
  into a swidden farm system of commercial tree crops for
  world markets_About 20,000 Lauje are swidden farmers
  living in the mountains_[and]_have produced tobacco for
  sale in local markets since at least the 1920s, and
  shallots and garlic since the 1950s. These crops have
  been integrated into the swidden cycle along with
  staple foods, and do not disturb the unity of labour
  and means of production. All farmers have had access to
  land, and neither land tenure arrangements nor the
  organisation of labour act as mechanisms for the ap
  propriation of surplus between classes. Even within
  nuclear family households, the assumption that every
  woman, man and child is entitled to the product of
  their own labour is carried through to a remarkable
  extent. Married women often have their own food and
  cash crop gardens; children of both sexes are
  encouraged to farm independently at a very young age,
  keeping any `surplus' to themselves; and old people
  farm to support themselves until physically incapable
  of doing so_
   The unity of labour and land in the middle hills is
  now being broken by the introduction of commercial tree
  crops such as cocoa, cloves and cashew, which privatise
  and effectively enclose land previously accessible to a
  wider group for food and short-term cash crop
  production. The shift in land use opens a new
  possibility for some to enhance their land rights while
  others become dispossessed. High population densities
  (40-80 per square kilometre) and the sparsity of
  hillside land for further expansion increase the
  possibility that some form of differentiation will
  occur. Moreover, the incentive for individuals to
  accumulate is present in the form of re-oriented
  consumer tastes, increasingly driven by lowland and
  urban standards_
   Today, the fact that commercial tree planting excludes
  other land users, who previously could make claims on
  fallow land for subsistence purposes, is recognised as
  a pragmatic fact_Already, in some areas of the hills it
  has become difficult to borrow land for short term food
  and cash crop production, and inequities in the initial
  distribution of land and trees are compounded through
  the `simple reproduction squeeze' (Bernstein 1977).
  Some households with only small areas of land, unable
  to wait for young trees to yield and without additional
  plots to use for food production, have found themselves
  forced to sell land and move on. A few make up produc
  tion shortfalls on inadequate land by wage labouring
  for their neighbours. In the meantime, sporadic
  disputes arise, some tree seedlings are burnt or
  uprooted, cocoa pods are stolen, and the act blamed on
  kin or neighbours jealous of success but too lazy to
   Although women and men have equal access to land for
  their swidden farming activities_the cultural capital
  and social power of men vis-…-vis women has increased
  with the introduction of commercial tree crops_Using
  arguments based on the relative value of the different
  types of labour invested, some men claim that women
  cannot become sole owners of cocoa or other trees,
  since they are not capable of transplanting the heavy
  seedlings, nor hoeing the hard earth. Women `don't know
  how to work', work now redefined as heavy, men's work.
  Women `only weed the grass', apparently an
  insignificant contribution (although one for which
  women are paid as labourers on other people's farms).
  Women are also said to lack knowledge about tree crops,
  a view strongly reinforced by local officials and
  agricultural extensionists, who direct their attention
  entirely towards men as farmers and as owners of trees,
  disregarding women's labour and the ownership rights
  that derive from it under the conjugal contract. In the
  context of these insecurities, a few women have engaged
  in direct, independent action to plant trees and lay
  individual claim to them. They acquire land by various
  means, including purchase (using their profits from
  shallots) and pay for commoditised male labour to
  undertake the heavy work, avoiding any `assistance'
  from the husband which could result in future claims on
  the property. (Li forthcoming)

Community livelihoods are also threatened by mega-
development projects that disturb the habitat in a
comprehensive way, resulting in the loss of topsoil,
desertification, the pollution and salination of
groundwater, and the re-direction of riverine courses.
These densely populated low-growth economies are
characterised by gaping disparities of wealth and health.
While the overwhelming majority are struggling to stay
alive, a small minority are enjoying immense wealth in
enclaves of over-consumption. This is again symptomatic
of a fundamentally inequitable pattern of economic
development, where wealth is created by means of an
exponentially expanding circumference of resources. Thus,
as more and more resources are drawn upon to build up the
wealth of the few, less and less of a livelihood base is
left for the many who are poor.
  Poverty is not merely a state of having no financial
resources or income. Poverty needs to be understood more
holistically as the deprivation of life-chances and human
rights. The feminisation of poverty must also be
understood in terms of women's health, empowerment and
rights. Often, women living in utter poverty have no
access to basic economic and social rights_including
rights to food, shelter, adequate clothing and gainful
  To address the crisis of poverty in these low-growth
countries, economic restructuring is needed. However,
many of these economies are ridden with debts that have
multiplied many times above their original value. This
has occurred largely because of currency fluctuations.
The effect, however, is that the lower growth economies
are made highly dependent on the fluctuations of the
higher growth economies.
  Another country that has a debilitating debt crisis is
the Philippines. Ironically, the Philippines had the
highest growth rate in the 1960s and was second to Japan
then. But most of the economic gains of the 1960s were
lost through corruption and bad management at the highest
level. This economic decline was then compounded by the
debt crisis. More than any other country in this region,
the Philippines came under the sway of the Bretton Woods
organisations. Structural adjustment policies became a
prerequisite for obtaining development loans from the
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, in
response to low growth rates and balance of payment
difficulties. These SAPs have impacted very critically on
people's livelihoods through the casualisation of labour,
and the de-skilling and displacement of an already
relatively educated workforce. The result is economic
shrinkage, leading to massive unemployment and
underemployment. In particular, many professional and
managerial jobs in the public sector employing women are
adversely afflicted through wage freezes, cuts and
redundancies_including teachers, nurses, and clerical
workers. A very substantial proportion of these women
migrate as domestic workers to the higher-growth
countries. There is thus a de-skilling process at both
individual and national levels. All over the world, there
are currently an estimated 1.2 million migrant workers
from the Philippines, both male and female. Most of them
are in transient overseas employment based on temporary
work permits, with small likelihood of having jobs
waiting for them at home.

Transitional economies
The command economies were countries that had taken a
different path of development from the growth model and
had used a different way of developing their productive
systems. They had favoured state-led development, where
it was the socialist state, not the market, that
allocated resources. During the heyday of the `command
system', there was a significant investment in social
development in these countries, despite their low growth
compared to many other countries.
  However, economic inadequacies became manifestly
evident in these command economies. Pressures and
problems steadily built up. While a certain degree of
development could be achieved, systemic
irregularities_such as the quota system, black market
trading, corruption and nepotism_were produced by the
technological gap, the bureaucratic structures of the
state, and the whole system of incentives and
disincentives. It became an economic necessity for these
command economies, which were still predominantly rural
economies, to shift towards becoming market economies.
The command economies thus became the transitional
  A number of patterns are discernible in this process of
economic transition. The resources of these countries
which hitherto were inaccessible territories in Southeast
Asia, have suddenly become accessible to foreign
investors. There has been an increasing inflow of
investors from the high-growth economies into Vietnam,
Laos and Cambodia. The environmental and social
consequences have been very similar to earlier
development experiences of production transfer in the
other low-growth countries of the region, such as the
  For example, economic growth in Vietnam has been
uneven, being concentrated in the cities of Hanoi and Ho
Chi Minh. Employment has become genderised. In 1993, of
the 3.7 million people unemployed in Vietnam, 60 per cent
were women. In addition, women constitute half of the 6.5
million with unstable jobs. 70 per cent of women live in
the rural areas, working an average of 16 to 18 hours per
day, including additional work in home-based craft
production (UN Commission on the Status of Women 1995).
Women and children suffer most from poverty and food
deficiency. The rates of malnutrition are so high that 70-
80 per cent of pregnant women suffer from anaemia and 50
per cent of children under five years suffer from
malnutrition (Engender 1995:73).
  The privatisation of large sectors of the economy is
also threatening the systems of social security and
equity that had previously been put in place. Despite
being a poor country, Vietnam had previously achieved an
impressive record in the provision of education and
primary health care. This had produced a highly educated
female workforce. When the war destroyed much of its
social infrastructure, there was a sex-ratio imbalance
due to the many males who were killed or handicapped
during the war. The result was a very high female labour
force participation. The current situation of high female
unemployment stands in marked contrast to this earlier
situation. For many women in Vietnam, economic transition
has thus brought about economic and social disempowerment
(see Phan 1992).
  The transitional economies are supposedly moving from
being command economies to being market economies. But as
we contemplate the economic and social disarray found in
some of these transitional economies, it is not at all
clear where the transition will lead to.

Where is the region going as a whole?
The term `development' implies a process of goal-oriented
change. The goal that is now embraced universally as a
developmental goal is to be a full-fledged market
economy, as typified by the high-growth economies. But as
shown above, the high-growth economies stand on top of a
resource pyramid based on the lower-growth economies.
Given this asymmetrical relationship, is it an inevitable
goal that the lower-growth economies will develop into
higher-growth economies? As discussed above, it is an
ecological impossibility for all economies of the
region_indeed the world_to develop through a mode of
resource extraction dependent on an ever-expanding `ghost
  Business circles world-wide laud the growth
possibilities of the Asian region which has been dubbed
the `growth basin of the 21st century'. But who benefits
from such growth? And who bears the costs? The largely
ignored flipside of this growth is the increasing
impoverishment of the many, especially those living in
the rural sector and especially women, together with the
widespread degradation and destruction of the natural
  Due to the rapid economic growth taking place, the
increasing disparities of wealth and poverty , and
because there is a growing environmental crisis, the
Southeast Asian region and the wider Asia and Pacific
region, are at the cross-roads of development. There has
to be goal-oriented change, if this critical situation is
to be overcome. But whose goal, what goal is to be
adopted and for what end?

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       Gender, Poverty and Sustainable Development
 Toward a holistic framework of understanding and action
             Vivienne Wee and Noeleen Heyzer
   2nd edition: Includes highlights of priority issues
   emerging from the Fourth World Conference on Women
We are living in a world where resource depletion is
increasing daily, where the gap between rich and poor is
steadily widening. Women have been particularly affected
by this crisis. We have in our midst 1.3 billion absolute
poor, 70 per cent of whom are women. While this
ecological and social crisis is deepening, economic
growth is becoming the central preoccupation of
businesses and governments worldwide. The Asian and
Pacific region, in particular, is seen as a showcase of
`miracle economies' for other regions to emulate. But is
increased growth the solution to poverty and
environmental degradation? Regional case studies
documented in this book illustrate the human and
environmental costs of such growth.
This book shows how economic growth and impoverishment
are two sides of the same coin. Money gives the power to
buy up the resources of the world. The result? Twenty per
cent of the world's population consume eighty per cent of
the world's resources. This leads not just to
environmental degradation, but also to widespread rural
poverty as local communities, especially women, lose
their livelihood resources. In a world of finite
resources, the growth of some leads to the deprivation of
others. This situation is both unsustainable and
inequitable. A holistic strategy of transformation is
needed. Women have a very high stake in engendering
changes that would lead to a better human future. This
book aims to be one step in that direction.
This book was first published for distribution at the
Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 1995. The
second edition includes highlights of the priority issues
emerging from this conference.
   2nd edition    1995      ISBN 981-00-6993-6  184pp
      145 x 210 mm        bibliography   paperback
To order, please complete and return this order form,
together with your cheque/money order/bank draft, to
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  1   This paper is drawn from the book by Wee and Heyzer
  (1995),  Gender,  Poverty and Sustainable  Development,
  which  was  first  published for  distribution  at  the
  Fourth World Conference on Women 1995. The argument set
  out  in this paper is more fully elaborated upon in the
  2     Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era
  (DAWN)  is a global network of women leaders  from  the
  South  that has engendered much innovative thinking  on
  3    Asiaweek, October 20, 1995: 53
  4     Lim  and  Pang,  The Southeast  Asian  Economies:
  Resilient  Growth and Expanding Linkages  in  Southeast
  Asian Affairs 1994: 23
  5    Human Development Report 1994: 73
    6  The New Internationalist No. 267 May 1995: 22
  7    The New Internationalist No. 267 May 1995: 22
  8         Business Week December 12, 1994: 4D-A
  9          United Nations Children's Fund. The State of
  the World's Children 1995: 30
10The mortality rates are given per 1,000 at risk:
neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births, post-neonatal
deaths per 1,000 surviving to the age of one month,
children's deaths per 1,000 surviving to the age of one
year but who did not survive till the age of 5.
11"Traditional rural" = rural, uneducated, agricultural
couple with the wife engaged in family work;
"metropolitan elite" = urban couple with +7 yrs'
education, where the wife is employed outside the home
and the husband is in a professional or clerical
  12      So  far,  sixteen  of  the  largest  developing
  economies  have  all sharply reduced tariffs,  tax  and
  other  barriers to foreign direct investment (see Comes
  and Power, December 1994: 19).
     13   Expanding  web of trading ties  sustain  Asia's
  growth momentum, The Straits Times, 15 September 1995
  14     Lim  and  Pang,  The Southeast Asian  Economies:
  Resilient  Growth and Expanding Linkages  in  Southeast
  Asian Affairs 1994: 30
  15     The term itself was coined by Singapore's  Prime
  Minister, Goh Chok Tong.
  16     See  Financial  Times  1992,  cited  in  Heyzer,

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