Why Muslim nations trail the West

Click here: The Jakarta Post – Why Muslim nations trail the West
By Sayuti Hasibuan (Dean of Dept of Econ. Al Azhar University, Indonesia) One striking fact about the state of human development in the world today is that Muslim countries rank generally low on the human development index. No Islamic country comes anywhere near the industrialized countries in terms of human development…n 1999, out of 165 countries, the highest-placed Islamic country was Brunei Darussalam, at No. 32. The lowest was Niger, at No. 161. Islamic countries with larger populations, such as Indonesia, Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan and Bangladesh, failed to make the top 100.

…The latest UNDP Human Development Report, in 2006, revealed that developed economies still led the pack, with Norway perching on top. There was a slight improvement made by five Islamic countries compared to their 1999 rankings, namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Tunisia. But overall the relative positions did not change significantly….The governments of these Islamic countries have taken on systematic development efforts in the form of a series of five-year development plans. These efforts have been going on for decades, often with strong support in the form of funds and ideas from international donors such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and USAID. And yet, as we have seen, the results are far from satisfactory. Why?

The short answer is that the economic and political elites of these countries operationally idolize the materialistic and individualistic ideologies of neoclassical economics. Such idolization can hardly be conducive to the full utilization and development of human resources. Such idolization comes in many manifestations but the most well-known ones are economic growth and high per capita income.

…That material achievement is not wanted for its own sake but as a means to something else has been known since Aristotelian times and the Muslim holy book is full of injunctions against such idolization. So why do Muslim leaders and elites idolize material achievement? This is because they follow the precepts of neoclassical economics literally.Not that all the precepts of such economics are wrong. As part of the human legacy of wisdom and knowledge, such precepts cannot all be wrong. But the practical precepts of neoclassical economics need to be cast in the framework of the basic aims of the societies in these countries and the basic methodologies to be pursued.

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