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Investing in People and Sustainable Communities

By Martin Khor | Third World Network | July 8, 2005

Good Practices and Innovative Experiences in the South, Vol. 1: Economic, Environmental and Sustainable Livelihood Initiatives

Martin Khor & Lim Li Lin
New York: Third World Network,
Zed Books Ltd., 2001

When dealing with development, it is crucial to learn from past mistakes as well as successes. The development literature has generally focused on failed growth policies (the "bad" examples) rather than on promoting positive solutions. Martin Khor and Lim Li Lin's book is part of a three-volume series that outlines examples that have brought about positive social and economic change with regard to the environment, growth, and human development. Their examples include government policies, local community initiatives, NGO movements, and other civil society actions.

The book stresses the need for more South-South dialogue and collaboration as part of a proactive development strategy that integrates economic, social, and environmental policymaking. The series lists a set of criteria by which the success of alternative policy frameworks should be measured, including that they:

  • Improve the position, welfare, and quality of life of local communities or the general public;
  • Are innovative in meeting social needs;
  • Are environmentally sound and sustainable;
  • Have or can have significant impact;
  • Promote local solutions, and make use of local materials and knowledge.

The first volume is comprised of 17 case studies, grouped under four umbrellas:

  • Economic policies and management
  • Environmental policies and management
  • Community-based sustainable livelihoods
  • Environmentally sound practices and techniques

Financing Social and Infrastructure Development: A Lesson from Singapore…

As an initial case study, Khor and Lin highlight Singpaore's Central Provident Fund (CPF), a fully funded, defined-contribution social security scheme operated by the Singapore government. Employees and employers each contribute a mandatory proportion of the employee's monthly income to the employee's CPF accounts. The employee's CPF funds can be withdrawn for certain specified purposes over the course of his or her working life. The remainder is set aside for the employee's old-age needs.

Khor and Lin illustrate how Singapore has managed to harness the savings of a broad spectrum of its populace, namely its workforce, in order to finance housing, healthcare, old-age security, and other important development objectives. The chapter details the CPF Home-Ownership Scheme, the Medisave Account used for healthcare purposes, the three CPF insurance schemes, and the Old-Age Security Scheme. The chapter also mentions the process by which accounts can be drawn upon for investment purposes, with the aim of boosting asset ownership and wealth accumulation.


CASE STUDIES such as these provide fertile ground for the argument that there are feasible alternatives—at international, national and community levels—for reconciling the objectives of community development, employment generation, and environmental sustainability. Additional case studies appear in subsequent volumes:

Volume 2: "Good Practices and Innovative Experiences in the South: Social Policies, Indigenous Knowledge, and Appropriate Technology"

Volume 3: "Good Practices and Innovative Experiences in the South" Citizen Initiatives in Social Services, Popular Education and Human Rights.

Read More: Development, Economy, Environment, Jobs, Sustainability, Africa, Asia, Global

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