Frances – Horizontal inequalities: Investigating how horizontal inequalities

Horizontal Inequalities: A Neglected Dimension of Development
By Frances Stewart

Frances Stewart, the director of the Oxford based Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE) more Info : hier

Current research

The contrast between Sri Lanka and Malaysia is interesting. Both apparently started in a similar situation, with the political majority at an economic disadvantage, but while attempts to correct this situation in Malaysia were successful, they actually provoked war in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has suffered major civil war since the early 1980s, as Sri Lankan Tamils have sought political independence for the northeastern region of the country.

The situation with respect to horizontal inequalities is complex. The Sri Lankan Tamil minority (accounting for 12.6% of the population19 in 1981) had been favoured by the British colonial administration, enjoying relatively privileged access to education and to government employment in the first half of the twentieth century. For example, Sri Lankan Tamils held around 40% of the University places in science and engineering, medicine and agriculture and veterinary science. Tamils also gained from the use of English as the official language where they outperformed the Sinhalese majority (74% of the population in 1981). Yet there was much differentiation within both communities, with intra-group differentials greatly exceeding intergroup (Glewwe 1986).

When the Sinhalese gained power, they sought to correct the horizontal inequalities perceived as disadvantageous to them – through educational quotas, the use of Sinhalese as the official national language, and regional investment policy. The consequence was a major change in the extent and even direction of horizontal inequalities.20 From 1963 to 1973, the incomes of the Sinhalese rose while those of the Tamils fell quite sharply, eliminating the previous differential between the two groups. By the end of the 1970s differentials in access to education had been eliminated, with Sinhalese gaining more than proportionate places at University, although up to 1977 Tamils continued to be favoured in science. Civil service recruitment policies, particularly the use of Sinhalese in examinations, favoured the Sinhalese – by the end of the 1970s Sinhalese recruitment in relation to population was four times more favourable than that of Tamils.

Sinhalese policies were undoubtedly effective in correcting prior horizontal inequalities, but they

>overkilled= introducing new horizontal inequalities in their favour. The result was to provoke the Sri Lankan Tamils, who felt excluded politically and economically threatened. >The political impact of the district quota system [introducing quotas on University access] has been little short of disastrous. It has convinced many Tamils that it was futile to expect equality of treatment with the Sinhalese majority….It has contributed to the acceptance of a policy campaigning for a separate state..= (C.R.de Silva, quoted in (Sriskandarajah 2000) p 51). Similarly, the recruitment policies to the Civil Service in the 1970s, previously an important source of employment for Tamils, were strongly biased against the Tamils. Only 8% of the 23,000 new teachers recruited from 1971 to 1974 were Tamils. In 1977/8 no Tamils succeeded in the Ceylon Administrative Service examinations (Manogoran 1987). Moreover, political and cultural exclusion coincided with these adverse changes, making it easy for extremist leaders to use the growing resentment to gain support.

The Sri Lankan case indicates the care which is needed in pursuing policies to correct horizontal inequalities: sharp changes can create new sources of conflict, especially where they go beyond correcting prior inequalities and create new ones.

Read  >>CRISE Working Paper

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