Urban bias has been presented as a major impediment to rural development because it perpetrates discriminatory policies which create and perpetuate disparities between urban and rural areas and consequently the development of urban areas at the expense of rural areas. This paper examines how urban bias, to a large extent, is the major impediment to rural development owing to its skewed policies and to down development approaches. Urban bias proponents, chief among them Lipton (1977), argue that many underdeveloped nations implement investment, tax, pricing, and other policies which disproportionately favour urban areas at the expense of rural areas. The state enacts such policies because of pressure from elitist urban-based groups such as industrialists, small-scale capitalists, and urban workers (Lipton, 1977). This bias in favour of city areas has created a disparity between the rural and urban areas with respect to consumption, wage, and productivity levels. Such disparities translate into a higher standard of living for urban citizens and draw migrants from poorer rural areas leaving them even more deprived in terms of human capital (McLaughlin, 1986). For Lipton (1977) the most important indicator of urban bias is the investment of substantially more domestic capital in non-agricultural industries than in agriculture, Discrimination against agriculture is practised in most of the less-developed countries, as they strive to diversify their economies by nurturing growing industries (Francis, 2000). States desire to modernise fast because they observe that rich nations are non-agricultural and that their own agriculture is poor (Bradshaw, 1987). Consequently, they assume that rapid industrialisation at the expense of agriculture can produce rapid development; while in reality it marginalises rural areas, as the rural economy is largely based on agriculture (Bradshaw, 1987). National tax policies may also contribute to urban bias in underdeveloped countries. State policies allegedly overtax rural citizens relative to urban citizens with a similar income and the proportion of government benefits allocated to the countryside (Lipton, 1977). Bradshaw (1987) espouses that the real source of discriminative taxation against agriculture may come not through direct taxes, but through the price twists (Bradshaw 1987; 226). Price twists occur when states formulate pricing and related policies that transfer resources from the agricultural to the urban sector. State-controlled marketing boards, for example, have consistently twisted prices against peasant farmers in many poor countries. Such boards purchase agricultural products like coffee, tea, and cocoa from local farmers at an artificially low price and then resell these crops on the export market at the prevailing world price. The surplus accumulated by the state through its marketing board is used to finance industrial and other programs that benefit urban elites (Bradshaw, 1987). Holm (1982) utilised the urban bias thesis and pointed out that 85 per cent of Botswana's population was rural, yet rural development programmes receive minimal financing, show relatively little concern with the mass of the population, are articulated by national rather than local officials, are heavily foreign funded and controlled, and yield few results which benefit the living conditions of rural people (Holm, 1982: 86). Such approaches are top down in orientation and rural inhabitants do not benefit because they do not participate in the decision-making that directly affect their lives (Woodward, 1986). The skewed industrialisation and realised development of urban areas further leads to rural skill drain (Barro, 2000). Lipton (1977) notes that labour migration to the cities has not helped to close the gap between urban and rural incomes as neo-classical economists would predict. Indeed, many of the migrants are the most educated and enterprising of the rural population, which is therefore...
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