I arrived at the bus stop in NYC’s Chinatown just as our bus was pulling away. Two hours of waiting in the hot summer sun later, I finally got on the bus to DC. What I thought was going to be a simple bus ride from point A to point B turned out to be a sweaty, frustrating, complicated ordeal.
It was easy to be angry about the transportation situation that I faced today. But now that I am on the air conditioned bus it is important for me to realize that most of the world has it much worse. Transportation is one of the key factors in a country’s development; depending on its quality, it can be a huge hindrance or an immense boon for growth.
A community in Nicaragua where Outreach International works is crippled by a gaping hole in the road leading to the town. People have a hard time getting medical attention, children struggle to get to school and it hinders commerce. More than that, it is downright dangerous, as proven by the death of a child who fell through the hole into the river below. Soon this village will apply for a loan and repair this road, transforming the area.
A few of the developing countries have started constructing their first modern highway systems on their own. One of these is India. The Golden Quadrilateral, comprising four highways connecting New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, will allow agricultural products to get from place to place without spoiling, enable more of the rural population to come into the city to receive quality medical care, assist more of them to work in the city and boost economic development in the hinterland.
Other poorer countries have a lesson to learn from India and this community in Nicaragua investing in and indigenously developing an adequate transportation system. This exhibits the core principle of participatory development—local decision-making and ownership. In the international development context, it seems that the old adage I always use for my car “Just as long as it gets me from point A to point B” sometimes falls short.