“The Development Set”

This beautiful poem – by Ross Coggins – aptly captures the profligate approach of international development agencies…

The Development Set

Excuse me, friends, I must catch my jet –
I’m off to join the Development Set;
My bags are packed, and I’ve had all my shots,
I have travellers’ cheques and pills for the trots.

The Development Set is bright and noble,
Our thoughts are deep and our vision global;
Although we move with the better classes,
Our thoughts are always with the masses.

In Sheraton hotels in scattered nations,
We damn multinational corporations;
Injustice seems so easy to protest,
In such seething hotbeds of social rest.

We discuss malnutrition over steaks
And plan hunger talks during coffee breaks.
Whether Asian floods or African drought,
We face each issue with an open mouth.

We bring in consultants whose
circumlocution
Raises difficulties for every solution –
Thus guaranteeing continued good eating
By showing the need for another meeting.

The language of the Development Set,
Stretches the English alphabet;
We use swell words like ‘epigenetic’
‘Micro’, ‘Macro’ and ‘logarithmetic’.

Development Set homes are extremely chic,
Full of carvings, curios and draped with batik.
Eye-level photographs subtly assure
That your host is at home with the rich and the poor.

Enough of these verses – on with the mission!
Our task is as broad as the human condition!
Just pray to God the biblical promise is true:
The poor ye shall always have with you.

by Ross Coggins

(“Adult Education and Development”, 1976)

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