People-centered development is best.

Position:United Nations Development Programme's 'Human Development Report 1990' - Special Section - Future of the Global Economy: Challenges of the 90s

People-centred development is best

When people are placed at the centre of development programmers, high levels of human well-being can be achieved even at modes income levels.

That is the central theme of UNDP's innovative study, the Human Development Report 1990. Released in May, the Report ranks 130 countries by a new measure of growth, the "human development index (HDI)", based on three essentials of human life--longevity, knowledge and decent living conditions--as measured by life expectancy, adult literacy and real per capita income adjusted for purchasing power.

The new index--which is calculated as a national average and according to gender, income, region and social groups--focuses on how economic growth translates into human well-being.

Analysing human well-being in 130 countries, the HDI ranks them in three categories on a scale from 0.1 to 1.0: low human develolment (0.1-0.5); medium human development (0.5-0.8) and high human development (0.8-1.0). For example, the HDI for Niger is 0.116; for Egypt, 0.501; for Malaysia, 0.800; and for Japan, 0.996.

The HDI illustrates how economic growth and wealth alone do not necessarily translate into greater human development for the majority of people. "The HDI ranks countries very differently from the way gross national product (GNP) per capita ranks them", the Report says. "The reason is that GNP per capita is only one of life's many dimensions, while the HDI captures other dimensions as well."

Countries such as Chile, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Thailand have a better HDI than GNP ranking, indicating that they have directed more of their economic resources towards aspects of human development.

Central place of freedom

and democracy

Another important feature of the UNDP study is the stress on freedom and democracy as measures of development. "Human development denotes both the process of widening people's choices and the level of their achieved well-being", the Report states. It also says that "human development is incomplete without freedom and democracy," and development really is the process of "enlarging people's choices.

"Any index of human development should therefore give adequate weight to a society's human freedom in the pursuit of material and social goals." However, there is no "simple quantitative measure available yet to capture the many aspects of human freedom--free elections, multiparty political systems, uncensore press, adherence to the rule of law...

To continue reading