A southern renaissance?

Author:Prashad, Vijay
Position:Human development in the South

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report 2013 bore the enthusiastic title, The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World. The Programme felt that the Global South had finally arrived in economic terms, and that in time it would make political inroads against a system that has been suborned to the needs of the Global North. It is certainly the case that China's economy has a high growth rate and that various international agencies, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predict that within a decade or two it will have the world's largest economy. What is often forgotten in these predictions is that while China might have the largest economy in terms of its GDP, its population size means that it will not have the highest per capita GDP. That honour will continue to belong elsewhere. This is the reason China continues to insist that it is a devel-oping country, despite having the second largest GDP among the world's states. There is no question that China and India have emerged as major economic powerhouses, but their own internal vulnerabilities are considerable, including poverty, unemployment and most dramatically, starvation rates. The South might be rising, but the questions that need to be raised are what kind of rise are we seeing, and what kind of political impact will this have?

Growth rates are by themselves not sufficient indicators of the health of a country. China has the second highest GDP according to the IMF, but a glance at the 2013 Human Development Indicators (HDI) places China at number 101. India is number 10 in terms of GDP, but sits at number 137 on the HDI list. The HDI is produced out of a consideration of education, life expectancy, literacy, quality of life and standard of living. It is a much more robust indicator of social advancement than the GDP. Growth rates can be high at the same time as inequality widens dramatically, as the neo-liberal path to development shows us, and as The Rise of the South acknowledges ("For many of the rapidly growing countries of the South, the population living in multidimensional poverty exceeds that living in income poverty. And income inequality is on the rise in many countries").(1)

/- Alternative pathways are needed that increase growth but also lessen inequalities and improve the well-being of the population. There is little evidence now that the Global South has elected an alternative growth agenda. What it has done is to...

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