Global Benchmarks: Comprehensive Measures of Development

By Ophelia M. Yeung; John A. Mathieson | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
A NEW FOCUS ON DEVELOPMENT

How does one measure development performance? As nations, their economies, and the lot of their people change over time, how can one gauge standards of living, whether according to an absolute standard or relative to other countries? Is development a level of affluence or a sustained rate of growth? Should one focus on per capita income or output? And what about purchasing-power parity (PPP)? Perhaps development performance should encompass direct measures of well-being, such as health and education. What about the importance of a clean environment or a participatory political system? How does one appraise successes, shortfalls, or needs in the realm of development?

These questions have vexed national leaders, international donor agencies, and development practitioners for decades. They aim at the core of the development process, for they seek to define its actual goal (or goals). One must be able to measure achievements in order to design and implement development strategies, policies, and programs effectively. But despite the critical importance of measuring performance, no definitive method has emerged. The issue has been subject to ongoing controversy and debate, both within the scholarly community and among practitioners "on the ground." In a sense, no generally accepted answer is possible, due to the philosophical dimensions of the problem. It is like asking how to measure fulfillment or happiness.

The difficulty of explaining progress in development has not deterred efforts to do so. Most have defined development in economic terms. In fact, such efforts date back to the very origins of economic discourse. Adam Smith applied himself to explaining the "nature and causes of the wealth of nations." Joseph Schumpeter developed a "theory of economic development" in 1912. Colin Clark spoke of the "conditions of economic progress." In the early 1950s, these lines of thought culminated in development being interpreted at the national level as economic growth, or more specifically, increase in output--Voss national product (GNP) or gross domestic product (GDP). For those interested in the welfare of the population, the appropriate measure of progress was increase in output per capita, which encompasses the average amount of goods and services that are theoretically available for each person to consume.

The microcconomic principle of "optimization" implicitly accepts that increasing income can raise welfare, as the relaxation of the budget constraint allows the "utility curve" to expand. Nonetheless, in theory development economists do not assert that economic growth

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Global Benchmarks: Comprehensive Measures of Development
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Contents xi
  • Chapter 1 a New Focus on Development 1
  • Chapter 2 the Development Web 9
  • Chapter 3 Research Background for Model Development 13
  • Chapter 4 Methodology and Country Rating System 25
  • SUMMARY 39
  • Chapter 5 Summary Findings 41
  • Chapter 6 Country Webs 79
  • Appendix A - SUMMARY OF VECTOR SCORES 283
  • Appendix B - WEIGHTED VECTOR SCORES 291
  • Appendix C SCORING SYSTEM FOR VECTORS 333
  • Appendix D WEIGHTING SYSTEMS FOR VECTORS 341
  • References 345
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