To be a poor man in a rich country like Kuwait, the United-States, Botswana and Singapore is degrading and breeds a sense of personal failure. To be the poorest man in a poor country is dehumanising.
Also degrading is to be the poorest of the poor countries. For a country as a whole to escape poverty there must be both growth and development. Are the two terms not the same thing? Some people use economic growth and development like synonyms. The purists say they mean different things.
Economic growth refers to a rise in national per capita income and the GNP. It is a purely scientific approach devoid of moralising. If one country during a given time has achieved a per capita or GDP growth of five percent while another has achieved eight percent we say the growth rate of the latter is higher than that of the former. This does not mean that logically also the latter country has developed faster than the former.
Economic development means not only a rise in per capita income but also improvement in quality of life reduction in poverty and fundamental changes in the structure of the economy.
For development to take place citizens must take part in the process. It is in the course of participating in economic activities that people benefit from the changes that take place. Growth can take place without development. Some countries of the world have achieved high growth rates through minerals and oil, yet that wealth has been appropriated by a few people while the majority of the people are poor, uneducated and dwell in shanty houses.
Development is measured in a variety of ways. One of these, is quality of life, part from higher incomes quality of life involves better education higher standards of health and nutrition, less poverty a cleaner environment and enjoyment of freedoms as well equality of opportunity. Formerly quality of life was measured by the physical quality of life index (PQLI). The PQLI has been superseded by the Human Development Index (HDI).
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) the human development index is a composite index measuring average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development; a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living.
The three indicators of the HDI are:
Life expectancy. This measures longevity. A baby that is born today how long is it likely to live before dying of natural causes?
Educational attainment. This include adult literacy, the number attending primary secondary and tertiary education.
GNP per capita. This is measured in terms of purchasing power parity. What a dollar can buy in a developed country is less than what a dollar can buy in a developing country. People in America find it difficult to imagine how a person can survive on a dollar or less a day. Well, they do because they eat different types of food, sleep in different types of shelter and they get free water from boreholes or streams.
Development is also measured by income inequality and poverty. It is not enough that a country has achieved a bumper harvest and is self sufficient in food. This food must be fairly distributed. We have sometimes been told that Malawi has now enough grain reserves in silos, at the same time we learn that in certain districts, people are facing starvation , to extent that World Food Programme (WFP) agents have gone there to distribute free food.
Countries that have achieved high growth rates through oil or minerals tend to experience higher rates of income inequality than countries that have become wealthy through cash crops like coffee, cotton or tobacco. In cash crops, people participate as small-scale farmers not wage earners.
In the Human Development Index (HDI) compiled by the UNDP in 2001, 28 African countries were placed on the Low Human Development list, starting with Togo as the best or least poor. Malawi was classified as number 18, beating countries like Rwanda, Mali, Central African Republic, Chad, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Niger and Sierra Leon. How welcome would be the latest HDI so that we may be apprised of how better or worse Malawi has become since 1999.
If the position has become worse, whose fault is it? Malawi is a land of fault finding politics. The easiest target will be those who have wielded power during the past 20 years.
Economic histories of countries like Britain the United States, Germany, tells us that their wealth was created by their inventors, managers and other individuals.