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International scene

Economic Growth Not Everything
New "Human Development Report" Published

Will the much-vaunted gross national product, the constantly used but one-sided gauge of a country's development, soon be replaced? With the publication of its new Human Development Report, which in future will appear regularly, UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) hopes to introduce a new and interesting indicator of development. The idea behind the new yardstick is that when measuring development, social and environmental-related parameters should be taken into account besides growth in GNP, prosperity, goods produced or accumulated capital. Whether it will be generally accepted is questionable.

The new report presents analyses of the relationship between economic growth and human development in 130 rich and poor countries. This stock-taking revealed that quite a few countries with very presentable economic figures have a comparatively poor "human development index".

Life does not begin at 11,000 dollars, the average per capita income in the industrialized world. Average life expectancy in Sri Lanka is already 71 years, and 87 per cent of all adults there can read and write-with a statistical annual per capita income of just US$ 400. In China, life expectancy is 70 years and 69 per cent of the population are literate, yet the Chinese manage on 290 dollars a year each.

In Brazil, by contrast, life expectancy is only 65 years and the literacy rate is 78 per cent, but the annual per capita income is seven times higher, at 2,020 dollars. In Saudi Arabia, where the average income is 6,200 dollars, people only live for 64 years on average and only 55 per cent of them are literate.

Development is also freedom

If development is not economic growth, what is it? The 189-page Human Development Report (it is in English) looks at the question in depth. Development is a process which gives people more opportunities in life. The most important of these far-reaching opportunities include a long life in good health, education and an adequate standard of living.

But "satisfactory human development" is more than this, says the report. It also includes the guarantee of political freedom and other human rights, participation in social life and the right to live in an intact environment. Thus the development process should at least create an environment beneficial to the individual and to society, so that everyone can develop their full potential and lead a productive and creative life in harmony with their needs and interests.

On this subject, the preface to the Development Report states that "human freedom is vital to human development", adding, "People must be free to exercise their choices in properly functioning markets, and they must have a decisive voice in shaping their political future."

Proceeding from this view, the new Human Development Index, on which the Report's analyses of countries are based, is an all-embracing yardstick: besides income, it also includes life expectancy, degree of literacy and satisfaction of basic needs. At this level the development index is an approximation and a resume of the many facets of human life.

Like GNP, it says little-it is an average value. It conceals regional and local distribution and cannot quantify human freedom.

SKAT Intensifies PR Effort

SKAT, the Swiss Center for Appropriate Technology, is now publishing a quarterly newsletter in German and French, titled SKAT-Doppelpunkt. Each newsletter contains a topical "focus" section as well as information on SKAT's current activities and new publications under the SKAT imprint, in the SKAT book shop and the SKAT documentation.

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