Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Human Development - On Whose Terms?

jacked from earthtrends.wri.org - not 2009 map

The Human Development Index stats for 2009 have recently been released by the UNDP. By definition the Hum Dev Index refers to:
"a development paradigm that is about much more than the rise or fall of national incomes. It is about creating an environment in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive, creative lives in accord with their needs and interests."

According to the UNDP, the countries that provide the best enviroment for the opportunity to reach one's full potential (GDP per capita, life expectancy, education etc) are: Norway, Iceland and Australia. At the other end of the scale are Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Niger. Sadly, there are no stats for Monaco, Palau, Korea (Dem Rep of), Nauru, Kiribati, San Marino, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and more importantly to me there is no data on Zimbabwe, Iraq and Somalia. What would it mean if the data of these countries were to be added - in terms of global politics it would mean alot - the same thing that it means that Sierra Leone, Aghanistan and Niger are at the bottom of the scale yet they provide the natural resources to those in the Top 21. What does it mean that the French colonies oops, I mean territories, of Guadeloupe and Martinique are not included in this list? Are they counted in with France who rank 7th?

And what about the fact that Iceland was a offshore investment bubble waiting to burst and its economy was reliant on foreign investments from European govts and corporates. In my untrained economist mind and in hindsight, I would pose the question that is Iceland's wealth is built on the oversupply of international credit to nationals which is now bust; how does it claim the number 2 spot? Last year, this time, the krona was in freefall at the same rate as the Zimbabwe Dollar; football club Westham and children's store Hamley's in the UK were in financial danger after its Icelandic owners went bust - but this is rated as the second best place to live in the world? Not to say this volcanic island isn't one of the most beautiful places in the world, but in financial terms something is not quite right -somebody needs to explain that to me...
And what about America whose greenback is built on value in trade of paper because it makes more economic sense than material wealth in gold? But other countries use the gold system so is this not a skewed economic advantage to the US? With the bust of the dollar has the greenback not been a receipe for problems; problems which have been staved off bec the US is the successful & hegemonic US - look at what happened to less successful, non-hegemonic Zimbabwe, Zambia and Russia...In its own history of the US being the US, the greenback was legitimated and all criticism died a silent death in 1879...130 years later, the dollar's tumbling - can it still hold at HDI position 13 in ten years time? Can it; given that the Arab oil countries along with France, Russia and China are plotting the demise of the Dollar as the single global currency to replace it with multiple currency trade & the Euro as King?

...But just what is HDI anyway? With all of its Darwinian insinuations? Development on whose terms? If France propped up corrupt governments in Gabon and Sierra Leone for lucrative timber and mineral deals, whose development is this when France as a nation and the political elites of said African states benefitted from this? Nevermind that France has a 300 year advantage of free or cheap labour and still has colonies -I mean territories to this day...If the US makes truckloads of money from sending out US military contractors to Afghanistan who profit from the war. Or if the US is the prime market for Afghani opium - does this put a dent in the code of ethics by which astute economists developed the HD Index? Yea I know, I know, opium is illegal (legal) drug money and arms trade revenue is a pittance in the US economy, but the same method of inquiry applies to bigger things like oil trade, the car industry etc or the monopoly 'corporate nations' have over the global economy.

....Finally, here's a startling comparison I picked up from Yahoo News;

"A child born in Niger can expect to live to just over 50, which is 30 years less than a child born in Norway. For every dollar a person earns in Niger, 85 dollars are earned in Norway."

*Kick in the head, teeth, ribs and all*

This puts the severity of global iniquity into perspective doesn't it? But then I ask what does life expectancy mean? What would it be without the number 1 killer AIDS? ( I always find this problematic - long story) On the other hand the US, UK and Canada are the fattest nations, the ones consuming the most resources and the ones competing for the biggest carbon footprint. And this is called development? On whose terms? Norway might be the top country in economic terms, a great urbankultcha global convergence zone but African immigrant real talk - life is not cheap there, the Norwegians are far from the happiest and SAD is not uncommon. The quality of life in terms of racial relations between Africans and Norwegians isn't the best. Nor is life in Australia the greatest for the Aboriginies. But somehow they're 1st and 3rd...If it were up to me; HDI would mean something else all together and different terminology would be applied to economic matters.
Apologies if this post isn't as tightly written as it shld be & if I make sweeping statements; plse take me to task on them so I can clarify what I mean.

9 comments:

Novuyo Rosa Tshuma said...

Hello! (Have not read this particular article yet BUT-) wanted to say what a great blog you have here, was perusing through it and stumbled upon your very wonderful and lyrical poetry- it sounds like that typa Lauren Hill poetry you ought to put on a CD- wow, it's deep, a beautiful web of English words tinkling together to seduce the mind and the soul with some warm thought- inducing content! Great Stuff.

KonWomyn said...

Hey Novuyo
Thanks for checking out my blog - its a work in progress, three feet and rising! My heartfelt thanks goes to you for the compliments - I'm working on putting my stuff out there - I haven't blessed a mic in ages, but I contribute bits of poetry here and there. Please do stop by again.
much love
KW

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