Two more reports to read

In: Uncategorized

14 Nov 2010

Two reports I hope to study in detail as soon as I have more time.

By far the most important is the 20th anniversary edition of the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report.

From what I have read so far the report is interesting for two reasons. First, for its attempt to measure how the well-being of different countries has improved over the past 40 years or so. The top movers overall in relation to the Human Development Index (a composite measure combining health, education and income) were, from the top downwards: Oman, China, Nepal, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. While China’s rise was mainly down to income for Oman, Nepal and Saudi Arabia non-income factors were more important.

Second, the authors of the report insisted, in line with the previous reports, that improving human development should be distanced from economic growth.  For example, Jeni Klugman, the lead author, was quoted in one of the accompanying press releases as saying:

“Our results confirm, with new data and analysis, two central contentions of the Human Development Report from the outset: human development is different from economic growth, and substantial achievements are possible even without fast growth.”

Of course it is true, by definition, that human development is different from economic growth. It is also true that there is not a simple correlation between, say, an increase in a country’s GDP and its human development level as defined by the UNDP. However, it does not necessarily follow that economic growth is not central to development.

Meanwhile, Britain’s New Economics Foundation has published a report by Anna Coote entitled Cutting It: the ‘Big Society’ and the new austerity. From reading the summary and the conclusion it seems to me it is arguing for austerity but in a different form proposed by the government. For example, it is much keener on equality: although my reading is that it wants to level incomes down. It also supports a shorter working week for everyone even though this would mean a substantial loss in income for many people.