Economic development is a broad term that
does not have a single, unique definition. In this introductory study note we look at some interpretations of the meaning of economic development.
Economist Michael Todaro specified three objectives of development:
Life sustaining goods and services: To increase the availability and widen the distribution of basic life-sustaining goods such as food, shelter, health and protection.
Higher incomes: To raise levels of living, including, in addition to higher incomes, the provision of more jobs, better education, and greater attention to cultural and human values, all of which will serve not only to enhance material well-being but also to generate greater individual and national self-esteem
Freedom to make economic and social choices: To expand the range of economic and social choices available to individuals and nations by freeing them from servitude and dependence not only in relation to other people and nation-states but also to the forces of ignorance and human misery.
Note the emphasis placed on ‘cultural and human values’, ‘self-esteem’ and freedom from ignorance; it is important to remember that development is about much more than advancing economic growth.
“Human development is the expansion of people’s freedom to live long, healthy and creative lives; to advance other goals they have reason to value; and to engage actively in shaping development equitably and sustainably on a shared planet. People are both the beneficiaries and the drivers of human development, as individuals and in groups”
Source: Human Development Report, November 2010
The most common measurement of development is the Human Development Index published each year by the United Nations Development Programme
Dudley Sears has defined development as “the reduction and elimination of poverty, inequality and unemployment within a growing economy”.
The Nobel Economist Amartya Sen writing in “Development as Freedom”, sees development as being concerned with improving the freedoms and capabilities of the disadvantaged, thereby enhancing the overall quality of life. Sen pursues the idea that development provides an opportunity to people to free themselves from the suffering caused by
o Early mortality
Development should be about increasing political freedom, cultural and social freedom and not just about raising incomes.
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
The Millennium Development Goals represent an ambitious set of development targets established in 2000 and designed to be met as fully as possible by the end of 2015.
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