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7936: Re: 7888: RE: 7852: Morse asks Archer and Archer replies (fwd)

From: Mark Schuller <marky@umail.ucsb.edu>

Sorry to weigh in at this point.  I didn't feel i had the right to.  

GDP's are not always an accurate measure of how a country is doing:

1.  They don't take into account the price of goods and level of consumption.  (The PPP - or purchasing power parity - was an attempt to get around this.  As far as most economists are concerned, ranking countries based on GDP is missing the point.)  Although other "absolute" measures rely on often ethnocentric assumptions of "basic human needs" they get closer to the real issue than GDP.

2.  Informal economic activity - the informal sector, subsistence farming - is never included in these calculations.

3.  There are some folks who suggest counting a "shantytown" dwelling - again, ethnocentric assumptions here - as a person's "wealth."

4.  The GDP never, never takes into account income disparity, between rich and poor, between racial or ethnic groups, men and women, city and countryside.

5.  I believe human quality of life cannot be quantified.  Using these arbitrary measuring sticks does not tell us much.  Again, that might be a bias as an anthropologist (albeit one who has taken courses on economic development).

6.  Who decides what is "northern" hemisphere as oppossed to "southern"?  "Eastern" and "Western"?  I have never seen the dividing line as the equator and the Meridian.  

7.  Lastly, this might be a little off track from the original discussion, but who benefits from this system of measurement?  Who benefits from drawing boundaries (e.g. north/south)?  Who benefits from using economics as a yardstick of a country's worth?  Who benefits from singling Haiti out as "the poorest in the Western Hemisphere" as is pointed out by most economic development agencies?  Who benefits from likening Haiti to Africa in terms of its deveopment (World Bank 1987, 1989)?  Who benefits from a discussion comparing Haiti to India or Ethopia?

Sorry.  I couldn't sit on this topic any longer... hope this doesn't anger people too much!

Quoting Bob Corbett <corbetre@webster.edu>:

> From: Merrie Archer <MArcher@nchr.org>
> Dear Richard,
> If I come across the old reference, I'll send it on.  In the meantime,
> my
> curiosity had been tickled as well at the time, so I went to the UNDP
> Human
> Development Report to find out (www.undp.org/hdro/98hdi3.htm) and here
> is
> what I found.  
> Haiti's GDP per capita at the time of the report (1998) was $917.38. 
> In
> addition, Haiti ranks #159 (out of 174) on the list of countries
> measured.
> The human development index (HDI) is roughly a measurement of standard
> of
> living, developed by the UNDP, that takes into account more than merely
> or other traditional measures of wealth.  It includes things like
> statistics
> on life expectancy, literacy, child mortality or morbidity, etc.  I'd
> appreciate it if the economists on the list would provide a better
> definition of the index.  
> I didn't go back to the map a second time, but here is how Haiti stacked
> up
> against Somalia, Ethiopia and Chad
> Country		GDP			HDI value		HDI rank
> Sudan			$1109.63		.343			#
> 157
> Haiti			$917.38		.34			# 159
> Chad			$1172.40		.318			#
> 163
> Ethiopia		$454.85		.252			# 169
> Average HDI value for all countries surveyed .7715
> Average GDP per capita for all countries surveyed $5990.00
> Haiti has a higher HDI than either Chad or Ethiopia, but not the Sudan,
> but
> it's GDP per capita is lower than both the Sudan and Chad, but not
> Ethiopa.
> I suppose that makes Ethiopia significantly worse off than all other
> countries in the northern hemisphere - including Haiti.  I hope this
> helps.
> Merrie


Mark Schuller
Department of Anthropology
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106

The quickest way to destroy a radical is through his (sic.) 
or her paranoia...