New York – The rapid growth of developing countries is propelling millions out of poverty on an unprecedented scale and radically reshaping the global system, according to a flagship United Nations report launched yesterday.
“The rise of the South is unprecedented in its speed and scale,” says the Human Development Report 2013, which uses the term “South” to mean developing countries and “North” to mean developed nations. “Never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast.”
Meanwhile, the slowdown in economic growth, austerity measures and rampant unemployment in the industrialized world has brought pressure to bear on governments and societies in the North. Global economic and political structures are in flux and the sustainability of the growth spurt in the South is subject to the interrelated issues of governance and public investment.
The year’s report, entitled The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World, emphasizes that this change represents a global rebalancing far greater than that experienced during the Industrial Revolution, with the South becoming the main driver of economic growth and societal change for the first time in centuries. The Industrial Revolution was a story of perhaps 100 million people, but this is a story about billions of people.
“The Industrial Revolution was a story of perhaps 100 million people, but this is a story about billions of people,” said Khalid Malik, the report’s lead author.
The Human Development Report, released annually by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), assesses the state of human development on the basis of health, education and income indicators, as an alternative to purely macroeconomic assessments of national progress.
The initial report was published in 1990 by its authors, the late Mahbub ul Haq and Amartya Sen, and introduced a Human Development Index (HDI), which had been calculated by UN economists from 1975, and was essentially a ranking of countries based on strides made with a people-centric model of progress.
The HDI became an influential paradigm that would prod economists, government agencies, planners and development experts to rethink the income-based indicators that were in standard use to measure development success.
Launched today in Mexico City by UNDP Administrator Helen Clark and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, this year’s report singles out big economies which have shown significant growth over the past 20 years, namely China, India and Brazil. It estimates that by 2020, the combined output of these three countries will surpass the aggregate production of the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy and Canada.
However, the ‘rise of the South’ goes well beyond these economies as more than 40 developing countries have made greater human development gains in recent decades than what was predicted.
Countries such as Indonesia, Mexico, Bangladesh, Tanzania and Yemen all registered significant growth, while nations such as Afghanistan and Pakistan had some of the fastest growth rates in the world with 3.9 per cent and 1.7 per cent over the past 12 years, respectively.
How has the South achieved such dramatic growth levels?
The report attributes many of the achievements of the South to smart national strategies that have allowed them to engage in the global economy while at the same time implementing social programmes that protect those most vulnerable.
“Economic growth alone does not automatically translate into human development progress,” Miss Clark says in the report’s foreword. Southern States are therefore not just tapping into global trade, but they are also improving health and education services, which have allowed them to sustain their growth. This comes in contrast to policies adopted by many developed countries which include austerity measures and cutting social programmes due to the economic crisis.
In Latin America, many countries have put in place programmes to eradicate poverty and address inequality such as Brazil’s Bolsa Familia, Mexico’s Oportunidades, and Chile’s Chile Solidario. These are conditional cash transfer programmes which offer to increase people’s income as long as they fulfil certain conditions such as visits to health clinics and school attendance.
This combination of policies has allowed the middle class in the South to expand and, by 2030, the report projects that more than 80 per cent of the world’s middle class will reside in developing countries and account for 70 per cent of total consumption expenditure.
Increasing online and mobile connectivity in the South
Increasing connectivity thanks to greater access to technology is also a factor that has contributed to the South’s growth. Gl
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