Methods for Measuring Economic Development:
There are following methods for measuring the economic development by traditional approach:
(1) Increase in real GNP, (2) Increase in real per capita income, (3) Economic welfare criterion, (4) Social welfare criterion, (5) Human welfare criterion.
However, in the earlier days only the first two methods were adopted to measure economic development.
(1) Increase in real GNP as a Criterion of Economic Development:
In the light of Profs. Meir and Baldwin’s definition, it is said that if real GNP increases over a long period of time, this situation will be considered as economic development. Following arguments are given in favor of this criterion:
(i) The increase in real per capita income is based upon increase in real GNP. Therefore, how long the real GNP does not increase, the per capita income cannot increase.
(ii) So may countries who want to increase their military power they have the desire to increase their population. They never think of per capita income rise. Therefore, if in such countries the per capita income remains the same, it does not mean that economic development has not taken place. Moreover, if in some countries due to drought, migration and genocide etc., the per capita income rises, it does not mean, economic development.
(iii) If the per capita method is adopted the population problems will be ignored. But as far as UDCs are concerned, the need is to face the population problems rather keeping them aside. Moreover, if in UDCs we adopt per capita method, then there will be hardly any development because in UDCs per capita income rises very slowly and nominally.
(iv) The criterion of increase in real national income is also important for Developed Countries (DCs). It is because that these countries have already attained high per capita income levels. But they want to increase national income so that full employment could be maintained without inflation and deflation.
(2) Increase in Real Per Capita Income:
Some economists are of the view that if per capita income or real GNP per capita increases over a long period of time, it will be accorded as economic development. As Prof. Meir says, “Economic Development is a process whereby the real per capita income of a country increases over a long period of time”. But this would occur only when the growth of real national income is more than the growth of population. According to this method, if the per capita income of a country increases each resident of the country will be able to attain more goods and services than before at average. Consequently, the average poverty will come down and the life standard of the people of the country will improve.
Formula for Per Capita real GDP and its Growth:
If we divide GDP or Y by population ( POP), we get per capita GDP as: Y/Pop
While if we divide GDP or Y by a price index (P), we get real GDP as: Y/P
Thus, the real per capita GDP (y) is as:
The growth rate of a product (ab) is equal to the sum of the growth rates of a and b. It is as:
gab = ga + gb
While in case of a ratio c/d, the growth rate is equal to the difference of the growth rates of c and d is as:
gc/d = gc – gd
Then following these principles, the growth rate of real per capita GDP (y) will be as:
gy = gY – (gPop + gP) = gY – gPop – gP
This shows that the growth rate of per capita real GDP is equal to the rate of growth of nominal GDP minus the sum of growth rates of population and prices. This equation holds for so-called instantaneous or point rates of growth.
As long as the rates of population growth and inflation are not very high, then the above equation holds. We suppose that in case of Pakistan, the nominal GDP grew last year at 6%, population grew at 2.0%, and the rate of inflation was 3.0% , then the above equation tells that the per capita real GDP grew at 6 – 2 – 3 = 1%.
Merits of Real GNP-ism and Per Capita-ism:
(i) Primarily the criterion of GNP per capita is adopted to measure economic development. It is so because that the information regarding national income, price level and population are mostly available in each country.
(ii) On the basis of statistics of GNP and population the per capita GNP can easily be calculated.
(iii) On the basis of GNP and the real GNP the international comparisons between countries can easily be made, i.e., the country with higher GNP or GNP per capita would be a developed country as compared with the country having low GNP or low per capita income.
(iv) The measure of GNP per capita reflects the social and economic structure of societies.
Demerits of Real GNP and Per Capita Method:
(i) Standard of Living: We told above that the per capita method of economic development reflects the living standard of the people. But perhaps it is not so, as Brunei Dar-Ul-Salaam and Kuwait have the highest per capita incomes but the average living standard of a US citizen is far above than that of Brunei and Kuwait.
Moreover, the per capita is obtained by dividing the total national income by the total population, but the national output and national population statistics may be misleading, over-estimated or under-estimated. In such situation the per capita income which has been estimated will not be correct. Again the per capita income is an average income which includes both the big incomes of industrialists and the minor incomes of unskilled daily wage earners. Accordingly the average or per capita income does not truly represent the standard of living of the people. Therefore, the level of distribution of income must be kept in view while giving some verdict about the level of development.
Furthermore, it may also happen that GNP of a country increases but a minor segment of the society gets the fruits of it and the standard of having of majority of masses remains obstructed. Such phenomenon may be given the name of economic growth, not economic development. And in such situation the economic welfare of the masses will not improve; the economic growth and economic welfare will diverge.
(ii) Increase in Population: According to GNP per capita method, economic development will take place if real GNP exceeds population growth. But it has also been observed in case of poor countries that they are furnished with higher growth rate of population. If in such countries like Pakistan along with increase in GNP the population also increases there will be a nominal increase in per capita income. According to per capita criterion this would be hardly any development. But it is not true. Such countries do witness certain rise in their GNP along with changes in productivity and efficiency. However, this situation will represent economic growth not development which is furnished with the structural and institutional changes along with growth in output. Thug according to per capita method population is an obstacle in the attainment of economic development.
(iii) International Comparison: According to GNP per capita method, development is characterized by the level of per capita incomes of different countries. The countries having greater incomes per capita will be developed countries and vice versa. But the comparison of per capita incomes of different countries at international level is furnished with the; following problems:
(a) As told earlier the statistics regarding per capita income is not reliable in case of developing countries. They are just guesses and approximates. While in case of developed countries, most of the statistics is accurate. Accordingly, in such situation, the comparison is difficult. In case of developed countries, there is the use of money and there is little barter trade. The figure regarding outputs and incomes are mostly true. While in case of poor countries there is a barter trade, reduced use of money, there is a trend to conceal the incomes and outputs on the part of earners and producers. In such situation, the statistics are not accurate in case of developing countries. In such state of affairs, how the comparison regarding per capita incomes of the poor and rich countries can be made.
(b) The national income statistics obtained with and without the inclusion of self-services will yield different results. As in certain countries such services are included while in certain other countries they are not included. Thus in such state of affairs, the international comparisons will be doubtful.
(iv) Dual Economy: The economy where a few developed cities go side by side along with the majority of the backward villages; unemployment along with capital intensive technology; and mass poverty along with a few rich families is given the name of dual economy. Accordingly, if in any country, per capita income rises along with the existence of a dual economy, it will be the economic growth not the economic development because the rise in per capita income could not bring changes in the socio-economic life of the society.
(v) Social Opportunity Costs: As rise in per capita income is accorded as economic development, but during such rise in GNP or GNP per capita, a common man has to suffer; there may be the distortions in the family life; there may be the tensions and tortures; there may be the mass environmental pollution and traffic noises etc. This shows that the rise in per capita income is furnished with a deterioration in the quality of life. In other words, the society will have to bear the greater opportunity costs of rise in GNP per capita. Thus in such phenomenon the economic growth will be taking place instead of economic development.
(vi) Nature of Output Produced: The criterion of rise in per capita income does not consider the nature of output produced which has led to enhance the GNP per capita. As if in a country the GNP rises due to the greater production of military hardware; more production of alcohol; and a greater production of palacious houses it will not represent economic development. Because the plenty and abundance has not benefited a common man. The rich segment of the society has gone more rich while the poor section of the society has further gone poor.
(vii) Practical Failure: The period of 1960s was accorded as a period of “Development Decade” whereby it was conceived that for the sake of development, GNP must be increased by 6% annually. Accordingly, a ruthless craze developed amongst the countries to attain a 6% rise in GNP. But during such craze the problems of poverty, unemployment and income distribution were ignored. Then the economists and policy makers emphasized upon “Dethronement of GNP”, Despite the rise in GNP by 6% per annum the unemployment, diseases, environmental pollution could not be removed. The income distribution could not be made fairer; the infant mortality rates could not be decreased; the water supply and water sanitation facilities could not be enhanced; the illiteracy could not be decreased; and social injustice could not be removed in majority of the developing countries despite rise in GNP and GNP per capita.
Dr. Mahbub-Ul-Haq who once said, “First make the cake and then divide it” brought the change in his thinking when he wrote an article “Employment and Income Distribution in 1970s”. He said, The economic development should launch a big war against worst type of poverty. The developmental goals should be expressed in the removal of poverty, diseases, malnutrition, unemployment and illiteracy etc. We were taught to take care of GNP and it will take care of poverty, But now it should be reversed. We should have an eye on poverty because it will take care of GNP. In other words, we should be worried of components of GNP, rather growth rate of GNP.
Accordingly, in 70s a change in emphasis occurred amongst economists and policy makers, “The
Redistribution from Growth” where it was considered that along with increase in GNP per capita, the economic welfare should also be entertained. As the economists like Gunner Myrdal and Lebinstein etc., are of the view that, to measure economic development the criterion of economic welfare be employed.