INTD 200 – INTRODUCTION TO INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Thursday, September 4, 2009
THE MEANING OF DEVELOPMENT
The definition of development determines the strategies and policies chosen by the States for
developing their country. But how do we measure development? Should we rely on economic
growth or social goods?
The truth is that there’s no fixed meaning of development; its meaning has changed in the past
50 years and, though there seems to be some consensus now, development is not a clear concept,
and policies will vary depending on how it is defined by various organizations.
How can we tell if a country is developed or not? Many variables can be considered:
Existence of a middle class (income criteria); when the majority of the population can be
classified as middle-class, it is a sure sign of a developed country;
Strong rule of law, of mostly fair laws
High per capita income
Provision of public goods (infrastructures)
Social indicators, like health and education; these are relevant factors, but not vital;
Industries; also an indicator, but there are exceptions, like Canada, where the main source
of wealth comes from primary resources;
Democracy; it can be an indicator, but it is not significant;
We can also ask ourselves if a country went through a demographic transition, which is when a
country goes from high birth rates and low life expectancy to low birth rate and high life
expectancy, usually due to better health care. In fact, it is a transition from traditional health
problems, like lack of immunization or famine, to new health problems, like an aging population.
Though a significant factor, there are also exceptions, like China and India, which deal with both
old and new health problems.
So development is usually measure according to income; countries over a certain income will be
considered developed, and those below, developing or underdeveloped. One must always
remember that the definition of development depends on the time period, and that even in a set
period, the main definition will be challenged, leading to a different set of strategies and policies.