What does it mean when a country is classed as ‘developed’? It’s certainly not a finite state. For the World Bank a ‘developed’ country is one with a high Gross National Income (GNI) per capita. They then classify countries according to their income level. But this doesn’t tell the whole story – it doesn’t give you the distribution of wealth across a population (like the GINI index or coefficient attempts to do), it just gives a straight average of national income divided by population.
The Human Development Index (HDI) reported on in the United Nations Development Programme’s annual Human Development Report attempts to draw on a wider vision of development, including measures of education, health, and standard of living.
INASP uses a combination of the World Bank classification and the HDI to identify countries eligible for support. These classifications are checked annually to see if any countries have moved into or out of eligibility.
When checking the classifications recently, I came across this interesting tool on the UNDP website – Two different stories: From human development to income. You can select a country and the tool will show you the HDI and GNI values for that country, against another country with a similar HDI value but a very different GNI. It shows the value in using a wider measure of development than just average income levels as higher income levels don’t necessarily equate to high levels of education and health. Let’s take an example. One of INASP’s partner countries is Honduras. The comparison country that comes up when you select Honduras is Botswana – with a much higher GNI per capita but a very similar HDI. Botswana isn’t currently eligible for INASP’s support while Honduras is. As the blurb above the comparison tool says, ‘The HDI can also be used to question national policy choices, asking how two countries with the same level of GNI per capita can end up with such different human development outcomes.’
This raises a number of questions and makes me wonder whether we’re using the right eligibility criteria to identify the countries we could work with. What criteria do others use? Is it worth checking these criteria on an annual basis, given that small fluctuations in GNI and HDI do not reflect significant differences in development on the ground?