Perspective: The Mis-Measure of Development

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A new scorecard that purports to grade countries on development progress tells us little about how we are faring against humanity’s biggest challenges. Instead, it highlights the shortcomings of today’s unfocused global development agenda.

The major new report, led by Jeffrey D. Sachs and issued by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Germany’s Bertelsmann Stiftung, provides a color-coded dashboard to demonstrate how well every country is doing at implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – the hugely important agenda that succeeded the highly effective Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 18 months ago. Green indicates success across all indicators of a goal; yellow, orange, and red point to increasing distances from achieving the goal.

You might expect to discover from the rating how well rich countries are allocating their development aid, and how successfully poorer countries are spending their own funds, to make sure more people have access to education, healthcare, food security, and a safe, clean environment – the planet’s fundamental development challenges.

Instead, the index shows us that Cambodia – where more than 20% of the population lives on less than $1.90 per day – gets a green, outperforming an orange Spain on implementation of SDG 1: “End poverty in all its forms everywhere.” On government efficiency, the report claims that Italy is doing worse than all countries except Venezuela – much worse than Burundi or even Syria – in a ranking topped by Singapore and, more surprisingly, Rwanda.

Photo courtesy of Isriya Paireepairit.

Source: Project Syndicate (link opens in a new window)

global development, poverty alleviation, SDGs