What is Development?
In addition to Belize’s history, this website seeks to open a serious discussion on the development of the country. However, we need to come to a consensus on – what is Development? The definition of Development is a highly debated topic. Our take on development is that it is related to the process of creation of more opportunities for persons to achieve needs which are higher up the order of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
However, economists in the developed countries have focused on economic gains in defining Development. As a result development was defined based on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP represents the total dollar value of all goods and services produced over a specific time period. GDP is often expressed in relation to the previous year. For example, if the GDP increased 2% over last year, GDP growth is said to be 2%. If the economy shrunk by 1%, the GDP growth is said to be -1%. A development on the GDP statistic is the Gross National Income. GDP per capita is the GDP of the country divided by the number of persons. Gross National Income (GNI) is the sum of incomes of residents of an economy in a given period. It is equal to GDP minus primary income payable by resident units to non-resident units, plus primary income receivable from the rest of the world.
In 1987 the Bruntland Commission’s publication Our Common Future, defined sustainable development as the “ability to make development sustainable – to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This work incorporated the need to sustain the natural environment while developing the built up capital, especially in developing countries. However, there was something still missing. The United States National Academy of Sciences Board on Sustainable Development became involved in the question with the publication of Our Common Journey: A Transition toward Sustainability in 1999 which created a framework which takes into account the natural environment, the economy and societies. This work influenced the state of the art of development studies.
The current understanding of sustainable development incorporates three main pillars: economy, environment and society.
For development to be economically sustainable it must be able to produce goods and services on a continuing basis without excessive external debt and it must avoid extreme sectoral imbalances which damage agricultural or industrial production.
In the environmental sphere, an environmentally sustainable system is one that maintains a stable resource base, and avoids over-exploitation of renewable resource systems or depletion of non- renewable resources. It includes maintenance of biodiversity, atmospheric stability, and other ecosystem functions not ordinarily classed as economic resources.
The third pillar of sustainable development refers to schemes which ensure equity in distribution of wealth, attention to social services including health and education, gender equity, and political accountability and participation.
What does Development mean to the Wo/Man on the street?
In societies like Belize where the GDP per capita is low, but the cost of living may be lower than in developed countries, it may be helpful to take into account some non economic factors when assessing the development status and prospects of a country. This prompted Mahbub ul Haq and Amartya Sen to develop the concept of Human Development Index (HDI). The HDI is a composite statistic that takes into account the life expectancy, education, and income indices of a country. This single number has been used to rank countries in terms of its human development.