Saturday, October 27, 2012

Evaluating Progress and Development

The subject of evaluating progress and development has been debated and examined by scholars and political leaders for decades, since the third world began to embark on planned development. The measures and indicators used kept expanding and changing while the developed countries themselves began to feel that some of the measures they used had become absolute or irrelevant. Using the economic indicators alone such as setting a poverty line based on income and utilizing the food consumption index to indicate the existence of poverty, might show that poverty exists even in the developed countries.

Development and progress in society must be reflected through many other measures beside the economic indicators. Even the poor living in an environment with well-developed public services, excellent infrastructural facilities, cheap and efficient public transportation system, plenty of food available at very reasonable prices, can live in comfort. At the other extreme in a developing country where public services are not too dependable, infrastructural facilities are at a minimum, transportation is difficult and food is very costly, even people in the medium income bracket may find life to be very difficult and demanding. The standard of living achieved could be much lower than that enjoyed by the so=called poor in the more developed countries.
In Malaysia for example, people earning above RM1000 a month used to be able to live quite comfortably in the 60s and 70s. Now even people with an income of RM3000 a month are classified as eligible for receiving government handouts ( a Public assistance program called BR1M). Salaries in the public sector had been raised a couple of times but each time that happened the cost of living as mainly decided by the cost of housing, food, transportation and medical expanses,went up as well, sometimes preceding the actual payment of the new salary scheme. A loaf of bread which used to cost only RM1.20 now costs RM2.80. The cost of cup of coffee or tree sprinted from around RM.50 to RM1.80. The rental for a single story terrace house went up fro about RM200 a month to RM800.

So, while the economy is doing well and income had improved so much with a corresponding improvement in the standard of living, the poorer people (poorer as compared to the rich businessmen and political leaders) may not be that happy. Development and progress could be at a standstill for them, being unable to catch up with the rise in the cost of living.The evaluation of development and progress must take into consideration what the social scientists called "citizenship outcome" which include the evaluation of political alienation or support, participation in the public and economic transformation programs (is the common man outside the party circle really involved?), is the attitude of the public in tendem with the immediate goals of government, is the value-nexus of the population changing as desired by the government etc.

The irony is that the economic development of the country could be healthy but the attitude of the common man towards government policies may not though all the financial assistance given are welcomed. The situation is made worse when the billions and millions of ringgit spent on development are seen to enrich the already wealthy more than the poor and the average citizen working hard for a living.


abdulhalimshah said...

We always associate development with incomes, and eventually one day even those earning more than 3k ringgit can also be categorised as below the poverty line. This simply does not make sense. We have to adopt a holistic view on development. Development should not be simply measured in dollar terms, but on soft yardstick like adequate nutrition,cheap transportation,free education,medical and health coverage, affordable homes. These are more relevant to people's life than mere incomes which is easily negated by rising prices.

norzah said...

Those that you mentioned are more social measures than economic, Akhi and the measurement hinges on terms like adequate, cheap, free, and affordable. These are the measurements that escape standardization and vary according to the people we are concerned with. To the rich everything is cheap and affordable. To the poor even if roti canai costs 50 sen apiece, it's still expensive.

The irony of today' life is that the rich or workers in well established companies get many things free, or paid by the company like medical treatment, free holiday resort accommodation, monthly bonuses etc. The farmers and fishermen get nothing for free, All must be paid thru their nose.

They are actually the foot soldiers of development.

Anonymous said...

The gap between rich and poor has gradually become bigger. Low to middle income earners have to struggle with day to day costs in many forms.

Let's take America for example, many local folks tired of the nation economic performance since Obama in the office. It results in this unhappy and disappointed group desperate wants to send his rival to White House through the election.

The American presidential election sends a clear and strong message to the Mr President that positive change in current economic can make a big difference for him to stay four more years in office.The neck and neck competition obviously gives him a big headache even if he elected he has to implement his promises without any delay what the people want better lives!

At home I'm delighted to see our government takes into rakyat needs and problems into consideration. The budget 2013 seems good to the people but not enough (good to see the leaders make initiatives in improving people lives and reducing their economic burden to some extent). As other ordinary citizen, I hope more good things for us in years ahead!