The Meaning Of Development Essay

4437 words - 18 pages

Arianne Cerize A. Aman
The Meaning of Development: Brazil and Costa Rica
Economic development is the presumed solution to absolute poverty and to many of the world's other most pressing problems. But what is development, and how do we know it when we see it? The term, development, has been used in several ways. Traditionally, it was equated with growth of per capita income. Since the 1970s, other indicators of development have become widely used by development scholars and development agencies such as the World Bank. The meeting of basic needs (or, equivalently, reduction in absolute poverty), the creation of modern employment opportunities, and the achievement of a less unequal ...view middle of the document...

But if growth is a necessary condition for development in poor countries, it is not a sufficient condition. This case study comparing Brazil and Costa Rica brings out some of these contrasts in national development performance when different aspects of development are stressed. These two Latin American countries are good cases to examine carefully because while Brazil is often cited as an example of a country experiencing growth without development and Costa Rica is often cited as a case of successful development, a close examination of these two countries reveals the great complexity of these issues.
Costa Rica is of special interest because it has stood virtually alone throughout the last century as an example of democracy and slow but steady economic development in an otherwise violent and stagnant Central America. In fact, the Costa Rican government was very active in efforts to bring peace to the Central American region in the 1990s. Brazil is of special interest because its growth performance from the 1960s through the 1980s was the best in Latin America, with at least some parallels with East Asian policy and performance (see Cases 2, 3, and 15). At the same time, other indicators of development in Brazil lagged, eventually undermining growth prospects. Without being torn apart by civil war and benefiting from much higher incomes than Central American countries, it would seem that Brazil should have been in a much better position to fight extreme poverty and improve economic and social equity. Instead, it has continued to see an extremely high percentage of its population in extreme poverty for an upper middle income country, and remains one the countries with the highest levels of inequality in the world. Average Income and Human Development Levels. In 2000, Brazil’s per capita income was $3,750. Using purchasing power parity (PPP–see Todaro and Smith, chapter 2), its average income was $7,320. In Costa Rica, income per capita had reached $3,960 by 2000, with a $PPP income of $8,250. In Brazil, growth has been highly erratic, with large swings over time. In Costa Rica, growth has been modest but respectable and relatively steady. When the first edition of this case study was written, the income rankings of these two countries were reversed. But Costa Rica was rated then as well ahead of Brazil on human development and poverty reduction, and with this lead–in the kind of economic development that really counts–it was anticipated that Costa Rica could surpass Brazil in standard economic measures as well. Costa Rica still maintains a substantial human development lead, as reflected in the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index (for a full overview, see Todaro and Smith, chapter 2). As of 1999 (the most recent data available as of July 2002), Costa Rica had attained high human development status, ranking 41st in the world, six positions higher than would have been predicted using its income rank alone. In contrast,...

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