ven., 12 nov. 2010 12:00:52 GMT
By Francisco R. Rodríguez and Emma Samman
Head of Research Team and Consultant (respectively), Human Development Report Office, UNDP
This article is also available in Arabic.
What is the region of the world that has experienced the greatest progress in development in recent decades? For several years, the answer given by development economists to this question has been pretty clear: most of the world’s growth miracles are in East Asia. This conclusion has become the conventional wisdom among development economists, at least since the publication by the World Bank in 1993 of The East Asian Miracle, and is routinely confirmed by analyses of growth data sets. For example, the 2008 Report of the Spence Commission on Growth and Development listed 13 success stories of sustained, high growth, of which 9 were in East Asia.
The 2010 Human Development Report (The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development), published last week by the United Nations Development Programme, has another take on this story. In its chapter 2, the report presents a list of ten “top movers” – countries that have seen the greatest improvements in human development, as measured by the Human Development Index, relative to their 1970 starting point. The list is geographically much more diverse than that of the Spence Commission. In fact, only four of the Spence Commission’s success stories make it into the HDR list. All the other six are countries one doesn’t traditionally hear mentioned as success stories. And among these, the presence of three North African countries – Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco – is striking.
|Rank||Improvements in HDI|
Source: 2010 Human Development Report.
The 2010 HDR adopts a specific definition of success – the actual rate of change in the HDI relative to a country’s starting point, calculated as the residual of a regression of the change in HDI on the country’s initial HDI level. It measures how well countries did in comparison to other countries with similar initial HDI levels. The exceptional performance of these countries, however, does not seem to be sensitive to the definition of success adopted. However you measure it, the performance of these countries in health and education indicators (which, together with per capita income, make up the HDI) has been stellar (This does not mean that they did as well on other important aspects of human development not included in the HDI – a point to which we return below).
Consider the following comparison. In 1970, a baby born in Tunisia could expect to live 54 years; one born in China, 62 years. Today, life expectancy in Tunisia has risen to 74 years, a year longer than that of China. So while China’s per capita income grew almost three times as fast as Tunisia’s, Tunisia’s life expectancy grew twice as fast as China’s. Since it also significantly outperformed China on the education front, Tunisia gives China a run for its money in the overall development story (as captured by the HDI).
One way to illustrate how striking the progress of these countries was is to look at how well they did compared to other countries according to the three components of the HDI. The following figure illustrates the comparison between the evolution of life expectancy in these three countries over time and the world average, as well as that of a subset of countries with a similar starting point. What we can see is that all three countries started well below the world mean in 1970 but by 2010 had overtaken the rest of the world – and significantly outperformed countries that started off in the same place. Similar patterns characterize their performance on the education front: on average, the gross enrolment ratios in these countries grew by 33 percentage points in the past forty years, as opposed to a world mean of 23 percentage points and an average of 26 percentage points for countries with similar starting points.
Source: Authors’ calculations.
Note: “Similar starting points” refers to those countries that had a life expectancy within two years of the average life expectancy of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia in 1970.
Interestingly, this was not the case for economic growth. The average growth rate of per capita income in these countries was just 2.1 percent, just slightly above the world average of 1.7 percent. In terms of growth, the best performer of the lot is Tunisia (3 percent) – but even here 19 countries had higher growth rates for the forty-year period. In contrast, only six countries outperformed Tunisia in terms of improvements in the HDI’s combined measure of health and education.
This illustrates a broader point. There is a remarkably weak correlation between economic growth and improvements in health and education. The correlation between these two variables over a forty-year period is 0.13, and is not statistically significant.
According to the story in this year’s HDR, this decoupling of growth and improvements in education and health has a lot to do with the transmission of techniques, ideas and ideals – such as immunization, clean water systems, and the principle that everyone is entitled to an education – across countries. The point is that the capacity of countries to incorporate these advances and to be open to new ideas will depend on a host of factors, ranging from initial conditions to institutions and political will.
Take Tunisia. Much of its progress in education can be traced back to a set of reforms adopted early after independence in 1956 by the administration of Habib Bourguiba. A vital step here was the 1958 educational reform, which established a timetable for enrollment of all 6 year olds by 1966 and full enrollment of all primary school aged children by 1971. There is now substantial evidence that the health and schooling of children can be raised by empowering women, and this is precisely what Tunisia did when it raised the minimum age for marriage, revoked the colonial ban on imports of contraceptives, instituted the first family planning programme in Africa, legalized abortion, made polygamy illegal, and gave women the right to divorce as well as the right to stand and vote for election.i
Of course, many countries tried to carry out similar reforms, but Tunisia seems to have been particularly successful in making them work. For example, only 3 percent of women 25 years or older had attended school in 1955, a year before independence. Today, this number has risen to 62. What’s more, female tertiary enrolment rates are now higher than in Hong Kong or Mexico. An efficient state bureaucracy seems to be a key component: Tunisia provides access to basic health care to almost all of its population regardless of income yet does not spend more on health as a share of GDP than comparable countries. It administers a huge public works program but 80 percent of the program expenditures actually go directly as payments to unskilled workers – a much greater share than, say, in India’s Maharashtra Employment Guarantee scheme.ii
But there is more than just government effectiveness working here. One striking characteristic of Tunisia’s policymaking process is how much of it is shaped by genuine consideration to Tunisian priorities and context. Back in the early nineties, when many developing countries were slashing indirect subsidies and replacing them by targeted programs, often following the direct recommendations of the Washington-based international institutions, Tunisia actually did something different: it reformulated its subsidy program so as to center on subsidizing only inferior goods, thus allowing the poor to “self-select” as beneficiaries of the program. This was not just innovative: it was pro-poor, and it was smart. On average, subsidized foodstuffs provided more than 70 percent of the total caloric intake and close to 80 percent of the total protein consumption of the poor in 1990.iii It also must have taken quite some guts to go so directly against the conventional wisdom in the heyday of the Washington Consensus.
Similar stories seem to explain the success of the other North African top movers. Interestingly, one consequence of the Cold War in this region may have been to create relatively strong states that were also able to forge a space for independent policymaking. The French colonial legacy and its emphasis on building a strong public bureaucracy may also have played a role here. Of course, there are many unanswered questions here – for example, how was Algeria able to maintain such rapid rates of improvement in health and education in the face of macroeconomic crises and overall lackluster growth performance? There are few explanations in the literature for the North African miracle – indeed, it seems that the field of research here is wide open.
A particularly relevant question regards the relatively slow progress that these countries have made in terms of democratization. In contrast to other countries that experienced great improvements in human development over this period – such as Nepal, South Korea and Indonesia – the North African countries have not seen a consequent liberalization of political institutions. In fact, Tunisia and Algeria are atypical among high HDI countries, of which more than three quarters are considered democratic according to the Cheibub et al. (2009) measure used in this year’s HDR. This is not to say that there has been no progress over time – in fact, in 1998 Morocco became the first country in the Arab region to have an opposition party assume power after an election. Yet this is likely the one dimension in which further improvements would go a great way towards fully continuing to expand the full freedoms and choices of North Africans.
i Sorkin, Jeri (2001), “The Tunisian Model”, Middle East Quarterly, p. 25-29.
ii Iqbal, Farruck (2006), Sustaining gains in poverty reduction and human development in the Middle East and North Africa, Washington, DC: World Bank.
iii Ghali, S. (2004), The Tunisian Path to Development 1961-2001, Paper prepared for Scaling up Poverty Reduction, A Global Learning Process and Conference. Shanghai, May 25-27, 2004.
Bachir Boulahbel, Retraité wrote:
"Le titre "miracle Nord Africain" aurait pu s'intituler "Miracle Tunisien". Ce n'est pas la réussite de ce pays frère qui dérange, c'est le déséquilibre de l'article, notamment pour sa partie réservée à l'Algérie. Le classement positif que vous avez observé est subrepticement remis en cause quand vous jetez le doute sur les résultats obtenus en parlant de "piètres résultats de croissance globale". Pour avoir analysé finement le cas Tunisien, décelant même de "l'intelligence" dans la mesure de subventionnement des "bas produits" (quoique que vous en pensiez, c'est une mesure généralement appliquée dans tous les PAS), il ne vous a certainement pas échappé que la croissance de l'Algérie, hors hydrocarbures, est loin d'être "piètre"! Les secteurs hors hydrocarbures qui ont tiré la croissance ces dernières années sont le BTP et les services: ce sont des secteurs intensifs en emplois... Si vous ajoutez le fait que deux énormes programmes de développement à financement public (sans commune mesure avec des programmes équivalents d'autres pays, y compris développés) ayant une composante développement humain très solide ont été mis en oeuvre en cours de la décennie précédente, il me paraît difficile de rester dubitatif devant les résultats obtenus. Sauf à avoir un à-priori.... Sincèrement."
Bachir Boulahbel, Retraité wrote:
"Je viens de vous faire un message, et j'ai oublié de vous dire merci pour l'envoi de votre bulletin. Sincèrement, je vous félicite pour sa qualité qui me satisfait pleinement en me permettant de suivre valablement les évenements relatifs au développement humain. Merci encore et indulgence pour ma réaction un peu ....irritée. Cordialement."
Guillermo Mendez Beteta, Ing. Agrónomo Profesor universitario/ Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala wrote:
"No cabe duda de que en el momento en que entro en vigencia el efecto del Consenso de Washington, los países en vías de desarrollo de acuerdo a la voluntad política de sus gobernantes, tuvieron opción de atender a la población mas necesitada y vulnerable, pero, lo contrario sucedió en muchos países latinoamericanos gobernados por políticos que han respondido a intereses conservadores o de las oligarquías criollas, que permitieron adelgazar notablemente los estados y consigo la reducción en los presupuestos destinados a programas sociales, ante todo salud y educación. "
Peter Futo, Associate Professor, Course Co-Ordinator at "Joint Master Programme of Comparative Local Develeopment" Corvinus University Budapest, Institute of Sociology wrote:
"An enlightening article. I will use the underlying HD Report in my courses for demonstrating / illustrating the use of indicators in development studies."
A. Karunakaran, Founder Childcare Consortium wrote:
"Dear sir/madam, NGO childcare consortium does not agree with this report on ‘The North African Miracle’ released by the Head of the UNDP team Francisco R. Rodríguez and Emma Samman. How it is possible when the Gender inequality index of the Human Development Report of 2010 on the entire region shows 0.735, and Gender inequities ratio of individual countries with world ranking as follows : Chad -nil, Niger-nil, Tunisia - 56, Algeria -70, Morocco -104, Sudan -106, Egypt -108, Mauritania -118, Mali -135. With such a vast Gender inequity ratio, how it is possible North African human mental and physical development can make a miracle. It should be low or below average."
Peter, The University of Auckland, New Zealand wrote:
"I am wondering how the HDI improved in North Africa, for instance, in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, as it is claimed that endorsement of Women's health is correlated to their rights such as right to divorce, legalising abortion, late marriages, illigalising polygamy, and women's suffrage. This surprises me because, to me, most of these values may be unafrican/Islamic rules, particularly in Mahgreb countries that may be culturally affiliated to Islamic values that may be contradicting these suggested women's rights. However, am a believer in women's rights as a best way foreward for improvements in UNDP's HDI but unless the researcher(s) who presented this report may revisit their findings to convince most people out there in Africa, as these values may not be consistant with African values as argued by Lee Kuan Yew (Former Singaporean Leader), when he stressed that Western human rights-based values are not necessarily Asians' or the likes of Africans' and Samuel P.Huntington. This is just but my view of the world in the eyes of global south."
James Foster, Professor The George Washington University wrote:
"This analysis is great for illustrating the central role of "growth" in assessing development and progress. The key question is "growth of what?" and varying answers can lead to a continuum of views - from the Spence Commission to the HDR. Growth is indeed important, but there are many dimensions, such as education, health, income, and political freedoms, in which growth can be usefully evaluated."
Louis Ruzoviyo, Membre de l'association ASR "afrosvenskarna" wrote:
"J'habite en Suède et c'est pour dire que je suis témoin de cette performance tunisienne en matière de développement humain. Ne pourrait-on même dire que le développement humain passe par le développement de l'esprit? En point d'orgue, est que c'est un développement humain en Tunisie teinté des valeurs éternelles africaines qui s'effritent ailleurs; à savoir, le partage, la fraternelle chaleur humaine africaine symbolisée par le chaleureux accueil de l'autre chez soi, le respect du guide de la nation. Eh bien, j'ai été en Tunisie, du Nord au Sud, l'année dernière avec un groupe de sportives suédoises "Vendelsö IK" et l'accueil trouvé auprès des jeunes sportives tunisiennes et leurs chefs, restent pour nous inoubliable outres le pas déjà franchi. C'était dans le cadre du projet EC-UN JMDI, où j'essai d'utiliser le potentiel du sport pour le développement humain précisement. Si ce projet dont je suis le promoteur s'appliquera sur la Tunisie et mon pays le Burundi, seule la Tunsie a été retenue parmi les premiers pays pilotes par le projet EC-UN JMDI. "
Frank Sudlow, Diocesan Manager CAFOD wrote:
"A really challenging and informative article. I have visited both Morocco and Tunisia and seen the developments for myself. The fact that their development is so counter the prevailing Washington Concensus could also explain how they have managed reforms which are universally benefitial. The way in which, as Muslim states, they have symultaneously empowered women while still giving high regard to the tenates of Islam is also inspiring."
A. Karunakaran, Founder NGO Childcare consortium wrote:
"NGO, childcare consortium is not in favour of the HDI components of health, education and income which need two more earth like biosphere to exploit, fund and find improvement in human development. The global economy is flowing from very lower level to upper level like from land locked least developed countries to developed countries. There is no chance for HDI components of health, education and income to find improvement in human development. It needs two more earth like biosphere to exploit and find improvement in human development. Wise Human beings try to develop with prevailing resources without further damaging the bio-capacity. Such Wise human beings look into the components of gender/genetic equity, health and transference of physical and mental values from ‘haves ‘to have not’s to find improvement in human development which fall within the bio-capacity. Achieving gender/genetic equity by balancing male, female and transgender will generate healthy human beings without genetic disorder. Such social order encodes clean economy and reverse existing option strategy in global finance and flow systematically from developed countries to land locked least developed countries to improve education, income, human rights and retain assets among all countries without depleting the biosphere. United Nations and UNDP must follow the components given by NGO, childcare consortium to find absolute human development on earth. The existing UNDP HDI components of health, education and income will further expand cost of living in health sector, education and deplete the biosphere via corporate in the name of employability and income. Beware of false components!"