By Sakiko Fukuda-Parr
Robert J. Barro's critique of the Human Development Report is out of date ("The U.N. is dead wrong on poverty and inequality," Economic Viewpoint, May 6). The HDR is published annually, so it is curious that he should choose to criticize the 1999 report rather than the report from 2001, the latest available. As academic research progresses, our analysis evolves. The forthcoming HDR 2002, out in July, will present our best current analysis of global inequality.
Barro fails to realize that global inequality is not about just income. It is about education for children, access to world markets, receipt of foreign direct investment, control of technology, the marginalization of women, and so on. But the real story is that the extremes of global inequality are so grotesque: The richest 5% of the world's people have incomes 114 times those of the poorest 5%. The latest U.N. Conference on Trade & Development report shows that in the two decades since 1980, export earnings grew at nearly 8% annually in developed countries, 11% in developing countries, but only 3% in sub-Saharan African countries. Hand-wringing helps nobody. But there is no excuse for complacency.
Human Development Report Office
U.N. Development Program
Editor's note: The writer is lead author of the Human Development Reports, 1995-2002.
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