Inconsistencies Make For Discrepancies

Updated: Jul 30 2002, 05:30am hrs
UNDPs Human Development Report for 2002 has recently been released and people have already written about HDR. I have always wondered why figures given in HDR jump around from year to year, for example, in the comparison between HDR 2001 and HDR 2002. I dont mean minor decimal level discrepancies. You will find those also. What was Indias Human Development Index value in 1975 HDR 2001 gives 0.406 and HDR 2002 gives 0.407. This is a decimal level kind of discrepancy. But take something like urban population as a percentage of total population.

HDR 2001 gives 28.1 per cent (for 1999), while HDR 2002 gives 27.7 per cent (for 2000). This is not a decimal level discrepancy. What about the percentage of one-year olds immunised against tuberculosis and measles HDR 2001 tells us 72 per cent of infants were immunised against tuberculosis and 55 per cent were immunised against measles. Both figures are for the period 1997-99. HDR 2002 gives us a figure for 1999 and tells us 68 per cent of infants were immunised against tuberculosis and 50 per cent were immunised against measles. Did performance deteriorate so much in a couple of years

According to HDR 2001, during 1996-98, 21 per cent of the population was under-nourished. According to HDR 2002, during 1997-99, 23 per cent of the population was under-nourished. Within the space of one year, under-nourishment increased. In addition, you also have figures on children under five who are under-weight or under-height. If under-nourishment increases, you would perhaps expect the incidence of under-weight or under-height children to increase. But strangely, while HDR 2001 gives us 33 per cent as the percentage of infants with low birth weight (for 1995-99), HDR 2002 gives us 26 per cent as the percentage of infants with low birth weight (for 1995-2000). HDR 2001 tells us that for 1995-2000, 53 per cent of under-five children were under-weight. For the same period, HDR 2002 gives us a figure of 47 per cent. HDR 2001 tells us that for 1995-2000, 52 per cent of under-five children were under-height. For the same period, HDR 2002 gives us a figure of 46 per cent. HDR 2001 tells us that the maternal mortality ratio (per 100,000 live births) was 410 during 1980-99. HDR 2002 tells us that the maternal mortality ratio was 540 during 1985-99. During the later period, did the maternal mortality ratio really jump like that

Unlike social sector indicators, you might expect trade data to be more robust. HDR 2001 tells us that the share of high technology exports in total manufactured exports was 7 per cent in 1998. HDR 2002 gives us a figure of 4 per cent for 1999. How much is military expenditure as a percentage of GDP For 1990, HDR 2001 gives us 2.9 per cent. HDR 2002 gives us 2.7 per cent and this is probably more than a decimal level kind of discrepancy. HDR 2001 tells us that in 1999 (in 1990 prices), we imported $ 566 million worth of arms. HDR 2002 tells us that in 2001 (in 1990 prices again), we imported $ 1,064 million worth of arms. Could defence imports have increased by that much Perhaps it could. But according to HDR 2001, total armed forces were 11,73000 in 1999. According to HDR 2002, total armed forces were 13,03000 in 2000. I refuse to believe that total armed forces could have increased by that much in one year.

These are objective variables, so to speak. This years HDR also tries to measure and quantify quality of governance within countries. There are some indicators described as objective indicators of governance, such as participation in the electoral process (voter turnout, year women received the right to vote, seats in Parliament held by women), strength of civil society (trade union membership, number of NGOs) and ratification of international human right instruments. Because these are objective variables, the only quarrel can be about whether these variables adequately capture the idea of governance or whether there can be better variables. This is not true of the so-called subjective indicators of governance. These are based on perceptions and are divided into three heads democracy, rule of law and government effectiveness and corruption. In all fairness, one should mention that these are not indicators developed by UNDP. They reflect the work of others.

For instance, democracy has a polity score (University of Maryland), civil liberties (Freedom House), political rights (Freedom House), press freedom (Freedom House) and voice and accountability (World Bank). Understandably, on this democracy head, India outstrips the rest of South Asia. But on the press freedom criterion, India scores 42 out of 100. This means that the Indian press is partly free and places India in the same league as say, Kuwait, Romania, Macedonia, Fiji, Indonesia and Uganda. Doesnt quite seem right.

Rule of law and government effectiveness include political stability and lack of violence (World Bank), law and order (International Country Risk Guide), rule of law (World Bank) and government effectiveness (World Bank). Again, India is the best performer within South Asia, although in an absolute sense, the Indian government is believed to be ineffective. The corruption head has corruption perception (Transparency International) and graft (World Bank). It is not very obvious how the two are different, except that they come from two different sources.

On corruption, we dont have values for all South Asian countries. Transparency International tells us that India is less corrupt than Pakistan and Pakistan is less corrupt than Bangladesh. The World Bank believes that India is the least corrupt of the three, but Bangladesh is less corrupt than Pakistan. According to the World Bank, Sri Lanka is the least corrupt within the region and Nepal is less corrupt than India. If you take the World Bank figure, India has the same level of corruption as Colombia and Senegal.

In general, HDR 2002 has a lot of charitable references to India, partly because of the deepening democracy theme and partly because of income growth in India during nineties. However, there is also a reference to the 50 million missing women (100 million in the world), who would have been alive but for infanticide, neglect or sex-selective abortions. A recent survey in India found 10,000 cases of female infanticide a year, and a study of a clinic in Bombay found that 7,999 of 8,000 aborted foetuses were female. Why was the single male foetus aborted Must look it up from the reference given in HDR 2002. u