Look What’s on the other plate

Human Development in South Asia 1997

by Mahbub ul Haq

Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1997

ISBN 0 19 577773 5

Mahbubul Haq, the guru of development science, has tried to present the everyday reality of South Asia in this publication, where he employs the Human Development Index (HDI) he helped develop for UNDP for inter-country comparison and ranking on a development scale. Overall, the situation in South Asia described by the author and his Islamabad-based team of researchers is a close reflection of Subcontinental reality. The book does a creditable job of collating information on a South Asia-wide scale, addressing a myriad of diverse issues such as rising military expenditure, government´s "benign neglect", growth of NGO activities, and mobilisation of savings and investment. The country-wise human development profile is also of great interest and utility.
It is when Mr Haq insists on comparing South Asia´s performance with those of Sub-Saharan Africa on the one hand and East Asia on the other, however, that he enters shaky ground. Here, his report easily falls prey to the pitfalls of generalisation. Going by his calculations, India is behind Kenya and Lesotho; Bhutan is behind Rwanda and Liberia, and Nepal is behind Sudan. Anyone who has lived or visited these countries may draw their own conclusions. By the obvious indicators of development such as personal security, economic growth centres, individual purchasing capacity, relative economic stability, relative freedom of individuals and press, South Asia must be ahead of its African counterpart region.

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