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People, Not Economics, Are Focus of Development Report

THE United Nations Development Programme released a report May 24 which aims to help developing nations consider human consequences of economic policy decisions. The report ``will be a good yardstick to remind policymakers that, in pursuit of your growth and extension of economies, don't forget about extension of human lives,'' says Mahbub ul Haq in an interview. The former planning and finance minister of Pakistan and ex-World Bank official is the principal author of the ``Human Development Report.''

``You cannot make good policy unless the basic social and human data are available,'' he adds. Most developing countries do not have reliable information on which to base decisions.

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The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) publish extensive data on each country's finances. But the UNDP report measures the human impacts of development, such as the percentage of the population with access to safe water, the male-female literacy gap, and indices of urban crowding.

As the IMF-sponsored budget-reform agreements took hold throughout the developing world in the 1980s, development experts widely agreed that the wrong expenditures were being slashed.

In the developing world, ``it appears that [in the 1980s] education and health budgets went down, employment went down, and nutrition levels deteriorated, school enrollment fell off in some countries, infant mortality rates again started rising, so some of the human achievements in the '60s and '70s ... are getting eroded,'' Mr. Haq says.

The UNDP would like to encourage changes in governmental priorities. Each year the ``Human Development Report'' plans to chronicle the progress of the same measures of well-being, Haq says.

``We'll analyze each time ... how far the military budgets have gone up, how far the budgets for inefficient public enterprises have gone up, or the civil service corruption has gone up,'' Haq says.

The report will also draw attention to inequitable development in the industrialized world. Haq says that in Harlem, in New York, the life expectancy is only 46 years. That is lower than the average life span in Africa. And it is 30 years lower than the national average in the United States. ``The US is not one society, but several,'' he says.

The UNDP proposals originating from report's data each year will be forward-looking to try to keep wayward governments from being offended to the point of noncooperation with UNDP efforts, Haq says.

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Haq says that human development ``wasn't monitored year to year. ... Now we'll monitor it and point out alternatives, because it would be easy to say, `Yes, we should not let the pressure come on human lives,' but we have to show how. ...

``It is shortsighted to balance budgets by unbalancing lives of the people.''

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