Development Dilemmas

What is development?

Development is the overall term which is used to measure how advanced a country is compared to others. There are different types of development:
  • Economic development - This is considered to be the most important and involves ways of making money. Governments around the world wish for this type of development to happen because it means the money they can gain through taxes can go to develop other aspects of the country, e.g. infrastructure projects such as roads, hospitals, schools.
  • Socio-political development - This type of development relates more to society and involves things like education, health care provisions, safety, or freedom of speech.
  • Sustainable development - This type of development takes into account not only the social and economic factors, but also the environmental factors.
Development is quite difficult to measure because accurate data is not readily available, and because the things we want to measure are difficult to measure.

Factors to consider when evaluating development

Economic Physical wellbeing  Mental wellbeing Social 
- income
- type of industries
- security of jobs
- diet
- access to clean water
- environment (including climate, hazards, etc.)
- freedom
- security
- happiness
- access to education
- access to health care
- access to leisure facilities

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Measuring Development

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
Gross Domestic Product per capita is the total income of a country in a year divided by its population. It shows the average money per person in the population and can be used to measure development. 
Advantages Disadvantages 
- Available for every country with an economic structure
- Because GDP is the average money per person, it covers up any gaps between the rich and poor.

Human Development Index (HDI)
The Human Development Index is scale combining several different factors of development, including income, education and life expectancy. In 2011 the UK ranked 28th in the HDI out of 187 countries, while Brazil ranked 84th and Tanzania 152nd.
Advantages Disadvantages 
- Covers a wide range of aspects of development, e.g. social and economic
- Some data is not available for all countries
- Does not recognise the natural environment
- Doesn't consider inequalities

Happy Planet Index (HPI)
The Happy Planet Index looks at how efficiently a country is using its resources to benefit its population, without causing long-term damage to its environment. In 2012, Brazil ranked 21st on the HPI, UK 41st and Tanzania 133rd out of 151 countries.
Advantages Disadvantages 
- Considers sustainability and how well the government supports its population
- Doesn't take into consideration the economic aspect of development

Gender Inequality Index
The Gender Inequality Index considers the level of female participation, and decision-making process in the workplace, the level of education of women, and their degree of control over pregnancy. The lower the score, the lower the level of inequality.
Advantages Disadvantages 
- It specifically targets a group that is often excluded during the development of a country
- The role of women in different societies can vary quite considerably, and therefore some of the indicators may be biased in certain situations.

Political Freedom
Political freedom measures political rights and civil liberties, including the freedom of elections, the number of people voting or the number of people with the right to vote, freedom of speech and individual rights.
Advantages Disadvantages 
- Uses 7 different measures as well as  25 key questions judged by experts.
- Data has been collected since 1973, so trends can be identified.
- Bias towards western ideas of freedom

Corruption Perception Index
The Corruption Perception Index looks at perceived corruption in governments and their departments. Governments should be working for their people for development to happen. The reason perceptions are used is because if corruption was happening, it would often be hidden and data would be difficult to find.
Advantages Disadvantages 
- Covers 183 countries
- Uses various different sources of information

Environmental Performance Index
The Environmental Performance Index uses 22 indicators to determine the health of people and the natural environment.
Advantages Disadvantages 
- Shows how countries are looking after their natural environment and their people
- Uses lots of different indicators
- Does not look at economic factors

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The development gap

Due to geographical and historical factors, the world is made up of countries which 'have' and some which 'have not' - the development gap. Some of the social indicators which can separate a country in terms of development include:
In the 1980s, the world had a clear north/south divide where Europe economically dominated, and had been since the 19th century, later joined by the USA, Japan and more recently the East Asia region. 

  • In terms of HDI, Norway is the most developed with an HDI of 0.955.
  • The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Niger are the least developed with a HDI with a score of 0.304.
  • The standard of living between Norway and the DRC is the most extreme example of the development gap.
  • Although development is perceived to be continuous as many countries are continuously developing, this is not always the case as some countries regress as well as develop. Recent figures for HDI in some countries may be very similar to those 30 years ago.
  • The development gap is not really closing between the most and least developed nations.

Development Case Study - Rwanda

Development in Rwanda has neither been a smooth or continuous process as the HDI graph above shows.

Development Successes Barriers to development
  • GDP per capita has increased from $333 to $644 and poverty rates have fallen by 12% between 2006-2011.
  • Primary school attendance, child mortality and access to clean water have all dramatically improved.
  • The reliance on coffee is not as high as before as the economy is increasingly divergent. Agriculture is still important though
  • Development has been made a priority by the government
  •  There's been an increasing number of floods and droughts.
  • Its a landlocked country - trade with other countries is difficult
  • There is a risk of conflict breaking out again, although it is still much reduced.
  • The DRC is next to Rwanda and very unstable and there is a risk that conflict may spread and refugees flood into Rwanda..
  • Although AIDs and HIV is low compared to other Sub-Saharan African countries, it is high compared to the rest of the world at 3%.

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Theories of Development

There are many different theories to explain why societies develop. The two which are discussed here are Rostow's modernisation theory and the dependency theory

The Rostow Model

Not every theory is going to be entirely correct and there are going to be some problems with each theory. The issues with the Rostow Model are:
  • It makes the assumption that all countries start at the same level of development
  • It disregards the fact that a each country will have different qualities, quantities of resources, population or climate/natural hazards.
  • Out of date and based on the 18th and 19th century development of European countries
  • Doesn't take into account that European development came at a cost to other countries (colonisation).

Dependency Theory

The dependency theory evolved in the late 1950s and is based around the idea that developed rich countries (core) are limiting the level of development of the poorer countries (periphery) from the control of the world economy. The most developed countries are able to exploit less developed countries through the use of their economic and political power. The Dependency theory also suggests that the unequal pattern of development has been reinforced by:
  • rich countries imposing trade barriers and conditions for loans
  • unbalanced trade - poor countries sell materials cheaply but buy expensive products
  • the selling of unessential products to poor countries
  • poor countries getting into debt
    • 25% of aid received by African countries each year is used to repay debt rather than build infrastructure.
The problems with the Dependency theory are:
  • written in the late 1950s so it is out of date.
  • natural disasters, lack of resources, conflict are just a few examples of things which may limit development that isn't taken into consideration in the Dependency theory.

Regional disparity

"India-Map-EN" by Rajeshodayanchal at ml.wikipedia, used under CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Modified from original

Regions within a country are all going to develop unequally and at different rates.

Core regions
The core regions are the rich and usually urban areas of a country. They are well connected and have the majority of the services, business and people, generating wealth. It is where big businesses, industries and government have their headquarters. The majority of people live here and services are good.

Periphery regions
The periphery regions are poor and remote rural areas often involved in producing raw materials which the core regions will use.

Case study - India

India provides us with a good example of how different regions of a country develops at different rates. In 2010, average income per capita in Bihar (a rural periphery) was £251 per year, while in Maharashtra (a urban core
) it was £1,011.

Urban core - Maharashtra
  • Maharashtra is home to three of India's largest cities: Mumbai, Pune, and Nagpur.
  • Mumbai:
    • home to 13 million people
    • thriving business district, centre for banking, insurance and call centres
    • manufacturing industry
    • Bollywood
    • Hub for media + technology
Rural periphery - Bihar
  • Average income at £251 is 25% less than Maharashtra at £1,011
  • 26 of India's 100 poorest districts are in Bihar
  • 80% of people live in rural areas
  • Poor education and high birth rates
  • 58% of households have electricity
  • Many people working as landless farm labourers producing barely enough food to feed their own family
  • Government is more corrupt than other parts of India

Multiplier effects and downwards spirals

Core regions will often have advantages over the periphery regions.
Core region advantages Periphery region disadvantages
- Fertile soils
- located near important markets (trade)
- good communication links
- healthy, warm climate
- river/sea ports providing important trade routes
- poor soils
- distant from the core and trade routes
- difficult communications, especially by road
- disease, e.g. malaria
- climate hazards, e.g. droughts, floods, etc. 

Impact of regional disparity

Types of development

There are two different types of development schemes, top-down and bottom-up.


Top-down development schemes are usually very expensive and a country often has to borrow money from large organisation like the World Bank or from companies in developed countries. The decisions related to any top-down scheme will usually be made by the government and any external groups involved. Local people who will be affected by the scheme will have little say in the process and had little influence in the project. 

There are problems which exist with all top-down development projects. These are:
  • the country will more than likely go into debt from the loans borrowed to fund the scheme
  • the loan may also have some conditions attached, leaving the country to be under some external control over the economy or other development aspects of the country
  • jobs are not provided for the local people, instead a lot of machinery and technology is used
  • the end product will be expensive to operate

Top-down case study - Three Gorges Dam, China

The Three Gorges Dam in China is the largest dam in the world. It was designed to meet the benefits of China as a country. It took 14 years to build, created a 405 square miles reservoir behind the dam and generated 22,500 MW of electricity. The official cost of the project was US$26 billion but some estimates claim that it cost as high as US$75 billion. 
  • Helps with flood control - protects 100 million people from flooding
  • Generates hydroelectric power, 22,500 MW
  • Large ships can now travel on the Yangtze - improving trade
  • Jobs for people working at the dam, power companies and cities upstream who will receive more trade
  • Reduces the need for coal-fired power stations - less polluted air
  • 1.3 million people had to relocate for the reservoir
    • They received little compensation
  • 1300 archaeological sites were flooded
  • Yangtze wildlife/species threatened, e.g. Yangtze river dolphin
  • Silt will get trapped behind the dam, in 50 years the silt will begin to cause problems with flood control
  • The reservoir may become polluted with sewage, farm and industrial waste
  • Farmers downstream no longer receive the annual floodwaters which would irrigate their fields
  • The dam is built on fault lines in an earthquake zone
  • Tourism may be negatively affected
  • Very expensive - US$26 billion or more

Top-down case study - Madeira River Project, South America

The Madeira River project is the largest project in the Amazon region's history. It's a multinational project to build four dams, a navigation channel, three highways and a electricity lines. The Santo Antonio dam is one of the dams in the Madeira River Project and is 5km upstream from Pôrto Velho, the capital of Rondônia. The dam will be producing 3,150 MW of electricity while costing $5.3 billion to build.

Impacts of the Santo Antonio dam on different groups of people
Residents of Porto Velho
  • $30 million given to improve the sewage system in Porto Velho
  • Mercury poisoning will be closely monitored amongst residents
  • New jobs available from the expansion of agriculture
Local farmers and fishermen
  • Social support programmes put in place to help local, rural communities
  • Infrastructure improvements
  • Fish allowed to migrate through fish channels created in the dam

Indigenous tribes
  • The consortium has paid for two Indian reservations
Poor people living in South-East Brazil
  • 20,000 jobs created and 100,000 people attracted to the area
  • An education and training centre for immigrants and job seekers established
Brazilian Government
  • Better infrastructure, e.g. roads and waterways
  • Waterway for barges will make it easier to transport soy, timber and minerals
  • The dams will provide energy for Brazil and Rondônia - 8% of Brazil's electricity will be supplied by the Madeira project
Environmental and conservation groups
  • Hydro electric power is created, reducing the need for oil or nuclear power
  • Flooding is minimised using 'run of the river' technology
  • Two new forest reserves created
Businesses in South-East Brazil
  • Produce the cheapest electricity in Brazil
Residents of Porto Velho
  • An increase in the number of immigrants in the area (up to 100,000) will cause a strain on services and living space
  • The increase in water water area will likely cause an increase in malaria

Local farmers and fishermen
  • Loss of culture and way of life (subsistence fishing) affecting  5,000 fishermen
  • Commercial fishing (worth $1 bn) is at risk because preferred fish catch will be disturbed - 2,400 jobs at risk
  • Irrigation water lost and fisheries affected downstream from the dam
Indigenous tribes
  • Flooding and erosion poses a risk to the land of Indigenous tribes
Poor people living in South-East Brazil
  • No negative impacts

Brazilian Government
  • Political conflict - part of Bolivia will be flooded to make way for the dam
  • Very expensive - $22 billion

Environmental and conservation groups
  • Expansion of Soya agriculture results in more clearance of the rainforest
  • The Environmental Impact Assessment was based on insufficient data, therefore lacking thoroughness.

Businesses in South-East Brazil
  • Too much dependence on on HEP


Bottom-up development schemes are projects that are planned and controlled by local communities to help their local periphery area. They are not expensive because they use smaller, more appropriate technology, which the local people will have to pay for. Because the project is on a smaller scale compared to a top-down project, the environmental damage is often much less.

Bottom-up case study - Micro-hydro scheme, Peru

Micro hydro projects are an example of a bottom-up development scheme because instead of using expensive technology which will require large loans from other countries or TNCs, they use appropriate, affordable technology and involve local people in the whole process. Micro hydro schemes are those with a generating capacity under 100KW. Most are similar to the Santo Antonio scheme by using a 'run of the river' method, but on a much smaller scale.

Peru is home to the Andes mountains, where there are steep slopes and plenty of streams and rivers. On the eastern side of the Andes, 44% of the population live on less than $2 a day. Because of the terrain, around the mountains and the high rainfall it receives, a micro hydro scheme to produce electricity to the area is a good investment.

The charity, 'Practical Action', has helped install nearly 50 micro hydro schemes, now providing electricity to 30,000 people. Part of the costs are paid for by the local people. The government also has a ten year plan to provide more micro hydro schemes.

Impacts of the micro-hydro project on different groups of people
  • Reliable electricity supply
  • The available use of refrigerators from electricity allows medicine to be stored properly thus improving health care
  • Electricity for schools allows the use of electrical equipment
  • Small businesses can use electricity for their machinery
Peruvian Government
  • Ease the pressures of rapid urban growth as young adults and teachers are encouraged to stay or return to the village for new opportunities
  • Cheaper electricity - $0.14 per KW
  • Low running costs
Environmental and conservation groups
  • Ecosystems and habitats are saved as there is no need to flood the area
  • No need for villagers to burn wood - less deforestation and soil erosion
  • Poor people can't afford the electricity which is metered
  • Population pressures as village size increases
  • For a poor village, the initial cost is quite high (£500 per household)

Peruvian Government
  • Some of the resources needed to build it had to be sourced from other countries which creates dependency and expense

Environmental and conservation groups
  • The components needed for the project ruins the landscape.

Bottom-up case study - Wells and Hand Pumps, Africa

WaterAid, a UK NGO install wells and hand pumps in Africa, an example of a bottom-up development scheme. They only cost £292 pounds each, and use technology that the local people can use, maintain and repair if necessary. They provide clean water for a village, eliminating the need for women and children to go and travel long distances to collect water. Children are now able to spend more time studying instead of having to collect water.