The latest reality check on global progress to make the world more inclusive presents mixed results. The Global Monitoring Report 2011 (GMR) on the Millennium Development Goals, prepared jointly by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, makes it clear that, despite some progress, key targets will remain elusive when the 2015 deadline is reached.
There are positive signs that the goals relating to parity in primary and secondary education, completion of primary education, access to safe drinking water, and halving extreme poverty and hunger can be met. But there is cause for serious concern in the areas of child and maternal mortality and access to sanitation.
One reason for this uneven progress is that access-based goals, such as education, are easier to achieve than those that can be measured by specific outcomes, such as healthcare. What emerges from this year’s GMR, based on impact evaluations in health and education, is that, while the quantity of services has increased, the quality has not improved. Correcting this will be the key challenge that nations face in their endeavour to make the world less unjust.
The mixed global picture, however, serves only a limited, albeit important purpose: to know how the world has fared in respect of the MDGs. And the answer is ‘not encouraging.’ More critically, policies and institutions that are central to a country’s ability to meet the MDGs are just not up to the challenge.
The performance of individual countries within this global picture is at least as important. Well-conceived and sincerely implemented policies can make the difference to people in countries that have to shake off persistent poverty.
The GMR makes special mention of the economic growth witnessed in China and India as a positive factor in the world’s progress towards MDGs.
However, high economic growth rates do not at all mean inclusive growth. Further, absolute figures on poverty reduction do not tell the complete tale. Methodological issues aside, even if one looks at the rate of decline of poverty in India, it was 12.4 per cent between 1977-78 and 1987-88 compared with only 8.5 per cent between 1993-94 and 2004-05, as the recently released Chronic Poverty Report points out.
Even going by the low poverty line measure that prevails in India, it is still home to the world’s largest number of poor, estimated at 301.7 million. Herein is the clearest indication that present policies in India are ill-equipped to correct chronic poverty.