Statistics, Development and Human Rights
programmes. However, recent assessments of poverty progammes in the Caribbean [Caribbean Development Bank, 2000] which show declines in real per capita social expenditure, and that the quantum and reach of prograrmme benefits are in fact very small, cast doubt on any such conclusion. If policy formulation and the design of appropriate interventions are to be accurately guided, then a better understanding of those factors that properly measure human development and links it with changes in economic development and well-being is needed.
The fundamental question that has driven the discussion in this paper has turned on the extent to which purely consumption-based poverty measures poverty really measure human development. This question is especially significant in light of the more inclusive definitions of human and social development that are currently being utilised in academic, policy-making and development-assistance circles. It is a definition that emphases capacity and capability building, and which recognises the need to promote a synergistic relationship between social and economic development where each requires the other.
The use of consumption-based measures and indicators is understandable given the difficulties in obtaining accurate data on incomes – especially in countries where informal activities abound, and where occupational multiplicity has a long and well-established place in the social and economic structures. It may also be acceptable where the linkages between earnings, labour market structures and behaviours, and consumption pattern are fairly clear, predictable, and reasonably well understood.
In open, migratory societies such as Jamaica these conditions may not hold, and when contradictory and anomalous relationship are evident, it becomes necessary to look more closely at the usefulness of the measures being utilised, and at what additional information and data might be needed if those measures are to be productive. The analyses in this paper have shown that there are no relationships between changes in consumption levels, and increases in employment; and there is even a negative relationship between economic growth and the poverty levels. The size and growth of the informal sector also appear to have a negative impact on changes in the consumption levels. On the other hand, the critical and significant factors are the rate of inflation, and remittances from workers and relatives.
At the same time more detailed analysis of the available data suggests that the increased levels of consumption are not being translated into improvements in health, education or economic productive activities. Not only then is there a questionable linkage between these increased consumption levels and human development, but doubt must also be cast on the sustainability of these apparently improved levels.
More and other kinds of information is clearly required. Micro-level analyses of intra-household and intra-quintile consumption and resource allocation patterns, how these change over time, and how they respond to increased monetary or other inputs are all necessary. In other words, until and unless there is a better grasp of the precise ways in which, and pathways through which, increased consumption levels are being supported, and of those factors that stand in the way of their translation into productive activity, it can be misleading to depend on consumption-based data as the primary indicator of improved levels of human development.
Montreux, 4. – 8. 9. 2000