By Najib Shah/CNBCtv18
Bengaluru, June 1: Social Progress has been defined by SPI as ‘the capacity of a society to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives, and create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential’. However, in the Social Progress Index, India has been ranked at 110 out of 170 countries –below Guatemala and just above Nepal, Timor-Leste, Egypt and other countries.
The aim of all governments is to improve the quality of life of its citizenry. To this end, a government’s role encompasses a whole range of activities – from providing employment opportunities, to funding schools and offering affordable health care to providing good infrastructure-in short ensuring good governance. How well they do this depends upon effective planning, implementation and monitoring. India too is no different.
The Government’s aim is to do all this and more – to uplift the poor. The Government is committed to the ideals of Sabka Saath , Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayaas to build an Atmanirbhar Bharat. These noble ideals are our vision both for domestic as well as global governance.
Niti Aayog, the apex public policy think tank of the Government of India, has among its key objectives to ‘actively monitor and evaluate the implementation of programmes and initiatives, including the identification of the needed resources so as to strengthen the probability of success and scope of delivery’.
It also studies the performance of the states against the Sustainable Development Goals ( SDG’S) adopted by the United Nations in 2015 and also embraced by us as a reliable measure of progress across a whole host of matrixes.
The SDG’s among other parameters envisions elimination of poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, clean water and sanitation, economic growth, reduced inequalities – in effect all the parameters which would improve the quality of life across the spectrum. It is always better if progress is validated by external agencies . Ultimately what gets measured gets done and ensures improvement.
It is in this backdrop that we should read the May 24th report of the Social Progress Imperative (SPI).
SPI is a Washington based non-profit organisation which has over the years found acceptance because of the integrity of the process adopted by them. The Social Progress Index combines 52 social and environmental outcome indicators and ranks 170 countries globally. The scores are calculated for all the years over the 1990-2020 period.
Social Progress has been defined by SPI as ‘the capacity of a society to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives, and create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential’.
It alludes to three broad elements of social progress, referred to as dimensions: Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity. Under each of the dimension there are four parameters. Nutrition and basic medical care, water and sanitation, shelter and personal safety under Basic Human Needs; access to basic knowledge, access to information and communication, health and wellness and environmental quality under Foundations of Well-Being; personal rights, personal freedom and choice, inclusiveness and access to advanced education under the head of Opportunity. SPI does not consider GDP but focuses only on these parameters all of which are given equal weightage.
It is difficult to find fault either with the definition or the criteria adopted. One could quibble and suggest that economic dimensions also ought to be considered-but so long as the criteria adopted is uniform across countries one cannot have any serious objection. On the basis of these parameters SPI has ranked Norway at number 1. India has been ranked at 110 out of 170 countries -below Guatemala and just above Nepal, Timor-Leste, Egypt and other countries. This would come as a rude shock to very many of us. Before we rush to denounce the SPI rankings as deep conspiracy to show India in poor light, it would be necessary to compare these rankings with similar studies.
The UN Human Development Index ( UN HDI ) does the ranking on the basis of GDP and health and education parameters. In other words economic criteria is considered. India’s ranking as per UN HDI as on late 2022 is 132- below Tuvalu and Marshall Islands ( do you even know where these countries are? ) and above Ghana and Federated States of Micronesia .
SPI is also closely linked with the 17 UN SDG’s which are also aimed at eliminating poverty and seeking inclusive development. Even as per the global ranking on the basis of steps being taken to achieve the SDG Goals, India is ranked at 121-above Gambia and San Tome and Principe and below Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago.
There is another report which seeks to rank countries on the basis of well-being and happiness. The criteria adopted includes GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, and corruption, based on which scores are arrived at . The assessments are made by individuals on the basis of these criteria . India as per the World Happiness Report 2023 is ranked at 126 – below Ethiopia and Liberia and above Madagascar and Zambia.
Thus our rankings across global surveys in matters of providing the citizens a good life ranges from 110 to 121, 126 to 132. Obviously we have our work cut out for us.
(Edited by : C H Unnikrishnan)