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Developmental Theorists

Economic development was first introduced in 1887 by Karl Marx who mentioned the
concept in his book Capital. He stated that development is a process through which societies
move and change. Since then, many theorists have attempted to define economic development.
This essay will examine three of these theorists namely, Dudley Seers, Gerald Meier and
Amartya Sen in the hope of highlighting how relevant these theorists are in the developmental
process of the Caribbean countries (Economic Growth vs. Economic Development, 2015).
Meiers postulated that economic development is the process whereby the real per capita
income of a country increases over an extended period of time and cannot be measured using the
short term rise and falls of normal economic activity. Nevertheless, for development to take place
the number of people living below the absolute poverty lines should not increase and the
distribution of income should not become more unevenly distributed (Economic Growth vs.
Economic Development, 2015). Fundamentally, for economic development to take place the
following processes should be observed; a nation should seek to reduce the number of persons
living below the absolute poverty line and ensure that income is equally distributed among the
population; decrease the level of unemployment that the society can endure; a reduction in
economic and regional diversification; increased life expectancy of the population; reduce infant
mortality rate and improve basic literacy. All this has to be achieved before economic
development of the country can be realized (Economic Growth vs. Economic Development,
Dudley Seers on the other hand, contends that the use of national income or per capita
income as a measurement of economic development is inadequate and even questionable. He

emphasized the importance of social development before moving to economic development

noting that in order for economic development to reach its full potential social development has
to occur first. Seers stated that the purpose of development is to reduce poverty, inequality, and
unemployment (The Concept of Development According to Dudley Seers, 2015).
He further went on to outline what he believed to be the three primary indicators of
economic development. Firstly, he argued that an adequate income is necessary to ensure that a
persons basic needs for food are met. Secondly, the provision of jobs, which in his view,
promotes individual independence and self-respect. Finally, he believed inequality must be
addressed if development is to take place (Economic Growth vs. Economic Development, 2015).
Other goals identified in Seers observations of economic development includes:
adequate education and literacy levels, good health, and social freedoms. (Economic Growth vs.
Economic Development, 2015).
In contrary to the other theorists, Sen believed that the success of a society is to be
evaluated primarily by the freedoms that members of the society enjoy. Freedom is both the
primary end and the principal means of development. Sen mentioned five distinct freedoms:
political freedoms, economic facilities, social opportunities, transparency guarantees, and
protective security. Freedom, he says, is a principle determinant of individual initiative and social
effectiveness (Maboloc, 2008).
Sen further pointed out that welfare economics evaluates human well-being through
indices such as the Gross National Product, the Gross Domestic Product, and per capita income.
He reiterated the findings of Seers where he believed to have addressed the problem of poverty.

Consequently, he defined poverty as the deprivation of basic capabilities, always defined as

individual capabilities (Maboloc, 2008).
Having outlined their theories, it is imperative to note that Seers, Meiers and Sens
economic development theories are integral to the development of the Caribbean economy.
Let us take a look at Jamaica for example; it has seen its fair share of economic
challenges, however, Jamaica still manages to maintain a reasonable level of development. There
is still much work to be done but the country strives to improve its status through growth and
progressive economic development. Still, to achieve such growth, economist could consult
Meiers developmental theory which addresses the reduction of persons living below the
absolute poverty line and the evenly distribution of income among the entire population.
According to Golding (2010), the level of poverty in Jamaica rose to 16.5% the highest since
2004. There is poverty everywhere on the island, but the rural areas and the inner city areas
account for the largest number of persons living in poverty. No surprise the inner cities are
recording the highest crime rates right (Golding, 2010).
Other factors that influenced the poverty levels in Jamaica are: High unemployment,
limited access to adequate health services, limited access to educational facilities and limited
access to infrastructure and basic services.
In relation to Sens theory, the Barbadoss economy has a freedom score of 67.9, making
its economy the 46th freest in the 2015 Index. As a result, Barbados is one of the Caribbean
regions most prosperous economies, as there is a strong foundation of economic freedom
supported by the 99.7% literacy rate, thus, contributing tremendously to the countrys economic

development. The Government of Barbados pays the cost of education for Barbadian students at
primary, secondary and tertiary level (Barbados education, 2015).
In contrast, Cubas economic freedom score is 29.6. Hence, Cuba is ranked least free of
29 countries in the South and Central America/Caribbean region, and its overall score is
significantly lower than the regional average. Cuba has a relatively high level of development as
the country is ranked 59 out of 187 countries on the United Nations Development Programme's
2012 human development index. Cuba has a 99.8% literacy rate and daycare system which
provides all children equal opportunities and levels of education and daycare. Additionally, Cuba
has a successful health care system that is renowned worldwide. All Cubans have access to free
medical care, regardless of socioeconomic standing (Clarke, 1998).
In conclusion, Gerald Meier and Dudley Seers recognized that an increase in national
income is important to development. They also stated that true development can be measured
using social and economic factors. Both theorists agreed that economic development is a more
complex and dynamic process than economic growth.
They further noted the fact that economic development cannot be equated with economic
growth. Seers stated that income is linked to poverty reduction and ultimately adequate provision
of food, while for Meier per capita income has primary significance.
According Seers, true development outlines the elimination of poverty, increase in
literacy and improvement in the health system as opposed to the increase of per capita output.
Amartya Sen went on to say that freedom is the ultimate goal of economic life as well as
the most efficient means of realizing general welfare.


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