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The key to development: Growth in human capacity not economic capital

Aristotle once argued in Nicomachean Ethics that ‘the life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion, and wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else’. Success of a society cannot be measured merely in terms of its national income. Freedom of people to live according to their choices and their capabilities to overcome social barriers illustrates the level to which humans have developed. The concept of human development is not only associated with increase in personal wealth, advancement in technology and the extent to which society has been industrialized and modernized. According to Amartya Sen (1999), human development should take into consideration basic human freedom of education, healthcare, civil and political rights as well as capabilities to remove hindrances people encounter through their social efforts.  Poverty, lack of economic opportunities as well as public facilities is major obstacles for human freedom and progress. Removal of such restrictions for human freedom is essential for development.

People are the main focus of human development. To understand how a nation’s growth in wealth is translated into human progress, United Nations Development Programme has been issuing a report accompanied with a human development index annually since 1990. The Human development Index was created by a Muslim economist, Dr Mabub al Haq. The approach developed by Dr Haq acknowledged that the main purpose of development was improvement in people’s lives and enhancement in their capabilities through investment in education and health. He also recognized that national income is only a means through with people’s capabilities can be expanded (clark, 2006). Dr Haq formulated a measurement tool called human development index (HDI) in contrast to gross national income to indicate the national progress of different countries. The HDI covers three aspects of human development: longevity, knowledge and standard of living. Longevity is measured by life expectancy at birth, knowledge is measured by combining adult literacy and primary, secondary and tertiary gross enrolment ratio and standard of living is measured by gross national product per capital (Nagel, 2004).

As the economic and political structure of countries around the globe changes with time, the human development report analyzes the policies, experiences and approaches taken by countries for development. The human development report 2013 entitled: The Rise of South: Human progress in a Diverse World states that the total economic output of Brazil, China and India will exceed the combined production of Canada, France, Italy, Germany, the UK and the US by 2020. The main reason for the progress of these countries is credited to many factors including increase in trade and technology partnership.  The report highlight that the emerging economies of China, India and Brazil have been successful in implementing polices to invest in education, health, employment skills as well as reduction in poverty, and enhancement in equity and citizens participation. The report also underlines that many developing countries like South Africa, Malaysia, Iran, Turkey, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Mauritius, Chile, Ghana and Rwanda have shown significant progress.

The main driver for the development transformation of the countries in the south has been their willingness to expand people’s choices in health, education and personal wealth, as well as give them freedom to participate in society. Keeping in line with this development approach, Muslim Aid aims to provide people with opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty in various developing countries. Through its Microfinance programme, the charity helps people to establish their own businesses, thus creating job opportunities within their communities. In 2012, approximately £5.7 million were invested in microfinance projects which benefitted over 70,000 families in 7 countries-Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sudan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Cambodia. Similarly, education, health as well as water and sanitation are considered to be indispensable routes for human advancement. One of the rehabilitation programmes implemented in southern Somalia in 2012 was the primary education for 8,596 students in 36 primary schools and 24 child friendly centres. Furthermore, mobile clinics in Iraq served vulnerable locals, IDPs, and returnees and children. In addition, over 700 people benefitted from Muslim Aid’s Water Sanitation and Hygiene project in Cambodia, which included construction of sanitary latrines and water wells.

Good health, decent standard of living, access to education and public services are vital for human development. Faith based charities like Muslim Aid strive continuously to free people from poverty and empower them to enhance socially and economically in the developing countries.

*The copyright of this article is held by the Information and Public Affairs Department of Muslim Aid, UK. Use of its contents is allowed subject to acknowledgement. The opinions expressed in this article are solely of the author and do not represent the point of view of Muslim Aid.


Amal Imad

Information & Public Affairs Assistant

Muslim Aid

We are a faith-based British international charity that provides help to people who are victims of natural disasters or conflict or suffering from poverty, hunger, disease, homelessness, injustice, deprivation or lack of skills and economic opportunities.

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