NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Lost Decade

December 16, 2003

Good governance and democracy are not enough to foster economic growth; consequently, the 1990s were a lost decade for the developing world, according to the "Human Development Report 2003," published by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Some highlights:

  • Income per head fell in no fewer than 54 developing countries.
  • The Human Development Index -- a statistic summarizing health, longevity, education and standards of living -- fell in 21 countries during the decade.
  • In contrast, it only fell in four countries in the 1980s.
  • Between 1990 and 2001, aid from the 23 members of the OECD's Development Assistance Committee fell from 0.33 percent to 0.22 percent of GDP, despite a 0.7 percent target set in 1970.
  • If aid budgets remain this tight, the proportion of people in sub-Saharan Africa living on less than $1 a day will not be cut by half until the middle of the twenty-second century.

Source: "The UN laments the 1990s," Economist, July 12, 2003; based on Human Development Report 2003, "Millennium Development Goals: A compact among nations to end human poverty," published by the United Nations Development Program, 2003.


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