Development is when a country is improving. When a country develops it basically gets better for the people living there, their quality of life improves e.g. their wealth, health and safety. The level of development is different in different countries e.g. France is more developed than Ethiopia. There are many reasons for this uneven nature of world development.
There are a number of environmental factors which can affect a country’s development. Firstly, climate, if a country has an extreme climate, either really hot (Ethiopia) or really cold, this prohibits the growth of crops and subsequently food production. Therefore the majority of the population in countries with extreme climates are malnourished, which affects health and the quality of life. Furthermore, these types of countries don’t have any crops to sell and consequently less money than a developed country exporting lots of goods. With less exports, the government gets less money from taxes and therefore has less to spend on developing the country e.g. by improving health care and education. The 2011 Global Hunger Index (GHI) Report ranked India, which has a hot climate, 15th, amongst leading countries with a malnourished population, consequently India’s population has a low, impoverished quality of life and subsequently India is ranked 134/187 countries on the HDI index.
HDI is a quantitative measure of development which encompasses life expectancy, literacy rate, education level and income per head, into assessment. Evidently, India is not a developed country in these areas, due to the restrictive climate. Because some countries have a perfect climate for crop production, their development can excel beyond those with a poor climate, hence the uneven nature of development. Similarly, countries with limited water cannot produce a lot of food nor expand water fuelled industries e.g. cotton farming, having the same consequences for development as an extreme climate. For example, the North of China is extremely dry, which is affecting the expansion of coal mining; since most of the reserves are in the arid North and remain untapped. Despite China already being a leading country in development, the lack of water supplies are limiting further development in the mining industry, which requires water. Contrarily, countries with plentiful water supplies e.g.
USA, can easily become affluent through the production of cash crops e.g. cotton (it takes 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton), then use this money to further development. Consequently, the uneven distribution of water causes uneven development throughout the world. Countries which are prone to natural disasters also tend to be less developed due to disruptions. Natural disasters reduce the quality of life for people affected and they reduce the amount of money that the government has to spend on development projects because money is diverted into rebuilding infrastructure. Hurricane Mitch which hit Nicaragua and Honduras in October 1998 set development back in both countries affected. GDP grew by 4% in Nicaragua in 1998 which was less than estimated. Similarly in Honduras, GDP was estimated to grow 5% in 1998 but it only grew 3% due to the hurricane.
GDP (gross domestic product) is also an indicator of development, it shows the total value of goods and services a country produces in a year and measures the wealth of a country. The Honduran President claimed the hurricane destroyed 50 years of progress. Also, exports of rice and corn went down in Nicaragua because the crops were damaged by the hurricane, meaning that farmers lost their livelihoods and the government could spend less money on development. Furthermore, the total damaged caused was estimated at $1.2 billion, so development was seriously hindered. Since some areas are more prone to natural disasters than others, certain countries’ development is slowed by these phenomena whereas others’ are not.
Social factors also profoundly affect the rate of development. The most influential social factor on development is the place of women in society. A country will be more developed if women have an equal place with men in society since they are more likely to be educated and therefore have a job. If more women are working, there are more people paying taxes and therefore the government has more money to spend on developing the country. Similarly, women who work will obviously have more disposable income and therefore have a better quality of life than women in a country who are not emancipated and reliant on their husbands or fathers. Moreover women who hold an equal status to men are likely to have less children and have children later in life since they’re working, this lowers the birth rate and subsequently the population of the country, meaning there’s less strain on health services, so the government can finance development instead.
The birth rate in Mauritius has lowered in the last 30 years because of a change in attitudes towards women. Only 22.3% of women were in paid employment in 1975 whereas by 1990 this had risen to 35.75%, meaning women were prioritising work over children, lowering the birth rate and improving quality of life. Moreover, in Kerala in South-West India has a female literacy rate of 81%, which is considerably higher that the literacy rate for the whole of India which is 39%. This emancipation of women in Kerala has acted as a catalyst for development and Kerala has the lowest homicide rate of any Indian state, proving that most people are content with their quality of life, since they’re not rebelling against inequalities. Therefore countries accepting of women are more likely to have more income and therefore are more capable of developing as opposed to countries like Pakistan where women are not allowed to work. Another social factor affecting development is child education, the more children that attend school (rather than work) the more developed a country will be. This is because they’ll get a better education and so will get better jobs.
Being educated and having a good job improves a person’s quality of life and increases the money a country has to spend on development. In poorer countries where the economy is based on agriculture e.g. Brazil, children are forced to work at young ages on farms with their parents to help their livelihood. Consequently they miss out on school and work in agriculture for the entirety of their lives, which lowers their quality of life since they don’t have a lot of disposable income. Also, their occupation doesn’t contribute to the economy in the same way manufacturing does, therefore the government has less money to develop with. Nearly 50% of developing countries lack modern education. Whereas in countries where children are obligated to attend school e.g. the UK with 99% of the population going to school, the work force is larger and more advanced, meaning development is easier.
Economic factors affecting development include trade and debt. Poor trade links have a severe impact on a countries development, since a lack of trade can restrict economic growth. Trade is the exchange of goods and services between countries. If a country has poor trade links, it trades only a small amount of goods with a few countries, consequently it will not make a lot of money, therefore the development of the country is restricted by the lack of money. High tariffs are imposed on agriculture. In high-income countries, the average tariff rate on agriculture is almost double the tariff for manufactures. More than one third of the European Union’s agricultural tariff lines carry duties above 15%. These high tariffs make it difficult for developing countries to access the European market. So, developing countries are excluded from trading with industrialised countries and remain poor and undeveloped whereas countries with good trade links e.g. UK have a high GDP and therefore are able to develop rapidly.
Moreover, most developing countries do not have well-built infrastructure e.g. roads and ports and cannot afford to develop them, therefore even if they have products to trade, they’re prohibited from doing so because of the restrictive infrastructure. A second economic factor which affects development is debt. Very poor countries have to borrow money from the governments of other countries and international organisations e.g . to help cope with the aftermath of a natural disaster . While these loans initially came attached with low interest rates, over time the banks which lent out the money have increased the interest rates on repayments. In most cases, interest rates have been increased to levels which are near impossible for developing countries to meet. In this way, debts continue to accumulate, and the money which could be spent by governments on such things as infrastructure and healthcare is spent on repaying debts, which freezes development. Alternatively, countries that don’t need to regularly borrow a lot of money due to frequent natural disasters are relatively debt free, therefore the government can invest in developing the country instead of repaying loans.
Meaning that some countries have developed more than others, due to a better economy. Also, a country whose economy is based on primary products will not flourish. Countries that mostly export primary products (raw materials like wood, metal, stone) tend to be less developed. This is because only a small amount of profit can be made by selling primary products. Furthermore, the prices also fluctuate depending on the availability of the product and how many people want to buy it. Consequently sometimes the price falls below the cost of production, meaning it costs more to process the product than consumers are buying it for. The small economy means that there’s less money to spend on development. Chad in Africa relies upon primary products for its exports e.g. cotton, meaning Chad’s GDP growth is a slow 1.6% per annum. On the other hand, countries which export manufactured goods tend to be more developed. This is because usually a decent profit is made, wealthy countries can also force down the price of raw materials they buy from poorer countries to manufacture products. Singapore exports manufactured goods e.g. electronics and has a much faster rate of GDP growth (5.2%) than the raw material exporter Chad, meaning that Singapore’s economy is much more developed.
Lastly, there are three main political factors that slow development. If a country has an unstable government it might not invest in things like healthcare, education and improving the economy. This leads to slow development, or no development at all. Some governments are corrupt, therefore some parliamentarians get richer by embezzling money, while the general public stay poor and have a low quality of life. Moreover, if there’s a war in a country the country loses money that could have been used to develop the area, since buildings get destroyed and fewer men work during conflict, directly reducing the quality of life of people in the country. The war in Sierra Leone (1991-2002) has dramatically affected development of the country, amongst other factors. Consequently, the HDI of Sierra Leone is 180th in the world, scoring a low 0.33. Contrarily, countries with a democratic political system, assumed to be fair, can control the economy more effectively than a corrupt government and thus develop the country.
Overall, there are many factors which can affect the development of a country and some countries are less affected by these factors than others, hence the uneven nature of development.