Le problème de l’évaluation du PIB des pays pauvres

SEATTLE – Même dans les temps prospères, les budgets d’aide au développement sont rarement très généreux. Les chefs de gouvernement et les donateurs doivent faire des choix difficiles quant à l’attribution de leurs ressources limitées. Comment décider quel pays doit bénéficier de prêts  à faible taux d'intérêt ou de vaccins bon marché, et lequel est en mesure de financer son propre programme de développement ?

La réponse dépend, en partie, de la manière dont est mesurée la croissance et l’amélioration de la vie quotidienne de la population. L’un des indicateurs a traditionnellement été le PIB par habitant – soit la valeur des biens et des services produits en un an par un pays, divisé par le nombre d’habitants. Le PIB est pourtant un indicateur peu fiable dans les pays les plus pauvres, ce qui pose problème non seulement pour les décideurs politiques et les gens comme moi qui lisent un nombre important de rapports de la Banque mondiale, mais également pour quiconque souhaite se référer à des statistiques pour venir en aide aux plus démunis de ce monde.

Je pense depuis longtemps que le PIB sous-estime même la croissance des pays riches, dont le calcul est pourtant sophistiqué, parce qu’il est très difficile de comparer le panier de valeur des biens sur différentes périodes de temps. Aux Etats-Unis par exemple, une encyclopédie vendue dans les années  1960 coûtait cher, mais était une valeur sûre pour les familles ayant des enfants studieux (Je peux parler d'expérience, ayant passé des heures penché sur les nombreux volumes du World Book Encyclopedia que mes parents avaient acheté pour mes sœurs et moi-même). Aujourd’hui, grâce à l’internet, les enfants ont accès à une masse bien plus importante d’informations, gratuitement. Comment inclure ce facteur dans le PIB ?

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