El problema del PIB de los países pobres

SEATTLE – Incluso en épocas financieramente favorables, los presupuestos para la ayuda al desarrollo nunca están rebosantes precisamente. Los dirigentes gubernamentales y los donantes deben adoptar decisiones difíciles sobre en qué centrar sus limitados recursos. ¿Cómo se decide qué países deben recibir préstamos en condiciones favorables o vacunas más baratas y cuáles pueden financiar sus propios programas de desarrollo?

La respuesta depende en parte de cómo podamos calibrar el crecimiento y las mejoras de la vida de las personas. Tradicionalmente, uno de los factores orientadores ha sido el PIB por habitante: el valor de los bienes y servicios producidos por un país en un año, dividido por su población. Sin embargo, el PIB puede ser un indicador insuficiente en los países más pobres, lo que constituye un motivo de preocupación no sólo para las autoridades o las personas, como yo, que leen montones de informes del Banco Mundial, sino también para quienquiera  que necesite utilizar las estadísticas para argumentar en pro de la ayuda a los más pobres del mundo.

Durante mucho tiempo he creído que el PIB no es un reflejo exacto del crecimiento ni siquiera en los países ricos, donde su cálculo es muy complejo, porque es muy difícil comparar el valor de cestas de bienes correspondientes a períodos diferentes. En los Estados Unidos, por ejemplo, una enciclopedia en 1960 era cara, pero representaba un gran valor para las familias con hijos estudiosos, (Puedo hablar por experiencia propia, pues pasé muchas horas leyendo atentamente la World Book Encyclopedia, con múltiples volúmenes, que mis padres nos compraron a mis hermanas y a mí.) Ahora, gracias a la red Internet, los niños tienen acceso a mucha más información gratuita. ¿Cómo se refleja eso en el PIB?

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