Development Economics

Does Per Capita GDP Matter?

There are various ways of measuring the level of a country’s development.  Choosing the right methodology for quantifying economic status is critical for thinking about the problem of poverty effectively.  On a macroeconomic level, the most common indicator is per capita GDP.  But I am not sure if per capita GDP is really a good measuring stick for the relative prosperity of a country. This thinking stemmed from a conversation I had this afternoon over lunch comparing Ghana, where I used to live, to Kenya, where I now reside.  Ghana is technically middle income status already, based on per capita GDP figures.  My friend, who had also spent time in both countries, raised this point when someone asked about the differences between the two countries.   People bring up this statistic a lot when talking about Ghana, without taking into consideration the relative concentration of wealth (or maybe doing so, but not saying it). The obvious example is with Equatorial Guinea, a tiny country of 600,000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa.  The country has a GDP of USD $6bn, for a GDP per capita of around $10,000 GDP.   Yet, still 80% of the population lives on less than $2 a day.  It is still classified as one of the 48 LDCs (least developed countries), and is a recipient of donor funding from other governments (though, according to the Istanbul Programme of Action, the product of latest UN conference on LDC development, Equatorial Guinea, along with its neighbor Angola, is eligible for graduation – sweet!). (more…)