QUALITY OF LIFE: CAN WE MEASURE EFFECTIVELY?
Yet another grim news: Bangladesh ranks 164th among 173 countries and fifth in South Asia in the Quality of Life Index (QLI), according to a report of Social Watch, an international network of citizens from different countries across the world. (reports the Daily Star). Among the South Asian countries, Sri Lanka ranks the highest but it has been placed in 85th position among all the countries surveyed. Sri Lanka is followed by the Maldives (107th), India (163rd), Bhutan (142) and Bangladesh. The Social Watch annual report 2004 rated Bangladesh's performance in education, food security, reproductive health and science and information technology sectors to be in 'worst situation' while public expenditure in 'below-average' situation. The report cited the reason for Bangladesh's bad performance is the drawback of poor governance.
The indicators for measurement of the QLI are quite comprehensive. But I think there are also some cultural elements lacking in the measurement of quality of life. For example, the no. of persons in a Australian village owning a TV comparing to a Bangladeshi village is quite a big contrast, where in Bangladeshi remote villages electricity is not present in all the households and they usually watch TV in village clubs (mostly battery powered) in groups. Then there are questions of low consumption and over consumption. The village lifestyle is very economical and with homegrown foods and home neat clothes a Bangladeshi village family can survive well with their standard with minimum of consumption. It would be unwise to compare them with the western lifestyle. As there is a wide margin of disparity between the lifestyle of rich and poor in the developing countries, the countries with large population gets a low average ranking which does not at all reflect the true scenario. India ranked 163rd (just over Bangladesh). Considering the recent economic boom and many people crossing the boundaries of social class, does this represent the true Indian lifestyle ranking?