I haven’t been real impressed with the Millennium Development Goals because I feel like it encourages countries to work the system. That is, they have incentives to put a lot of butts in the seats for education, but less incentive to do a good job of educating young people. There seems to be a real risk of fulfilling the targets by focusing on quantity instead of quality. So I was interested to see that Lant Pritchett and Charles Kenney have a new working paper entitled “Promoting Millennium Development Ideals: The Risks of Defining Development Down” where they argue that the MDGs are too low of a bar for developing countries. I’m curious about their argument and just the authors’ identities make reading the paper a no-brainer. Here is the abstract:
The approach of 2015, the target date of the Millennium Development Goals, sets the stage for a global reengagement on the question of “what is development?” We argue that the post-2015 development framework for development should include Millennium Development Ideals which put into measurable form the high aspirations countries have for the well-being of their citizens. Standing alone, low bar targets like the existing Millennium Development Goals “define development down” and put at risk both domestic and global coalitions to support to an inclusive development agenda. Measuring development progress exclusively by low bar targets creates the illusion that specific targeted programs can be an adequate substitute for a broad national and global development agenda.