Key elements of an international development strategy for the 1990s include accelerated economic growth; greater concern for human development; an absolute reduction in the number of people suffering from severe poverty and deprivation; restraining deterioration in the physical environment. These four elements of the development strategy are not separate issues but strands of a coherent approach to development policy. Faster growth is the foundation on which other policies to improve the well-being of mankind rest, but enlarging the capabilities of people and reducing the absolute number of people living in poverty , especially through human resources development and breaking the cycle of poverty and environmental deterioration, is the ultimate objective. To meet these goals, international effort will be needed to reverse the net transfer of resources from poor to rich countries, to mobilize support and coordination of the multiple international agencies, and to establish more effective international accountability of national economic policies.
[Economic growth] The need for faster growth is undeniable, not as an end in itself but as a means to increase the well-being of people throughout the world. A central policy objective must be to raise the rate of capital accumulation and efficiency of capital. In addition to a restructuring of output, this may require reforms of investment procedures within central government ministries, including improved criteria for investments in public sector enterprises, price reforms, making public sector enterprise more competitive by increasing their exposure to market forces, as well as the desirability of transferring such enterprises to the private sector. Reforming public finances through improved tax and expenditure policies and raising the efficiency of domestic capital markets are also necessary.
Developing countries should be free to choose their own policies to suit their own circumstances. In the 1970s and 1980s, however, many developing countries benefited from export-oriented policies featuring in some cases import liberalization and, more importantly, export promotion. A predictable trade-oriented exchange of rate regime is the most important single element in successful trade policy. Other key steps include: removal of redundant trade barriers; removal of administrative controls by relevant market-based policies; achievement of greater uniformity incentive structures; uniform reductions in the levels of import duties and export subsidies.
[Human development] People should be placed firmly in the centre of development process. Investments in expanding the capabilities of people have the potential to yield a return to society at least as high as the return on physical investment. This requires policies to ensure that human resource capabilities are fully employed. Three areas of human resource developed may be considered strategic: education and training; health and nutrition; housing. Emphasizing these areas of human development, which are akin to capital formation, should be given a higher priority than purely social welfare aspects of expenditure programmes.
[Elimination of deprivation] Neither human resource development nor growth for its own sake is enough. The objective is to eliminate severe poverty and deprivation. Tackling poverty directly requires a fundamental change of attitude of policy makers, from regarding poverty alleviation as an act of charity to seeing it as an investment in the poor with a high rate of return. Such an attack is likely to include a combination of welfare services and entitlement programmes to place a safety net under the poor, policies giving priority to the production of goods consumed by low-income groups and to the construction of essential infrastructure to benefit the poor, public works to provide employment and redistribution of income and assets in favour of the poor, notably land reform and credit programmes.
[Restraining physical deterioration] Although environmental deterioration is in general a consequence of affluence in industrialized countries and poverty in developing countries, there is broad agreement that attempts by men and women to improve their economic well-being have resulted occasionally in huge disasters and more frequently in gradual destruction of the resources on which material betterment is depends. Some issues, such as the possible warming of the planet and the depletion of the ozone layer, threaten all countries. While environmental deterioration has not, in general, reached such a point that it will bring growth to a halt or even reduce growth markedly, it it is not restrained, the danger is that it may be impossible to sustain the income of the poor.
The period 1991-2000 constitutes the Fourth United Nations Development Decade; the strategy is prepared by the Committee for Development Planning.