Development Through Data? A Case Study on the World Bank's Performance Indicators and Their Impact on Development in the Global South

23 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2012 Last revised: 14 Nov 2014

Date Written: October 19, 2012

Abstract

The use of indicators in development cooperation has increased as a result of two main phenomena, the constant obsession to determine aid effectiveness and the establishment of quantifiable goals such as the Millennium Development Goals. More recently development indicators have been used to measure States' performance in order to determine the distribution of aid, thus addressing simultaneously the problems of aid effectiveness and aid allocation. By using indicators the donor community has managed to give an aura of objectivity and transparency to its decisions and to the model of development that is expected to be implemented by States in the South. However, in reality indicators are concealing a determined development common sense promoted by the donor, which is neither true nor objective since development knowledge remains contested.

As previous scholarship has noted, indicators have two effects, a knowledge and a governance effect. A close analysis of the genealogy of the International Development Association's (IDA) Performance Based Allocation System reveals these effects, as a purportedly objective knowledge of development is produced by the indicator, and this knowledge influences the policies and regulations of receiving States. The structure and content of the indicator also has the effect of laying blame for underdevelopment on the receiving State. As this paper argues, IDA's indicator mainly embodies a particular brand of development theory, that legitimizes economic approaches to development by incorporating some social and human concerns.

Keywords: Indicators, Development Field, Frames of Reference, Development Common Sense, Knowledge Effect, Governance Effect, IDA’ Performance Based Allocation System

JEL Classification: O19

Suggested Citation

Prada-Uribe, Maria Angelica, Development Through Data? A Case Study on the World Bank's Performance Indicators and Their Impact on Development in the Global South (October 19, 2012). IRPA Research Paper No. 5/2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2167366 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2167366

Maria Angelica Prada-Uribe (Contact Author)

Universidad del Rosario ( email )

Carrera 6 # 15-18
Bogota, Bogota
Colombia

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