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Here’s looking at you, Kid

Classification of countries is common; an exercise akin to arranging the clothes closet
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the 1942 classic 'Casablanca'
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the 1942 classic 'Casablanca'
Still from YouTube

Upala Sen   |   Published 15.02.20, 11:44 PM

India is no longer a “developing” country, at least not according to the amended list published by the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Classification of countries is common; an exercise akin to arranging the clothes closet — whites in a row, then skyblues, then navies, etc., etc. — an ongoing attempt to create order so as to differentiate and control. There was a time, immediately after World War II, when the commonly used labels for countries were 'pioneers' and 'latecomers'. According to Lynge Nielsen, in the paper Classifications of Countries Based on Their Level of Development, “Economic development was seen as a process where latecomers catch up with pioneers.”

Tomayto. Tomahto

In the 1960s, when the International Monetary Fund or IMF put out its own classification, it read — industrial countries, other high-income countries and less-developed countries. The World Bank’s first analytical country classification from 1978 read — developing countries, industrialised countries and capital-surplus oil-exporting countries. Developing countries were categorised as low-income and middle-income and instead of using income as the deciding factor between developing and industrialised nations, the bank used membership in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD. As it happens oftentimes in the closet, a favourite item will defy agreed hierarchy and take sartorial precedence. Nielsen writes: “However, four OECD members (Greece, Portugal, Spain and Turkey) were placed in the group of developing countries, while South Africa which was not a member of the OECD, was designated as an industrialised country.” The United Nations Development Programme or UNDP’s Country Classification System launched in 1990 divided countries as low-, medium- and high-human development.

Su chhe? Saaru chhe

Top drawer. Middle drawer. Hanger, please. This one out to air. Some of the other labels in circulation are — poor performers, low income countries under stress, land-locked developing countries, small island developing states, fragile or failed states, newly industrialising countries, emerging economies, emerging donors, frontier markets, the Asian drivers, anchor countries and so on and so forth. To cut a long story short, Big Brother has decided a change in endearment and to call a spade an earthmover to cut its losses. In the meantime, reportedly, the slum district housing 800 families that Trump will pass during his ride from the Ahmedabad airport is being walled out by a 400-metre-long and seven-foot-high structure hurry-scurry. India, according to the USTR list, is now a “developed country”.



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