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Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as defined by Callen (2017) is a quantitative measure of a country’s economic production in a period of a year. Information of how a country is performing economically can be found through the calculation of its GDP as it is achieved by measuring the value of the final goods and services, in terms of money, which is presented in the currency of the particular country. For example, the GDP of Australia for the year 2018 will be presented in Australian Dollar (AUD).Human Development Index (HDI) is a tool that was developed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in 1990 and has since been used to generate the UNDP reports. HDI is used to measure what a country has achieved within a year in terms of the people’s health, their living standards and what they have attained in their education level. HDI thus seems as a social measurement.
This essay will compare Kenya’s GDP and HDI reports of 2016 which gives the GDP and HDI information of year 2015. It will then critically analyze the epistemological assumptions, social theory approaches and data collection methodologies. The HDI report is extracted from UNDP Human Development report of 2016 while the GDP report is retrieved from the Kenya Economic Survey publication of 2016 in the Kenya Bureau of Statistics website.
The GDP report 2016 was a descriptive research that used correlational method. It compared data of the years between 2011 to 2015.According to Kenya Bureau of Statistics (2016, p.16), Kenya’s GDP in 2015 grew by 5.6% compared to 5.3 growth in 2014 and this was a result of significant growth in some key sectors among them agriculture; construction; real estate; and financial and insurance.
The GDP presentation and analysis used the positivism approach where only information about the activities of every industry in the country, that contribute to economy, led to the scientific knowledge of the GDP of the year 2015. In a table, each industry was populated with its activities and their contribution within the years 2011- 2015, expressed in Million Kenya Shillings.
For example, in Agriculture, forestry and fishing industry, growing of crops, animal production, support activities to agriculture, forestry and logging, and fishing & aquaculture were the activities, where the growing of crops had the highest price all through the years, with Agriculture industry being the highest contributor of GDP, with 30% in 2015. In a table presenting the contribution growth by industry, the growth in employment in the construction sector for example was attributed to “the infrastructural projects such as the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and, construction and rehabilitation of roads and construction of non-residential structures”. This analysis is therefore using the positivism approach which assumed people’s employment rate was influenced by construction projects as the external factors. This analysis relies on the epistemological assumption that, “empirical observation is crucial in the sense that theories and explanations can have no credibility unless they can be corroborated through observation of events in the world”.
The GDP report 2016 is hence objective, value free, uses universal principles and facts and uses explanation in the analyses. This relied on the epistemological approach that “Social research should make use of reliable tools and techniques that provide accurate measures of the social phenomenon being studied, and these research tools must not impinge on the thing being measured, not disturb it and not alter it in the process of data collection”.
The GDP report 2016 used the positivism theory approach where data which was collected empirically was used to generalize and explain the phenomena. For example, data on different industries and their activities, whether in prices, growth or decline was used to calculate and generalize the GDP and explain the rise of “GDP by 5.6% in 2015 from 5.3% in 2014”.
Empiricism approach was also used in GDP where facts about the economy of Kenya were gathered in the social world to analyze and interpret the GDP, which were “independent of how people interpret them”. For example, the research used the fact that “agriculture industry in Kenya is by far its most prominent and dominant industry, hence as of 2015, the industry accounted for over 25% of the country’s GDP, 20% of employment, 75% of the labor force, and over 50% of revenue from exports”.
The rationale behind using the survey sample method to collect data was to achieve a national sample representing individuals aged 16 years and above, which was valid in statistics, as “the sample was drawn using the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) National Sample Surveys and Evaluation Program (NASSEP V) sampling frame”.
The UN development program gave a positive Human Development report in 2016 where it presented “an increase of 17.3 percent of Kenya’s HDI, with a value increase from 0.473 to 0.555 between the years 1990 and 2015” (UNDP 2016b, p.2). The report shows an overall progress in each of the three indicators with life expectancy at birth leading on the increase by 3.4 years (UNDP 2016b, p.2).The report shows a survey research done on a correlational method where there was comparison of HDI for years between 1990 and 2015, which each HDI indicator being analyzed.
The HDI report used the interpretivism approach where the knowledge provided about the human capabilities of the Kenya is through the researcher’s interpretation of the human capabilities, what he has produced and not what he has discovered hence very subjective.
The Human Development report shows Kenya being grouped among “countries in the Medium Human Development Group and Kenya HDI 2015 of 0.555 recorded to be below average of the group but above average of the countries in Sub -Saharan Africa”. This brings to the assumption that objective knowledge is not possible as the knowledge of Kenya being in the group medium human development countries relies with the value and expectation of the researchers of HDI. There is no objective and value free information that indicates Kenya lies on that group.
HDI report used the feminism approach where it critiqued the customary laws in most African countries, including Kenya that deprive women on the rights to own land, which can be used as a form of investment. This deters human development indicator of the standard of living. The report calls for appropriate land legislation to be formulated to supersede customary laws. According to Del Casino (2009) feminism is a theoretical position where it informs a critique of patriarchy. Postmodernism approach which “challenges structuralism as well as other philosophy posting that deep structures such as capitalism and patriarchy determine social and special relations” as Del Casino asserts, has been used to analyze HDI report. The analysis of Kenya’s performance on sustainable development, according to UNDP where it presents the three areas; environmental sustainability, social sustainability and economic sustainability with a 2030 focus agenda, shows Kenya on the road to self- sustainability without help of multinational organizations, non- governmental organizations or Structural Development Adjustments (SAPs). The mention of Mpesa mobile banking to show how mobile phone technology can reach the unbanked as noted by UNDP is an example of progress to economic sustainability in Kenya.
The Actual and Potential use of GDP and HDI in Education Policy and Planning in Kenya
From HDI 2016 report which saw education indicator taking a constant figure of 11.1 and 6.3 for expected years of schooling and mean years of schooling respectively, from 2010 – 2015, the government of Kenya through the Ministry of Education developed a plan to reform education and training and this encompasses the overhaul change of education system from 8-4-4 curriculum to 2-6-3-3 curriculum beginning January 2018. From the GDP 2016 report which showed “exclusion for Kenyans without formal schooling extremely high, at 46.2 per cent, indicating that illiteracy is a significant barrier to financial inclusion”, Kenya Bureau of Statistics (2016, p.274) led to rolling of free primary education and free day secondary education in 2018. The GDP report therefore had an actual use in education policy and planning by the Ministry of Education.
The HDI report in 2016 which shows “20.8 percent of parliamentary seats are held by women, and 27.8 percent of adult women have reached at least a secondary level of education compared to 34.1 percent of their male counterparts”, an indication of women empowerment which contributes to equality will potentially lead to a full implementation of the current two- thirds gender rule being imposed in all public offices or a lobby for a higher fraction like one- quarter. The two- thirds gender rule stipulates that in any elective body, not more than 2/3 of its members should be from one gender. The MPI (Multidimensional Poverty Index) for Kenya which shows living standard indicator having the highest contribution (55.5%) to “overall poverty of deprivations”, has a potential use to the government in formulating of policies that manage food security and nutrition and effective distribution of resources, opening export markets, supporting local financial institutions and private sectors. This will also contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development goals by 2030.
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