• Lamlela Plaatjie (South Africa)

The importance of socio-economic development indicators in policymaking



Disparate living conditions exist across the globe on a spectrum from prosperous to bleak situations. Furthermore, the standard for prosperity itself is relative and informed by cultural norms. Socio-economic development has been measured using indicators such as GDP, health, education, employment, food security, housing and household income. In fact, universal poverty lines are calculated to establish a measurement base which can be used as a measure for the basic cost of living. Psycho-social indicators such as life satisfaction, well-being, mental health, relationship quality, internet access and work-life balance are increasingly being included to calculate baselines for life quality.


The trend in both the developing and developed world is that the most basic needs such as nutrition and housing are not constantly met. The potential causes to the service delivery challenge could be linked to issues of actual policy formulation, incoherence in the formulation and implementation of policies, limited capabilities and technical know-how in policy implementation and last but least, the evidence of government corruption. The challenge with policy formulation is that very often the aim is to focus on delivering a targeted amount of deliverables for measurable outputs, whilst the quality of outputs is overlooked. A typical example is a World Bank (2020) study on the enrolment rates at schools and its impact on literacy levels. The study revealed that the enrolment rates at schools do not translate into improved literacy levels of children. From this example, one can observe that service delivery quality is relegated and despite good intentions, schools or citizens did not get optimal benefit from the policy. This could also be an indicator that research was not conducted thoroughly to inform the purpose of the policy. Such shortcomings must not be overlooked whether it is a pilot or feasibility studies that is conducted.


Policy incoherence on the other hand, has to do with cross-sectoral policy co-ordination. For instance, it would not make sense to have policies that address climate change formulated by environment affairs department, while trade departments have trade agreements involving unsustainable gas extraction. This will result to conflict of interest that will lead to inconsistency and policy incoherence. A lack of basic infrastructure can also present a challenge for socio-economic development particularly, in roads, electricity and the internet area. Regional development cross-land boarder trade requires road networks, and if these are non-existent, development will be delayed as too much time will be spent building the required infrastructure.


In summary, policy formulation is only as good as its implementation. It is important to consider the above mentioned challenges when formulating policies and not only that, but also to assess the practical implementation of policies before we advance the argument of socio-economic development in emerging market economies. The administrators as technocrats must also play their critical role in supporting and ensuring policy success. Traffic officers for instance, should remain the embodiment of law in the application of rule and not be bribe or coerced to break the law. The final challenge, is government corruption which involves misuse of public funds and violation of ethical codes and policies. The misuse of public funds directly impacts the quality of policy implementation by diminishing resources. A lack of government transparency and accountability in emerging markets enables the repeated brazen occurrence. Successful socio-economic development policies requires reliable and valid research, capability endowments and solid implementation measures.