Democracy and Standard of Living

Democracy is good for improving the standards of living in South Asia! Does this proposition sound plausible?

      Democracy is a form of government characterised by sovereignty of all people, where each person, whether rich or poor, has one vote to determine who governs.[1] This definition implies that the government, in order to remain in power, will listen to the voices of the majority and address their specific needs and wants. How is it then that a largely democratic South Asia is home to half the world’s poor?[2] This essay will argue that democracy is good for improving the standards of living in South Asia. I will focus on the three largest countries in South Asia, namely India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The essay will aim to prove that such widespread poverty and low standard of living is not a result of democracy but rather of poor policies, military interference and a lack of competent political leaders.
It is necessary to first evaluate different indicators by which to measure the standard of living in country. One common indicator used is real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) uses this in its calculation of the Human Development Index (HDI).[3] This measures the annual economic output of a country per person, adjusted for inflation. However, this indicator does not take into account income inequality. In India, for example, the richest 10% in terms of income are responsible for over 30% of total income.[4] This would result in an inflated figure for the Indian majority. In measuring the standard of living, a more accurate indicator would be the child mortality rate. This is a measure of the number of deaths before the age of five per 1,000 children. Factors associated with this number include access to clean water, food and basic healthcare. Education levels are also implicitly related to child mortality rate as mothers, when equipped with information on how to improve living conditions, can...