The creation of social opportunities makes a direct contribution to the expansion of human capabilities and the quality of life. Expansion of health care, education, social security, etc., contribute directly to the quality of life and to its flourishing. There is every evidence that even with relatively low income, a country that guarantees health care and education to all can achieve remarkable results in terms of the length and quality of life of the entire population. The highly labour-intense nature of health care and basic education – and human development in general – makes them comparatively cheap in the certain stages of economic development, when labour costs are low.
Broader approaches to societal development are often harder to “sell” than narrowly focused reforms that try to achieve “one thing at a time”. This may help to explain why the powerful intellectual leadership of Manmohan Singh in bringing about the needed economic reforms in India in 1991 was so concentrated on “liberalization” only, without a corresponding focus on the much needed broadening of social opportunities.
Development can be seen as a process of expanding the freedoms that people enjoy. Focusing on freedoms contrasts with narrower views of development, such as identifying development with the growth of gross national product, or with the rise in personal incomes, or with industrialization, or with technological advance, or with social modernization.