¿How can one construct a desired future, taking into consideration the initial conditions, the starting point, the circumstances?. That is the human being and his circumstances, as Ortega y Gasset used to say. Although as a phrase of popular wisdom says, "one can not engender a child with mere desire", there’s no doubt that desires help to focus efforts in pursuit of legitimate aims. This clarity of purpose, is a good starting point. But it must later be subjected to the circumstances; and of course, to what other human beings, with whom we are in the obligation of sharing or defining our lives, allow us to do. Otherwise, we might as well try to seclude ourselves in an ivory tower and become, like Robinson Crusoe, socially autistic amid a world permeated by telematics.

After all, human development deals not only with individual existence in this world, but also with a collective approach. ¿How can this human development be measured?. Instead of a thorough analysis of such a complex phenomenon, we can cite the effort that has been carried out by the United Nations Program, with the use of the Human Development Index (HDI). HDI measures three types of basic concepts: knowledge, a long, healthy life, and an acceptable standard of living. The indicators that allow this measurement can be, like all concepts, arguable. Nevertheless, in spite of any perfectible criticisms, we have to acknowledge that this achieved normalization permits the analysis of dissimilar circumstances to obtain a world standard Human Development Index.

Knowledge is assessed through a combination of the adult literacy rate with that of total enrollment in education at all levels. As for human life span and quality, they are measured by the life expectancy at the moment of birth. And perhaps the most criticized concept, is that of acceptable living standard, which is measured considering the per capita Gross National Product (GNP). Some other measurement alternatives to GNP are used whenever there are no data available for this parameter. For instance, since there are not Gross Product figures available for all of the Venezuelan states, the National Statistics Institute (INE) of Venezuela, uses the National Available Income (IND) as reference, measured since 2001, out of a time series model, that takes the price index in the Metropolitan area of Caracas(IPC-AMC) as reference.

The United Nations HDI measures have an approximate two-year delay. Venezuela’s HDI dropped from 0.77 in 1988 to 0.765 in 1999, as a result of a drop in its GNP. In the year 2000, it recovered its 1998 value; in 2001, it increased to 0.775, and in 2002 it reached 0.778, according to the last and most recent UN report. Although we still don’t have the HDI values for 2003 at hand, there’s no doubt that they will bear the weight of the severe 2002-2003 GNP drop, a consequence in great part of a 2001-2003 offensive from the opposition, which included a coup d’état in April 2002, and a nefarious two-month oil sabotage.

As we mentioned before, the INE measures the national HDI through the National Available Income (IND) when there are no regional Gross Product data available. There are absolute and relative differences between the GNP and the IND. The IND shows an improvement in 1998-2001, and then a decrease in the following years, as a result of the causes already mentioned. Since the first semester of 2004 has just ended, data concerning the IND for 2004 is yet to be made available. However, this index has most likely begun to change its trend, thus recovering its course towards the improvement in standard of living, even without considering the direct and indirect impact of the social programs undertaken by the government, which include: Missions Robinson I and II, Ribas and Sucre (for education of the needy from elementary to university level), Identity (to provide identification to all the poor who had been excluded from this service), Vuelvan Caras (training and insertion of the unemployed in productive economic activities), Mercal (sale of food at very low costs), and Barrio Adentro ( health programs for the poor).

All of these programs, which are part of a strategy to achieve social inclusion, have had positive effects on health (a long and healthy life), knowledge (education at all levels), and on other variables that contribute to a dignifying living standard. A dignifying and decorous standard of living should also include values as freedom, sovereignty, and participation, which are stipulated in the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Thus, the HDI should include items that have not been considered in its estimation: political and social inclusion, principles of sovereignty, freedom, and a people’s conscience that enables it to define its own destiny independently. In the assessment by the United Nations program, Venezuela’s HDI ranks between 61st and 69th among 175 countries.

Among the factors that can vary within a short term is precisely the one most criticized, the GNP. This is understandable since health and education have a smaller variability. In the case of today’s Venezuela, these parameters seem to be broken with the intensification of massive impact social policies. And since there’s the determination to proceed with this inclusive social strategy, its effects will be reflected not only on the HDI, comparable at a world scale, but also on what the INE has calculated to obtain the national HDI. With no doubt, these scenarios and explorations will modify the tendencies, given that there have been significant changes in the Venezuelan productive system, once the consequences of the political cycle, intended to overrun the whole country, were overcome.