Economic development should be regarded as a "generalized process of capital accumulation"33 wherein capital consists of both physical and human capital and institutions. The epidemic's pernicious influence on the formation and consolidation of human capital within Zimbabwean society is significant. AIDS will take the lives of a significant proportion of the brightest minds of Zimbabwe. This in turn will hamper efforts toward economic development and impede the consolidation of democratic government. It is important to recognize that the HIV/AIDS epidemic simultaneously drains reserves of human capital and prevents its accumulation, combining to weaken a society's institutional capital.
The net outcome of HIV-induced decline in a society's stock of human capital is stagnation of economic development, which over time results in serious economic decline. As government funding is diverted from education to the health-care sector, this dearth of funds will impede the development of human capital, as the young will be increasingly devoid of skills and adequate literacy. McPherson argues that the HIV-induced decline of savings and loss of efficiency is very much like "running Adam Smith in reverse":
As an increasing number of workers become debilitated and drop out of the labor force, many of the advantages of specialization and the division of labor are lost. Moreover, the loss of labor is a direct reduction of the nation's productive capacity.34
Thus, the HIV/AIDS epidemic will have a pronounced effect on the accumulation and consolidation of knowledge and skills within the Zimbabwean population while simultaneously depleting the pre-existing stock of human capital through the premature mortality of skilled workers. This long-term process of AIDS-induced human capital erosion will result in significant long-term negative outcomes for Zimbabwean prosperity.
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