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Guide to Development Speak


Debt crisis

A situation in which a country, usually a developing country, finds itself unable to service its debts.

Debt-equity swaps

A mechanism used by the governments of indebted developing countries to reduce the value of their debt. A limited amount of the debt is swapped for shares in local companies.

Debt relief

A term used variously to refer to rescheduling and refinancing; debt reduction and debt-service reduction; or both.

Debt rescheduling (renegotiation)

Changing the terms of existing loans, usually by extending repayment dates without increases in nominal interest rates.

Debt service

The total amount a country spends or is scheduled to spend on its debts, consisting of interest payments and repayments of the principal debt.

Debt service ratio

The most commonly-used measure of a country’s debt situation. It is the combined debt and interest payments as a percentage of exports. A country with a debt-service ratio of more than 30% is considered to be a severely indebted country.

Debtor nation

A country with a balance of payments deficit.


The process of clearing of forests. This is seen generally as a negative thing due to the fact that forests and trees protect soil, regulate the climate and contain the greatest biodiversity.


The statistical study of human populations, especially with reference to size and density, distribution and vital statistics.


The process of land becoming desert due to climatic change or human action, especially in arid or semi-arid regions bordering existing deserts.

Dependence (or dependency theory)

The theory that developing countries are reliant on more economically developed ones through trade, foreign investment and aid. The theory contends that this prevents the development of the developing countries.


A lowering of the official exchange rate between one country’s currency and those of the rest of the world.


The process of improving the quality of human lives around the world. Development includes three aspects:
- Raising people’s living levels - incomes and consumption levels of food, medical services, education.
- The growth of people’s self-esteem through systems and institutions which promote human dignity and respect.
- Increasing people’s freedom to choose by enlarging the range of their choices, for example a greater variety of consumer goods and services.

Developing country

A loose term used to identify poor nations based on per capita income. Developing counties may also be termed underdeveloped, low-income, majority world, the South or the Third World.

Development banks

Specialised public and private financial institutions that provide medium and long-term loans and assistance for development projects.

Digital divide

The division between individuals or communities that have access to digital mediums – primarily the internet - and those that do not.

Distance learning

The method of obtaining training without being physically present in a classroom. The class or training is accessed through a computer, radio or satellite broadcast.

Division of labour

The organisation of tasks in the manufacturing process where work is split into different stages. Each stage having its own trained workers.


An individual or organisation that makes a grant or contribution.
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