To illustrate the inadequacy of the GDP as an indicator of societal well-being, Jim Stanford in the Globe & Mail points out that Kerala has managed to achieve a very high quality of life for its citizens by avoiding most of the standard tools of western development.
"Kerala has the same population as Canada, crammed into an area smaller than [the province of] Nova Scotia...Kerala's GDP per capita is decent by Indian standards, but not spectacular. But its superior education and health outcomes push it well up the human development ranking. It boasts the highest HDI of any Indian state. If it were a country, Kerala would rank 77th in the world – ahead of countries with much higher GDP per capita, such as Turkey, South Africa and Peru.
Kerala's literacy is the highest in India, well above 90 per cent. Infant mortality is the lowest. Thanks to grassroots education programs and economic opportunity for women, its birth rate is one quarter of that in the rest of India – lower, even, than in the United States. By these social indicators, Kerala could even be considered a 'developed' economy, despite its Third World levels of output."