Guyana slips in UNDP human development index
Stabroek News
July 16, 2004

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Guyana is ranked at 104 out of 177 countries on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2004 Human Development Index (HDI), a drop of 12 places from last year.

This is according to a Reuters report quoting the United Nations where the report was released yesterday. In 2003, Guyana was ranked 92 from among 175 countries. In 2002, Guyana was ranked at 103 out of 173 countries. Last year it was explained that Guyana's ranking had not been a true reflection of the country's human development because of the unavailability of updated statistics and the fact that a number of countries' rankings had slipped because of civil strife and slumping economies. However, government officials at the time had touted a number of reasons for the jump.

Norway retained its top position for the fourth consecutive year followed by Sweden, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands. They are ranked as the best countries to live in.

Among Caricom countries, Barbados got the highest ranking at 29 and it is the only country in the region with a high human development ranking. The others listed in the medium human development category are St Kitts and Nevis, 39; The Bahamas, 51; Trinidad and Tobago, 54; Antigua and Barbuda, 55; Suriname, 67; Jamaica, 79; St Vincent and the Grenadines, 87; Grenada, 93; Dominica, 95; Belize, 99; and Guyana at 104. Haiti at 153 is the only country in the region listed in the low-development category.

Venezuela is ranked at 68 and Brazil, 72, now one above Colombia. Brazil ranked 65th last year.

The United States was ranked in eighth place, a drop of one position from 2003.

The UN report rates per-capita income, educational levels including adult literacy, health care and life expectancy in measuring a nation's well-being.

The HDI is prepared by the UNDP and is issued annually. It includes every country for which statistics are available. Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, and Liberia were among nations not included because of a lack of data.

Aside from the overall index, the report produces indicators on women's equality, income inequality and consumption, poverty and other categories that countries use to measure development. In Canada, for example, the index has been used in advertisements to attract business.

The industrialised nations as usual were in the top 20, their ratings close to one another.

Belgium was in sixth place, followed by Iceland, the United States, Japan, Ireland, Switzerland, Britain, Finland, Austria, Luxem-bourg, France, Denmark, New Zealand, Germany and Spain.

At the bottom of the list for the seventh year was Sierra Leone, emerging from a decade of civil war. Right above it, were Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Burundi.

The world's newest nation, East Timor, was included for the first time and ranked 158th out of 177 countries.

In Africa, the AIDS crisis reduced the average life expectancy in many countries to 40 years or less, making it the biggest factor in the decline of overall human development indicators, the report said.

In comparison, the average life expectancy in Norway was 79 years.

At least 20 nations suffered development reversals since 1990, 13 of them in Africa: Angola, Central African Republic, Lesotho, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the report said.

Reuters quoted Head of the UNDP Mark Malloch Brown as saying that "The AIDS crisis cripples states at all levels because the disease attacks people in their most productive years."

In Asia, Hong Kong was at 23 and Singapore, 25; South Korea, 28; Thailand, 76; Philippines, 83; China, 94; India, 127; Bangladesh, 138 and Pakistan, 142.

In the Middle East, Israel led the list at 22; Cyprus, 30; Bahrain, 40; Kuwait, 44; Qatar, 47; United Arab Emirates, 49; Libya, 58; Oman, 74; Saudi Arabia, 77; Lebanon, 80; Jordan, 90; Tunisia, 92; Palestinian territories, 102; Syria, 106; Algeria, 108; Egypt, 120; Morocco, 125 and Yemen, 149.