Arab human development lags behind
The Arab region lags behind the rest of the world in basic freedoms, asserts the UN-commissioned Arab Human Development Report 2002. It said Arab countries score lower than any other region in the world on international measurements for governmental accountability, civil liberties and media independence.
The report then went on to conclude that the absence of political freedoms in the Arab world is directly linked to the development gap. Put together, the reports shows, the gross domestic product (GDP) of the 22 Arab nations examined adds up to less than a single medium-sized European country’s GDP such as Spain. Unemployment averages 15 percent across the region, triple the world average.
The report, released today in the Arab League's headquarters in Cairo, was compiled over the past 18 months by Arab scholars who were commissioned to conduct the study by the UN Development Program (UNDP).
The report says that while per capita income in the region is higher than most of the developing world, growth in per capita income in the Arab region during the past 20 years averaged just 0.5 percent, the lowest in the world except for sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, labor productivity had declined at an annual average of 0.2 percent.
A very large investment in fixed capital formation of over $3,000 billion over the past 20 years has had poor returns in per capita income, the report said. Oil revenues are not always reinvested productively in the country let alone the region. And when such revenues are used in physical capital formation they contribute little to growth, it added.
The Arab report's findings show that in terms of scientific development, the Arab region spent less than 0.5 percent of its gross domestic product on scientific expenditure, compared to 1.26 percent in Cuba and 2.9 percent in Japan.
The report found that 65 million adults, mostly women, are illiterate, while 10 million children do not currently attend school. With female illiteracy at 50 percent, women take up only 3.5 percent of parliamentary seats in Arab states.
On a positive note, the report said the Arab region has dramatically reduced poverty and inequality in the 20th century. Arab nations have raised the life expectancy of their peoples, cut infant mortality and reduced extreme poverty.
The report covers 22, Arab countries inhabited by about 280 million people, whose population is expected to reach 400 million by 2022. The report's aim was not to frustrate Arabs but ignite their determination for change, stated the project’s head, former deputy Jordanian prime minister Rima Khalaf Hunaidi, who is the UN's current assistant secretary and director of the Bureau of Arab States. — (menareport.com)
© 2002 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)