Jordan's Rankings Unchanged in Human Development Report 2004

By Dalya Dajani
Published August 10th 2004 in The Jordan Times

AMMAN — While the Kingdom has yet to see an improvement in citizens' productivity, its investments in health and education are continuing to pay off, and was ranked first in poverty reduction efforts in the region, a UNDP report revealed on Monday.

This year's Human Development Report 2004 (HDR), entitled “Cultural Liberty in Today's Diverse World,” showed that Jordan remained at last year's ranking of 90 out of 177 countries.

The Kingdom, however, registered a small rise in its Human Development Index (HDI) — a measure of life expectancy, adult literacy and per capita income — which increased from 0.743 last year to 0.750 this year.

According to the report, life expectancy in Jordan rose from 70.6 years in 2003 to 70.9 years this year. Adult literacy also increased to 90.9 per cent from 90.3 per cent last year.

Purchasing power parity, or GDP, also witnessed an increase from $3,870 in 2003 to $4,220, thus improving per capita income.

UNDP Resident Representative Christine McNab told the media yesterday that Jordan was making “steady” progress in meeting its human development goals.

She noted that its investments, particularly in education, have made it the “best among Arab countries.”

“Jordan's HDI rank and the indicators for health and education show clearly the progress Jordan has made towards human development,” said McNab.

“Its Human Poverty Index shows further that the government is spending a much larger share of its finances in addressing poverty than many other high-income Arab countries,” she added.

Jordan's HPI — a measure of the proportion of people below a threshold level in basic dimensions of human development — ranked first in the region.

It was followed by Lebanon, Syria and Libya, and ranked 7th best among 95 developing countries.

Jordan also fared well in its Gender Development Index — a measure of the inequalities in achievement between men and women — ranking 6th in the region. The Kingdom of Bahrain was 1st, followed by Kuwait, Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia.

While acknowledging the strides taken over recent years in various fields of development, several members of the media nevertheless questioned some of the report's findings yesterday. The press cited indicators that reflected a somewhat rosy picture of Jordan's human development status, while poverty and unemployment remain two major national challenges.

Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Bassem Awadallah told the press that investments made in various sectors of human development over the past two years needed time to show results.

“The Kingdom has made some great strides in the different fields of human development, particularly in improving primary and child healthcare and educational reforms that better link it to the job market,” said Awadallah.

“One has to keep in mind, however, that such policies and programmes, as with other countries, require a “lag-time” of two to three years before they yield the aspired for results and before we begin to assess their impact on citizens' lives,” he added.

The minister pointed to the Kingdom's 6.9 per cent economic growth in the first quarter of this year, an 18 per cent increase from the same period last year, as a “promising sign and pace of development.”

He noted, however, that such growth could not be expected to impact all Jordanian citizens immediately as the country still battles high levels of unemployment.

“We have noted a stronger performance by the country, but poverty and unemployment still prevail. Some 50,000 to 60,000 new people enter the job market each year. At the same time, we haven't seen an increase in citizens' productivity levels,” said Awadallah.

Diversity and development

The HDR, which has served as a useful resource for experts and academia over the past 15 years, this year examines an interesting dimension of human development.

The report focuses on migrant populations in multicultural nations who are often held back from contributing positively to the development of their host nations due to their indigenous nature.

The report's authors finds that millions of migrant populations, ethnic minorities or otherwise, continue to face suppression of cultural freedoms.

A key element for development, however, is giving people the freedom to live the lives they choose whilst providing them with the tools and opportunities to make these choices.

“People have the right to maintain their ethnic, linguistic and religious identities and have innovative systems of proportional representation and federalism,” said the report.

“The adoption of policies that recognise and protect these identities is the only sustainable approach to development in diverse societies and provides incentives to build a “we” feeling where citizens find the institutional and political space to identify with both their country and their cultural identities,” it added.

According to the report's authors, some nations see diversity as leading to divided loyalties, weakening the state, a cause of violent conflict and bad for growth and human development.

Citing the report, McNab yesterday pointed to such myths as being without substance.

“Cultural differences are a source of strength, economic progress and human development in any state and in the world as a whole,” said McNab.

“International migration brings skills, labour and ideas and enriches people's lives,” she added.

The HDR notes that nations can and do accommodate diversity constructively by crafting responsive policies of cultural recognition.

“To build a viable and multiethnic society, governments must recognise that multiple and complementary identities do not represent a threat to the state,” said the report.

The report offers states policy advice on how they can accommodate diversity constructively, without being drawn in by prevailing misconceptions and myths of their power on national stability and identity.