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Bangladesh moves up a notch in Human Development Index

  • Published at 01:48 pm December 11th, 2019
Shopping Mall
File photo of Bashundhara City shopping mall Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

“Inequality in human development is high or increasing in the areas expected to become more important in the future: UNDP

Bangladesh has secured the 135th position among 189 countries in the Human Development Index for 2018. The country has thus climbed up one notch from its position as the 136th country in 2017, according to the Human Development Report 2019 published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The report was launched by UNDP at an event which was jointly organized with the Planning Commission at the NEC Conference Room in Dhaka, yesterday.

UNDP released the 2019 Human Development Report (HDR), titled “Beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today: inequalities in human development in the 21st Century,” around the world on Monday.

The Human Development Index (HDI) measures the average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development — life expectancy, education, and per capita income.

Bangladesh’s HDI value stood at 0.614 which was 0.608 last year with 72.3 years of life expectancy, 11.2 years of expected schooling and USD$4,057 PPP of gross national income (GNI) per capita.

When the HDI first began in 1990, Bangladesh scored 0.388, 0.470 in 2000, and 0.549 in 2010. Between 1990 and 2018, Bangladesh's HDI value has increased by 58.2% (from 0.388 to 0.614), placing it within the medium human development group. Moreover, Bangladesh has improved five positions since 2013.

As per the HDI, India ranked 129 out of 189 countries on the 2019 Human Development Index — an improvement from its 130th position last year.

Dignitaries present at the release of the 2019 Human Development Report (HDR), entitled 'Beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today: inequalities in human development in the 21st Century' at the NEC auditorium in Dhaka on Tuesday, December 11, 2019 | Dhaka Tribune

Norway, Switzerland, and Ireland occupied the top three positions in the index. Germany secured the fourth place along with Hong Kong, while Australia secured the fifth spot on the global ranking of human development.

Among Asian nations, Sri Lanka and China find themselves high up in the ranking, securing 71th and 84th position, respectively, while others were positioned lower on the list with Maldives at 104, Bhutan at 134, Myanmar at 145, Nepal at 147, Pakistan at 152 and finally, Afghanistan at 170.

In the Gender Inequality Index, life expectancy at birth rate of females in Bangladesh was 74.3   while male life expectancy stood at 70.6 years. The report indicated the expected schooling of females as 11.6 years and male as 10.8 years. The estimated GNI per capita of women stood at USD$2,373 PPP and for men - USD$5,701 PPP.

According to the Human Development Report 2019, in Bangladesh and 10 other countries with a wide range of health systems and income levels, governments have used an incremental approach to create and expand their universal health coverage programs.

Further, it also said that the process typically began by providing health insurance to civil servants and formal sector workers. Next was expanding coverage to the poor and vulnerable, which required a strong political commitment.

Planning minister MA Mannan, along with General Economics Division (GED) member of the Planning Commission Dr Shamsul Alam, planning secretary Muhammad Nurul Amin, UNDP’s resident representative Sudipto Mukerjee, renowned economists Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman and Dr Fahmida Khatun, among others, jointly unveiled the cover of the report.

Addressing the launching event as its chief guest, planning minister MA Mannan said: “Our social indicators depict that we are doing better in health, education and life expectancy at birth with our per capita income spiralling.”

The minister said that the government was building infrastructure, community hospitals, schools, power-plants to take necessary services to people's doorstep to reduce inequality. 

“It seems we’ve been able to subdue our enemy (poverty) as the poverty rate has now come down to around 20% from the previous figure of 42%. The pace of poverty reduction is good and we’re putting due emphasis on addressing the loopholes. Further, we are yet to ensure proper utilization of government investments,” he added. 

The changing face of inequality

HDR suggests that these inequalities in human development are a roadblock while achieving the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. The 2019 report outlines an “emerging level of severe inequality” all around even though some of the “unresolved inequalities” from the last century are declining. Moreover, inequalities in human development are “taking new forms” even though inequalities in basic capabilities are “shrinking.” 

UNDP research shows that in 2018, 20% of human development progress was lost due to the unequal distribution of education, health and living standards.

If the value is discounted for inequality, the HDI value of Bangladesh falls to 0.465, a loss of 24.3%. When it comes to the Gender Inequality Index (GII), Bangladesh’s value is 0.536, ranking 129 out of 162 countries in the 2018 index. 

Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad opined that the GDP growth would be meaningless if inequality in the country is not tackled. 

He further said: “Despite the high growth rate of the country’s GDP, the country falls behind in terms of development.” 

He underscored the need to give due importance to innovation alongside making necessary investments in research and development.

Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman highlighted the need to ensure the efficiency of the development expenditure.

Dr Zillur also stressed on the need to find out newer growth drivers for Bangladesh for the next five to ten years.

“The government is mainly interested in growth. We must focus on the development of quality higher education. Moreover, economic power in the country is held by only a handful of people, and corruption in development projects are hindering progress and increasing inequality,” he added. 

Dr Fahmida Khatun said that the country would benefit from increased investment in all sectors including health, education and gender.