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* Sri Lanka progressively improves in human development
Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 11:28 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

July 24, Colombo: Sri Lanka has progressively improved in human development over the years and is ranked 73 in the category of High Human Development Country in the Human Development Report (HDR) 2014 released today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) .

The 2014 Human Development Report 'Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerability and Building Resilience' covering 187 countries was launched in Tokyo, on 24 July 2014.

The 2014 HDR highlights the need for both promoting people's choices and protecting human development achievements and offers a fresh perspective on what makes people vulnerable, and proposes ways to strengthen resilience.

Sri Lanka's Human Development Index (HDI) has progressively increased up to 0.750 in 2014 compared to 0.513 in 1980.

The country, up by two notches from last year's rank, is placed at the 73rd position, the highest among the nine South Asian countries, in the index that is a composite national measure of health, education, and income for 187 countries.

The average HDI value for the Asia region, at 0.588, is below the world average of 0.702 and only Sri Lanka in the South Asian region is above the average.

"Sri Lanka, which shares a colonial history similar to that of India and the rest of the subcontinent, achieved nearly universal education and health care despite years of militancy and war," the 2014 report said.

The report has considered Sri Lanka's favorable social indicators of literacy, life expectancy and year of schooling to place the country in the High Human Development group.

Sri Lanka has performed far better in human development than in income alone as seen in the large difference in the Gross National Income per capita and HDI rankings, the report noted. Sri Lanka's Gross National Income per capita ranked 103 while the HDI ranked 73.

Sri Lanka's nearest neighbor, India is ranked at 135 in the index, among the 'medium development' countries along with Bhutan at 136 and Maldives at 103. Pakistan ranked 146, Nepal at 145 and Afghanistan at 169 are in the 'low development' category.

South Asia has the largest multidimensionally poor population, with more than 800 million poor and over 270 million near-poor - that is, more than 71 percent of its population. This makes the region home to 56 percent of the world's poor and more than 35 percent of the world's near-poor.

"Staggering rates of poverty, high inequality and frequent natural disasters and crises threaten the progress of human development in Asia and the Pacific. Addressing these challenges requires a host of initiatives, including universal provision of social services and a strong system of social security benefits," the 2014 Human Development Report said.

It takes the view that vulnerability threatens human development and, unless it is systematically addressed, progress will be neither equitable nor sustainable.

HDR 2014 introduces a gender development index (GDI) for the first time, which compares the HDI calculated separately for women and men among 148 countries.

Worldwide, female HDI values are eight percent lower than those for males, with large variations between countries. Sri Lanka ranks 66 in the GDI with an HDI of 0.720 for women and 0.750 for men.

Although the HDI gap is relatively small on average, the disparity between genders in the estimated gross national income per capita is very high: per capita income for men at the global level is more than double that for women.

This year's report points to a slowdown in human development growth across all regions noting that threats such as financial crises, fluctuations in food prices, natural disasters and violent conflict significantly impede progress.

In the current report, the top five countries ranked in terms of the HDI are Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands and the US. The bottom five in this ranking are Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Chad and Sierra Leone.

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