Better than Neighbors, With Room to Improve: UN report ranks Armenia with the world

Since 1990 the United Nations has published its annual Human Development Report, ranking countries according to living conditions.

Using analysis based on a country’s statistical bureau (2003 for this report), World Bank, and other reliable sources, UNO assigns grades according to certain conditions based on three main components: education, life expectancy and gross domestic product (GDP).

In the report (http://hdr.undp.org) released September 7, Armenia is rated 83 out of 177 countries. Caucasus neighbors Georgia and Azerbaijan ranked 100 and 101 respectively. One grade above Armenia is Ecuador, with the Philippines one grade worse. The highest rated country is Norway at No. 1, while Niger is at the bottom. The United States comes in at 10, United Kingdom at 15, and France at 16.

(In the previous report, Armenia in fact ranked higher, at 82. However, the drop of one position does not reflect a decline, but rather the fact that other countries improved, too, and more countries were added to the list.)

According to economic expert of the UN Human Development program Aghasi Mkrtchyan, Armenia’s overall human development index has risen from .754 to .759 over the past year “owing to economic growth as a result of which the GDP index has grown from 0.57 to 0.60”. (Over the same period, the education index has not changed; nor has health, although the life expectancy in Armenia has dropped from 72.3 to 71.5)

According to statistical data main sectors contributing to the growth in 2003 in Armenia were construction at 44%, and industry, 15%.

Despite the constant complaints from people that the social conditions of people in Armenia does not improve through years, statistical data say other things.

According to statistics from the UN, the index of poverty in Armenia has also dropped.

If in 2002 nearly 49.7 % of the Armenian population were poor, of which the “very poor” were 13.1 %, in 2003 the index of poverty dropped to 42.7 %, and the level of extreme poverty has been cut in half, reaching 7.4 %.

Fifth among (12) the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries, Armenia is behind Russia (62nd), Belarus (67th), the Ukraine (78th) and Kazakhstan (80th position), but (in addition to Georgia and Azerbaijan) ahead of former USSR countries of Turkmenistan (97th), Kyrgyzstan (109th), Uzbekistan (111th), Moldova (115th) and Tajikistan (122nd).

According to Marc Malloch Brown, administrator of the United Nations Development Program, the Human Development Reports have proved valuable over the years.

“The reports have had an undeniable role of catalysts in developing and forming certain responses in the major development policy of our times,” he mentions in a brief note of the report.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Vartan Oskanian says although Armenia is not bad compared to its neighbors, the picture is different in terms of the world.

“Armenia should be able to understand its problems and should take the 2005 Human Development Report as a guide for its future activities,” he said.