Able to reach top fifty

Belarus ahead of CIS states in Human Development Index

By Lyudmila Gorovaya

The Human Development Index is released two years after the national statistical services disclose their information, since such information is sensitive. In the 21st UN Human Development Report, our country has moved from 61st place to 65th. However, 18 more countries have joined last year’s 169. We have outstripped 14 rivals and are still ranked among those with a high Human Development Index, boasting a rating of 0.756 — the most desirable of all CIS states. Only Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are ahead of us among the former Soviet republics.

Just a thousandth of a point can separate countries. For instance, Canada and Germany are divided by only 0.003, while Lichtenstein and Sweden are just 0.001 apart. Norway leads again, boasting long life expectancy and high average income per capita, coupled with low inflation and unemployment. However, the cost of living there is among the most expensive. The value of the rankings is debatable, since Cuba is ahead of Belarus simply by having a longer average life expectancy — while being behind in terms of income and education (the latter is an area in which Belarus is ranked very highly).

Professor of Economics Bryan Caplan is a little cynical, noting that immortality and endless GDP would still leave a country with a lower HDI than, for example, Tajikistan if its population was illiterate. All rating systems have their weaknesses and this is only one among many. Analysing the last five years, Antonius Broek, the UN Resident Coordinator / UNDP Resident Representative, sees Belarus’ position in the Human Development Index as a ‘rather good achievement’. If we look back, we can certainly give several arguments worth more than simple statistics.

The medical element has been especially fruitful for Belarus. In late 2006, we had to admit that completing just eight kidney transplantations within a year was a poor result. At that time, we could only dream of liver transplantation, while heart transplants were unthinkable and cardiovascular operations were performed by just two clinics. Cancer screening — used extensively in many countries — was too expensive for general use; now, the situation is drastically different. Over the five months alone, 86 kidney transplants, 20 liver transplants and 14 heart transplants have been conducted, with six out of ten cardiovascular operations performed in the regions. Now, our oncologists doubt the efficiency of preventive medical examinations and use cancer screening as their corner stone. Finally, life expectancy has increased by two years, with the expectation of more if the new national programme for demographic security is followed. Good intentions are being made tangible.

There’s still a long way to go to reach the top fifty countries within the Human Development Index but, of course, ratings exist to encourage states to better themselves. The process is endless, since rankings compare one country with another. As one progresses, so everyone else must also do so. The ranking systems include the Physical Quality of Life Index (PQLI), the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), the Vanderford-Riley Well-Being Schedule and the Economist Intelligence Unit, but others also exist. In terms of happiness, Denmark has always been a leader, rather than Norway. Famous demographer Sergey Shcherbov explains that the Danes enjoy Europe’s highest employment coefficient, covering all age groups.

Happiness stems from feeling useful, although feeling at peace with oneself does have its role to play. Such emotions can hardly be measured of course, whatever mathematical formula is applied.

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