Sri Lanka tops South Asia in human development

Sri Lanka has maintained its high ranking in human development. But the country’s performance in terms of average annual human development index (HDI) growth rate during 1990-2014 was lower than many other South Asian countries.

These findings are among the highlights of the Global Human Development Report (HDR) 2015 released by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) here on Thursday.

Sri Lanka has been placed at the 73rd rank with an HDI value of 0.757. In the previous year’s report, it occupied the 74th place. Since the end of the civil war in 2009, the country’s rank went up by five. The report, which studied a total of 188 countries and territories, has determined the HDI values by assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development—a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.

According to the document, the region of South Asia includes Iran too, apart from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal,Bangladesh and Maldives.

While Iran is ahead of Sri Lanka, standing at 69th rank, the Maldives is ranked 104th. India and Bhutan fall under the category of medium human development countries and Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan come under the group of low human development countries. India is placed at 130th rank and Pakistan, 147th. As for the growth rate during 1990-2014, South Asia’s figure was 1.38, the highest among all regions.

The UNDP took 1990 into account as it was from that year that the series of global HDI reports began. In the context of Sri Lanka, too, the year was significant as the Eelam War resumed in June 1990 after the withdrawal of the Indian Peacekeeping Force three months earlier.

Thangavel Palanivel, Chief Economist for Asia-Pacific, UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, attributes this situation to the “size effect” and points out that countries traditionally enjoying higher economic and human development cannot grow much beyond a point. This was why Sri Lanka, which was better placed than many other countries in the region even in the 1970s and 1980s, posted lower growth rate during the 25-year-long period.

In 1990, Sri Lanka’s HDI value was 0.620 whereas the region’s figure was 0.437. In 2014, the region’s tally was 0.607.