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UN report claims Zimbabwe worst place to live in
04/11/2010 00:00:00
by Reuters/Staff Reporter
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A SHOCK new United Nations report claims Zimbabwe is the WORST PLACE to live in.

The assessment came in a so-called human development index -- a measure of well-being published by the U.N. Development Programme for the past 20 years that combines individual economic prosperity with education levels and life expectancy.

The report says only three countries have a lower human development index than in 1970 -- Congo, torn by conflict since the 1990s, Zambia, hit by falls in the price of copper, its main export, and Zimbabwe, which is emerging from a decade-long economic and political crisis.

The report is sure to draw anger from Zimbabweans who are set to see their economy grow by up to eight percent this year, according to Finance Minister Tendai Biti.

Despite a decline in standards, the country’s education system is still rated as one of the best in Africa. With new investment in education over the last two years, the country is on course to reclaim its former glory.

Reacting to the findings on Thursday, Zimbabwe’s Regional Integration and International Cooperation Minister Pricilla Misihairabwi said the UN had a “distorted view of Zimbabwe”.

The minister said: “Is it true, for instance, that a Malawian lives longer than a Zimbabwean on average? How credible is a finding suggesting that Liberia has better schools than Zimbabwe? As of today, can someone seriously say our economy is worse than Somalia’s?

“I know it’s not a measure of greatness to compare yourself to Malawi, Somalia and Liberia, but I have used those examples to just show you that whoever has done this research has a twisted view about Zimbabwe and its people.

“They must leave us alone, we are fine. We don’t need their research or endorsement to see that our country is going in the right direction.”

According to the UN, oil-rich Norway remains the best country in the world to live in. Japan headed the field in life expectancy, at 83.6 years, with Afghanistan last at little more than half of that -- 44.6 years. The tiny Alpine state of Liechtenstein had by far the highest per capita annual income -- $81,011, 460 times higher than last-placed Zimbabwe on $176.

Overall, the index contained some significant changes near the top compared with last year, with the United States rising to fourth from 13th and Iceland -- hard hit by the global financial crisis -- plummeting to 17th from third.


But UNDP officials said the figures were not fully comparable due to changes in calculation methods this year.

Per capita gross national income, which includes aid and remittances, has been used instead of gross domestic product, while in education literacy levels have been replaced by average years of schooling.

Due to difficulties in obtaining the required figures from some countries, only 169 of the 192 U.N. member states were graded. Absentees included North Korea.

Instead of year-on-year shifts, this year's report focused on what it said were upward long-term trends, assessing developments in 135 countries since 1970.

"The overall message is actually quite positive," Jeni Klugman, lead author of the report, told journalists. "What we find is that the world is much better off than it was," including a doubling of incomes in real terms over 40 years.

According to UNDP, the country to have made the most progress in the past four decades is the Gulf state of Oman, because of major health and education improvements, with China in second place due to its prodigious economic growth.

"This report shows that the gap in health and education outcomes between developed and developing countries has narrowed significantly over the past 40 years, even though the income divide, with a few notable exceptions, worsened," UNDP chief Helen Clark told a meeting to launch the index.

This year's report also drew up new indicators measuring the impact of inequality in the distribution of health, education and income, as well as of gender inequality.

On distribution it found that the country with the least inequality was the Czech Republic, while Mozambique had the most. The Netherlands had the least gender inequality, while Yemen had the most, the survey said.

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