UN Ranks Burma among 3 Least Developed Asian Nations

By Paul Vrieze 15 March 2013

A UN report released on Friday ranks Burma 149th on a global human development index that compares 185 nations on the basis of income, education and health indicators, placing it among the three least developed Asian countries.

The country’s ranking in the UN Development Program’s Human Development Index 2013 is unchanged from last year. In Asia, only Papua New Guinea, 156, and Nepal, 157, ranked lower than Burma, which was surpassed by neighbors Bangladesh, 146, Laos, 138, and Thailand, at place 103. North Korea was not included in the UN index.

Burma was placed in a global group of 44 countries with “low human development,” according the report, which uses indicators such as national income per capita, life expectancy and years of schooling to compare nations. It also looks at underlying social conditions such as income and gender inequality.

The most developed country in the world, according to the UN, is Norway, while Niger is the least developed nation.

Although Burma’s overall ranking remains unchanged it is among a group of poor countries that have recorded a relatively fast improvement in development over the past decade, according to the UN report.

It said Burma, Afghanistan, Timor-Leste and 11 African countries “recorded impressive [human development index] gains of more than 2 percent annually since 2000.”

It provided no details on how Burma has achieved these advances. The impoverished Southeast Asian country has only just begun to emerge from decades of isolation under military rule.

The report said the Burmese in 2012 had an average life expectancy at birth of 65.7 years, on average 3.9 years of schooling and an annual gross per capita income of US $1,817.

By comparison, citizens in the whole East Asia and the Pacific region have an average life expectancy of 72.2 years, 7.2 years of education and an annual income of $6,874.

The UN said East Asia and the Pacific region is one the fastest developing in the world and “China, Indonesia, Thailand and many other nations are helping drive a historic shift in global dynamics, with hundreds of millions of people lifted from poverty.”

By 2030 the region “will be home to about two-thirds of the new global middle class, with billions of people becoming increasingly educated, socially engaged and internationally connected, though at significantly lower income levels than their counterparts in the middle class of the industrialized North,” the report projects.

The UN said, however, that these regional development advances are at risk from ageing populations, environmental degradation, political pressures and income inequality.

“[F]ailure to build accountable and responsive political structures may also cause unrest and civil strife regionally and globally if economic opportunity fails to keep pace with educational advancement,” it warns.