Sri Lanka, for the first time, was ranked in the “high human development” category of the United Nations Human Development Programme (UNDP) “Human Development Report (HDR) 2013”. The HDR which reports on a country’s Human Development Index based on three main indicators, viz., “a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living”.
Sri Lanka’s HDI value is 0.715 for the year 2012, up by 28 per-cent from 0.557 the previous year, ranking Sri Lanka as the 92 out of 187 countries. Sri Lanka ranks above the South Asian average of 0.558 and above Pakistan and India, which are ranked 146 and 138 respectively.
Speaking at the Sri Lankan launch of the HDR, External Affairs Minister G.L Peiris stressed the importance of equality in development. “GDP growth needs to be accompanied by social equity; the tangible improvement of lives. Development cannot be an abstraction of figures for most of society,” he said.
He further noted the inequality faced by women in politics in Sri Lanka. “Gender equality is enjoyed in most walks of life, from education to businesses. However there is a disparity in the representation of women in parliament. This may be due to the system of proportional representation,” he said.
However, he made the point that a quota system, although a temporary fix, was not a permanent solution as it was condescending to female politicians. The HDR is adjusted for the “Gender Inequality Index”, on which Sri Lanka scores a value of 0.402 and a rank of 75 out of 148 countries, in comparison to India at 132 and Pakistan at 123. However the female representation in parliament of India and Pakistan is 10.9 per-cent and 21.1 per-cent respectively, while Sri Lanka only has a percentage of 5.8.
Minister Peiris also noted that inequality between urban and rural development would lead to unrest, resentment and loss of public confidence which could erupt into the youth unrest as in the 1971 and 87-89.
Speaking at the event UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Sri Lanka Subinay Nandy noted that the report for 2013 titled “The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World” showed the growing link between human development and globalization. He also spoke on the importance of growth in factors that were ancillary to the economy. “GDP is not all that matters; countries need to grow in other factors which show the improvement in their quality of life,” he said.
British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka John Rankin speaking at the event said that in the effort of South-South cooperation the SAARC countries needed to organise themselves better. He added that although there needed to be respect for the sovereignty of countries, the economic and social rights of all persons needed to be respected.(Dianne Silva and Shihara Maduwage)