Ranked 127, Bhutan marginally improves in UNDP’s human development index in 2021-2022
LHAKPA TSHERING | Thimphu
Bhutan improved its ranking in the Human Development Index (HDI) for the year 2021-22, with the country ranked 127th out of 191 countries, according to the latest edition of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) report unveiled on 15 September.
The rank has moved by two places on the index from the previous year. Earlier, in its previous report published in 2020, Bhutan had ranked 129 out of 189 countries.
Despite the global decline, indicating that human development across the world has stalled for the first time in 32 years, Bhutan is among some of the countries that have bucked the trend and improved their standings.
The improvement in the country’s performance from its previous level was on the account of a consistent rise across all human development indicators that include life expectancy, education, and gross national income.
Finance Minister Namgay Tshering at the regional launch of the Global HDR report for the Asia and the Pacific in Thimphu, said, Bhutan’s HDI value has gradually developed in the past three decades.
“Since 1990, the life expectancy at birth has increased from 53 years to 70 years now. Expected years of schooling have also increased to 13 years,” he said, adding that Bhutan’s Gross National Index per capita has also accelerated almost sevenfold.
For Bhutan, Lyonpo said, the Gross National Happiness (GNH) has been the unifying force behind the country’s policies and plans for decades.
“Over time, the GNH index has been able to capture the global attention and like the HDI, it is championing the cause of an alternative form of measuring development,” Lyonpo added.
The HDI value of Bhutan in the report showed that the country scored 0.666, as against 0.654 in the earlier value in 2020. The score is calculated in the range of zero to one.
Among the medium HDI nations, Bhutan ranked in 12th place, and neighboring countries like India, Bangladesh, and Nepal are also among the nations featured in the mid-HDI grouping.
In the South Asian region, Sri Lanka has the highest ranking at 73rd position, the Maldives at 90th, Bhutan at 127th, India at 132nd, Nepal at 143rd, Pakistan at 161st, and Afghanistan at 180th rank.
Globally, Switzerland was at the top followed by Norway and Iceland. South Sudan, Chad, and Niger were at the bottom of the scale on HDI.
The latest report titled ‘Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World’ shows that the global HDI value has declined for two years in a row in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The report reveals about 90 percent of countries registered a decline in their HDI value in either 2020 or 2021 while 40 percent of the countries showed a decline in both years.
Lyonpo Namgay Tshering said the task in front of us is urgent. “Bhutan as a small landlocked nation is also impacted by such uncertain times; Covid-19 is displacing people economically and socially, and climate change and global warming are making Bhutan more vulnerable than ever to climate and economic shocks,” he said.
“We are truly being tested in our commitment and ability to address the multitude of challenges that demand us to work together,” Lyonpo added.
The report points out growing insecurity among people, backsliding of democracy, and polarization as factors destabilizing the lives of people in complex ways.
UNDP’s Regional Director for the Asia-Pacific Region, Kanni Wignaraja, said that we can accomplish a lot when we work together towards shared goals.
“By doubling down on human development investments, protecting the planet, and providing people with the tools they need to feel more secure and thrive in an uncertain world, we can create futures of prosperity, opportunity, and hope. Where we go from here is up to us,” she added.
The report recommends implementing policies that focus on investment from renewable energy to preparedness for pandemics, and insurance including social protection to better prepare our societies for the ups and downs of an uncertain world.
UNDP Bhutan’s resident representative, Azusa Kubota, said that this year’s report promotes investment, insurance, and innovation when the global community is grappling with challenges of the pandemic, a climate emergency, conflicts, rising inflation that is causing a global cost-of-living crisis, and increasing stress on mental health.