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India to take 100 years to be a developed nation

By Suman Guha Mozumder at United Nations
September 07, 2005 22:35 IST
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India may be aiming to become a developed nation by 2020, but a UN body feels the country would have to wait for another century to achieve that status.

The UN Development Programme's Human Development Report 2005 has said that as per the 2000-05 growth trends, "it will still take India until 2106 to catch up with high-income countries."

High growth in India has been one of the most powerful forces for convergence between rich and poor countries, the report said, but adding that it might still have to wait for another 100 years to become fully developed.

India ranks 127th , the same as last year, in the human development index of the 2005 Human Development Report released at the United Nations on Wednesday.

In the Human Development index that measures achievements in terms of life expectancy, educational attainment and adjusted real income, India falls in the medium development category and ranks below countries like Malaysia, Brazil and Mexico.

The release of the report, a week before the largest-ever summit of heads of state and governments at United Nations, warned world leaders of the human costs of missing agreed global targets for lifting people out of extreme poverty and contained an urgent plea for swift and dramatic changes in global aid, trade and security policies.

The report cites a lack of funds and political will and shows that while there has been substantial overall progress globally, many individual countries are actually falling further behind.

'I urge member states to heed this timely message, and to use next week's summit to launch us on a global effort to make this vision a reality,' UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said while releasing the study, which shows that 18 countries, with a total of 460 million people, have moved backwards on the Human Development Index since 1990.

The report warns that there will be no chance under current trends of fulfilling the promises made at the UN summit five years ago with the Millennium Declaration and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

"The world has the knowledge, resources and technology to end extreme poverty, but time is running out," UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis said about the MDGs, which include pledges to halve extreme poverty, reduce child deaths by two-thirds and achieve universal primary education by 2015.

Next week's Summit will be assessing progress and recommending further action toward achieving the MDGs.

In 2015, on current trends, there would be 827 million people living in extreme poverty: that is 380 million more than the figure that would be poor had the internationally agreed upon targets been reached. Another 1.7 billion people would be living on just $2 (Rs 88) a day.

On current trends, the goal to reduce the deaths of children under five years of age would be met in 2045 and not in 2015. Over the next decade, the cumulative human cost of missing the target would translate into 41 million more child deaths.

Instead of halving the ranks of the 1 billion people who lack access to fresh drinking water, on current trends the world in 2015 would still be 210 million people short of this goal. More than 2 billion would still lack proper sanitation in 2015, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.

The report argues that extreme inequality puts the brakes on progress towards the MDGs and wider human development goals, spotlighting the scale of the international wealth divide. The poorest 40 per cent of the world's population, 2.5 billion people, live on less than $2 a day, accounting for just 5 per cent of all global income.

The report decries what it calls 'perverse taxation,' under which the world's poorest countries face the highest tariffs in rich countries, and examines the impact on the poor of agricultural subsidies and protectionism in wealthy industrialised nations.

Donor countries, it shows, spend $1 billion a year aiding agriculture in developing countries and $1 billion a day on domestic subsidies that undermine the world's poorest farmers.

"This Human Development Report presents us with a clear warning. We know that the MDGs are attainable, but if we continue with business as usual, the promise of the Millennium Declaration will be broken," Dervis said.

"That would be a tragedy above all for the world's poor, but rich countries would not be immune to the consequences of failure. In an interdependent world our shared prosperity and collective security depend critically on success in the war against poverty."

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Suman Guha Mozumder at United Nations

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