The 2011 Human Development Report (HDR) points to notable improved results for numerous Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and for good reasons.
Above all, Qatar clinched the title of the highest per capita income in the world, undoubtedly an outstanding performance. The report ranks Qatar's gross per capita income on purchasing power parity (PPP) basis at $107,721 (Dh395,670), second to none. Liechtenstein followed with per capita income of $83,717, considerably below that of Qatar. Still, the UAE secured the third highest per capita income with $59,993, adding yet another success to GCC countries.
The results appeared in the recently-released human development index (HDI), which is a core component of HDR. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) issues the annual report.
In short, the GCC states posted mixed results, with the UAE strengthening its position as the leading GCC and Arab country when it comes to human development. The UAE's ranking edged upwards by a single notch to number 30 worldwide among 187 nations, undoubtedly a marked achievement. A number of European Union countries lag behind the UAE on the index.
For its part, Qatar reversed a disturbing course by advancing a single notch and thereby clinching ranking number 37 worldwide. As such, Qatar retained its status as the second best performer among the GCC states and the larger Arab world. Certainly, the credit is partly attributed to progress on income levels.
Still, Bahrain fell three notches to number 42 globally. The drop in Bahrain's ranking has no connections to the ongoing socio-political developments in the country, as statistics used in the report pre-date the unrest. However, the fall could not come at a worse time, as the country addresses outstanding problems.
Furthermore, Saudi Arabia saw its ranking fall by a single notch to number 56 globally.
This represents a marked difference to 2010 report when the kingdom advanced by four notches.
Sadly, Kuwait continued its trend of losing ranking in big numbers, dropping by 16 notches, similar to what happened in the earlier report. Kuwait has seen its ranking on HDI drop from number 31 in 2009 to 47 in 2010 and then to 63 in 2011.
The report ranks Oman number 89 globally, the lowest result among the GCC countries.
HDI boasts three variables, namely life expectancy at birth, education and income on PPP basis. HDI stands out among other rankings by virtue of relying on three socio-economic factors rather than solely income.
Aside from income, Qatar outdoes fellow GCC countries on the age variable, with an average life expectancy at birth of 78.4 years. As usual, Japan leads the world with average life expectancy of 83.4 years.
Happily, the report ranks the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain ‘very high' in the human development category. Only 47 countries have made it to this exclusive club. Nevertheless, the report appreciably puts the rest of reviewed GCC countries in the ‘high' human development category.
Looking forward, GCC states at large stand the chance of improving their global positions on HDI in the coming years on the back of sustained efforts to improve education and health services. Likewise, relatively high oil prices and thus revenues guarantee continuation of investment on infrastructure projects, hence economic development and a possible rise in per capita income. Qatar stands to further its ranking on the back of investments relating to World Cup 2022.
Certainly, a country's wealth cannot be measured by the number of skyscrapers. But certain things like advanced transportation means such as road networks serve to improve quality of life. The Dubai Metro is one example.
The writer is a Member of Parliament in Bahrain.