MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/05 Novemberr) – African countries dominate the category of states where human development is considered low, according to the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Report for 2011. Myanmar and Timor-Leste, both of Southeast Asia, also belong to this category, although the latter is not a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or Asean. They are ranked 149th and 147th, respectively.

The human development index in most of the nine other Asean states is not promising either. Six belong to the medium HD category – Thailand (103rd), Philippines (112th), Indonesia (124th), Vietnam (128th), Laos (138th), and Cambodia (139th).

Malaysia falls under the high HD category, ranking 61st. The remaining two Asean members, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam, belong to the very high HD category, and are ranked 26th and 33rd, respectively.

These rankings put the Philippines at fifth place among the ten Asean members. The country’s present ranking is 15 notches lower than its 2010 position, although its HDI value slightly increased from 0.641 to 0.644. Still, this value remains below the average of 0.671 for the East Asia and Pacific region. On a positive note however the country’s expected years of schooling (11.9) and mean years of schooling (8.9) are above the regional averages of 11.7 and 7.2.

Thailand and Indonesia, the two Asean states ranked close to the Philippines, have HDI values of 0.682 and 0.617. Their respective expected years of schooling are higher, 12.3 and 13.2, but their mean years of schooling are only 6.6 and 5.8. The two countries also have longer life expectancies at birth, 74.1 and 69.4 years. Life expectancy at birth in the Philippines is only 68.7 years. The regional average is 72.4 years.

In terms of Gross National Income per capita, the figure for the Philippines increased from $3,378 last year to $3,478 this year. Thailand’s GNI per capita is $7,694, and Indonesia’s is $3,716. The regional average stands at $6,466. Thailand’s previous GNI per capita was $7,446, and Indonesia’s was $3,544.

Compare the three countries’ HDIs to those of Singapore and Brunei Darussalam, the only Asean states that land on the very high HD group. Singapore has a GNI per capita of $52,569 and Brunei Darussalam  $45,753. Both are even higher than Hong Kong’s GNI per capita of $44,805.

Expected years of schooling and mean years of schooling in Singapore are likewise high: 14.4 and 8.8. The figures for Brunei Darussalam under the same indicators are 14.1 and 8.6.

Life expectancies at birth in Singapore and Brunei Darussalam are 81.1 and 78 years, respectively.

On the other hand, the indicators for Malaysia, which falls under the high HD group, have the following values: life expectancy at birth, 74.2 years; expected years of schooling, 12.6; mean years of chooling, 9.5; and GNI per capita, $13,685.

“The HDI is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. As in the 2010 HDR a long and healthy life is measured by life expectancy, access to knowledge is measured by: i) mean years of adult education, which is the average number of years of education received in a life-time by people aged 25 years and older; and ii) expected years of schooling for children of school-entrance age, which is the total number of years of schooling a child of school-entrance age can expect to receive if prevailing patterns of age-specific enrolment rates stay the same throughout the child’s life,” the UNDP report explains.

“Standard of living is measured by Gross National Income (GNI) per capita expressed in constant 2005 PPP$,” it adds. (MindaViews is the  opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])