Despite a period of steady economic expansion under the second coming of the Sandinista government, Nicaragua has not made any notable progress in the United Nation’s Human Development Index over the past six years.
In the 2013 index, released by the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) last Friday, Nicaragua ranks 129th in the world, occupying the lower half of countries in the category of “medium human development.” The global scale is divided into four categories of human development: “very high,” “high,” “medium” and “low.”
In comparison to the rest of Central America, Nicaragua is well behind Panama (ranked 59th) and Costa Rica (62nd), which both qualify as “high human development” countries. Nicaragua also trails Belize (96th), El Salvador (107th) and Honduras (120th), all of which rank in the “medium development” category. In Central America, Nicaragua is ahead of only Guatemala, which ranks 133 in this year’s human development index.
In 2006, the year prior to President Daniel Ortega’s return to power, Nicaragua was ranked 112th on the human development index, slightly ahead of Honduras (117th) and Guatemala (118th). Back then, Costa Rica led the region with a rank of 48th in the world, followed by Panama at 58th.
The Human Development Index is aggregate of indicators measuring life expectancy, education levels and per capita income into a single statistic intended to serve as a frame of reference for both social and economic development in each country.
The Sandinista government insists human development in Nicaragua has improved notably in recent years due to their “new model of development.” The Sandinistas say their “social and productive programs,” investment in infrastructure, job creation and diversification of exports has helped the country reduce its levels of extreme poverty and lift nearly 300,000 Nicaraguans out of poverty over the past five years. The government also notes international indicators that show Nicaragua has reduced hunger from 55% of the population in 1990 to 20% in 2012, suggesting a notable improvement in human development.
The ‘Rise of the South’
This year’s UNDP Human Development Report, which doesn’t mention Nicaragua outside of listing it on the human development index of all 186 countries, focuses on what it calls “the rise of the South,” which it says has happened at an unprecedented speed and scale.
“When developed economies stopped growing during the 2008–2009 financial crisis but developing economies kept on growing, the world took notice. The rise of the South, seen within the developing world as an overdue global rebalancing, has been much commented on since,” the Human Development Report reads.
The focus of this year’s report, therefore, is to look at what the rise of the south means in terms of human development and “the far-reaching implications for people’s lives, for social equity and for democratic governance at the local and global levels.”
“When dozens of countries and billions of people move up the development ladder, as they are doing today, it has a direct impact on wealth creation and broader human progress in all countries and regions of the world,” the report reads. “There are new opportunities for catch-up for less developed countries and for creative policy initiatives that could benefit the most advanced economies as well.”
This year’s report addresses the particularly rapid advances made by Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey. It also notes “substantial progress in smaller economies,” such as Bangladesh, Chile, Ghana, Mauritius, Rwanda and Tunisia.
“For the first time in 150 years, the combined output of the developing world’s three leading economies—Brazil, China and India—is about equal to the combined GDP of the longstanding industrial powers of the North—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom and the United States,” the report notes. “This represents a dramatic rebalancing of global economic power: In 1950, Brazil, China and India together represented only 10% of the world economy, while the six traditional economic leaders of the North accounted for more than half.”
According to the UN’s projections, by 2050, Brazil, China and India will together account for 40% of global output, far surpassing the projected combined production of today’s Group of Seven bloc.