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Belgium sliding down list of developed nations

Published on 08/09/2005

8 September 2005

BRUSSELS — Belgium is still listed among the top 10 most developed nations, but is at threat of losing its position if it continues its slide down the rankings, the UN Human Development Report 2005 indicates.

Belgium is ranked 9th in the latest report, which was released on Wednesday, compared with 6th last year. At the end of the 1990s, Belgium was the world’s 4th most developed country.

The good news is that the fall is relative and on a global scale, Belgium remains prosperous, newspaper ‘De Morgen’ reported on Thursday.

And in comparison with last year, Belgium has made progress: life expectancy rose from 78.7 to 78.9 and gross domestic product (based on purchasing power) rose from USD 27,570 to USD 28,335 per capita.

The number of children attending school increased and education levels also remain high, the UN report said.

Belgium also ranks better than most other EU nations, performing better than the Netherlands (12th), Britain (15th), France (16th) and Germany (20th).

Scandinavian countries Norway and Iceland were ranked 1st and 2nd respectively, while Sweden was 6th. The US was ranked 10th and Japan 11th.

However, the slide down the prosperity index is unmistakable.

“Belgium has fallen out of the absolute top of social states, a trend that will persist if the activity index [defined by number of employed workers and job seekers] does not become higher and the wealth is not shared better,” Bea Cantillon from the Antwerp Centre for Social Policy said.

Flanders is performing better than Brussels and Wallonia, “but that doesn’t mean we can compare Flanders with the Scandinavian countries”. 

In Scandinavia, there is large-scale re-division of wealth and the activity index is higher than in Flanders. Social security payments are also higher, despite the important conditions applied to those payments.

The world’s poorest nation is Niger, where the life expectancy rate at birth is just 44.4.

The UN report said great efforts are needed if the millennium goals are to be reached: namely reducing global poverty by half by 2015. It urged for more efficient development aid, fairer trade and greater peace efforts in war zones.

Nevertheless, life expectancy in the Third World has risen two years since 1990 and the number of infant mortalities has fallen by more than 2 million annually. Literacy levels in developing countries have also risen from 70 to 76 percent.

However, the situation in the world’s 18 poorest countries, most of which are in sub-Saharan Africa, has worsened. Living standards also fell in parts of the former Soviet Union such as Russia and the Ukraine, broadcaster VRT reported.

The UN Human Development Report ranks the 177 UN member states based on living standards and the level of education and health.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news