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Sierra Leone registers decline in 2016 HDI Report

March 31, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai

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UN Resident Coordinator (second left) and other members of the high table at the launch yesterday

The 2016 Human Development Index (HDI) report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reports that Sierra Leone’s rating declined from 176 in 2014 to 179 out of 188 countries in 2015.

The HDI report, which was launched on Thursday, 30th March, 2017 at the conference hall of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, was received with mixed feelings from the media, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), public officials, among other attendants.

The theme of this year’s HDI report is “human development for everyone.”

The UN Resident Coordinator, who also doubles as UNDP Resident Representative in Sierra Leone, Sunil Saigal, said the report used  data for 2015 when Sierra Leone was experiencing the worst effects of the Ebola epidemic and collapse of the iron ore prices.

“Sierra Leone ranks low in family of measures used to monitor progress in human development. Sierra Leone’s ranking in HDI, which measures progress in long and healthy life, knowledge and decent standard of living, declined from 176 in 2014 to 179 out of 188 countries in 2015. The decline in the ranking is mainly attributed to the Ebola epidemic and coincidental collapse of international iron ore prices in 2014/2015, both of which had far reaching consequences on the economy,” he said.

Mr. Saigal added that GDP growth slowed from 4.6% in 2014 to negative 21.1% in 2015, implying a corresponding decline in the Gross National Income per capita from US$1,960 to US$1,529 over the same period.

He noted that the economy has, however, recovered since then, adding that it was estimated to have grown by 4.9% in 2016, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected growth of 6.0% in 2017.

Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sierra Leone, Prof. Ekundayo Thompson, noted that since its inception in 1990, the Human Development Report has been generating debate globally on its findings about the state of the human condition and issue of opening the space for inter-country comparison of people’s welfare across the world.

“Built on three pillars of life expectancy, income level and education, it has evolved over time to capture other dimensions of human welfare not easily quantified and therefore not measured in the past. In 27 years, the report has introduced other dimensions such as sustainability, gender, inequality, security, and governance,” he said.

Prof. Thompson said the index for the mean years of schooling has doubled, rising from 4.9 to 9.5 between 1990 and 2015, yet performance in the education sector was still among the lowest in the world.

He added that according to data in the report, while performance in education doubled between 1990 and 2010, improvements since then have almost been stagnant.

“As head of the University of Sierra Leone, I am not attempting to defend the state of higher education but must lament the quality of education of some of the students entering the university. The evidence is overwhelming that they are fit for the purpose. It was this revelation that necessitated the President to commission an enquiry into poor performance of pupils in the BECE and WASSCE examinations in 2009,” he said, concluding that they have to fix the problem of education starting at the kindergarten level.

In his keynote address, Development Secretary at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, John Sumaila, said the report focused on how human development can be ensured for everyone-now and in future.

He said: “It starts with two fundamental concepts of the hopes and challenges of today’s world, envisioning where humanity wants to go.

“The report emphasises that universalism is the key to human development and that human development for everyone is attainable. It points out that human development focusses on the richness of human lives rather than the richness of economies. People must influence the processes that shape their lives and that economic growth is an important means to human development.”

He said government was working to adopt more effective strategies to strengthen social, economic and environmental resilience, with the main aim of promoting sustainable growth and development that are inclusive.

“This year, the country’s overall Human Development Index performance was greatly influenced by the impact of the twin shocks of EVD outbreak and collapse of the iron ore sector. It is therefore little surprise that the indicators are what they are. But we will continue to work collectively to ensure that these indicators and overall ranking in the Human Development Index are improved on the future assessments,” he stated.

Meanwhile, participants at the launch registered their grave concerns over the manner in which Sierra Leone has declined from 176 in 2014 to 179 in 2015. They urged government to apply more efforts to reduce poverty, hunger, diseases, enhance environmental protection and access to basic services.

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